The Twelve Days of Yuletide (on my Hilltop Funny Farm)

The Twelve Days of Yuletide (on my Hilltop Funny Farm)

12 cat boxes to clean

11 holiday parties

10 cockatiel feathers (on the floor)

9 porch icicles

8 kitty hairballs

7 extra pounds

6 crazy chickens

5 broken appliances

4 dirty nest boxes

only 3 eggs a week

2 quarts of eggnog

And a corgi drinking water from the tree

Light, Love and Hope

Last night, a group of friends came over to celebrate Solstice.

These friends were from a wide variety of backgrounds: Unitarian, First Nations, Eclectic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan, and those just seeking; all of us drawn together by the season.

We gathered around the bonfire in my back yard to celebrate the shared theme of the season: Light, Love and Hope.

We burned what we wanted to leave behind in the dark, and offered up what we wanted to bring with us into the light.

We passed the light, sang a rousing rendition of “Here come’s the Sun” and set our hopes and dreams afloat on a Wish Lantern.

After that, we went back into the house where I cooked up my infamous once a year, Solstice only treats, Crab Rangoons and stuffed mushrooms. (which were devoured in short order)

We had music (guitar and song), food, drink, friendship and a wonderful start to the season of light.

I posted video of the observance (even edited down, it’s long, so you might want to get a snack or beverage)

Tonight after doggie class, I need to get my fire stuff together and head over to another solstice observance and spin some fire! (in sub freezing temps, so much fun!)

How wonderful is it, that so many traditions gather at this sacred time of year to celebrate Life, Love and Hope?



Here Comes the Sun! Winter Solstice 2011

Happy Winter Solstice (to those in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

It’s only Solstice today for those of us in the US Central Time Zone and West. It will be at 9:30 PM tonight West Coast Time and it is 5:30 AM GMT/UTC).

Winter Solstice 039

The days will slowly get longer again. For those of us in the far dark, frozen North, this is a big BIG deal!

Winter Solstice is the promise of new life; we really won’t notice the days getting longer until closer to Candlemas/Brigid/Ground Hog’s Day.

Tonight I will gather with a group of friends to celebrate the solstice. There will be food, drink and friendship as part of our annual observance. (the cool thing is, the event will occur while we are gathered 🙂

We will burn the Yule log (log from my friend Patricia’s yard, a bit of last year’s tree, boughs from this year’s tree and herbs from my garden) in the fire pit outside and pass the light from that fire to a circle of friends, we will put our wishes for the new season into a wish lantern and then we’ll return inside for more food, fun and drink.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are or aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you believe. The Solstice is an astronomical event that draws everyone together at this time of year to celebrate light, love and hope.

Each year, I love to post the Northern Exposure video to the story Raven Steals the Light being told (I’ve used it for the children’s story at Solstice rituals in years past)

It is a traditional story from the Northwest Coast and Alaska.

I like this Northern Exposure version.

Not everyone knows this, but the town of ‘Cicily Alaska” is about an hour and a half from where I live, and is in fact Roslyn Washington (yes, I’ve been to The Brick)

and here’s another wonderful story of light in a magical part of the world (the Great Pacific Northwest)…

And of course, my traditional Solstice post/greeting…

On this night, around 3,000 years BC, a very special event unfolds at a place we now call Newgrange. A group gathers around a large circular stone structure. A drumbeat resounds across the mist-shrouded hills of ancient Ireland, bump bump… bump bump… bump bump…; The heartbeat of mother earth. The scent of incense mingles with moss, moist earth and the burning torches. All gaze hopefully towards the eastern horizon. After what seems like an eternity, it happens, the rising sun begins its ascent. Once again all attention is turned to the structure with great anticipation. Suddenly an intense shaft of light pierces the innermost chamber of the structure, illuminating a stone basin adorned with carvings of spirals, eyes, solar disks, and other sacred symbols. A joyful sound rises from the crowd, who then begin to dance ecstatically. For the darkest darkness of winter has passed, and the light has returned. Soon: the hills will be covered in fresh green grasses and wildflowers, trees will bloom and set fruit, animals will give birth, the songs of birds will fill the skies. The cycle of life will continue. The world, once again, has been reborn.

Tonight we celebrate an event, which predates our modern religious celebrations, an event as old as time its self. Just as events like this were observed at Newgrange Ireland, we find similar ancient architectural wonders based on solstices and equinoxes all across Europe, Asia, The Americas, Indonesia and the Middle East. Thousands of years ago, these monolithic structures were built and elaborate ceremonies held, out of reverence for the cycle of life, and perhaps the fear that without human intervention, the sun would not return.

At the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth on its axis, is such that our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, our days are shortest and the sun is at the lowest arc in the sky. For thousands of years, our ancestors honored the cycles of life: solstices, equinoxes, harvests and plantings. The winter solstice is perhaps the most sacred of these celebrations. So sacred in fact, that modern religious observations all over the world take place on or near the time of the solstice. Solstice observance is not a celebration that excludes or dismisses any other religious celebration; rather it is the common bond of many modern and not so modern religions.

The time of the winter solstice represents death and rebirth, just as corn stalks wither and die in the fields in the fall, so does the symbolic god give his body to nourish the earth, only to be reborn of the goddess again on this darkest night. The original divine birth. Is it any wonder then: that the Christian church chose this sacred time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people to celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Native Americans and other aboriginal peoples to celebrate their sacred events?

Solstice is not only a time to celebrate the retreat of darkness and the return of the light, but it is a time to look inward, at the darkness within ourselves and to embrace it. For without darkness, there would be no light. Without challenge, there would be no triumph. It is a time to celebrate the death of old habits, thought patterns, and difficulties, a time to celebrate a spiritual renewal. The darkness gives us all a chance to embrace and work through our own darkness, so that like the earth, we may also be renewed.

L. Lisa Lawrence
Copyright 1998

Here’s our observance from 2007 (the video is just too much fun!)

Here are the songs from the video, my favorite Winter Solstice songs…

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been a while.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, “Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold…

And of course, the required Solstice tune…

“Here comes the sun” by the Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

In a little under thirteen hours, the world is reborn again and will be filled with exciting possibilities!


Mood: Here Comes the Sun!!!


STP 2011 – 204 miles of undertrained fun with 10,000+ of my best friends

I spent the last weekend biking it 204 miles from Seattle WA to Portland OR with 10,000+ of my best friends riding the STP (Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic)

I brought along Roady the duck who I found in a ditch on the Flying Wheels Century last month. I decided to bring a duck call and Leo made one out of a squeaky toy that sounded more like duck farts than a duck call.

I already posted my ride ref report to the Cascade Bicycle Club message board, BikeTawk and the Ride Ref list, so this will be my personal report…

I’ll start out with the “short report” and then ramble 😉

short report

Was grossly under trained and had no business doing this ride…

Did it anyway because I missed last year due to broken foot/big toe and I was committed to be a ride referee…

The weather was perfect! A far cry from any of my previous STP experiences.

Humor goes a long way in gaining cooperation from riders as a ride ref…

Duck calls make people laugh…

As my friend Kevin said, this year should have been known as the Tour De Crash”…

Left sleeping bag at home, got very lucky and scored a real bed in Centrailia…

Mile 174 is my nemesis… this is where my mind and body break down…

Stopping to render mechanical/medical/traffic assistance, restarting and pedaling like heck to make up time over and over and over is way harder than just riding it…

Really enjoyed no escorted mob ride over the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Oregon; much more relaxing to make the descent in the bike lane not surrounded by riders of questionable judgment/experience…

Loved the new route over the St John’s Bridge in Portland…

Did manage food/beer at finish before boarding bus (big improvement over last time)…

Lost the bike truck lotto despite the rush to get bike on the most fully loaded truck, had to drive back to Seattle on Monday to get my bike…

Recovery takes longer when you’re not trained for distance…

Things I did well

Ate real food and ate it often (seriously why eat stuff I don’t like and don’t normally eat when pushing myself?)…

Rested and loaded up on nutritionally dense/high protein food before the event…

Although I tried to avoid “energy/race” food, I did have a couple packs of honey stinger chews (tastier/easier to get down than Cliff Shots) for dire moments when I really needed some quick carbs…

Drank bottled or filtered water, not nasty tasting hose water provide at rest stops (seriously, pay the $1 for a bottle of water that doesn’t smell funny); makes it easier to get down in the later stages, alternated with NUUN for electrolytes (never Gatorade or the like)…

Rode/Paced to my comfort level not against a speedometer/clock/ride partner…

Sunscreen application well timed; no burn at all…

Things I need to improve on

Did I mention I was grossly under trained? Longest ride in the last two years, 65 miles. Longest ride this year, 1 30-miler, a couple of 20-something milers-next year, do the mileage it will hurt less in the long run…

Waiting until the night before to pack/gear up lead to panic, sleep deprivation and forgetting my sleeping bag-next year, suck it up and do it early (maybe take that Friday off)…

Did not sleep enough before or during the event; I need more sleep to stay healthy…

Waited way too long (50 miles) for first application of chamois butter-next year apply at first rest stop… (why no Leo, your groin is not supposed to burn when you put it on…)

Tape my wrists if/when they start to hurt (of course, proper training might prevent that)…

Add extra meal between Riverside stop in Longview WA and St Helen’s OR to prevent physical and mental breakdown at mile 174…

Drink even more water, alternating with NUUN of course…

Take more pictures…

Save the money to get a motel room in Portland for Sunday night; it’s no fun to have to rush for the long bus slog back to Seattle; I want to enjoy the finish line festival/beer garden with my friends after the ride…

The long, boring, gritty details

I was up bright and early (4:30 AM) to pick Lynn up in Renton, stop at Starbucks and head to the start line.

I got a fruit and cheese plate to eat while waiting in line to get into the UW parking lot, but didn’t have to wait, so I stuffed it in my jersey pocket and off we went (after fussing with gear, ride ref supply pickup and a lot wait for the portapotties)

We stopped briefly at Seward Park so I could make a phone call, because along Lake Washington I realized I’d not packed my sleeping bag which was going to make for a very cold night of camping. Normally, I’d bypass that stop as it wastes more time than anything else.

Leo started a bit later and caught up to us after the hill climb out of Seward.

The REI rest stop is always lots of fun and we always stay too long. This is where I “should” have applied my first does of chamois butt’r and where I did eat my breakfast (which should have been a 2nd breakfast)

There were many ride ref duties attended to between Kent and Sumner; everything from flat tires, to falls to multi bike accidents.

We stopped at McDonald’s for “first lunch” I don’t normally eat there, but a burger and fries helped power us up the hill. I’m pretty surprised that Leo didn’t hurl his milkshake on the side of the road.

At the Spanaway stop, I snarfed down a chicken wrap and a jamba juice (2nd lunch) This is also where we discovered that the 50 mile mark is too long to wait for the first application of chamois butt’r. Leo came out from behind his hidey place and said, “Is this supposed to burn your groin when you put it on?” Uh… “No Leo, and I didn’t need to know that.” Yeah, my nether regions weren’t happy either…

Next was negotiating the always dicey Highway 507; lots of accidents, thankfully, none involving us, despite the idiot woman between Roy and McKenna that jumped out into traffic in front of a big red truck then screamed and almost took me out. Had I not been in a Ride Ref uniform, I’d have said more to her than, “You need to look before you pull out in traffic, and you need to call out when passing” after she said, “I’m going to get killed out here”.

It took every ounce of self control I had not to react when she got snotty with me. Hey, cool! Break the law, endanger yourself and others, and then cop an attitude on the person you almost knocked down an embankment. No Bueno!

I was still twitching by the time we got to the McKenna rest stop where we refilled our water bottles. We rode another couple blocks and got ice cream.

The Yelm-Tenino Trail was a relief as it got us off the carnage filled highway. Since they got rid of some of the worst roots (there are still a couple doozies) and pulled those darn posts out; it’s a lot safer than it used to be.

This is where I finally had some room to safely get down on my aerobars and kick it up a notch. It felt good to get into a different position..

After a break in Tenino, we rode those last long miles into Centralia. Last time we rode this, I bonked here, this time it was Leo. He responded well to my honey stinger chews (which saved me the next day) and we made decent time through the rollers and into town.

This is also where I picked up the “stealth drafter”.

Seriously dude, if you’re going to ride that close to me, you should buy me a drink or at least introduce yourself. Better yet, say “On your wheel” so I know not to stop or swerve suddenly and have you take us both out. Even better… offer to take a pull rather than having me pull you all those miles without reciprocating. I tried to shake this guy by slowing down, speeding up and glaring at him, but he was not getting off my tail. I guess the ride ref jerseys say “Take a free pull” on the back. I could smell beer garden so I wasn’t going to pull over.

Leo, Lynn and I agreed to proceed straight to be beer garden when we pulled into Centralia and we did, even bypassing the creamsciles. We ran into Kimiko, Harry, Damian, Mongo, Brian, my friend Dan from Seattle who just felt like stalking me that day and a host of other biker types where we enjoyed music, sunshine, pizza (first dinner) and free flowing beer. This was very welcome after 100 miles of stopping, riding hard to make up time, stopping, over and over and over again…

Running out of beer has been an issue in the past, but not this year. There was plenty of pizza and beer. The beers started magically appearing without us even getting in line. It was most definitely the royal treatment. We liked it.

On the way in, Rocky (the house with the mister set up out front) recognized (seriously, I can be picked out of a crowd of well over 10,000?) and yelled at me. I went over to ask if I could pay him and Patsy to use their shower as I wasn’t interested in a cold trailer shower. As it turns out, they hadn’t advertised any rooms because it had been a crazy year of traveling etc… so they invited Leo and I to stay in their spare rooms. Real shower, fabulous dinner of elk lasagna, organic salad from the garden and garlic bread with friends I hadn’t seen in two years, and a real bed. This was made of awesome. (Lynn’s husband had brought blankets for me so I was covered either way)

The next morning I shoveled down a bowel of cereal (1st breakfast) and headed out to Chehalis for the Soroptomists breakfast in the park, while Leo pedaled off to figure out where his stuff was. I had a lovely 2nd breakfast of eggs, sausage, pancakes and orange juice and headed out a bit of ahead of Leo to get up that darn hill to Napavine and because I was freezing.

I encountered a guy with a bent rim and another with a broken crank on the way up, but they had folks coming for them.

We regrouped in Winlock and headed off to Vader for an espresso break. (espresso line in Winlock was too long, Soroptomists breakfast served [gasp] Folders with powdered creamer)

It was pretty funny to watch the (very nice) folks who run the store trying to help us through the lines more quickly by offering a 2nd line for just plain coffee and or ringing up store items. Nope, we were all staying in the espresso line.

After the guy made several offers, I piped up with, “They did tell you we all rode from Seattle right? We are latte sucking stereotypes ;)”

We had some fun at Castle Rock. I was in the portapotty and Leo walked up and blew his little squeaky toy duck fart call. I responded with my real duck call form inside the porta potty. Dead silence from the crowds outside, then peals of laughter.

The ride to Riverside was non-eventful. I had a turkey sandwich, some fig newtons and fruit for (1st) lunch and then walked over to the taco stand for a couple of asada tacos… (2nd lunch) then we headed off for the dreaded mob ride across the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Oregon. I picked up another stealth drafter who was just someone who did not know better than to get too close and who crossed skewers with me, so I pulled over to let her go past.

But back to the bridge, they queue us up, then stop traffic and the fabulous Goldwing folks escort us over. This always makes me nervous as it’s a huge mob of people who are not used to riding in crowds and poorly secured water bottles and pumps fly off bikes on the downhill side when tires hit the expansion joints.

For some reason, we got lucky and they just waved a few of us over the bridge and we got to safely ride single file in the bike lane rather than wait for the road closure. MUCH BETTER. I also didn’t have to listen to Leo’s annual “We’re all gonna die” speech about how dangerous the mob bridge crossing is.

Highway 30 was highway 30 many many miles of long rolling hills, fast highway traffic, and unsafe passing. One set of women were riding two abreast taking up the entire very narrow bike lane on the most dangerous stretch causing riders who wanted to pass to hit a dangerous edge and go out into the single lane highway traffic. We asked them to please ride single file; they gave us a snotty look but complied (no duck call for you).

I always hit my mental and physical wall about mile 174 coming into Deer Island/St Helens Oregon and this year was no exception; it was even worse than normal because of not doing the distance, my wrists really hurt and my right knee was acting up.

We stopped at Burgerville in St Helens for chocolate milkshakes (fast calories and sugar that will stay down) and then began the last 30 mile slog up the rolling hills into Portland. My wrists were hurting, my butt was hurting and my knee was hurting. Leo could tell that I was in a bad way because I was super quiet; he made mention that he could tell I was in my own “personal hell” and let me just deal with it while being there for me. (I tease him a lot (well he is kind of a pain in the butt), but he is a good friend and a good ride partner)

He pulled up next to me (on the part of bike lane which was as wide as a lane and next two where the highway was two lanes) to tell me about something, when one of the gals we had talked to before rode past me and snarked about how we told her not to do that (uh yeah, on the dangerous part of the road where you were causing a problem…) I decided to just wish her a nice day. (once again, displaying remarkable restraint considering that at this point I was in what Penguins (my running group) like to call “the bite me zone”)

Just before the St John’s Bridge, I noticed yet another stealth drafter. I was about done with people I don’t know/trust riding inches off my back wheel, so I just pulled over. He pulled over with me; I took a drink of water, gave him “the look” and rode off without him on my tail.

Seriously 20-something dude…. you really need to be pulled by an out of shape woman who is nearly 50 years old?

The windy hill to get up to the St John’s bridge (a change from recent years’ routes into Portland) looked worse than it was, and in my opinion was a fabulous way into town with a stunning view of Mt Hood and the Columbia River (way better than the slog through the industrial zone). Of course the red lights when we got downtown were a pain, but I still think it was better…

By this time, my knee and wrists still hurt, but I could no longer feel my butt.

I was quite happy to cross the finish line. Kevin as there to greet us and take our photo (the duck too) I rushed to get my bike on the fullest truck (the full truck leaves first) so that it would be in Seattle when I got there, grabbed a Gyro and headed to the beer garden.

I got to visit with friends long enough to snarf down the food and one beer before it was time to get my luggage and get on the last bus. (next year, no rush, I’m staying the night in Portland)

Our bus driver went all road ragey in Seattle and almost caused a huge accident under the convention center on I-5 when he lost it and started to bully a little blue car (not once, but three times). Yes, I reported him to his company and Cascade; State Patrol wouldn’t take a report the next day.

My bike was not there (I lost the truck lotto and the other truck left first) so I had to go back up and bail flash of out “bike jail” the next day. At least I made an enjoyable trip out of it and took my friend Francine with me for lunch and a beer on the waterfront.

What a crazy thing to do (over and over again) I’m sore, tired and my cells are swimming in lactic acid.

I’m already planning next year.


Mood: Tired


Urban Farm Update

Despite the cold and torrential downpours spring has arrived in Tacoma, as evidenced in gardens all over the city showing off fabulous displays of daffodils, cherry blossoms and other lovely blooms.

I am (for the time being) no longer “the house with the lions”; I am “the house with the daffodils”

From Drop Box

The crocus I forgot to plant in the fall and found and unceremoniously plugged into the ground in the spring are happily poking up out of the lawn around the cherry trees.

From Drop Box

The other late planted daffodils and tulips I put in the side yard are coming up as well.

From Drop Box

The raspberries, loving the TAGRO are getting ready to go nuts.

From Drop Box

The Lilacs I ordered from Rain Tree Nursery are healthy and growing like crazy.

From Drop Box

Speaking of growing like crazy, the seedlings down the basement were ready to be repotted and moved out to the greenhouse.

From Drop Box

I put them into 4” peat pots (for those who think that peat pots and pellets impede root growth, you haven’t seen the roots growing out of those peat pots) and moved them out to the greenhouse.

The “cold weather” crops: peas, broccoli, lettuce, spinach are just sitting on the shelf.

From Drop Box

The crops that like a little more warmth are on one of the heat mats that I turn on at night. It’s very warm in the greenhouse during the day, but night time temperatures are still dropping down into the upper 30’s low 40’s at night, and that might be a bit of a shock for little sprouts that have been on a heat mat 24/7

From Drop Box

So far, having the heat mat on at night seems to be doing the trick. The sprouts seem quiet happy without my having to haul them in and out of the house to “harden off”.

I will purchase the “wall o water” insulators once I move the tomatoes outside, and will also use some bell cloches for the peppers until the weather finally warms up.

In other news, the chickens learned how to fly over the garden fence. I needed to stop this behavior because once I get those tender young plants out into the garden beds, I don’t want them confused for a chicken salad bar.

As you have seen by previous videos

*gratuitous chicken round up video

If the video doesn’t embed properly in your browser/reader you can view it by making with the clicky clicky here

rounding up chickens is not a one person task.

My friend and neighbor Amy came over and helped me round up the girls and clip their wings.

Here we are determining which feathers to clip on Ginger’s wing.

*photos by K Coats

From Drop Box

and an easy snip and it’s all done.

From Drop Box

Well I thought it was done. MaryAnn has escaped a couple of times. She can get out, but not back in which is weird. I’m going to try using weed cloth staples to tack the flexible fence down every few inches and am going to pick up some taller fence posts as the fence slumps down in some areas (that’s where MaryAnn flew over the one time I was able to catch her)

I also need to put new batteries in my game camera to catch her in the act.

If securing the bottom and top don’t do it, we’ll have to clip the other wing. I still don’t get how she’d be the one who could fly, she is definitely the heavier and rounder of the two.

Yes, the weather has sucked pond water lately. In March we were several degrees below normal and had three inches more rain than normal.

But as this little cell phone photo, taken from the Graffiti Garages at sunset on Saturday night show, this really is a beautiful place.

From Drop Box


Mood: Happy


It’s Starting to Look Like Spring (well… in the Garden)

Spring is doing it’s best to spring, and I’m trying to help it along.

All the hard work of planting (704) flowers bulbs is paying off. Despite tricky weather conditions; they all appear to be doing well and since I planted them well and deep and will fertilize after they bloom, they will come back each year and in most cases even multiply.

The daffodils budded out right before the first of two snow storms and deep freezes, they don’t seem any worse for wear as my first King Alfred finally opened up all the way. (I have a dozen other varieties planted as well)

March!  Spring is on the way 005

In addition to the yellow/orange crocus, the purple ones are blooming as well.

March!  Spring is on the way 004

As are the hyacinths

March!  Spring is on the way 003

The lilacs from RainTree Nursery (a local nursery that is really great) arrived in fabulous shape, ready to bud out and bloom.

March!  Spring is on the way 009

I planted the three of them along with three new roses to replace the ones the roofers smashed along the sunny side of the house. (I moved the flattened ones to containers in the back yard in hopes that I can save them)

March!  Spring is on the way 008

The roses in the front yard already have plenty of leaves on them. Hopefully now that they’ve had time to develop a strong root system, they’ll really take off this year.

March!  Spring is on the way 007

The blueberries are budding out, one even has some leaves already and the plum trees is just about ready to bloom (Francine and I saw one on 11th St that was blooming yesterday)

The girls took advantage of the sun to enjoy a nice dust bath.

March!  Spring is on the way 011

I don’t think I posted a picture of the potting bench after I got it put together. The next time we get a nice day, I’ll move it a bit closer to the greenhouse (need to finish leveling out the ground first)

I got my Urban Farm Seed Co order in (Territorial seed order is on the way) and planted my first batch of seeds last night. (Lettuce, Spinach, broccoli, three types of tomatoes including Brandywine) corn, onions, cayenne, anehim and bell peppers, peas, pole beans and watermelon. I’ll sow the carrots and radishes directly. I have artichoke, another tomato, infrared sunflowers, and asparagus crowns coming.

more garden, spring 2011 001

Once they have tiny leaves they’ll be moved down to the basement under the grow lights to join the lavender (which I need to thin tonight) and Drama Queen poppies.

more garden, spring 2011 003

Even the Christmas Amaryllis is getting into the act. Once it’s done, I’ll move it into my special garden corner along with the paperwhite narcissus that Ana gave me and the parrot tulips I planted in Karen’s memory.

more garden, spring 2011 002


Mood: Squee


Making the most out of the SUNSHINE

Yesterday was the last sunny day forecast for Grit City for a while, so as soon as I got home from work I hit the yard.

What I WANTED to do was sit on my sunny front porch with a tasty beverage and enjoy the view of the park across the street.

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to sit and enjoy the beautiful day we had today?

My daffodils want to bloom oh so badly.

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and my tulips are coming up as well

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Instead of sitting there enjoying the glorious afternoon, I sucked it up and got to work.

The first thing I did was fire up the chain saw to FINALLY take care of my Yule tree. Tomorrow is yard waste pickup and the last few yard pickup days, it’s been snowy or rainy or otherwise unsuitable for being outside cutting up a tree.

*note for those who don’t live in Tacoma, there is no Christmas tree pickup here (unless you pay the Boy Scouts) if we want the city to pick them up and mulch them, we have to cut them up in pieces small enough to fit in our yard waste containers.

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I was cursing the cheap consumer grade saw I settled for (I got spoiled by big, burly professional saws when I worked for the Forest Service) as I was trying to start it. Then I noticed that the switch was set to “off”. UGH!

Once I got it started, I made short work out of the tree.

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The tree filled one yard waste container completely and the other partially. I filled the rest of the 2nd container with some other various tree and plant bits from the yard.

After this was done, I had another project. My greenhouse shelves arrived.

They were easy to put together and fit perfectly. They aren’t up against the plexiglass; there is plenty of room to walk around and I have room for my tomato containers when I move them into the greenhouse in the fall.

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and yes, there was MORE (although this was an inside job)

My “jump start” grow light arrived today (this was a package that UPS claimed was delayed by severe weather/natural disaster in Seattle, when if fact, it arrived well ahead of schedule and they put it on the wrong truck)

This is a GREAT setup. The light fixture can be raised and lowered according to the size and light needs of the plants. Several of the little mini greenhouses and/or bigger plants will fit underneath. I’m going to order another.

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My potting bench (which will arrive on Saturday when it’s snowing, raining or both so I’ll build it in the basement) will go just outside the greenhouse.

Since it’s supposed to start raining this afternoon/evening and through the foreseeable future (and maybe some snow), this will be the last gardening post for a while (until something blooms, germinates, arrives in the mail or gets planted 😉


Mood: Tired


I have an Itch and I’ve got to Scratch it

Just because there have been some rain, snow and ice free days, and the sun stays up long enough for me to have some daylight to start prepping the yard for spring after work, does not mean I can even think about planting yet right? Oh not true. In addition to bare root roses, berries, fruit trees and fall flowering bulbs, I can start growing things.


I’m in full on spring mode (yes, we have sub freezing temperatures (right now as a matter of fact) and some snow in the forecast) which means I’ve got the itch, BAD and have to scratch it.

I get this way every spring (OK, I get this way every winter when bare roots plants and fall flowering bulbs fill the nurseries) It’s an illness really. I have got to dig in the dirt and plant things.

Fairly high on the list of “best things evah” are the little Jiffy 7 seed starter/mini greenhouse sets; they come with 12 peat pellets included and it’s easy to get refills for later plantings or subsequent plantings (see the refill bag next to the kit)

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Yes, you can start plants in egg cartons or other re-purposed items and cover with plastic, but these are super slick, cheap (you can find them for $2.50 each) are just the right size to set on a window sill (the larger “mini” greenhouses are more difficult to place and rotate) and last forever if you take care of them-buy them once, treat them well and store for use the next year.

An advantage to using peat pellets is that you don’t disturb the roots when you transplant a peat pellet; you just bury the whole thing so you can get away with transplanting things that normally don’t like to be transplanted because their roots are delicate. If the plant starts to get too big too soon to plant, just plant the peat pellet in potting soil in a larger peat pot and you’re good to go for a few more days/weeks without disturbing the roots.

These are super easy to use and not messy. Just add about 1 ¾ cups of warm water to the pellets and in about a minute they puff right up and are ready to plant.

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Since I buy these once, treat them well and reuse them, I label what I’ve planted with sharpie on scotch tape (interestingly enough that’s the way I mark wine glasses for folks at large parties 😉 I put the name of what I planted, how many are there, and the date I planted. It’s easy to remove the tape and re label for subsequent plantings. You can then put the scotch tape on a plant marker or popsicle stick which will go with the plants.

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My heirloom veggie seeds haven’t arrived yet (soon, my precious soon…) and not everything should be started quite this early, but I do have some flower seeds I just had to plant.

I started some lavender (not all my plants out front survived our deep freeze) and some fabulous poppies that a friend sent me.

She sent me three different kinds, but the ones I chose to plant first are “Drama Queen” I planted them just because I love the name.

When I looked them up on line, I knew I made the correct choice; these are truly stunning.

Drama Queen Poppies

Drama Queen Poppy

I planted six pellets with lavender and six with poppy, set the lid on to hold in warmth and moisture, and put them near a window to germinate. It just doesn’t get any easier than that (the big bulb you see is a Red Lion Amaryllis I got for Christmas, I also have some paper white narcissus that my friend Anna gave me growing next to it.

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I will put them under grow lights in the basement once they’re sprouted and have leaves.

In a few weeks when it’s a bit warmer out, I’ll move them out to the greenhouse.

My grow light should be delivered today. It should have been here yesterday. UPS used the excuse “extreme weather/natural disaster” for the delay AFTER it arrived here in Seattle (which probably has the least severe weather anywhere right now) and got put on a truck and driven THROUGH Tacoma down to Hermiston Oregon, then back up THROUGH Tacoma again to Redmond. Now it’s back in Tacoma on a truck for delivery.

My greenhouse shelves should also be arriving today (unless of course something weird happens with them)


Bring it!


Mood: Excited