One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Archive for the ‘pets’ Category

Something’s Lost But Something’s Gained From Living Every Day

Whew, February.   This shortest month of the year has turned out to be quite the journey.  Perhaps you’ve noticed the quiet here in the Midnight Garden.   That’s a typical condition of a winter’s garden, but belies the truth of life outside the blog, which has conspired –as usual – to teach me a lesson or two.

Honestly, at first I wasn’t worried about not blogging.   Honestly, what’s there to say about gardening in February?   I was starting a new job, adjusting to a seriously different schedule (after spending a month off destroying every good sleeping habit I’d ever established…) and I was barely taking time for Facebook-ing before falling into bed each night, much less blogging.

You’re certainly wondering, so I’m happy to tell you that I’m enjoying the new workplace an awful lot.   There’s an office with windows and heat.   I’m blessed to have joined a team of fun-loving, hard-working, good natured folks who’ve been patient and welcoming of the new guy…in fact, the first guy to work in this ‘til now all female office.  The database work is interesting to a detail geek like me and since I’m employed in the business office of a local medical practice, we all wear scrubs to work each day, which makes for a comfortable work environment, if also a new wardrobe to build.

In the offices, there are also a host of potted plants from whom I think I heard a sigh of relief when I arrived.  Already a few of them are greener for my arrival and I’ve brought in a few green friends from home to diversify the workplace forest of spider plants and pothos.

As the first week of the new job drew to a close, I also found myself moving myself off-site, for a luxurious two week house and pet-sitting gig in the wilds of Brewster.   To save him the upheaval, my pal Mister Purrypants remained here at the Nest, in the doting care of the Downstairses, with me dropping in from time to time for litter box cleanings and to be purred at and sat upon.

But remember what I said about bad sleep habits during my lay-off time?  Well, thanks to that, my resistance was not quite up to the task of adjusting to the new workplace germ pool and (perhaps in lieu of the hazing the Billing Babes spared the new guy) a raging head cold pounced as I settled into a routine with my new temporary roommates.

Here’s Mugsy, my dear pal Mugsy.   We’ve been sweetest friends since meeting last year and she reminds me so of my Emily (well, the way Em would’ve been if I’d raised her from a baby, anyway) that I seriously think they were littermates.

Mugs recognized me as a bud right off and she has helped me greatly as I work through some of my wistful longing for Emily Grace and the sweet puppy smell of her ears.

Mugsy has a cat, named Peanut.   Well, it’s unclear who has who, actually.  You know how it is with cats and dogs.  But they are siblings of a sort, anyway.  P looks like a baby kitty, weighing in somewhere around five pounds, but is actually enjoying life in double digits.

And then there’s Zoe.  She’s the puppy of Mugs’ and Peanut’s Grandparents.  Zoe falls tidily into Peanut’s weight class and is a fan of fashion.  She has a variety of kicky little outfits she enjoys wearing, itty sweaters and fleecy jackets and so on.

She’s a bit dependent on people to lift her up onto things like couches and beds and then back down to the floor when she wants to rip around a bit.  Zoe’s a funny little girl who likes to be at the heart of the action, and preferrably, up on a cushion or two so she can see everything that’s going on around her.   If properly outfitted, she was also happy to help supervise Mugsy’s visits out doors (from the relative safety of the deck, anyway!).

The three of them formed the pack in my care, while all their family lounged in hot tubs and on beach towels and went scuba diving and drank fizzy lifting drinks in Mexico for two weeks.  And what a lot of fun the four of us had.   Evenings found us lounging about together, enjoying time by the fireplace as it snowed outside, or snuggled up in bed reading.  Their easy going and friendly nature – that unconditional love you hear so much about – was a great comfort to me as the cold came on.

I’m a little embarrassed at this point to say I started the month a bit cranky about it being February and the month of Valentines.  To quote The Captain of the Vogan Constructor Fleet from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ”…I repeat, All Planet Leave is cancelled.  I’ve just had an unhappy love affair, so I don’t see why anyone else should have a good time…”

Perhaps t’was the oncoming cold, but I was feeling just a little self-indulgent about Life not going exactly according to my own plans for romance in recent years, even as I realized it was a cranky and ungrateful position to take when I have so very much love in my life and so much/many for which/whom I am thankful.   (Whatever else I do or don’t love, its nice to know I’ll always have the run-on sentence, eh?)

I didn’t figure I’d even mention my lapse, since I’d quickly decided, as I began to feel a bit better,  to make my Valentines Day a celebration of many things I love (since being bitter has never been counted among those):  sweet flowers, good music, great books, my family and friends, the Winter Olympics, comic books, all these sweet animals.  There is, thankfully, more to Life than a bit of smooching.

But as is often the way of the Universe, the lesson about being grateful for what I have was driven home just a little further when mid-week brought the dreadful news that a long-troubled friend had succumbed to personal demons and taken his life.

How in the world to make sense of such a thing?   Suddenly, so many facets of this unknowable thing called Love were freshly illuminated.   After all, its love that has made our circle of friends into a family over the years and the love he found with our college-era pal that knit him into that family in the first place.   I remember how we flew kites and then toasted with champagne their engagement on a warm October afternoon on Race Point Beach, the way he took me aside to tell that he knew she was the one, and I could tell from the sound of his voice, from his good humor, the twinkle in his eye when he talked about her, that he’d figured out what we already knew about her being this loving, funny wonderful person.

It was Love we celebrated during a sweet ceremony the following year (I was a bridesmaid!   Ah, but never a bride…) and love that brought children into the picture a couple of years later.  It was also love for both he and the children that led his wife to ask him to seek treatment for his alcoholism and depression.

I guess I’ve learned a few things about depression in the last year or so.  Maybe that’s come from as simple a thing as no longer denying that I feel it sometimes and not always trying to put my bright face on those days when it comes calling. Luckily, for me it often passes before very long.  I know all too many people who suffer in its grip from time to time and for them it can be more of a struggle.

For this friend in particular, it’s now obvious it was so much worse, because it either managed to cut him off from feeling all that Love from his family and friends, or worse, made him feel like he didn’t deserve to be loved.

The saddest legacy of suicide, perhaps, is that those who have not done this thing are left to wonder if they might have done something different, loved someone better, listened harder.  All those things are always possible, of course, but such torturous thinking does little good and comes far too late to change anything.

All we can do is comfort one another and hope that our friend has found the peace that escaped him in life.   And we can vow to love one another a little harder, to listen better, to remember to tell our friends and family that we care for them and pray that they know that there should never be a reason for them NOT to talk about what’s troubling them.   No one should have to do battle with their personal demons without a second, or even a whole posse to back them up.

And of course, Life goes on…and as the songs remind us, love is all around.  Love was with us as we gathered around our widowed friend and her children last weekend.  It was there in the purring of my cat buddy when he welcomed me home from my time away, and I can find it in the deep green of the plants I care for.

Love is easy to spot in the pictures of a newly-arrived smiling babe named Olivia and her parents, or the tears of an athlete who’s trained his entire life in a sport he loves and now stands listening to his national anthem at the Olympic games.   You’ll find it in kissing, sure, but it’s also there in quiet smiles, or puppy licks, in a kind word or a silent good deed.  And yes, in the planting and care of flowers.

I wish each of you Love, in all its forms, as much as you can bear and maybe just a little more.  And if you should find yourself in one of those darker moments, where it’s not so obvious to you that you are well-loved, I hope you’ll always know that you can find someone to talk to in your friendly midnight gardener.

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The Gardener’s Cat

Grumpy-Cat-Art

Generally, I try to find something good in each day.   But some days, you just can’t help but really love.    Today is one of those days.

Late breaking news:  the sun came out, almost a week after its last, brief sighting.   Weeeeee!!! Oh, the deadheading to be done!    Heh.  Such is the duplicitous life of a gardener.

But it’s a special day for another reason, too:  there’s an anniversary to celebrate.

Gardener's-Cat-2

It was five years ago tonight.  I’d gotten home rather late in the evening, hot and sweaty from a long June day of catering.   Like any good gardener who’s also a catering director, I changed my clothes, grabbed a flashlight and wandered out into the dark garden to see what had grown while I was gone.  There was a small, but strong mewing sound…and out of the darkness came a small – thin – gray cat.  He looked at me hopefully and made his little cry again, part plaintive, but also sort of matter-of-fact as he rubbed up against my leg, suddenly purring like crazy.

I laughed and couldn’t resist petting him and he fell over on his back on the tops of my sneakers, for the first time presenting his belly for rubbing.  Hi, I’m you’re cat.  Sorry I’m late, he seemed to be saying, never considering that our household might not be able to manage another mouth to feed…and a cat, at that.   It was true the parakeets had recently passed on to Bird Heaven, so we were only three, but one of those was a large and bossy dog.   My new pal seemed unperturbed by this news.  In fact, I’ve long suspected that he studied us at a distance for some time before making his appearance.

Emily, the dog, was not amused by the decision to welcome this cat and for about four months, it was necessary to install what I came to think of as the Berlin Baby Gate, splitting our already-smallish apartment into East for the Dog and West for the Cat.   Eventually they became pretty terrific friends, but that summer, whew.  It was intense.

Friends Finally

Because of the Dog, my buddy was little seen during the first week of his residency, which only enhanced some initial confusion as to his gender.   There were, after all, no easily visible testes to firm up an identity and other things baffled us, too.   Who knew boy kitties could have all those nipples?!

Petting-Catsby

And so there was some hesitation on the subject of naming upon his arrival.    His sudden appearance seemed to duplicate the behavior of a cat I’d written about in some fiction, named Christopher Marlowe.   But that wasn’t going to work if turned out to be a girl.   Perhaps Cinders because of the charcoal fur, or Ella, perhaps.  Nah, too similar to Emily.   Eventually, as he became more accustomed to us and began to feel better (he was a little sickly and under-nourished on his arrival) we were able to make a closer examination and discovered proof of his Him-ness.

Still, it was a few nights later, when he first got what I’ve come to think of as The Zooms before a name occurred to us.   He tore around the apartment in the dark.   Up and Down.   Back and Forth.   Maybe even bouncing off the walls when he reached one, but all the while dribbling a toy catnip-infused mouse before him, eventually getting it into the bathtub where he knocked it around throughout the wee hours, the drain apparently doubling as goal in his game of Mouse Hockey.

Badum of Arabia

The next morning, we settled on Ba-DUM, a sound effect as much as a name, in fact, the sound our growing kitty made when he jumped down off the counter he hadn’t been climbing on.   Badum would be his name.

But he’s never had just one name.   Emily, who never liked sharing attention with him, called him Badum Al Badump (International Cat of Leisure) and tried for a while to convince us she’d seen his name on the FBI terrorist watch list (oh, that should get my little garden blog a few .gov hits, eh?) and he should be deported.

With a little time, he quickly also became Buddy, Pal, Agent LaChat, The Little King, Pally-Wally, Shadow Kitty, Gray, The Son of the Pamet Puma, Squirrel Killah (he never has that I know of, but points for intent through the window, in this case), Kitty-kitty, Catdude, [Pally-Wally] Doodle, Kit…and so on.

Since we took up this Bachelors’ Life, my Little Buddy has come out of the shadows his big sister kept him in.  His fun, friendly, thoughtful, funny and loving nature comes through a little more clearly each day.

A Few Random Facts about My Roommate:

*  Badum loves to entertain and will happily present his under-carriage for rubbing pretty quickly upon your arrival.

*  He is quick to purr, sometimes taking it up long before you’ve even touched him.  He sometimes gets so wrapped up in The Purring that he rolls himself right off the couch or out of my lap and onto the floor.

Pruning-Spiders

*  Except for the days when a new supply of organic catnip has arrived in the household, he is generally at the door waiting to greet me with noisy fanfare when I get home at the end of the day.    If I’m late to feed him (a condition he believes exists four hours prior to his regular time of 5:00 p.m.), it’s noisy and full of attitude.

*  He is Kato to my Clouseau, regularly lurking around the corner or behind some piece of furniture, waiting to attack my foot and take me down, to what end, I’m not sure.  But it’s fun.   Maybe it’s those Monkey Slippers.

*  Although he often goes off in the dark to do secret cat things (eat), I generally wake up feeling him nestled up against me, or on top of me.   Last week, I woke up to him lounging on my head.

*  He believes that spider plants are trying to take over the world and only he can save us.

Looking-Out

As for The Names, he continues to collect those almost as fast as the Nest collects cat hair (which is pretty fast, indeed, my friends).    Mister Purrypants.  The Gray Catsby.  He Who Must Be Fed.  The Purrmeister.  Monsieur Le Pantalons de Purr.  John Cougar Mellowcat.  Bagheera. El Gatito Grios.   The list goes on.

I’ve mentioned before, there’s always been something special about him, like he came to me for some particular  reason.     Seeing what good company he’s been this past year, that’s easy to believe…and I am grateful to the Universe for sending him in my direction.   I’m happy to share my days and nights with him.   He’s the best roommate a guy could hope for – funny, sensitive, wise…and foolish…and also soft, warm and cuddly (which is, honestly, more than one dares hope for in a roommate).   I couldn’t be more pleased to have been found.

Cat-in-the-Window

The Catdude Abides.

Mid-May Garden Report

Pansy-Planter

Back home in Orleans and there’s plenty of plant news to fill you in about. 

Sweet-PeasThose pansies and violas I had potted up Way Back When had been looking a little deflated out on the porch, despite my regular waterings.  But as you can see, our week of rain brought them right back and they are thriving now.

Here, too, I’m happy to present the five sweet pea seedlings that survived the early march planting indoors.  Sorry to say many did not germinate, and the three others which had have sadly not passed The Test.

Spearmint-PotI’ve also recently potted up a new spearmint plant.  I’m a big fan of orange slices and spearmint in my iced tea on a hot summer day, so I always like to have a pot of this stuff handy.

Anyone who’s made the mistake of releasing some mint into the garden (or tried to eradicate some that’s already taken over)  knows the stuff is unstoppable and will just spread everywhere, so for any kind of mint, potting is the way to go. 

This is a nice large planter which should give the plant plenty of room to stretch its legs.

Money-Plant-Purple

Downstairs in the fence garden, the show continues, as the stalks of purple money plant flowers climb up to match the full height of the split rail fence.  Meanwhile, about a foot away, the pink tulips were enjoying the final moment of their song when I took the group photo down below. 

Violas-and-PansiesBy now, they have shed all their petals and their stems remain for me to cut back (leaving the foliage, of course, to suck up solar energy for next year’s flowers).  The red and purple tulips, however, seem to be hanging on a little bit longer, which is nice.

Meanwhile, the pansies and violas have been pinched back and deadheaded enough times that the plants are beginning to spread out a little and offer more flowers each day.  I haven’t moved them to shadier locations yet, as I had considered previously, but am trying to be a little more diligent about deadheading, which keeps the flowers looking pretty fresh.   Here again, the recent rains have been quite helpful.

Lily-of-the-ValleyThe lilacs in the yard here are all coming on strong this week, and its quite a  treat to catch a whiff of their sweet fragrance on the warming air.  Ahhh.

Just in case the lilacs weren’t intoxicant enough, Nature provides us a double-whammy, in that the sweet lily of the valley always coincides with the lilac blooming. 

It’s almost overwhelming how beautiful it can be to walk through the garden when these two are in full bloom!

Fence-Garden-portrait

Heliotrope-buds

I have to revise my count for the flower stalks I’ve spied on the garden heliotrope, aka, white valerian. 

There are a dozen of them, and they, too, have now reached the same height as the money plant stalks, though I expect of the heliotrope another foot or two before we reach full blooming.

This is one of the few plants in my traveling collection which remain of those I brought with me from New York State and it is always a special treat.  I have never seen it so promisingly prolific, though, and I’m choosing to see this news as the most delightful of omens.

Meanwhile, in last week’s old-timey slide show, I offered you a first glimpse of the antique strain of irises in the overgrown bed on the west side of the house.  I’m told that eventually, these blooms will tower, but for now these early blooms remain a little on the short-ish side.   They are no less lovely for that, however, with their reddish-brown and yellow markings.

Vintage-Rootbeery-IrisWhat beauties!

Once they are finished blooming, I have plans to divide and replant them, which should encourage an even more exciting show next year.

As always, I missed the company of My Purry Pal Who’s Fun To Be With on my recent roadtrip (though of course the trip meant opportunities to visit with my two cousin kitties, Dewey at Mom and Dad’s and Cooper at Sue and Joe’s…and that’s always fun, too!), and I was happy to return to him on Monday evening.

Lazy-Cat-in-the-SunMister Gray was pleased to see me, it seemed, but also was quite eager to get back to the Downstairses’ place, where he likes to pal around when I am away.  

He had, in my absence this time, become quite fond of their big sliding glass doors onto the back yard and the world-sized ground level view of Birdland they afford.

I’m happy to say that he has newly come around to accepting our second-story lot in life, as the week has progressed.  This lazy kitty is once again quite content to lounge in the large parallelograms of light our windows and porch door offer, as you can see.

Zinnia-SeedlingsIn another part of the Nest – two different locations, actually – those 24 zinnia seedlings are continuing to grow very nicely and before long I’ll be relocating them into the window box on the porch where they will spend the summer.

It’s that time of year when there is certainly plenty of garden activity to tell you about.  For instance, I haven’t gone on nearly long enough about lilacs yet.  And I don’t feel like I’ve given rhododendrons and azaleas much attention yet this year.  There’s also another bed or two to be rejuvenated for the season ahead, and an assortment of seeds – including sunflowers and bachelor’s buttons – to get planted pretty soon. 

Purple-Violas

NEXT TIME:  Let’s get lilacs now, everyone’s learnin’ how.  Come on Lilac Safari with me (with apologies to the Beach Boys)!