Thursday, May 29, 2008

final grade

No, not that kind of grade. . . . the grading around the house. They got a good handle on it, yesterday. I understand it should be pretty well finished, today. Here's the front.
Here's the studio and inside courtyard. My herb garden wants to live next to the studio, as that's where the sun lives!

It still falls off a bit in the back, but they weren't done back here, as of yesterday. That's where they spread out all the gunky stuff they dug up from the front, mired, courtyard.

You can walk all the way around the house, now, without getting stuck in mud. Here's a view I think I'm seeing for the first time, or at least one I haven't seen much of, as the side of the house has been a quagmire.

I wonder what will happen if I put a few plants in? By the way, the ones I planted back here have done fine. In fact, the black mondo has already sent out a few runners. The mini-mondo had a harder time of it, being uprooted twice. . . .

I can't imagine that any of the critters at the greenwood are going to be interested in anything planted in the graded zone, though.

I could be wrong.

I'll have to throw a mondo or two out there and see what becomes of him. Maybe a liriope. They're bigger. Better able to take care of themselves, which is what every plant will have to be doing there, at least at first. . . .

greenwood chronicle - being the first. . . .

The arrival of Leaping Laird d'Lux Luther has brought about a pretty dramatic change in our lives. To say the least.

I don't know who's learning more, me or Luther.

Yes, he's learning/learned all about 'potty' and 'doing the business' outside. . . . 'come', 'heel', 'leave it', 'stand', 'back', 'lie down', 'stay' and 'NO!' are all words in play - at least - if not acknowledged commands, commands which lead to the commanded action [or inaction].

What I've learned: leash and poo-bags should be close at hand at all times.

I've learned that I have to be careful what I allow the wee lad, as he will escalate it. Viz., what I thought was a cute playful attack on a peony blossom quickly turned into all-out war on all flowers and plants. His first conquest - a red peony blossom pulled off the bush - has had amazingly long-life, and he pounces on the spent blossom every time we enter the back yard. I've never seen a longer-lived blossom! Every peony I've ever cut has promptly shed all its petals within a day, if not immediately. This thing is now like a dried red pom-pom, and I haven't quite had the heart to take it from him, he seems so proud of it.

Unfortunately, he also still tends to go for the few now-dried peonies that remain on the bush. "Leave it! only gets you so far.

I've learned that he has atrocious judgment with respect to what he will put in his mouth (a), chew (b), and actually swallow (c). I have been trying to keep a very close eye on him because I'm not entirely sure he won't kill himself! A recent arrival of rather smelly mulch at our rental house makes me wonder what's on it. Luther seems to like it. I know he likes chewing it, but it appears he might also be swallowing it. . . . That can't be good for him. That, or the rocks, or the concrete, or the brick he likes to gnaw on.

I've had three things on my mind: (1) don't let him even start doing something you're not going to let him continue doing, (2) consistency: don't ever let him learn that he can get away with something if he just keeps on trying until he wears me down, and (3), be careful that the corrections themselves don't teach him something even worse. So I try to remember that clapping - or yelling - when he barks effectively "celebrates" that behavior, and he can be expected to bark all the more. Likewise, when he whines. I can be "rewarding" his whining by arriving on demand [as far as he knows] and seeking to quiet him by "comforting" him.

"Look how he misses me. . . ."

Right. Look how he's just learned how to get me to come when he calls!

It wasn't a very far step for me to see how my relationship with God is very much analogous.

It's a little embarrassing to think that He's using my training a puppy to show me what a brat I have been/can be. . . . and to teach me a bit more about Himself when I consider the techniques I use in dealing with Luther.

Here at the beginning of Luther's new life with us, I have been with him almost constantly - and yet I have also scheduled times apart, as he will need to learn to be on his own, without getting into trouble. He's been safe, and we've been close at hand, and yet he's been unhappy to be alllll alllooooooone. . . . booo hoooooo. . . . .

Man, did that start to sound like me! Where are you, Father God? What have I done? Why am I allllll alllooooone. . . . .

The other thing that has been difficult for him - and therefore also for me - is that he doesn't totally get it that I've "got it": he's going to be ok. . . . he's going to have food, and people who love him, and a nice place to sleep and play, and go for walks, and toys to play with, not to mention wonderful food to eat (if only he would eat his food. . . . instead of rocks, poison mulch, bird ka-ka, rug fringe, and concrete - not to mention brick, although he may be more interested in the mortar in between, it's hard to tell). I'm in charge, and I'm going to [TRY to] take care of him, in spite of himself.

I remember one day early in my walk with God, driving to my office. I don't remember the circumstances exactly - was I was perhaps complaining or whining about something? Or maybe (more I was just quietly driving, praying, as quickly became my habit while driving. What I do remember is becoming aware of God's words - passionately "spoken" - You are Mine. Along with those words, I had the sudden realization that all the obligation and responsibility in our relationship was on HIM - that that is what He was saying, that my being His meant that He would take care of everything - that everything was really looking up for me, because He was in charge. It was not about me being enslaved, or restricted, or pent-up at God's malicious whim. It was God effectively saying: "You don't get it. You're mine, and I'm not going to lose you or let anything bad happen to you! You're mine! Remember? Relax."

I laughed right out loud! I cried. I remember the feeling of intense joy, relief and utter contentment vividly, as if it was yesterday. It was probably 14 years ago.

I wish I could explain something similar to Luther. But it is time and experience that will do that, if at all (meaning: I wish I were more capable of ensuring that I won't lose him or let anything bad happen to him. . . . ) In the meantime, then, I have to make sure as best as I can that - over time - Luther's experience is a good one. That he learns the proper cause and effect, and that I am faithful to continue to keep him away from what will hurt, kill and maim him, and faithful to continue to encourage those actions that will be of benefit to him both when he is with me, as well as when he is [momentarily] on his own.

I was cooking this morning when all this came clear. All would yet be well, and we would go play, but right now, he needed to learn to chill out and just be. Just wait. Just trust. Just hang out with me, who was right there!

He did well, did little Luther. He whined several times. He got disciplined for persisting in trying to pull my apron off its hook. He successfully left the door stop alone, which I've been teaching him not to chew - for that, he got a treat. He discovered a fly and had a great time trying to catch it, during the course of which he almost learned to open the screen door. . . . It was a close call. I do not wish him to learn that lesson!

I locked the screen.

Looking again to my life, I can see where God has locked my screen door in the past. I thought of the many times I've doubted God's hand in where I was at the moment. Was I in the right place? Doing the right thing? At the right time? Or was I missing out, somehow? Did I need to go somewhere else, or work harder, or grab hold more firmly?

I finally begin to catch just a glimpse of the 'life of faith' so many Christian writers talk about. In many ways, it's not all that different than Luther's life with us, except of course that poor Luther isn't dealing with God, he's dealing with little ole me, a fallen being albeit made in God's image. . . .

It's written in ancient scripture that without faith, it's impossible to please God. Lux Luther has shown me how that's true. Conversely, he's also shown me how how pleased I imagine God can be when I do have faith that God IS, that He's in control, and that 'goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, as I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. . . .'

Let it be a lesson to you, Luther.

ooops - shhhh - he's sleeping. Finally. Thank you, Father. . . . sigh. I am pleased. And I pray God is pleased - too - with me, as I find myself quite content to just be here with Him today. For now, I just "know" that all will be - and is - well, and that I'm exactly where He wants me to be, and that when it's time to go out, or eat, or whatever, God will let me know.

Like I said: I don't know who's learning more, me or Luther.

But I'll let it be a lesson to me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I dunno. . . . I think he's likes it here

He's certainly making himself to home!

He and I are banished out on the porch even as we speak, however, because he has not done "the business" and therefore can not be trusted inside. It's hard to type in the dark! Yes, I have candles on, but the screen (even turned down as far as it will go) is still bright enough that you can't see the keypad at all. . . .

Luckily, I'm used to no-see-em's on the keypad. For years, I had a small laptop whose letters had worn off the keys. It's amazing how many people can't type without the letters on the keys, even when they really do 'know' the keyboard'. . . .

I pulled out my travel guitar to help while away the time - drum roll - this had been a long time coming.

Luther likes music. He laid right down, right next to my feet.

Now. . . . if only he would consent to 'do the business' so we could go back inside!

Funny how you want more than anything to be where you know you can't be. Something for me to remember when I'm giving Luther a hard way to go, because he's trying every which way to get back to the concrete bench that's right next to his bed out here on the porch.

Did you ever know a dog to try and eat concrete?!

No. Me neither.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

day three - stone done

On the third day [with us], his lairdship went to see the greenwood. He tried to eat several rocks and generally admired the stonework.It was a long day.

He went to see the vet, got his shots, charmed all the ladies at the vet's office, and we consulted on interspecies relations on account of the dog and cat war (the Dr. recommended that we give the cat a favorite treat whenever the dog is in the general vicinity). It's working like a charm. As we speak, the dog is snoozing in his crate on one side of the room, and the cat is in her bed on the other.
After an idyllic hour or so pre-dinner, Luther crashed on his new dog bed. (thanks Maman!)I think he likes it!

I also think he looks like an alligator. . . .
Here - this looks a little more cuddly.

Meanwhile, out at the greenwood, it appears that the stone is finally done. Tom-builder tells us he's scheduled excavator-man for Tuesday for the final grade. Here's one more look:
After Tuesday - with any 'luck' - hopefully no more ruts. Maybe I can even start on my garden!

OK. Maybe not.

At the rate I'm going, I'm lucky if I can get up, get showered, and get dressed! Having a puppy is a full-time job. Maybe we can garden next month.

stuff and nonsense

I'll have to be careful that this doesn't become a little Laird Luther fansite. . . . He's so cute!

His training is proceeding nicely. . . . I've consulted Cesar Millan and the Monks of New Skete, trying to stay positive, but also remembering that he's just a little guy. He's strong-willed, though, and definitely wants to focus on what he wants to focus on!

sigh. . . . I think I'm going to be learning more - in the course of this project - than he does.

So far, I've learned about what junk we can be ingesting on a day-to-day basis, if we just graze on all the stuff around us. With Luther, of course, I mean the leaves, sticks, bugs, mulch, terra cotta, concrete, and brick he licks, chews, and eats. Along with the occasional rock.

It's alarming.

His favorite chew toy (if we were to let him) is the concrete bench currently doing coffee table duty on our front porch. His carefully selected chew toys from PetSmart are a pale second best. . . . (Second best? What am I thinking! They seem to be way down the list.)

Anyway, as I walked around the back yard with his little lairdship, I pondered the junk that I come across and chew on, lick, and even eat. OK - I confess - I still eat entirely too many chips ["crisps" in Ireland-speak] for my own good, but more to the point is what I pick up to think about, look at, ponder, brood over. What I 'lick' in the news headlines, then put in my mouth by clicking on it and reading, and then swallow, to ponder and ruminate over.

Is it Jessica Simpson and her dancing shenanigans with boyfriend Tony Romo? 51,000 dead in China? The latest Obama soundbite and/or controversy? Pretty pictures of places I'll never see or other 'forwards' of cutesy pictures of kittens or old ladies with 'LOL'-speak slogans? The price of oil, latest court decision, stock index - or maybe which "David" was named "american idol"?

Ah - you see - there's lots of stuff out there, vying for consumption.

Who watches over us to make sure we don't put junk into our mouths?

Meanwhile, we've got details galore to resolve at the house. There's a question of the hot water heater which won't fit into the closet it was supposed to go into and the resolution of the cost of installing a gas water heater as opposed to an electric one. Then, there's the question of bath fixtures. As expected, the ones "included" are the ugly ones. Granted, they've got a pretty name - "Chateau" - but ugly nonetheless. Now all we have to do is figure out how much "pretty" is going to cost.

I think I need to go spit that rock out. . . . . 'scuse me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

he's here!

His name is Luther.Because he said so.
What's that?

No. That's the way my ears came. Rakish, don't you think?

Welcome wishes now being accepted. His Lairdship Luther is taking a nap. It's been a long day. . . . and he still has the "official" meeting with the cat to live through, and any moment now the Blue Angels can be expected to do a brief fly-over in lieu of their usual practice for the big Naval Academy graduation show, since it's raining. . . .

Thank God for small miracles. A two hour journey by car, farewell to his mother, "home" with two strangers, a hostile cat and loud aerial acrobatics right over the roof top - all in one day? I'd be under the bed, too.

Sleep tight little Luther.

Monday, May 19, 2008

lotta happenings

The stone masons are back and have finished the stone arches and brick over the studio window and dining room door. I'm thinking only one more day and they'll be done with the rest of the stone. I'll miss seeing them. They have done such a splendid job.The well-diggers hit water at about 175 feet. It's a good aquifer, we're told. The picture below is of the well - not much to look at, but it should do the job!
Meanwhile, the replacement fireplace - to replace the one that arrived a few weeks ago, smashed - arrived.Bad news: it appears the replacement fireplace rolled off the forklift. . . .. . . and smashed.

OK then. Make way for fireplace number three!!! Let's hope the third time is the charm.

Inside, I discovered evidence that we won't be the first family to move into the tower. At least one family has already moved in, raised their young brood, and flown the coop.I admire their interior decorating: moss! A nice look - and comfy to boot.

The masons advise that there's a wasp's nest under construction over at the studio. . . .

Oh - and Jack's back!He oversaw a small crew of carpenters out back putting on the fascia and frieze board.

Pretty soon, however, there's gonna be a new dog in town. Blueboy.

He arrives tomorrow.

Friday, May 16, 2008

garden candy

I'm so predictable. This is just the kind of plant I could be expected to fall in love with. All sparkly and magical looking - and easy to grow! If - by all reports - rather "'Spensive", per a fabulous Gardening Blog I frequent, Garden Rant.

The more important question - as I am quickly learning - is:
Will the deer leave it alone?
It looks a little too much like a Hosta for my peace of mind, which I understand deer view as candy. And they eat their dessert first: none of this save-the-best-for-last for them! At the cost of these plants - if the deer are partial to them - I might as well take a deer to dinner every night until the deer hound gets big enough to be a deterrent. Then again, our last deer hound was afraid of deer. . . .

Meanwhile, I'm busy learning about garden design. So far, I have learned two very important things:

1. Be aware of your 'point of view'. I finally realized that one of my biggest obstacles in trying to come up with a design was that I was trying to design the garden from within the garden! That's nice as far as it goes, but it makes it a bit difficult to relate to the rest of the house. . . . In order to design a garden, you first have to step out of it. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it?

2. You can only have one focal point (or only a very limited number). Too many stunning specimen trees and different, unusual flowers make for a mishmash of a mess and way too much to look at, peacefully. I've seen the punch of a single wash of one kind of flower - maybe poppies, or daffodils, or echinacea - that is not equaled by an area of the same size comprised of all three, plus cosmos, shrub roses, loosestrife, coreopsis, daisies and dahlias. There's the question of different flowering times, but you get my drift.

Note to self: Remember where you are, and keep it simple.

But I still like this plant! Maybe I can keep it simple with this plant - in the forest shade, anyway - so long as I can keep the deer at bay?

P.S. - it's a Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost.' I want one. Or 20.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

the next big decision. . . .

Colour. That's the next big decision we have to make. Colour of the stucco.

Note to self: you really do have to work with larger colour samples on this stuff. Amazingly, the sheet with the many stripes of colour is the "most popular" - i.e. the "standard" stucco colours. You will note the total absence of anything approaching either white or gray.

The "safe" call is white, of course, in one of its many incarnations. Namely: white with a yellow undertone? Blue? Green? Red?

White-white is a scary, harsh thing. Not something we'd do in stucco.

I'm not sure we're going to do white or cream stucco in any event, though. Believe it or not, we're leaning towards an orangish yellow! To wit: the colour on the picture at the far left of the windowsill, above. It was of the more 'out-there' examples that our stucco-man provided of his work, and it's really grown on us. Yellow.

If you can imagine!

I feel like I should consult colour experts here. I feel totally out of my league.


This is either going to be really cool - or really horrible.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Not much to say. . . . it's finally done.
Right. Maybe move back a bit. How's this?Or this?I'm loving it.

But then that's my motto: never turn down an invitation to a castle.

what's wrong with this picture?

C'mon guys - see if you can spot it!

It only took me a month. . . . ok. . . . month and a half.

two months?

Whatever. . . . .

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

drum roll please

The stone tower is done - the stone part of it, anyway. . . .

I have a picture - but the scaffolding is still up. I'm going to wait and see if that comes down today so I can get an unobstructed shot. Finally!

I think the masons are almost as pleased about the tower as I am. They were certainly delighted to hear me woo-hooing as they packed up their tools yesterday afternoon, having worked a bit longer than usual to finish it up before quitting time. These guys travel 2 hours to get here every day, can you imagine?!

Anyway - we have them a bit longer still, as they still have window surrounds and Houndstooth studio to finish.

Tom-builder says he will grade, soon, as well. Oh yeah! Can you spell "g-a-r-d-e-n"?

Which brings me to another issue. A problem.

After my red letter day of the first planting at the greenwood, some dastardly denizen keeps digging up what I put in!

They don't eat it, mind you, just dig it up and leave it out - roots all exposed. What's with that, do you think?!

Gardening might be harder at this location than I suspected. I have visions of me sitting out on a straight-backed chair, shotgun over my knees. . . . .

Saturday, May 3, 2008

hound of the greenwood

The boys have been growing apace. In two weeks, one of these guys is coming home to live with us. I have no idea which one and - truth to tell - I don't think I could bear to have to make the decision.

Luckily, we don't have to.

But I can hardly wait to know which one it's going to be! Meanwhile, there are preparations to make. Food to buy; a crate to acquire (check - found one today at a local yard sale, if you can imagine!); dog bed; leash; collar; check, check, check!

These are the last few days, pre-puppy. . . .

Now: what shall we call him?

red letter day

This is a red letter day!

Being the day on which I planted the very first plant at the Greenwood.

Our first plant, that is. As already somewhat documented, the place came fully stocked with an assortment of really lovely already-naturalized plantings.

Thank you!

Anyway - here's what I planted: Mondo. Black (top left) and one dwarf (bottom right). That looks to be a volunteer strawberry in the top right. . . .I cringe a little as I confess that it feels awkward to me to use either of those two words anymore - black and/or dwarf - "political correctness" gone crazy.

I really love black Mondo, though, and this first batch never did very well in the spot I'd placed it in our rental house garden. I thought I'd get them out of there as soon as possible, and hope they do better at the greenwood.

Meanwhile, I dug up another batch of dwarf Mondo that had multiplied from three little sprigs to an entire colony. I lined the outside of Figaro's new clay pot with the little guys. Figaro will spend the summer in a pot and be transplanted into his permanent home at the greenwood this fall.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

no comment


As promised, here is a picture of figaro - our fig tree - which has produced not only a leaf, but a fig!Eight figs, in fact.

Impressive, no?

the paver and other details

John and red-haired-guy - you remember red-haired-guy, don't you? Pictured below. I can't ever remember his name. It's a failing of mine.Anyway, John and red-haired-guy are getting lots of practice with the herringbone pattern.They're putting in pavers, now. Herringboned.
As you see. They're really getting good at it!

We missed yesterday, but we'll be at the greenwood later this afternoon and I'm hoping the rest of the porch pavers will be done - and who knows about the tower?! They've had two whole days to finish off that little bit left up top. . . .

Meanwhile, I'm obsessing over kitchen sinks, a missing eight inches of kitchen cabinets - or was it seven? - and overwhelmed with light fixtures. Who would have thought there could be so many light fixtures? None of which I seem to like. . . . So far.