We're taking a break from flower photos this month, but we couldn't resist showing you the lovely purple blossoms of the alyssum growing in our back yard... Photo by Roni.
...Or the wooly thyme that has all but consumed the barrel containing our dwarf orange tree. The thyme is quite a bit healthier than the tree. It gets little purple flowers during May. Photo by Glenn.
The house next door to us has been vacant for a couple of months since it went into foreclosure. The lawn has gone completely brown, much as the hills of California do naturally this time of year. There have been a lot of lookers, but so far no buyers. Photo by Glenn.
It's a rainy May 2 morning outside, but inside Ben is thinking about his 15th birthday party that will be starting shortly. Photo by Glenn.
We were told that singing the Happy Birthday song was not cool in the company of high school friends, so we let Albario from Dot Hack do the talking on the cake. Photo by Roni.
Our living room has been transformed into a party zone with the addition of several helium-filled balloons. Photo by Glenn.
It takes a lot of food to feed 10 hungry teenagers... and obviously we didn't have nearly enough. Photo by Glenn.
Ben is surrounded by some of his party guests, all of whom appear to be engaged in their video games. Photo by Glenn.
We got a break in the rain long enough for Glenn to throw some meat on the barbecue. It takes a lot of burgers to feed 10 hungry teenagers... and obviously we didn't have nearly enough. Photo by Roni.
You wanted your hotdogs well done, right? Seriously, it's not as bad as it looks. A little mustard and you'll never notice. Photo by Roni.
Lunch is served and it's time for Ben to dig into the presents. By the way, did we mention that it takes a lot of food to feed 10 hungry teenagers? Obviously we didn't have nearly enough. Photo by Glenn.
Ben models one of his gifts, a Death Note T-shirt. Photo by Glenn.
Good things come in small packages. Ben shows off his Sony PSP. Photo by Glenn.
Just in case you didn't see it over his crowd of enthusiastic fans, Ben displays the box for the other camera. Photo by Roni.
We don't get smiles like this from Ben every day. Clearly he was having a great time as the center of attention. Photo by Glenn.
A close-up peek inside the hanging basket on our back patio reveals the mourning dove family doing well. Here we see mom or dad and the two babies a few days after hatching. Photo by Roni.
Getting ready to test its wings for that first flight, a young dove sits on the edge of the nesting basket. Photo by Glenn.
And what does Eevee think of all this dove nesting activity taking place just outside his back window? "Yummm, let me have some!" Photo by Roni.
Our Spring Season statue reclines in the back seat of Roni's car awaiting unloading for the move to her back yard garden. Photo by Roni.
Glenn has got his hands full as he uses a dolly to wheel Spring from the driveway toward the garage. Photo by Roni.
Roni poses with Spring. Compared to Glenn, Roni looks pretty fresh after the big move. Of course, she wasn't lugging the statue. Photo by Glenn.
An wide angle look at Spring's Garden. The ash tree's branches will have to be pruned back a bit, but she seems to fit under them pretty well. Photo by Roni.
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Rite of Spring
May 30, 2009
Spring is here! Rarely have we been in such anticipation of the arrival of a season two months into it. But our excitement has little to do with the time of year and the rapidly warming weather, and everything to do with the collection of classical statues we have been assembling amid the weeds and flowers in our back yard. Spring, the third member in our Four Seasons series, arrived home from the nursery last week to assume her proud spot on her own 4-foot circle of garden.
Yes, Spring is here! But, as we discovered from the process of transporting her home and wheeling all 260 pounds of her from the driveway to the garden, we are no spring chickens.
We placed our order for Spring the week after our 21st wedding anniversary, visiting Highlands Rock & Garden Center in Pittsburg as an alternative to our Oakley statuary dealer that was closing its doors. The woman we placed our order with told us it would be about four weeks before the statue shipped from the foundry in South San Francisco, but we added a couple of weeks to the estimate so as not to be disappointed; past experience proved this was a wise idea. Turns out that it was nearly six weeks to the day that Highlands called us with the news that our order was in.
That was Friday, May 15. We decided that we'd swing by Saturday afternoon to pick up the statue, seeing as how we had planned to go see the new "Star Trek" movie and would be in the vicinity of the nursery. But by the time the matinee let out after 3 p.m., the temperature had climbed to a blistering 105 degrees. We decided to forgo the statue another day and instead retreated to the relative cool of our living room. We promised ourselves we'd get an earlier start Sunday morning. Maybe we'd even be standing at the gate the moment the place opened at 8:30 a.m. Naw...
True to form, we didn't get out of the house until after noon on Sunday. Although the weather was cooler, by the time we reached the nursery it was still closing in on triple digits. We found Spring isolated in a corner apart from the other statuary, waiting for our arrival. A couple of workers loaded her up on a yard cart and we rolled her out to Roni's car, wishing we could bring the cart home with us too. With Glenn's help, they slid the statue across the back seat, just as we had done twice before. We're old pros at this now. But the heat was something we hadn’t dealt with in our previous statue moves. Winded afterward, Glenn decided we should look around for a bit before we headed home. We ogled the plants and wound up buying a couple tomato vines that rode home in Spring's arms.
Once in our driveway, the real work began. Getting Spring into the car had been relatively easy with the help of two other people at the nursery, but we were on our own now and had to be careful lowering the statue to the ground so as not to damage it. We felt like a pair of obstetricians in the maternity ward as Roni pushed from the head end and Glenn grabbed the feet, easing Spring to the driveway where we stood her up on her own base near the open car door. Couldn’t we just leave her there permanently? Alas, we wanted her in the back yard, so that meant sticking her on Roni’s flimsy aluminum dolly for the ride through the garage.
We cleared the way of boxes and debris, and Glenn shuffled Spring along through the garage and out to the side yard. He was worn out from the heat and the weight of the statue by the time he reached the side door of the garage. We took a long break while letting Spring recline on the dolly a big mistake, in that we had to lift her upright again when we were ready to continue the move. Arnold Schwarzenegger might have been able to effortlessy raise the dead weight, but Glenn found it a bit more challenging. Somehow we managed to wrestle Spring back to upright and plowed our way across the sandy soil and gopher holes to her garden beneath the evergreen ash tree.
We put down a couple of old fence boards to use as ramps, and with Ben’s help holding down the boards so they didn’t fly up and smack Glenn in the head, we managed to pull Spring up the ramp, over the lip of two rows of retaining bricks, and into the garden. Phew! A few adjustments to make sure the statue was standing straight and not in danger of toppling, and the job was done. And so were we. We’re now both eager to get Fall the final statue in the collection but Glenn says it may take another season before he is recovered from moving the one we just got.
We spent some time over Memorial Day weekend checking out the plants at Home Depot so we could add them to the fern that is already growing in Spring’s Garden. We picked up three fuchsias and are hoping to find some mint. There’s not a lot of room to grow things there. At least we have a start now. Glenn added some drip irrigation lines to give the seedlings a fighting chance at continued life. The hot days of summer are just ahead, but being in the shade of the ash tree, at least the plants in Spring’s Garden won’t be exposed to direct light.
We’re getting close to the end of the school year. Ben is in the middle of preparing for finals, but he is also looking forward to the start of vacation when he will have more time to spend online with his friends. He’s had a lot of social time this month, between getting together with his friends for Magic card tournaments and his 15th birthday party.
Ben’s birthday fell on a Saturday this year, and he hoped that meant he’d draw a good crowd for the party he’d been planning for more than a month. He wound up inviting 10 friends and probably would have invited more if not for Mom and Dad reminding him that the house is barely large enough for the three of us. Still, we didn’t expect everyone to show; so often you send out a handful of invitations and get a couple of takers. At least, that had been our past experience. But not this time. Apparently last year’s video game party went over so well that it has become the entertainment of choice for all the kids in Ben’s circle of friends. He has been to several other birthday parties since then at which the guests spent the entire day gaming or talking about games. We often have to drag him away as the parties are breaking up.
Almost all of the people on Ben’s invite list showed up, which made for a great day for him while reminding us why people who do a lot of entertaining invest in so-called trophy homes. It’s nice to have room for your guests to move about, or a place far removed from the action where you can escape to if you need a break. We still have a difficult time thinking of teens as anything but slightly older versions of the cute little kids we once had over from Ben’s kindergarten class for a Train Day field trip in 2000. We fit 20 or so kindergartners quite comfortably into our living room. But not the 10 full-size high-schoolers who were in our house May 2.
High school kids are both larger and louder. Get a little sugar in them along with an intense game of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and you need to crank the volume on your headphones just to drown them out. We hid out in our bedroom watching TV and sending Twitter feeds most of the afternoon while the party raged on in the living room. Compounding things was Mother Nature’s lack of cooperation. A heavy rain fell much of the day, preventing people from going outside on the back patio. The storm let up just long enough so Glenn could throw some meat on the barbecue and feed the hungry horde.
Roni whipped together several of her favorite salads to go along with the appetizers she’d bought for the party. We thought the kids would be so stuffed on snacks and cake and ice cream that they wouldn’t be too hungry for a full lunch. We cooked up 19 hamburger patties, eight hot dogs and a couple of veggie burgers. More than enough, we thought, to have some leftovers. But just to be safe, we held off on making burgers for ourselves until we were sure all the kids had enough food. Within five minutes of putting out the meat, every last bit of it was gone. The salads? Hardly touched. So while the kids enjoyed their hotdogs and double-decker cheese burgers, we feasted on a large bowl of pasta salad, reminding ourselves never again to underestimate the capacity of teenagers to inhale food.
When it came time to open presents, Ben made out like a bandit. We decided to let him open his gifts from us at the same time, so he could share the moment with his party guests. Of course he was thrilled to receive his new Sony PSP gaming system he’d been asking for, along with the three games he got with it. Most of his friends gave cash, which seems to be the preferred party gift nowadays. He amassed close to $150 that he is stashing away to use when he attends the next SacAnime convention in August. We tried to take pictures of the present unwrapping, with mixed success. Glenn put his journalistic skills covering press conferences to use standing in the back of the room and craning his camera over the crowd to photograph the birthday boy. Roni had a more useful angle, standing beside Ben so she could pass out his presents.
Overall it was a good day. We’ll just remember to keep the refrigerator better stocked in the future.
During April and May we got a front row seat while our resident mourning doves dutifully tended their nest in one of the hanging baskets on our back patio. We weren't actually sure how many eggs they’d laid until May 8, when two healthy squabs emerged. Over the next week we watched as they got bigger and stronger, standing on the edge of the basket and flexing their wings for their eventual first flight. On May 15, we watched as the last baby took off from the nest, shepherded by an anxious mom who didn't like that we were outside on the back patio, even though we had been watching the family up close for more than five weeks.
We thought that was the last we'd see of the babies once they had soared over our back fence. But just a couple of hours later, Glenn left for work and saw one of the babies being attacked by a scrub jay, the mother dove frantically fighting off the jay's savage pecks. The next morning, Roni found the baby dove dead on our front lawn. A life cut all too short. Sad as that was to us, it came as no surprise; doves have an incredibly high mortality rate.
But to end the story on an upbeat note, a few days later we were working in the back yard when Glenn noticed something moving on the ground near the large retaining wall. He had been cleaning out the water fountain on the day we brought Spring home, so we could enjoy the sounds of the trickling water while we worked, and apparently he caught the attention of a young dove that had been hiding at the base of the wall. Was it thirsty? Roni got a bowl of water for the little bird, thinking it might be injured and unable to fly. It proved us wrong by darting for the top of the lattice on the fence between our home and the foreclosed house next door. We don't know for fact that it is the same bird that was born in our patio nest, but for the past week we have seen it perched on one of the fence posts. Maybe he just doesn't want to leave home.
Our gardening efforts have been few and far between so far this spring. We’ve mostly let the wild poppies overrun the yard, and recently we have been enjoying a few handfuls of strawberries off the vines that survived from last year. We bought a weed whacker from Home Depot over Memorial Day weekend that we have yet to use. The east side of the house is totally awash in foxtails again.
Roni did pick up a few tomatoes and peppers that she is trying to grow in the same spot as last year outside the kitchen. We were excited that a couple plants sprouted from seed from last year’s crops a sunflower that is growing quite huge, and a tomato vine. The tomato was well on its way to becoming a fruit-bearing plant before it got taken out in one gulp by the latest incarnation of Mr. Gopher. The little demon spawn had been tunneling around the side yard for months, but we hadn’t seen any activity in the garden and thought he’d found other places to dine. Wrong. We’ve set traps for him.
We’ve all been spending a lot of time on Facebook these days. Roni has been active on the site since January, using it to help promote her Romance Book Scene activities. Glenn has been using it more often since discovering the Rock Legends game that is one of the many applications linked to the site. Ben, already heavily immersed in his own social networking sites, had managed to resist the pull of Mom and Dad’s Facebook addiction until we both started playing another linked game called Farm Town. Ben liked the idea of growing his own virtual farm and gifting his friends with fruit trees and farm animals, so he signed up for his own Facebook account. One weekend, the three of us were all simultaneously playing Farm Town on our individual computers. Ben has since discovered the various quizzes and trivia games that can be played on Facebook and has become an active user of the site. At the rate we’re going, it may not be long before we move this newsletter and more of our photos over there. Not that we have immediate plans to do so, but the Internet continues to evolve…