Thursday, July 12, 2018

Transitioning


Sunset two nights ago. Monsoon season in Utah makes for some startlingly beautiful sunsets.
The good news is, I've found a new yard care crew to help me with mowing and general yard work. I don't know how they will work out, but they mowed for the first time yesterday, and I'm pleased with the result. I've been let down by so many people this year, I can't be entirely positive yet.

It's been a physically hard spring/summer this year doing so much yard work myself.  I had gotten into a good routine of mowing and trimming the lawn, weeding through my endless cycle of areas, tweaking sprinkling system, planting and creating new interesting areas. But it was hard work. I started early morning every day and pushed to stay outside as long as possible. It felt good -- very good -- to accomplish so much. But some days I just crashed and felt like I couldn't continue. Nevertheless, I got up the next day and carried on.

In some ways I will miss that good feeling of absolute control over what is happening in my yard. But, realistically, I know it's not smart for me to continue in the hot weather that has set in. I'll miss saving all that money, too, by doing the work myself. But at least I managed nearly halfway through the summer.  And I have new confidence in myself in what I can do physically at my age.

Now, I need to change my plans and focus on other areas. I find I get disoriented at first when things change and I have a hard time transitioning from one phase to another. There is always a lot to do, inside and out, and I want to apply the same focus, dedication and hard work in other areas as I have done so far this summer.  I hate spinning my wheels for a few days while I figure out how to do that. But that seems to be how I often handle things these days.

One of the things I have learned is to plan the night before what I intend to focus on for a given day.  I would decide to mow the lawn, for example. I'd check the hourly temperatures and decide what time to start. I'd think through what I needed: charge the batteries, cool clothing, water, etc. When morning rolled around, everything was in place and I was mentally ready and just went ahead with the plan. I worked my way through all the sections of my yard doing this.

Another thing I did was to write in my personal blog every day, recording the things I got done. It was extremely effective for me to simply read through the titles of blogs during that period to grasp just how much I was getting done. It motivated me to keep on.

With it being summer I have the grandkids at my house again. But this year it's just three days a week, and just short days, as their other grandparents are in town for the summer. This means my time isn't entirely absorbed by our usual activities.  But, strangely enough, sometimes I find myself wasting the in between day because I haven't figured out how I want to use it. My younger self didn't need to do so much thinking about how to spend my time. Now, if I want to make the most of my days, I have to give it some real thought.

So today is a transition day as it applies to yard maintenance, and I intend to make the most of it. I am trying to take what I've learned and apply it to every day.  I'll try to rebalance my time with the things I need and want to do. And try to make the change more gracefully. Yes, the To Do lists have been a great help, and I will continue to rely on them. But I will also continue with a little planning of my day the evening before. And I will add to my personal blog to help me see how I'm using my time.

And finally, I want to get back into some birding, photography, and painting. My time will again allow for more fun things.

Monday, June 4, 2018

More pics from around the yard

The coming week will be in the 90s every day with today reaching nearly 100. But I got out early and planted a little tableau I had been planning.
I had seen this online showing a broken pot with ice plant flowing from it and I wanted to copy it. But I didn't have a broken pot. I think this one does just as well. And I used sedum instead of ice plant. It came in a flat, so I separated out some of the taller varieties and planted them further up, with the plain low-growing sedum at the bottom. I also transplanted some rock crop from a shady part of the yard where it wasn't doing well (to the right of the pot by the crane's head, hard to see). And I planted a small yellow hyssop to the left side.  I think it makes a sweet little tableau. I added direct irrigation points from the drip system. I'm getting pretty good at that as I want to make the best use of the precious water I use.

With the kids out of school and heading to Brazil tomorrow, I was able to get out in the yard very early and work three hours before the heat set in. That is my plan the rest of the month. I still have four grass plants to get in the ground. And plenty of weeding still to do around the yard. It's surprising how much I can get done when I can start so early.

I was more than surprised when one of Alberto's guys showed up at my house this morning. But I just sent him away as I'd already fixed the sprinkling system myself.

Managed to get a few more pictures from around the yard today.
 The hot, sunny southeast corner is putting on a color show.

 Along the east sidewalk, the Jupiter's Beard and catmint are most in evidence. I planted quite a few new things along this walk this spring in two main areas separated by a large clump of guara. I tried to plant the same plants, more or less, in both areas: salvia, yarrow, blanket flower, pin cushion, coreopsis, artemesia and grasses. Behind the second area I added cone flower, bellflowers, and white salvia. Everthing is getting directly watered from the drip system and everything seems to be putting down roots and thriving.

My yard work over the past five weeks is paying off big time with beauty all around the yard. More pics to come.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Backyard Flower Beds

I've managed to get some decent photos of a couple of the backyard beds. The bed next to the stairs was taken in bad light, and you really can't see the color of the plants. But, here they are so far. I'll try to do more as time goes on.  This is three of the five distinct flower beds. The larger xeric area is bigger than all five combined. Pics of that area later.

 Sunny back of the house. The delphiniums are about all that's new in this bed.
 The shady hosta bed is almost all new.
 Two types of bellflowers. The lower mounding one is a survivor of previous years. The tall ones are new as are all the hostas an some of the coral bells.

Peach-colored iris. Just one of a half dozen different varieties.
This is from a few weeks ago and things are growing and looking better. This is a shady bed and steep. I've made some small fences to help stabilize the hill while new plants get established. There is a lot of color here that isn't seen in this poor photo.  Some geum, red salvia, dianthas, coral bells and hostas and two other plants I can't remember. I hope they all live.

Friday, June 1, 2018

My Own Yard Crew of One

Since my last post, I've been very busy taking care of the yard myself. There has been a lot to do. There still is. But I've made some beautiful improvements and made things better overall. I'm fed up with people who promise to do work for me and who let me down. I know I can count on myself. And right now, that's exactly what I'm doing.

The lawn mowing guy I hired didn't work out. After he rescheduled three times in the first week, I just let him go. My son and grandsons came and mowed for me that day and I did some of the mowing myself. I have had this really nice Kobalt cordless electric mower for a  couple years and haven't used it. But I have discovered how lightweight it is to push. It does a beautiful job. And it starts right up with the push of a button. The lithium ion batteries recharge in about 30 minutes. I have since mowed the lawn, front and back myself three times with no problem. I mow early in the morning while it's cool. I mulch rather than bag clippings. And I do all of the steep or tricky parts first while I'm fresh. What remains is just a pleasant stroll back and forth until it's done. I've got this.

One hitch, though. In looking up something about my mower, I found it has a recall because a few of the models have caught fire. So I may have to try to find someone to fill the gap while the mower is in for its update.

On the same day they mowed for me, my son and grandkids also helped me with turning on and testing the sprinkling system, and with hauling topsoil, fertilizer and grass seed to reseed the back hill where Alberto's guy had used the string trimmer and taken out a third of the grass right down to the dirt. The new grass has now come in beautiful and strong. It wasn't the first damage I found from the Alberto cleanup last fall. And I'm sorry to say Alberto has refused to take my calls or reply to my emails or texts asking him to send someone to repair what they broke. The good news is, I have been able to make repairs myself and have moved on.

At the start of May I had a long list of things that needed doing. I had to carefully prioritize the tasks because, for example, planting of perennials needed to be finished in May. And sprinkling system problems needed to be resolved as new planting areas were completed. I have five distinct flower beds in addition to the large xeriscaped areas on east and west and the high south side of the lot. Two of the gardens were utterly decimated by careless cleanup crew that removed a lot of perennials. The other three beds needed some new things added.  I worked my way through one bed at a time; weeding, planting, fertilizing, modifying sprinklers. When I finished the plantings in the fifth bed, I really felt like celebrating.

At the same time, I've worked my way through the east side xeriscaped area, doing the same weeding, planting, etc. I've made many tweaks to the sprinkling system, and I'll be doing still more. I can see areas getting too much water, and other getting none at all.  Since it is all now in a drip system, it is relatively easy for me to make the changes myself. I'm learning a lot about the different fittings and what works best where. And I learned a trick that applying a little heat to the tubing makes it a lot easier to push the fittings into the tubing. I use a disposable cigarette lighter and apply the heat every so lightly.

In between times, when it rained or I was too tired to stand, I sat on the patio and put annuals into hanging pots and patio pots for myself and my son's yard. I painted a few pots that were looking a little sad, and painted some other patio kitsch that needed freshening up. Oh yeah, and I've killed a few gophers. And all this while continuing to spend four hours a day with the grandkids before and after school.

I guess I've planted close to 70 new perennials now and at least the same number of annuals. I've transplanted another 30 plants to situate them better. I'm almost finished. I bought some ornamental grasses to provide more screening from the road at the top of my property, and I'll plant those next week. And I'm trying again with a new hyssop. I'm sad to say that Alberto's guys pulled up every hyssop, blanket flower, and bee balm I had, along with various salvia, pin cushion, yarrow, and other odds and ends. They also damaged the sprinkling system in several places, including severing one main supply line with a shovel. I've had to fix all those things myself. I have moved past feeling angry about that. One thing I know for sure, the cleanup crew in the fall (me) will not be pulling up flowers thinking they're weeds. And I'll be sure to repair anything I damage in the sprinkling system.

I still have a to do list of some 20 things, of which about half are weeding of additional areas. But that's an ongoing process throughout the summer. I don't feel panicked or worried. I feel up to the task. And, when I look out my kitchen window and see my beautiful new shady hosta garden in many shades of green with some lovely bellflowers and coral bells thrown in and the other shade garden just to the right with more colorful plants, I feel so happy and so pleased. The chickadees are my constant companions as a new brood will soon be fledging from the little blue bird house once again. The swallowtail butterflies have found the Jupiter's Beard. I feel joy and satisfaction from all I've done. I'm able to sit on the patio for a few minutes a day and just enjoy.

That's not to say it's been easy. My body is getting older and my strength and endurance are not what they used to be. But no matter how tired I am, or how much my body hurts, I make myself go out and get to work for a few hours at least every day.

I shouldn't need to do so much planting next year. Once the plants are established, they will continue to fill in. Today and almost every day I'm in the yard, someone stops and tells me how beautiful and colorful my yard is. It feels good to hear this. I keep tweaking things to make it better. But I'm hoping I'm finished with the need for major planting anywhere now.

And photos? I've taken a few, but not enough and in too bright sunlight. I'll pick a less sunny day and try to get a set of pictures to post.



Friday, April 27, 2018

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I'm breaking up with a guy who's been in my life for nine or so years, and I'm finding it a little hard to do. The guy is my landscaper, Alberto. I'm afraid we no longer see eye to eye. The beginning of the end was last fall when I had him do some clean up in the yard and he ended up billing me more than double what he quoted me. Since there was nothing special in the clean up, I told him I felt his billing wasn't right. He tried to make excuses. But I also complained about some damage his guys had done. He finally said to just pay what I thought was fair. And I compromised on the amount.

This spring, when I called him to start the lawn mowing service, he told me the weekly price was going up from $35 to $50. He was vague about when his guys would be coming and he sort of hedged on the pricing. I sort of took it to mean he really didn't want to work for me any more.

And I know why.

He has been doing steady work for a guy who flips houses and it's keeping him very busy. And I'm to blame for that. I recommended Alberto to my hairdresser who lives 15 miles away. The house flipper guy is a neighbor of hers and he liked the work he saw Alberto do. He hired Alberto to do the yards of all the houses he was flipping. He has a set formula of what he wanted and I guess they ended up doing a lot of work together.

My loss. Alberto isn't as hungry for work as when I first hired him. He's also paying guys $20 per hour to work for him. So things have changed and there's no going back.

Today, I contacted four guys who advertised on Facebook. Two responded and I have tentatively hired one. He quoted me $25 per week. He doesn't have a crew -- he does it all himself. He starts next week. I am prepared that it could go either way: I'll be pleased and he'll last all summer. Or I'll be unhappy and will discontinue using him. But I'm not getting attached like I've been with Alberto. After my bad experience with the snow removal guys in March, I've come to understand that anyone might let you down at any time. There are no guarantees.

Alberto has been so reliable and has done such good work for so long, I've really become dependant on him. I couldn't' imagine wanting to get other bids or consider anyone else. I called him for everything yard-related.

I sent Alberto an email with a little white lie. I told him I was going to try to do the mowing myself with the help of my family. I guess I wanted to soften the message and .also not burn any bridges. Just in case.

So, just like many other things, this is the end of. an era. I honestly feel a little sad. I'll miss Alberto. But this is the right thing to do.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

April - A bit more humble

I had a major whine earlier this morning. And I'm not proud of myself. So I decided to take the post down. I'll say this much. Life ain't easy when you're 70. But I'm lucky to have reasonably good health and to be able to continue to contribute in meaningful ways. And I've still got a little vim and vinegar, too. But I've still a whole lot of room for improvement.

April with its Snow -- And preparing to die

 No, I'm not dying. Well, not any faster than I was previously. I'm just suddenly far more aware of the coming end. But more about that later. First, snow. Big, fat, juicy flakes. April in Utah.


I shouldn't be needing snow removal assistance today. And good thing, too, because the young guys who contracted with me in November, let me down big time in March.  Winter really started in earnest in February here. On Sunday, March 4th, we had the biggest snowstorm of the year, with about 15 inches or so in my driveway. I was sitting comfortable, thinking my snow removal guys would soon be here. To make a long story short, after many phone calls and texts, I finally reached them, only to find out they'd decided to discontinue their service as of the end of February. Of course, they failed to tell me and I had to find out with over a foot of heavy wet snow in my driveway. By that time, I had already paid them for March. What ensued (and continues to this day) was an attempt to collect a refund for my March payment and for their ludicrous "priority" payment. In his last text to me, he promised to pay both, but no longer responds to any messages from me.

Obla di, obla da.

 On the same week, my first ex-husband had a heart attack. Luckily, surgery was successful and he is recovering well. However, no strenuous activity allowed.  I had a selfish reason for being irritated at his ill health.  I'm one of these mothers who believes parents should help out their adult kids and grandkids. Life is difficult for everyone. And when we're retired, we can and should do more to be there for them. My sons' dad has not really had the same attitude, but I always considered it maybe an ace in the hole, if I became unable to help out, that he could step in for awhile and take up the slack. No such hope for that now. And, I am truly sorry about his ill health. But now he will be needing the help and won't be able to offer help himself. *sigh*

My son's in-laws in Brazil are suffering from similar challenges. The father is suffering from progressive dementia and now is in the hospital also awaiting heart surgery. Those in-laws will travel to the U.S. in June accompanied by my son, his wife and their kids. But the journey will be challenging and somewhat risky. But with their green cards acquired a year ago, they need to return soon. They will be here during the summer this year, and they would normally take over duties of looking after the grandsons. But the mom will have her hands full just looking after her husband, and I will be needed to care for the boys. Selfish of me, but I was hoping for a summer off from those duties. But I am lucky to be in good health, and I will make sure we have another good summer, all of us.

After the snow guys let me down in March, I fell into something of a depression. It wasn't just that incident alone, but a deep realization of my inability to take care of everything myself and the need to depend on others -- who will not always be dependable. I have begun seriously considering a move from my big house and yard to either a condo or a "patio" home -- preferring the later with a small yard for Frankie, but everything on one level and an extra bedroom for visiting kids and grandkids.  It's a reality for me more than ever before. I have even started looking at available properties online. And I'm in the process of relooking at every room in my house and basically "staging" it to be ready to show for sale in case I decide on the spur of the moment to put it on the market.

But I might have gone off the deep end. That's what I mean by preparing to die. I have become so single-minded about improving and improving, keeping clean, getting things in order, I have stopped doing many things I love to do. I can't find time to go birding or even to go walking. I keep thinking I'll start painting again and playing the piano, and many other things. Maybe I'll take a little trip. Just as soon as I finish getting ready for something. Ready for what?  Ready to move? No, it's more than that. It's almost as if I don't want to be caught dying unprepared!  Am I crazy?

Yes.

This must be a 70s thing. I know other people who are similarly worried about getting things in order. Yet I know others who say, screw it, it's my turn to have fun and have the life I want. Some people I know seem almost desperate to have as much fun as possible ALL the time.  And when you think about it, it's probably a symptom of the same problem I have. The realization that we are in the very last phase of life and we'd better not be wasting any time.

Well. I'm smart enough to realize this. So I should be smart enough to convince myself that balance is the answer. Do some preparation, but also have some fun. But every day it's the same thing: I'll have some fun tomorrow.

But I'm not dead yet.

So, as hard as it is for me, I'm going to resolve now to squeeze in some of those things I've set aside. I did do the guitar class for 8 weeks with my grandson and boy did we have fun. And we still play our guitars together. Then I found a great keyboard for them online, and both boys are really eager for piano lessons. They want this summer to be the summer of music. I want it too. I want to keep going with the guitar, and do regular formal piano lessons with the boys. And maybe ukuleles for fun, too. At least the kids are aagreater priority for me, and I find it easier to devote time to them. But these musical activities will be so very good for me as well. I also joined the community chorus. It's not the perfect place for me. Mainly because they do nothing but show tunes, which is about my least favorite music to sing (am I the only person in the world who hates Suddenly Seymour?), and I wish we would add some other genres. But it is singing. And quite honestly, there's a lift to the spirit when you spend a couple of hours singing in a group. My voice is still rusty, and sometimes I come out with a squawk where a note is wanted. But I'm getting better. And I'm going to stick with it because I believe singing is good for my health and something I so love to do.

So, do not worry. I may be preparing to die. But there is no sign that that occasion is near. In the meantime, I'm going to try to live a little.




Friday, January 26, 2018

January

I was all prepared for winter this year. My new, all-wheel drive Subaru with super duper snow tires. I had hired some young guys to shovel my snow. I was relaxed about January for the first time in a long time.  But winter sort of fizzled out in January. We've had only one really good snow storm with about 9 or 10 inches here.  Otherwise, just an inch or two here and there. My preparations have just not been put to the test. My real concern is not about my wasted efforts, but with a dry water year ahead. I'll have to curtail some of my usual planting in the spring and plan to conserve water.

On a bright note, I've been busy getting things done on my To Do list. That always pleases me.

I signed up for a beginning guitar class with my 15-year old grandson. Our first class was last night. I have two really lovely guitars and he will be using my Taylor while I play the Ibanez. His dad will get him an electric guitar if he sticks with it and learns well. Even though I have played for years, I am liking starting from the beginning again as I've forgotten so much and my technique is sloppy. It's only eight weeks in a community school evening class.  We are two of 20 students -- a big class!

I also  saw an announcement that some people in my town are starting up a community chorus. I have been wanting to find a chorus to sing with for some time. It is, unfortunately, on the same night as our guitar class, but the director said it will be ok if I come late. My voice is rusty and it will be such a pleasure to be reading music and singing again.

My eye exam this month revealed that the cataracts in my eyes have reached a "borderline" state where I could qualify for surgery, or I could wait another year or so. I have been wanting to do the surgery. Primarily, so I could get rid of contact lenses. My older sister and my youngest sister both had the surgery last year, which made me want to do it even more. So now I'm presented with that option. It will be costly because I want to get multi-focal lenses and those are not covered by insurance/Medicare. I have the money to do it, but it's still a big decision. Surprisingly, I'm thinking I'll just update my contact lenses one last time now and put off the surgery until it's more necessary. It's something I can decide to do at any time. Knowing that, I think I'll wait and choose a convenient time. It's good to have options.

So that's January. Yes, we have a few more days. This is such a long month. But being warmer and drier than normal, it hasn't had the downer impact on me January usually does. I'm looking forward to February with some added music in my routines.  If I'm not posting much, it will be because I'm keeping busy.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wait, I Need a December Post!

Here it is, December 31st, and I haven't posted a single thing this month. So with the month and year fast coming to a close, let me see if I can put together a little something to suffice.

What happened in December?  Well, we had Christmas (quite nice) and four birthdays (also nice). One of the birthdays was my 70th. I still can't get used to that number. I in no way feel 70 and think there must be some mistake with the math. It seemed that such a number deserved a little more special observance than I usually have (sometime let me explain to you about between-Christmas-and-New-Year's birthdays).  So, I got a very special cake and had them write happy birthday to me on it, invited the family over, and had a little party. It was small, but fun.

The week before Christmas I broke my cell phone and managed to replace that with a remarkably inexpensive option when I had planned to get the most expensive thing out there.

The day after my birthday, I nearly poisoned Frankie. I accidentally left out a box of chocolate-covered cookies on the table when I took the grandkids to spend some of their Christmas money. The box was about half full, and when we returned, it was empty. A fast trip to the vet, and the quick emptying of stomach contents saved our little boy. He was sad for a day and had to take a few meds for a couple of days, but he's back to his old sweet self, and I have learned an important lesson.

The lesson really is something serious I've been thinking about a lot.  I am easily distracted and sometimes forget to do something or complete something.  The lists I write help, but maybe I've become so dependent on lists, my memory doesn't serve as well. Whatever it is, I am making a big effort to be "in the moment" every moment. Whatever I'm doing, I try to think and remember other things at the same time. It's not truly multi-tasking, but more like interruptions to keep myself alert and not mono-focused. I even talk myself through things, out loud, to avoid mistakes.

This winter, I signed up to have some young guys shovel the snow from my walks and drive.  It has worked out quite well.  Except that they went out of town for two days at Christmas and it snowed here both days. I shoveled about an inch myself, and on Christmas day, two neighbors with snowblowers cleared about six inches or so for me. The sad thing is that it has been a very dry and warm winter so far. If we don't get more snow, we won't be watering our yards in the summer.

Let's see, before Frankie's chocolate poisoning, I'd had him in to the vet for some stomach issues, and he has been on a restricted ingredient diet ever since. He has not been very happy about it, but I've been able to find some things that he does like and we can soon start adding other foods to see what he tolerates.

December was a good month, but taken in all, 2017 was not a good year. I have allowed myself to get depressed over current events too much.  I will be setting some goals for 2018, and among those will be to separate my personal life and feelings from the disaster that is at the top of our government right now.

Tonight I will got to bed early, as I always do. But I will be awakened at midnight by the inevitable fireworks that will go on for at least half an hour. At that time, I'll get up and watch the displays and drink a private toast to a good 2018 for all of us.  2018 is the Year of the Dog, but I have decided to make it the year of me. It's time to take better care of myself physically and emotionally. I have some specific plans in that regard. And I plan to get back to more artistic endeavors as well.  Of course, I will still spend a lot of my time helping my kids with many things. But I will try to remember to give myself the time and effort needed for good health and happiness.

So, cheers to 2018, whatever it brings.  May we be equal to all the challenges and worthy of all the rewards.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving Wrap-up, the Last Turkey

I completely forgot to get a picture this year. I had 11 at the table and the food was traditional and delicious. It took a couple of weeks of planning and several shopping trips, and finally, two exhausting days of cooking to put it on. I debated not doing a turkey this year, and doing a couple of chickens instead along with the ever-popular salmon. But I fell back to doing the traditional thing. And it turned out well.

But the older and weaker I get, the more I hate wrestling that heavy bird to get it cleaned, seasoned, dressed, into the roaster, basted, cooked to temperature, out of the roaster, rested, onto a platter, carved, served, later meat removed from bones and stored for leftovers. Oh, and I forgot pouring off drippings and making gravy. And I hate my pious friends who boil the bones for a most fantastic broth and, thereupon, make fantastic soups. Well, hate is a strong word. Maybe I'm more jealous and disgusted because I'm so sick of handling that bird, the last thing I want is to extend its life and usefulness by boiling bones.

At the dinner table, I announced to the family that this was probably my last turkey. In fact, it might be my last Thanksgiving day dinner. All of my children have other dinner invites every year, and we go through a crazy exercise of trying to find a time when everyone can be together at the same time. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. And if they've already been to an earlier dinner, they're not so hungry for the big feast I produced.  So what to do?

I'm thinking of going completely against tradition. My idea is to make a couple of pots of homemade soup and homemade breads. Simple, delicious, and just the right amount of food for people who are trying to hit two or even three dinners that day. Everyone, including the grandchildren, liked the idea and it produced quite a lot of discussion. I may even do it later on the long weekend -- maybe Sunday evening.

It felt good to have my family be supportive of my wish to depart from traditional Thanksgiving things. I had already abandoned most Christmas decorating traditions for several years now: no tree or lights. But I adorn my house with poinsettias and sometimes my whimsical Christmas village, and wreaths on the door. I'm down to doing the things that give me pleasure and make the holiday a happier time for me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November - Some Firsts at the Birdfeeders

In October I had let the birdfeeders run out and was considering giving up the feeding due to occasional rodents and the difficulty of getting to the feeding station in the winter. I'm so glad I didn't.

I original;y set up this feeding station so I could watch the birds from my kitchen window. It's a tall pole with arms extending out for various feeders -- high enough the deer can't reach them. I serve mostly black oil sunflower seeds, but also millet, nyger, peanuts, and suet.

A couple of weeks ago as I watched the empty feeders, a surprising Red-Breasted Nuthatch showed up. It's not rare in Utah, but rare in my yard. I've probably seen just a couple in the trees since I've lived here. I ran to grab my camera, but missed him. I immediately replenished all the feeders. Did it return?  Yes! In fact, every day it comes back.  And now they are coming in twos and threes.

Now while this is going on, I've been following Utah bird threads online and have seen that other birders are seeing this charming bird for the first time at their backyard feeders, too.

And I'm also seeing lots of reports of Steller's Jays sightings. Again, this is not a rare bird in Utah, but usually stays in the mountains and doesn't visit backyard feeders. People are calling this an incursion year for the Steller's Jay.  I found myself wishing I'd see one at my feeder, too. When one day, there it was.  And now it is visiting every day.  In fact, I'm seeing two at a time here. And I'm seeing them all over the neighborhood in the pine trees. What a great bird it is!

Here are a couple of shots of the Steller's Jays, and one of our Woodhouse's Scrub Jay that we see year-round.




In addition to these birds, I have been seeing the regulars, California Quail, House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, Juncos, as well as Pine Siskins, which I haven't seen in a few years, and American Goldfinches and Lesser Goldfinches, which I usually don't see this time of year, but are common in spring and summer.

Well, as if things couldn't get any better, what should show up today but a pair of Evening Grosbeaks. Again this is not a rare bird in Utah, but it's a first in my yard. For years I've watched as people posted pictures of this lovely bird all up and down the Wasatch Front. I tried putting out jellies and oranges to attract them, to no avail. Suddenly, here they are eating black oil sunflower seeds.
So now, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for a possible Rosy Finch, which seems to have also moved down from the mountains into backyards this year.  And, who knows, even an eastern Blue Jay. They are very rare here, but usually one or two is seen every year. But there have been an unusual number of sightings already this year.  So, why not in my own backyard?

You have to wonder what is bringing these birds to a lower winter elevation this year. Some are theorizing that a shortage of food sources this year is pushing them down. But I wonder if it might be a sign of a hard winter and deep snow ahead.

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Good October

At the end of September I was lamenting what a waste this year has been in so many ways. It was something of a wake-up call to look back on 12 months and realize the lack of progress. I managed to pull myself together and make some goals for October. And then I jumped on them. Without listing all the things I wanted to accomplish, I can predictably say a lot of them had to do with fall projects in the yard.

And how did I do?  I am amazed and pleased to say I've already completed nearly every one of the things I set out to do and a few more besides.  Here's one I'm rather proud of:

My cute wrought iron arbor was starting to have rotted legs due to being buried in dirt and mulch -- more every year. It looked like it was doomed. The legs at the fronts of the benches no longer supported the bench and you could not sit on them, although the four main support legs were fine. I thought I would try something to save the arbor rather than throw it away. My plan was to make cement "boots" for the bench legs. There was some trial and error involved but here's the succinct version of how it went. I placed cement patio blocks under each leg to keep them out of the dirt in the future. I used empty gallon size nursery pots cut to size to create forms for the cement. I used quick-setting cement and worked it into the forms and let it harden. This took a couple of weeks due to intermittent rain and running out of cement. At last I spray painted the entire arbor and the new feet with flat black paint. I was surprised and pleased my plan worked and looked pretty good as well.  Ta da!

The yard is all cleaned up now, the sprinklers winterized, some soil amendments added to flower beds, and houseplants have come indoors.  As seen in my previous post, I also shopped for and bought a car this month, and cleaned up my older car and sold it. And since I sold it to my son for my granddaughter to drive, I gave it some extra detailing and brand new snow tires.  I renewed my birding adventures along with my annual pass to Antelope Island.

This is not all I managed to do in October. But, it would be enough to feel so much better about things. Probably the most important effect of these successes is the improvement in my mood and outlook. I feel more like my old self again -- the person driven by goals and lists and planning.  I look forward to November and some new challenges.  I'm even looking ahead to 2018 and the things I want to change in my 70th year of life.  That's right, I'll be 70 in almost exactly two months. But I'm not finished yet.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Wheels


This has been a year of buying gifts for myself. It started with an iron that still worked except for the auto shutoff AND the Off button. I felt so unsure of my ability to remember to always unplug it, I just threw it out and bought a new slightly deluxe one.

Then the old coffee pot decided to not make the coffee so hot anymore. I didn't really splurge, but did get a nice new one.

Then it was my Google tablet, getting so slow and crashing since the newest Android update. I splurged on a new Google Pixel tablet. It's a treat to use -- like a mini laptop, but with long battery life and fast charging.

Then my laptop started seriously dying, getting slow, crashing, the keyboard had issues, and a plague of dead pixels was spreading across the screen. And sometimes you need a laptop -- well, I think you do. So once again, splurged and got a nice new one with lots of extras.

That's enough, I told myself. No more gifts for me. But I had been thinking about buying a car for a long time. And something triggered that idea and pushed me to start looking. I think it was my daughter who didn't feel my Nissan Altima was safe enough for winter driving. But I've had that car since 2006 and it has served me well. Honestly, with 114,000 miles, it still has a lot of life left in it.

But I went out shopping (I will spare you the extreme agony of dealing with car salesmen, but it was the WORST! THE WORST!), and I ended up buying a sweet little Subaru Forester. I had sort of planned on getting a new car with just basic features. But I came across this rather wonderful 2016 with low miles and immaculate inside and out, and with some added nice features like the heated seats and power moon roof. But the features that sold me were the "Eyesight" which can be set for auto-braking at certain following distances, and lane drift warning, blind spot warning, etc. I realized for the same money as a basic new car, I could get a two-year old Premier model with far more safety features and an extended manufacturer's warranty. I bought the car.  I had my regular repair shop check it out, and they said I got an excellent one with no concerns or issues whatsoever. Whew!

Ok, no more spending on me! Christmas is coming. Property taxes are soon due. And soon after that, tax season. I need to stop spending and start saving again.

But let me just say, I am rather enjoying my new toys.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Checking In

I haven't posted in a very long time. I think life has been somewhat difficult this summer and I really haven't felt like writing about my life. But, I'm here to simply check in today and to say things are really just fine with me.  I'm managing to keep up on caring for my home and yard, the grandkids, helping with mom. I'm failing to take very good care of myself.

I'm afraid I'm giving in to feeling old and slow. I have pain most of the time in one knee. And when the weather changes, sometimes every part of me seems to. ache. But still, I consider myself healthy and lucky to be so.

I am less brave these days at facing problems.  I procrastinate a lot, and I hate that. I have always been one to jump on things and get them done. It's not me to slack off as much as I have this summer.

I will offer one excuse.  It has been damn hot this summer and has kept me indoors too much. We had our hottest summer on record here with long stretches in the 100s. Then, suddenly, it turned cold!  Then hot, then cold and rainy.  Now at last, I will have seven days of mild temperatures and no rain.  No excuses now, I plan to find the old me somehow, and get some specific things done outside.

I will offer another excuse. I have been sad about the state of a lot of things: our country, climate issues and disasters, the loss of too many people in my life. I see what happens when you give in to the sads. It becomes a determining factor in whatever else you try to do. I stay home a lot, watch too much Netflix, feel negative about so many things. THIS I must change.  I believe it's called fake it till you make it. And seriously, while I know you can't just "snap out of it" on demand, I have to be more positive and more determined to break this pattern of negativity that's dragging me down.

So that's the update.  Here it is, the beginning of autumn -- such a beautiful, transitional time of year. I intend to make it a transitional time for myself as well.  Making no promises as to how often I will post. But if I have some beautiful pictures, I will definitely post them.

P.S. Here's a giant zinnia from my front flower bed. I planted a lot of these to fill in where the deer had damaged so many of my perennials last winter. The zinnias have done a spectacular job as shown by this giant bloom.