Swimming in a sea of lilacs

Swimming in a sea of lilacs

Many years ago I had a horrible virus that settled into my lungs and ended up as a case of "walking pneumonia". Little did I know at the time that the virus also settled into one of the discs between two vertebrae in my back, causing degeneration in that disc. When my doc discovered it over a decade later, he was puzzled. The disc that showed degeneration on the x-ray is one that rarely experiences degeneration because it's the transitional disc from the lower to upper vertebrae and doesn't usually get injured. After some detective work, it was determined that the bad respiratory infection almost 15 years prior was the culprit.

Over time, the disc has caused me issues, causing the pain to get progressively worse. By the fall and winter of 2008-2009, I was having to cut back my gardening activities significantly and was desperate for relief. When Hubby received a small-ish annual bonus from his employer last spring, he was generous enough to use it to purchase a hot tub for me so I could find some relief. Thanks to hydrotherapy in the hot tub, my pain has decreased so significantly I am able to work in the garden again this year and once again do the things I love to do. Even though I promised to do the water condition maintenance in the hot tub, Hubby has also sweetly done that for me too. And when I need some hydrotherapy he gallantly removes the cover for me so I don't strain my back. I know it probably sounds like I'm gushing, but my husband really is an amazingly giving man (who is probably blushing right now).

Fortuitously, the largest of my warmer climate lilac bushes has grown into a wonderful tall screen between the deck and the neighbor's yard right where the hot tub is located. When I sit out in the hot tub, this is the view I see right now (see below)...

View from the hot tub

When I sit in the hot tub, I feel like I'm swimming in a sea of lilacs and can't get enough of their wonderful heady fragrance or the gorgeous sight of their amethyst blossoms. Can you tell lilacs are my favorite flower?

Hubby and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary this past Saturday. When he asked me what I wanted to do for our anniversary and wondered if I wanted to take a little overnight getaway somewhere, I seriously considered it. Then I said that I'd rather spend the money on something for the garden that would be permanent (my motto is, "Don't give me diamonds... give me garden tools"). Of course I already had something in mind. I've been wanting to build a raised pond basin in a spot that has drainage issues anyway. I usually reuse materials from around the garden, but this time I didn't have enough and needed to splurge on retaining wall blocks.

We went to Lowe's on Friday evening and got all the blocks we needed (72 to be exact). I had planned to unload all the blocks from the back of the truck on Saturday and do the wall-building myself while Hubby did whatever he wanted during the day. But again, my chivalrous husband insisted that he would do the off-loading out of the truck so I could focus on building the basin. By late Saturday afternoon, it looked like this (see below)...

Raised pond basin

I definitely couldn't have tackled this job without the blessing of the hot tub or the tremendous help of my sweet husband who was willing to spend our anniversary doing this (which I know he really didn't want to do but did anyway).

Lest you think I'm completely unromantic... after getting ourselves cleaned up, we went out to dinner for a "proper" anniversary celebration. Hauling rocks, building a pond, and then eating a nice dinner... that's my kind of anniversary.
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Early bloomer

Early bloomer

Rain clouds have covered the sky all day, so imagine my delight when I saw a spot of "sunshine" in the back corner of the garden by the bay leaf tree. I've never had a sunflower this early in the year before (usually don't get them until at least July). Its sunny face on a cloudy day was quite a pleasant surprise.
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Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth

Hidden in a thicket under the oleander bush grow spring's sapphires.
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Can frogs read eviction notices?

3-24-2010

A little over a month ago, the familiar nightly chorus of breeding Pacific tree frogs started up again as it always does. Over the years, the "singing" has gotten so loud it borders on deafening. This year it started up with a few then grew, but suddenly the nightly sounds of "romance" stopped. I thought it was very odd and figured maybe our heavy rainfall had sent the little frogs back in their hidey-holes until a later date.

About the same time I stopped hearing the tree frogs, I realized that every time I approached one side of the pond I would see a quick movement and hear a splash as something jumped from under the pond-side plants into the water. For weeks, I only caught little glimpses. I've had a pond-swimming mouse that regularly swam across the pond to get from one side to the other years ago, so I couldn't be sure what it really was... until two days ago. I was finally able to sneak up on the critter and get close enough to see that it was an amphibian larger than the tree frogs. But I still couldn't tell if it was a toad or a frog and definitely couldn't identify the species.

Today, I ventured out and found TWO frogs sitting around basking in the spring sun. I got my camera and snapped some shots so I could compare them with online photos to get a positive I.D.

Unfortunately, my worst fears were realized... they are bullfrogs. Bullfrogs eat other frogs so that would explain the absence of the nightly chorus. Bullfrogs also eat fish, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, mammals... basically anything that will fit in its mouth (including other bullfrogs). They're lazy hunters that sit and wait for their prey to come near them, then lunge after the prey. And according to one source bullfrogs are unpalatable to many predators. Great.

So the first thing I did was search the internet to get some idea of what I could humanely do to give these two an eviction notice before all my fish, lizards and everything else in my backyard wildlife habitat goes missing as the tree frogs have.

I googled "what eats bullfrogs". The following answers made me hopeful:
  • Birds: herons, egrets, kingfishers, ducks
  • Mammals: Racoons, opossums, bobcats, coyotes
  • Reptiles: garter snakes
We've got herons... we've got egrets... we've got raccoons... we've got opossums... and we've probably got a snake somewhere around the garden because I've seen one of those before.

Another internet source says that bullfrogs "like warm, quiet areas with dense plants". Okay.

So guess what I did for the entire day... I removed all the weeds from around the pond and made lots of noise while doing it!

Unfortunately, although the frogs seemed startled by my presence at first, they chilled out after a while. One let me go so far as push on its rump with the pond net for about 10 seconds as I said, "Go away. You aren't welcome here." It finally got tired of me bumping its rump and jumped back into the pond. Sigh.

Well, it looks like I'm going to have to put all my faith in the egrets, raccoons or opossums. And I'm hoping my naturalized pond goldfish love frog eggs.
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Lilacs for spring

Lilac Nostalgia 2

I am so excited that the lilac bushes have decided to bloom just in time for the first official day of spring tomorrow! I couldn't have asked for better timing.
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Flaming Spring

Flaming Spring

The majority of the time, I like to tweak my photos to create art photos. But sometimes I am so in love with the subject that I don't want to tweak it at all. That's the case with this shot. This bush grows in a neighbor's front yard up the street. The blossoms are a delightful coral/melon pink that is so bright it looks like flames. I was paying attention this year so I could catch it in full bloom.

And, yes, this is the real color of the flowers.

I think my "photographic purist" side comes out most in the springtime. Spring is ablaze with so many wonderful colors. I just realized that the rest of the year, I'm tweaking my photos to give them the same feeling of springtime!
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Life's springtimes

Life's springtimes

I've found that my life is very cyclical, just like the seasons. Whenever I have new opportunities for growth and change, I often think of that time in my life as a "springtime"--a time of new beginnings full of blossoming hopes and dreams.

I've learned a lot of lessons from my garden over the past 9 years. One lesson I've learned is that nature changes constantly with that change sometimes being good and sometimes being bad. However, sometimes the changes are neither good nor bad. Instead, they are simply just changes. Here's an example... the blossoms on the plum tree are always in a slightly different place on the tree's branches than they were the last spring or the spring before that. The blossoms look the same and the effect of their beauty is the same, but still there are changes from what existed in prior years. The change is neither good nor bad. It is simply change.

I'm learning to embrace those kinds of changes in my life and realize that they happen all the time. I'm also learning that very often my goals and life plans will change and that's okay too.

For example, I have planned for the past 6 months to start graduate school in June. It has been a goal that has helped me reach beyond my comfort zone in other areas of my creative life, opening doors that I am so excited to see opened. Yet, that goal of attending graduate school is changing now. I won't be moving forward with it for a number of reasons. But instead of being embarrassed by my change of goals, I'm learning to embrace the change and know that the goal served its purpose even though that goal's purpose turned out to be very different than what I thought its purpose was 6 months ago.

Instead of beating myself up because of a perceived "failure", this time I am going to move forward--still experiencing one of life's "springtimes" as I venture toward the new and exciting creative horizons that I see before me.
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