A week ago Wednesday, Tony and I went to South Jersey to visit Gran at the nursing home. Dad had called me that Sunday to tell me Granny hadn't had much of an appetite for about a week and didn't have much energy. In the next couple days, she got a little more peppy and didn't seem to be in immediate danger of leaving us, but I still wanted to get down to see her, because we hadn't visited since her birthday in February.
Dad was in Granny's room when we arrived, and he hung out with us for a while. I asked Granny about this sign that was above her bed:
"My brakes were locked a long time ago," she said. Granny's still good for an occasional zinger, usually a self-deprecating one.
The next day, when we visited Granny again for a little while in the morning, I saw the same sign in the bathroom. I asked Dad this week whether Gran had fallen, and he said she had, in the bathroom, but she wasn't injured. Poor Granny.
We didn't even consider taking Gran out for lunch this visit. She definitely seemed too weak. But she did sit up in the bed long enough to pose for some pics ...
... and to look at photos from the wedding on my computer. When we'd first gotten there, I'd introduced Tony as "my husband, Tony." (Gran hadn't recognized him. I'm grateful she's always known who I was.) Dad said I'd better explain, because two men being married might be a new concept for Granny. I told Gran that Tony and I love each other very much, just like a man and a woman do. And she said, "Well, if you love each other, that's all that matters." 😊
For Christmas the past three years, I've gotten Granny six months of organically grown flowers. The company I buy them from sends me emails about special offers, and I'd gotten one for peonies, Granny's favorite flower. The peonies were super expensive—so expensive Granny would have thought I was nuts for spending that much on flowers—so I didn't order them. But it got me thinking that for not a whole lot more money, I could keep the flowers coming to Granny for another six months. So I did that. A box of alstroemeria had arrived not long before we did. I trimmed them and put them in a vase. Here's a photo I took on that Thursday, after the flowers had opened up nicely:
Tony has always been great about asking Granny questions about her childhood, because he knows she's happiest when reminiscing about her siblings and, especially, her parents. After we looked at the pictures, I wasn't as chatty. I was tired from driving, especially since I didn't get off I-295 when I should have, at the Route 42 exit, and we ended up taking a rambling route through Salem County, with Tony navigating, after he looked at a map on his phone and determined we must have missed our exit, because we were getting very close to Delaware.
The next day, I talked to Gran about my business, which I've made a good deal of progress on, though I still can't announce the first dates I'll be at my two farmers' markets. I've been trying not to let myself get worked up about things that are beyond my control—and in this process of starting Huge Hound, an awful lot of things have been beyond my control. I've mostly been succeeding, but I still have bad days when I feel frustrated or discouraged.
On a positive note, I finished creating my website, hugehound.com, last Saturday, and I'm really proud of it. I used a template from Squarespace and needed to ask customer support for help on only one issue: removing unwanted text that was running across the logo on the home page.
And on another positive note, I made Strawberry Vegan Frozen Dessert and Triple1 Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream last week and took two pints of each for the teacher and my fellow students to try after our Tuesday evening yoga class in Lambertville. The guys raved about them both.
Back in South Jersey, Dad and Jean treated us to dinner that Wednesday night at Winfield's. Jean and I had strawberry-centric meals: We shared a ginormous Strawberry and Arugula Salad With Almonds, Goat Cheese, and Raspberry Vinaigrette for our starter ...
... and split Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. Both were good, but Jean and I agreed the shortcake needed more berries. It was a biscuit-type cake, which could have benefited from more berries—and berry juice—to offset the dryness.
I went vegetarian, though not light, for my entree: Cheese Ravioli and Garlic Bread:
The Gerbers went to visit Granny on Saturday, and she was feeling strong enough to go out to lunch with them, but she didn't eat much and even her beer didn't taste good to her. Sigh.
On the day before Memorial Day, Rich and Vince visited us for a barbecue. We had invited a bunch of people, most of them with only a week or so notice, so only R&V were able to come. Which wasn't a bad thing. The barbecue was much easier to prep for.
That morning, I went to Dr. Randi Eckel's talk on gardening for wildlife, which I'd mentioned in this post I'd planned to do. I learned a lot. The big takeaway was, most people's yards are deserts for wildlife, consisting mostly of nonnative grasses and flowering plants that native animals haven't evolved to browse on. And sometimes even plants that attract bugs aren't truly good to have around, Eckel said: Garden centers sell fast-growing tropical milkweeds that provide food for caterpillars, but unlike native, perennial milkweeds, they don't start dying back as cooler weather sets in in September. The caterpillars don't get this necessary indicator that it's time to start their transformations and overwinter in chrysalises, so they die, along with these delicate milkweeds, with the first frosts.
Cultivars of native plants are often best avoided as well. The natives have nectar guides that are often invisible to us. When plant breeders make cultivars of them, they select only for what's beautiful to human eyes and may eliminate the guides for pollinators. In addition, Eckel said, plants that are created to have double flowers have no working reproductive parts and so produce neither nectar nor pollen.
Providing food plants for butterflies and moths is also good for birds, Eckel said, because many of them rely on caterpillars as food for their young. The proverb "the early bird gets the worm" is referencing a caterpillar, not an earthworm, she said.
Eckel talked about how ridiculous it is to remove every last leaf that falls from the trees on our properties and then buy loads of mulch, which produces pretty much only slugs, termites, and carpenter ants.
To create a habitat garden, Eckel said to remove invasive plants (I'm working on that), reduce your lawn area (I've done that on a small scale, with a few plantings here and there, including the berries), and create a diversified landscape (I'm working on that, too; see the item below about the new native plants I've gotten from Eckel's Toadshade Wildflower Farm). She also suggested constructing a pond, even if it's only a modest-sized one, to attract turtles and amphibians. Finally, she advised not to fight against the nature of your land, trying to make it something it's not. There are native plants accustomed to living in all kinds of soils and environments, and you should go with the ones that would be happy in your location.
While I was away, Rich and Vince helped Tony test the gas barbecue grill he'd bought a little while ago and that he and I had put together the day before.
I made a salad with radishes, cucumber, lettuce, and beet tops:
I also roasted some beets, with Penzeys Tsardust Memories sprinkled on them. With V&R's help, Tony grilled asparagus, onions and peppers, veal burgers, and sausages. Here's my plate:
And here's a shot I made T, V & R pose for:
For dessert, we had freshly made Chocolate-Ginger Vegan Frozen Dessert ...
... and some other VFDs and ice creams I had in the freezer.
That same day, we enjoyed the first couple of peonies to open on the bushes at the upper end of our driveway:
Most of the peonies have been all white, but some have that beautiful swirl of pink in the center.
Two Saturdays ago, Tracey and David joined Tony, Grady, Missy, and me at Wine & Waddle, a fundraiser in East Amwell for Mid-Atlantic Basset Hound Rescue. (MABHR is a different rescue organization than the one that brought Molly into the Gerbers' lives and Grady into ours; that would be Tri-State BHR.) I learned about MABHR through our friendly down-the-street neighbor Bonita, who has three bassets. Bonita was one of the organizers of this year's W&W.
We all had fun, though we were disappointed at the lower-than-expected ratios of bassets to humans and to other types of dogs. Missy was eager to meet a brown-speckled goat named Chocolate Chip, but the goat didn't seem equally pleased to meet her, so I kept my girl at a distance.
I got some great pics of Tracey with a hound named Belle, who may be the squishiest-faced basset I've ever encountered:
Last Saturday's bouquet of poppies and chamomile, from Two Barn Farm, got a bunch of likes on Facebook—and an approving sniff from Grady:
Deer nibbled on the blue wood asters I'd mentioned in this post, so this week, I built a chicken-wire cage around them:
I also planted three each of two perennials the deer shouldn't bother: Arkansas amsonia, ...
... which will turn a lovely gold in the fall, and wild, or woodland, stonecrop, ...
which should spread out into a nice ground cover and, I learned from Toadshade's website, is a food plant for variegated fritillaries.
1Kentucky Colonel spearmint, black peppermint, and chocolate mint from my container garden on our deck.