Garden with Grace

"I hope that while so many people are out smelling the flowers, someone is taking the time to plant some." ~H.Rappaport


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Pussycat, Pussycat, Where have you been?

As plants in the garden evolve and change over the years, so has the collection of “Garden Cats” that have taken ownership of my property. It’s funny, because not one of the “Garden Cats” of the past 20 years has belonged to me!

There are too many to mention, but some of the favorites are remembered in a collage in my potting shed.

L-R clockwise: Momma Cat, Cuddles, Bradley, Peppermint. (Momma Cat is the only one still living at 19 yrs old!)

L-R clockwise: Momma Cat, Cuddles, Bradley, Peppermint. (Momma Cat is the only one still living at 19 yrs old!)

For about 10 years, a long haired black cat with bright green eyes has visited the garden somewhat regularly. He’s always been shy, until this year’s gardening season started. His name is Oreo and his owners live a few houses away. Oreo prefers to be an outdoor cat and can be seen here and there and everywhere around the neighborhood.

When Grace was still with us, Oreo would watch intently as we’d walk by, always staying out of her sight (Grace was a big dog!), but I’d always see him peering around corners or from under bushes nearby.  I think that he realizes that there’s no longer a dog at my house.

This was especially evident today. Oreo’s ‘cattitude’ was in full force. Everytime I looked out the window, or walked outside, there he was, taking ownership of the garden.  He especially loves being near the Wine & Roses Wiegela (it seems to be an aphrodisiac for cats when the pink flowers are in bloom, similar to a kiwi vine that was in the garden a few years ago!)

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Oreo resting near the Wine & Roses Wiegela today.

Of course, he’s interested in the Catmint too, but I think that’s due to the fact that the chipmunks have a path nearby.

Oreo enjoying the view (and fragrance of the Catmint flowers in bloom!)

Oreo enjoying the view (and fragrance of the Catmint flowers in bloom!)

I never thought I’d blog about cats. I’m allergic to them. I don’t own any. And, I’ve always been a ‘dog-person’ as is evident by the premise on which this blog was created a few years ago.

However, I do enjoy the company of my “Garden Cats.”  And as any cat-person would tell you, you don’t own them. They own you! In this case, I feel honored that Oreo, and all the other “Garden Cats” of the past two decades, have selected to take ownership of such a special place (and of course, me!)

Just as “Good Queen Bess”, (who inspired the nursery rhyme ‘Pussycat, Pussycat’) decreed that an old cat could wander around her throne room as long as it got rid of mice, I allow the old (and young) cats to wander the garden as long as they do the same! Meoww!


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Porch Dog + Porch Frog = New Blog

One of the most frequent conversations I have with my neighbors is about my dog, Grace, and how much she enjoys being the “Porch Dog” this summer. Whenever people go by, Grace is out there, relaxing under the ceiling fan, enjoying all that “porch living” has to offer!

Grace enjoying her day on the porch.

Grace is about 14 yrs old. I’ve had her for the past 6 years, so almost half of her life at this point.

This is amazing to me because she arrived at the Animal Rescue of New England as a dog in need of a lot of attention. She was initially categorized as a ‘Katrina’ dog who lost her owners during that storm 7 years ago this week.  The closest to reality now (or believed), is that Grace was a resident of the Humane Society in Newark, NJ and was used as a bait dog in a fighting ring in East Orange, NJ before she was rescued.  Grace ended up in the ‘ring’ after the death of an elderly owner (at least that’s what she has shared with the animal communicator whom she visited last year). 🙂

She arrived at the shelter with puppies (Seven according to her records that noted – “Do not PTS”  – PTS = Put to Sleep). She also had more puppies at the shelter I don’t like to think about this part of Grace’s life, but I know I have to acknowledge it – and appreciate the team at the NJ shelter that continuously “checked” her out and brought her back in each time ‘her time was up.’ That said, she definitely deserved to be where she ended up for the second half of her life – especially as I look at her tired, old, aging body, covered with scars stretching from her face to some of her paws,  as she rests so contently on the front porch this summer .

YES! I admit -she is spoiled and she is definitely the “Porch Dog”.  She is out there by 7am and won’t come back into the house until after dark (which seems to get earlier each day as we wind down the summer of 2012.)

I’ve recently discovered that Grace has company on THE PORCH (my friend Terri has noted that this term should be in all CAPS because it seems to be a summer destination!)

There is the “Porch Frog” that  joined Grace on the porch (I mean, THE PORCH)  earlier month.

Technically, it’s a Grey Tree Frog – common here in NH.  It has been hanging out during the day, taking its place behind one of the window shutters.

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Peek-a-Boo! Porch Frog behind the shutter.

It leaves each evening as dusk sets in, just before Grace comes into the house for the evening.  He heads to the garden in my backyard, I imagine to eat the bugs that only come out at night.  It’s become a routine, every morning, the “Porch Frog” is behind the shutter and every evening, it heads out, hopping across the patio furniture and into the backyard.

Porch Frog

Porch Frog heading out for the night!

Once the frog jumps into the magnolia tree each night, Grace seems ready to come back inside.  (Of course, the people on the porch get excited to see the frog’s evening migration, but it seems odd to me that Grace doesn’t seem to notice.)

I have a strong suspicion that Grace and Frog are true porch companions and we’ll never know what they talk to each other about all day long!


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Shhh! Nashua’s Best Kept Secret Garden

I’ve run out of room in my backyard garden to grow vegetables.  My grandfather would find this fact  hard to believe if he were alive today.

He always had a HUGE vegetable garden, some flowers (the peonies he planted over 40 years ago still bloom in the late spring), and a perfectly manicured lawn that would take him over three hours to mow each week (plus many countless hours keeping weed free!) 

Peonies in bloom late May this year.

Over the years the green, weed-free lawn shrunk dramatically.  (My mother always said that grass is one of the most costly and frustrating  perennials to grow…..She was right!)

The lawn was replaced with perennial gardens filled with flowers – selected by trial and error –  for a Zone 5 garden.  And slowly, over the years, flowers  and shrubs have filled in the area of vegetable garden. The old oak and maple trees next door have also pushed their roots into my yard, making it nearly impossible to prep the soil for a new vegetable garden each summer. The tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and herbs were all moved to containers throughout the perennial gardens, but the results of this effort have varied over the past few years.

At the end of last summer, I vowed to stop trying to grow vegetables that I could buy at the Nashua Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings.  I rationalized that the money and time saved on water, fertilizers, and time would be better spent to support local farmers.  (At the rate I was going, the few tomatoes that I did harvest cost at least $10 each!)

Then Peter stopped by the house. He grew up in my neighborhood. He knew my mother and other neighbors when they were all kids back in the 50s and 60s. My mother and I also knew his mother and aunts because they all had homes nearby.  Peter shared info about the community garden at Greeley Park in Nashua.  And even better, he offered to share some of his space in 2012.

I thought he had forgotten about our discussion last August.  Then, out of the blue, he stopped by my house the Sunday morning this past Memorial Day weekend with news that the garden was ready to plant! Better yet, water would be free and he ’tilled the soil so it was ready for plants!  Oh…AND there was A LOT of space – so much that this area is actually being tended to by my mom, two other neighbors, and me! We just had to get the seeds/plants and take care of our section.

To say that this summer’s gardening experience has been interesting is an understatement. Waking up at dawn to tend to a garden across the city at 6:30 am on the weekends is something I would have NEVER considered in the past. This summer, it just seems natural.  (I have to go this early to avoid the full sun and heat of the day and to ensure that I have time to deal with the garden at my house later in the day!)  The early mornings are the most peaceful at Greeley Park.  Especially during these last few weeks of summer.  I love that the sunflowers greet me whenever I visit the gardens at Greeley Park.

Sunflowers on a foggy morning at Greeley Park.

The jury is still out  whether having two different gardens to tend is worth the effort.  Some days, when all I can pick are blossom-rotted tomatoes, it seems more like work vs. a passion or hobby.

This morning was different. My mom and I took Grace out for a ride to visit the garden. This was a big deal because Grace is getting up there is age – she’s about 14 now and it’s more of an effort for her to get into and out of the car, so we have to plan her trips to include visits to the gas station and bank (both stops offer biscuits at the drive-thru!) Today’s trip included a garden visit.

There were no other people in any of the gardens and it was great to see an old dog be so excited to visit a new place and sniff so many new smells!  She was ready to run down the path, as soon as she leapt out of the car!

Once we arrived to our ‘plot’, it was exciting to have so  many things to pick since my last visit four days ago.  Grace found a nice shady place to rest along the tomato path while I (almost) filled my harvest basket.

Grace rests in the shade cast by the tomatoes.

The cherry tomatoes are all ripening at once, which is good because we also have a bummer crop of seranno chili peppers – fresh salsa is definitely on the menu for later this week!  The broccoli is still sending off enough shoots to fill a dinner plate each week and the eggplant (which were planted late) are all in bloom and look great for (hopefully) a late August harvest!  Some things are not doing so well, but I won’t dwell on that today. With such a short gardening season in NH, I’ve found it more productive to focus on the good things.

That’s Gardening with Grace.