Sutherland’s Sunday Summary (except on a Tuesday)

Spring in Northern California…wow. From February to the end of May is northern California’s show-off time. It’s a gorgeously long season of magnificent blooms and growth. After a few months of rain, everything catapults to life.

This was just a walk around the block…

Clearly this house has mastered the art of rose bushes. The whole front yard is lined in various roses. As delicate as a rose bouquet is, a rose bush loves the heat and drought and sandy soil of California!

Isn’t the above tree so cool? I’d love to know its story.

The tree below is a crepe myrtle. The bark is SO smooth. I love these trees even when they’re not blooming.

And hey… why not grow artichokes in your front yard! Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

It’s hard to give an update on our lives without (endlessly) talking about our garden. After a few seasons of trial and error, we’ve hit on some successes.

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I am used to the growing season being, basically, June to September. But here, you need to plant things MUCH earlier. We (…and by we I mean Scott…) had everything planted by March. The young plants and seeds grew for a couple of months to get good and established and now we’ve covered the raised garden beds with a breezy black shade tarp to protect them from the brutal afternoon sun.

We are at the take-the-peas-and-collard-greens-to-work stage. We’re taking stuff to neighbors because we can’t keep up.

And now our first tomato has appeared. Scott ROCKED tomato-growing last year so I’m curious to see how they do in a different spot. So far they are TALL and filling up with blooms. Salsa is just around the corner. We…again, Scott… blanched a bunch last year and froze it for sauces.

How much stir fry is too much stir fry?? We haven’t reached our limit yet. Pork one night, chicken another. So yummy! And such a sense of pride that it was grown right in our backyard.

There isn’t much healthier food than collard greens. So many nutrients! (Which are only slightly hindered by the bacon and broth mixture.) I read an important statement about cooking collard greens: ‘There is no such thing as cooking collard greens too long.’ They simmer on our stove all day and are a home-run every time.

I’ve been so happy with my lavender experiment this year. Seeing all the bees buzzing around makes me doubly delighted. Tilly tries to catch the bees while they’re working. She’s going to get a muzzle full someday.

Our independent, graying old six-year-old cat, Haddie, is a real trooper with overly playful Tilly. But sometimes, a girl just has to take a break. Her favorite spot is against this graying old fence.

Tilly firmly believes she is a toy poodle lapdog. I wonder if toy poodle lapdogs have to keep their back legs on the ground for stability??

Random things:

One of our neighbors gave out May Day baskets, which was just so cute. I haven’t met them yet but I have to wonder if they’ve seen me working in the yard and made the decision to get a large print word search. -ha! (Speaking of old and graying!)

The news about Bill and Melinda Gates was upsetting. They’ve appeared to be such a successful couple who work together and feed off each others’ ideas. I read Melinda’s memoir last year which always makes me feel invested in the author’s life. They’ve done so much good in the world, I hope that can continue.

Speaking of doing good, I am still enjoying everything put out by The Bitter Southerner. They highlight the new south. The progressive stories happening in our beautiful southern states. Better South | Better World

Scott gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and card for Mother’s Day. I particularly liked his character explanations.

A long zoom call with my daughter, Hannah…

…a long phone call with my son, Baird (we never quite get them under 3 hours) -ha! He even had the good sense to marry the world’s greatest daughter-in-law (who managed to be the first to send me a Mother’s Day text.)

They made motherhood easy for me. Their continued support and love is invaluable to me. They’re good people.

I’ve already had to start manipulating the shades… open in the morning for the plants and then closed in the afternoon to ward off the blazing sun. We are taking a trip to Kansas City in early June. It will be nice to be back in temperate heat for a little while.

I grew this ruffled philodendron selloum from a single leaf cutting a couple of years ago. We brought it to California with us and, well, she likes the weather! She’s huge!

Speaking of temperature (and then I promise I’ll close this long post), I am crocheting a Temperature Blanket. I’m not sure why I decided a king-sized pattern was the right way to go, but here we are.

While the colors aren’t usually my thing, I am enjoying the challenge of it. Each row represents the high temperature that day. These colors (starting on January 1, 2021) represent the 50s, 60s and 70s. I’m very ready to move on to the next group of colors (80s, 90s and above 100) but I’m not ready to experience them in real life. There’s nothing like a king size blanket of yarn to work on in 99-degree temperature!

My head needs to be checked…

Okay. I promise these weekly summaries won’t be this long. But it’s been a bit so I thought I’d catch up on all the (very) random things going on.

Maybe the biggest news is that the fitting rooms in area stores have opened up again. Woohoo!! It’s been a long year of buying stuff, taking it home to try on, then returning what doesn’t work. God bless the customer service industry.

Be safe! And welcome to a slightly less-restrictive summer.

THE GREEN WITCH by Arin Murphy Hiscock

To be honest, I’ve put off posting about this book wanting to make sure it wasn’t going to be too offensive to anyone – or to myself. I wanted to get far enough into the book to see if it was just too ‘woo-woo’.

⁣Thankfully, it is what I hoped it would be – a celebration of living in partnership with our environment.

There is a craving – similar to pregnancy cravings – that will strike me and I’ll say to Scott, ‘I’ve got to get out in nature.’ When I have been isolated too much, or too busy trying to meet deadlines or too ANYTHING, my therapy is to place myself into nature. Tree bathing. Grounding. Whatever you want to call it, there is a recalibration that happens when I can breath in clean air and notice the magnitude of the natural world around me.

Of course, that’s not always an option, so I try to work with scents and homegrown elements for natural healing and mood enhancement and many many many times, for antioxidants and anti-inflammatory treatments. Whether it’s the sourced food we eat or the natural cleaner made with rosemary from our backyard, I truly believe the further we get from nature, the further we are from the environment in which we were created to live.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I am neither vegan nor a purist, but we can all attempt to make changes in some areas of our lives.

THE GREEN WITCH includes ways in which we can use the natural things around us whether it be wood for cabinetry or gardenias for tranquility. There are recipes for Digestive Tea or a homemade balm for colds and headaches. It even includes celebrations you can have for each of the season changes. (Happy Autumnal Equinox on the 22nd!)

As far out there as it seems, it is all really quite logical and simple. I love combining things together for scrubs or oils or to clean my kitchen counters. It makes me feel part gypsy (don’t we all want that??) and part Native American – working with the seasons and the fruit of the land. Farmers determined our school year based on harvest time. Many churches follow the liturgical cycles that correspond with the seasons. There are ways that you participate in these cycles without even realizing it.

After bashing my leg a few days ago (in a super dumb way), tonight is all about grilled salmon with ginger and spinach – natural ways to reduce swelling. Lemon verbena, lavender and grapefruit are my favorite essential oil combinations to slow my mind and my breath. And of course, caring for houseplants and learning from their rhythm and cycles.

Our environment (of which I believe was created for us by God as a gift) is worth preserving. Living within. And voting for.

Cebu Blue

Please don’t tell the others, but this Cebu Blue ((might be my favorite houseplant.)) I try to keep it low key, but I think the others know. The leaves on a Cebu are so magically blueish silveryish. I just love it!

I bought this one from a local seller as a little rooted baby and she’s grown so much this summer.

Put it on your plant wish list: Cebu Blue Pothos. You won’t be sorry!

Big Monstera Tip/Advice

Basically, do this before it gets too late and you end up like me.

(Sounds ominous, doesn’t it??)

A quick backstory…

Our monstera deliciosa was large when we lived in Kansas City. When we moved to California, we knew it couldn’t make the trip in our car so I cut a number of stems from it and placed them in water to root. (And gave the mother plant away.)

About a month and a half later they were rooted enough to add to dirt.

It’s grown quite a bit over the past year and accumulated many aerial roots. Aerial roots are funky looking but serve an important purpose in the tropical forest where the monstera originates. Monstera plants climb up trees like a vine so they naturally seek a ‘dark structure’ to attach themselves to with their aerial roots.

In a home environment, however, the roots merely hang down, searching for something to climb.

My biggest advice to new or upcoming monstera owners, plant your monstera with a pole in the middle from the beginning. I kept ‘meaning to get around to it’ – as the plant continued growing and growing.

As a result, the plant has become very “unruly” looking with leaves falling all over the place and no structure.

Another issue with waiting too long is that the plant was now growing up from the middle, leaving no room for inserting a climbing pole.

It was time to take (belated) action before the spring and summer leaves start growing.

Scott used a cedar piece of wood and affixed chicken wire around it with a staple gun and ordered some sphagnum moss online.

The moss comes in a compact brick.

Once it’s placed in water, it begins to expand and unravel.

We inserted the wet moss into the chicken wire then wrapped the whole pole and moss with fishing wire.

The added benefit to a moss pole is that it will raise the humidity level around the plant. Spraying or watering the moss keeps a’tropical’ humidity around the plant.

Taking the monstera outside, we took the plant and root ball out of the pot and thoroughly rinsed as much dirt off as we could.

Relative to the height of the plant, the roots aren’t that deep.

We carefully removed each section of the plant and laid them out to be re-potted later.

This is NOT the easiest way to grow a monstera! I should have started with a moss pole from the very beginning. Heed my warning! Save yourselves!!!

After assembling the pole, we re-planted the pieces of monstera and carefully wrapped any long aerial roots around the moss pole for them to eventually take hold.

It will take a few weeks for it to fully straighten up. But since the growing season is coming up, it will stretch upwards instead out sprawling out. I’ll do an update to this post in a few months.

Lesson? Give your new monstera a pole to start climbing from the beginning and/or when they’re small. It will grow into a better shape and be in an atmosphere more closely related to its origins.

(And it’s a lot less back breaking!)

Crossing my fingers this will help to refresh this plant. New dirt filled with yummy nutrients and a ‘tree’ for its aerial roots to climb.

Ready for growing season!

THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes

Books celebrating books. Authors paying homage to readers. This enticing concoction of book-celebrating is an intoxicating elixir when it occurs in a storyline and The Giver of Stars is no exception.

This book is based on a true story in American history.

Historical reference: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Works Progress Administration created librarians – primarily made up of women – to ride horses into rural areas and high in the mountains, bringing books to those who otherwise would have no access to books at all. The purpose of this New Deal program was to expand the minds of those that knew very little of a world outside their own immediate family.

Pack-Horse-Eleanor

These women were often referred to as ‘book ladies’ or ‘packsaddle librarians’. Riding through snow, rain, and very difficult terrain, these traveling librarians dropped off books (and picked up returning books) to the outskirts of society. It is estimated that 63% of the state of Kentucky were without access to public libraries and around 30% of rural Kentuckians were illiterate. Roosevelt understood that education was the foundation of change and a path out of poverty and that the education gained from borrowing donated books could have a lasting effect.

Pack-Horse-1

This program also created jobs for women during the Great Depression. ‘Book ladies’ made around $28 a month (the equivalent of about $500 a month today), delivering books to homes and schoolhouses between 1935 and 1943. In 1943 the service lost its funding leaving many Appalachian communities without books for decades until bookmobiles were introduced in the late 1950’s.

The Giver of Stars is a harrowing story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond, to bring books to those who had no access.

Alice Wright, born and raised in England, marries wealthy businessman, Bennett Van Cleave, an American from Kentucky. After settling into their new home in rural Appalachia, Alice soon discovers small-town living in Baileyville, Kentucky can feel very claustrophobic. When she learns of the packhorse book project, she eagerly signs up. ‘She covered her own anxiety with activity.’ The five heroic women who eventually form the book distribution team, soon learn to rely on each other as a means of support against familial and community outrage. Many townsmen (led by Alice’s wealthy father-in-law) were indignant that a woman would be capable of such a daunting task.

In any other town, such misdemeanors might eventually be forgotten, but in Baileyville a grudge could last a century and still nurture a head of steam. The people of Baileyville were descended from Celts, from Scots and Irish families, who could hold on to resentment until it was dried out like beef jerky, and bearing no resemblance to its original self.

Alice begins to gain confidence and independence through the difficult work of the packhorse library, traveling hours by herself in the beauty of Kentucky mountains and wide open skies, meeting the warm-hearted people of the rural country, while learning to trust and lean on her fellow librarians.

She had built a new Alice over the frame of one with whom she had never felt entirely comfortable.

I highly recommend this beautifully written book. At times it seems certain they cannot recover from many of their adventures and Moyes leaves you hanging until the last minute. Loss and love and renewal and commitment weave themselves through each adventure. Getting to know each of these remarkable women was a literary privilege for me as well as delving deeper into the historical facts surrounding this amazing chapter in American history.

A CHRISTMAS MEMORY by Truman Capote

Illustrator Beth Peck elegantly illuminates the words of Truman Capote as he tells the story of the uniquely loving relationship between seven-year-old, Buddy, and his ‘sixty-something’-year-old distant cousin, living in the same house. ‘We are each other’s best friend.’⠀

They make cakes together every year as the weather turns cold and fly homemade kites when the weather begins to warm. They dance together around the house, laughing and enthralled in all that is happy in life, not like the other more burdened members of their family. She relies on his youth, he on her zest for life. “When you’re grown up, will we still be friends?” I say always.⠀

‘“Buddy, the wind is blowing” and nothing will do till we’ve run to a pasture below the house, plunging through the waist-high grass, we unreel our kites, feel the twitching at the string like a sky fish as they swim into the wind.’⠀

Satisfied and sun-warmed they lie in the grass, happy and filled with adventure. “You know what I’ve always thought?” she asks in a tone of discovery, and not smiling at me but a point beyond. “I’ve always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when he came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don’t know it’s getting dark. And it’s been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I’ll wager it never happens. I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are…” – her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass – “…just what they’ve always seen, was seeing him. As for me, I could leave the world, with today in my eyes.”

HARRY’S TREES by Jon Cohen

What a fantastic book. It hooked me quickly and kept me on the line the whole way through. What a beautiful celebration of books and nature and great love. ⠀

⠀”To every story we bring the story of ourselves.”⠀

This book celebrated the freedom of forgiveness. The adventure of reading. The beauty of nature. The cost of holding on to self-perpetuated ‘truths’. The ripples of redemption. And as with every good story, it contained an enchanting touch of magic.⠀

“Get a book. Reading solves most things or at least assuages the heart.”⠀

I would highly recommend Harry’s Trees.

Just a Whole Lotta Lake Tahoe

Fall in Northern California is something special. I am unapologetic about photographing every leaf around Lake Tahoe…

When will I tire of standing on a hill and looking down to the bottom of the lake??

We were a little disappointed the day was so overcast. The white clouds gave a cast to the lake that took away its brilliant blue hue.

You can see every pebble on the bottom.

As Hannah and I ooo’d and ahh’d, I realized Scott was no longer with us. I started looking around and found this curious site…

He found a treasure. 🙂

There are a few years between these two pictures, but the look-what-I-found enthusiasm is just the same!

After spending some time around the northern part of the lake (my favorite spot), we drove along the edge – along MANY winding, hairpin curves – to the southern part of the lake. Emerald Bay is a big touristy spot so there are always lots of people around. We lucked out that there weren’t as many as when we were here in August.

(Did I mention it was a really windy day?!)

We stopped to walk on a beach front off the lake. It’s hard to beat beach sand, clear water and mountains in the distance.

Autumn in northern California is a thing of beauty and contrast.

There was a kid’s playground we had a little fun with too…

Hannah and I walked a beautiful trail from the beach over to a dock area for some more pictures of the lake. It’s hard to stop finding new vistas and new jaw-dropping views.

I mostly try to wait and take pictures of the scenery without cars in the way. But sometimes it’s good to see the vast size difference between ‘regular life’ and nature.

The nearby wildfires were also evident. As the sun set, the hazy smoke in the sky became more and more apparent.

Another day of magnificent granite rock and pine trees unbelievably tall and so long you can hardly bend back far enough to see it all. The aspens were making a spectacular show of things too!

The drive was picture perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better day of brilliant color, cool temperatures and memory-making views.

Yosemite National Park

Our daughter, Hannah, flew into town on Sunday. We started right out on our California adventures on Monday morning. We are tired and car-weary, but it’s been an incredible two days (and more to come!)

(interesting water levels on the rocks across the lake)

We drove 3.5 hours to Yosemite National Park yesterday. Lots of talking and catching up along the way (…the good, good part…) We were each completely overwhelmed with the enormity of the iconic views of Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Once again, California has taken my breath away.

(picture above: why do I doubt the validity of this statement?? -ha Regardless, I am thankful for the commitment to preservation of Muir and Roosevelt.)

The talls are so tall and so straight and SO difficult to capture on film.

Half Dome…

An awe-inspiring waterfall. It was so high up that by the time it reached the level we were, the water dissipated into mist and blew away.

Notice the people on the ground below…

…and the full-grown pine trees on the top of this ‘lil rock’.

I was a little enamoured with this photographer. He looks like he holds a lot of stories…

Unfortunately, we saw a lot of burned forestry in the Park as well.

On the way home we took Hannah by one of our favorite places: Big Tree State Park. We arrived near sunset which made it even more amazing.

What I didn’t get were pictures of us. It was all just wonderfully overwhelming. Cameras aside… eyes up.

It seemed the right place to be, Yosemite National Park, on Indigenous Peoples Day.

Thankful for my people. And the fascinating Northwest.

[Adding some of Hannah’s picutures too]