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.

Patio, Pups and Projects

Our neighbor had an intrusive tree removed last year that made a lot of sense for her. Cleared up her backyard nicely. But this spring I’m noticing how MUCH more sun we are getting on our back patio (and we got a lot to begin with.) The hardest adjustment to California from the Midwest has been the unbelievable LEVEL of sun rays. It gets very hot very quickly when in the sun. 

So, we decided to rearrange a few things and get a table umbrella to shield a little bit of the intensity.

I seem to prefer neutrals and nature colors on the inside, so it feels like I’ve gone off the rails on color in the backyard this year. -ha. And it all started with a rug.

I love our ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ sun we lovingly bought a few years ago in honor of Charles Osgood’s retirement. (Has it been as good since he left?) I also have enjoyed the ombre growth of this ivy up our fence (old as it is.) We tried to direct the ivy up the fence last summer and some of it has decided to cooperate. Hopefully more of the ivy on the ground will take notice and decide to do a little scaling themselves this year.

I very much like the color blue. However, I rarely use it. I’m not sure why but I’ve never gravitated toward it in my own home – while appreciating it in others’ homes. Something crazy struck me, however, and I fell instantly for this outdoor rug. Everything else grew from that.

Last year we severely trimmed back the oleander bushes. The back of our yard still has plenty (and are currently heavily sagging because the pink blooms are getting ready to break open.) The white bushes on the side of the patio have a sturdy ‘trunk’ so we trimmed them to look more like trees than bushes. And they are blooming beautifully.

Salmon, navy, teal and touches of purple are in the rug so the plants and pillows followed suit. 

(Please tell the person who jimmy-rigged this ‘hanging’ pot to cut off the janky strings and try to make it more presentable.) (aka: it was me.)

I think this sassy parrot is my favorite part of the backyard update. How can you not feel energized by her while sipping your morning chai?

By the way, reader, we are firmly ignoring the nasturiums that I repotted and now they’re acting dead. They’ll come back – they just can’t help themselves.

Is the parrot pillow my favorite thing or is this stunning variegated Japanese aralia? It’s a close call.

Two important ‘life discoveries’ I’ve made (…or recently admitted to…) this spring have been

  • I have done it, lived it, studied it, and now – I’m done with succulents. They are too temperamental. Every time you touch one to deadhead it, the other leaves get knocked off so planting them is a huge pain (think: the delicate Operation game of our youth.) Even though I still have a ton – we will eventually part ways. Melanie – I wish you were here to give them all to. They need youth and patience and I’m sorely lacking on both accounts.
  • And secondly, I am not a flower person either. I have been spoiled by houseplants. They’re strong and sturdy and I at least know how to read them better than flowers in the California sun. Many lessons learned.

It’s all about self-actualization, people. Growth and improvements, right?

Tilly and her old man eyebrows and soul patch. As long as she has a leaf or a dead plant, she’s in high heaven!

The thing about oleander flowers is that they bloom all summer long. Well into fall, actually. They last a long time when you cut them and bring them indoors and their foliage is a staple for flower arrangements. You literally have to throw them away before they die. -ha. 

I love wonky pottery. I found this one years ago at an antique mall and it called to me. This little blue vase (that needs more water, I see) houses our once and done gardenia flowers. What a powerful scent! I love them so much!!

Haddie. Always around. Always on-point and watching all the activity but wanting to play it cool like she doesn’t care. She teases Tilly and loves the attention Tilly gives her. But admitting love is just not in her character. 

If you follow me on Facebook you know we tried to create an area of the sideyard for Tilly to go to the bathroom. But after training her to go outside ANYWHERE, it’s been difficult to condense her to just one spot now. So we are going to try a fence with a gate – cordoning off the patio area as separate from her play and go area. California backyards are small and we were lucky to get a little spot of yard in the back and now we don’t want to give it all over to a new puppy. 

Concessions and compromises! 

On the other side of the fence is our cactus garden. I am AAAAMAAAAAZED at how quickly the cacti have grown over the winter. We started with nothing and they have practically taken over the back of our house. I love the desert vibe they give out and have loved watching a completely new kind of plant grow.

Scott’s BBQ grill is kept going year-round. As much as possible we cook out there!

Dad gave me some castor bean seeds last year that have grown ominously on the corner of our house. They’re about ready to take over our blue agave (Agave Maria)!

I once read that California was never meant to have inhabitants because there are so many natural elements to overcome. It’s interesting how wildlife and humans have adapted to the unique environment of the Pacific coast.

Just like a kid, we do our best to wear her down every evening. She looks happy and satisfied, don’t you think??

What I would normally consider Spring in the Midwest is ending here in northern CA. We are staring summer in the face next week – many 100 degree days scheduled. But this week has been mild and enjoyable. I am learning that California doesn’t believe in easing anyone into a new situation – it just drops it hot and smoldering in your lap. 

We’ll be very happy with our new umbrella shade. 

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!!!