Friday, May 18, 2018

Garden Glory: (Showing Off a "Small Island" - Part 7)

It is inevitable, when playing tour guide in a familiar place, that you will make repeat visits to certain attractions.  Raby Castle is a case in point.  With its proximity to my in-laws' house, the Castle was an obvious choice to share with my sister and her husband last June.  And so we went, even though Spousal Unit and I had been there the summer before.  But make no mistake, I had no regrets; the Castle has stunning gardens, sweeping panoramas and, of course, a tea shop, that would occupy us while our guests toured the Castle.  Follow me!

My previous posts about this trip (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)) have noted the uncharacteristically warm and sunny weather we'd been having.  Some evening rain put an end to that, and I rejoiced in capturing lingering raindrops on the flowers the next day. 

What is it about brick walls and stone parapets that shape a garden so?  When I first imagined the landscape design for the 'wild' acreage at our log house, I dreamt of the sort of 'rooms' that you see in a quintessential English garden, often created with the use of plantings and hardscape.  To this day I am inspired by this design technique (even if we are not using it in Montana!)

The walls of locally hand-made bricks were constructed with flues which, when heated, enabled sub-tropical fruits such as apricots to be grown on the south terrace.  Of these, only the White Ischia Fig brought to Raby in 1786 by William Harry, Lord Barnard, still survives in its specially built house, fruiting annually.

The gardens surrounding English castles and grand homes are often arboretums in their own right, with a fascinating array of trees, shrubs and flowers.  As a tree lover, I revel in studying the trees - color, texture, shape, placement in the garden - it all has a role to  play in the beauty of the space.

Many of the original features remain in the Raby Castle gardens, including two fine yew hedges, and the ornamental pond, which was originally constructed to provide water for the kitchen garden.
Yew hedges to right and left

Ah, the summer rose - riveting to the eye and tantalizing to the nostrils … below are the best of the bunch.

Occasionally, a garden will surprise.  This day, around a corner, we found a 'higgledy-piggledy' rectangle, populated by a variety of looming plants.  We wondered: could it be a forgotten section?  The head gardener's 'scrap' heap?  Done deliberately to show that an English garden CAN be disorderly?  Whatever the rationale, we loved the riot of textures, shapes and colors.

As I peruse my next set of shots, I am struck with wonder once again at the rolling landscape, dotted with majestic oaks and other aged trees that have seen Kings and Queens come and go.  This setting surrounding the Castle is referred to as the "Park."  Can you imagine anything more marvelous?
Groundskeeper's Cottage in the distance

Well, perhaps the view of the Castle …

Raby Castle is near Staindrop in County Durham, among 200 acres of deer park.  It was built by John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby, between approximately 1367 and 1390.  Cecily Neville, the mother of the Kings Edward IV and Richard III, was born here.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Awesome April

The fact that I am just now getting to my April re-cap means my life is full of blessings, such as a new house that draws on our time to make it a home, and a trip to Ohio for our daughter's graduation.

Sometimes, especially at the change of seasons, it is fascinating to look back at photos from last month - how much Nature has changed in just six short weeks!  As I prepared this post, I found myself whispering 'wow' and squinting through my glasses to make sure I had read the photo dates correctly.  Want to see what I mean?  Let's go look!

These ski resort pictures were taken on April 7, the day before ski season closed.  In Whitefish, the end of the season is set by the Forest Service, to ensure limited encounters between humans and bears as the bears emerge from hibernation.  It's certainly not for lack of snow!!!

Lest you think the Forest Service is being overly cautious .. . thousands of people followed a Glacier National Park web cam for 3 weeks (beginning around March 24), to watch a black bear in a sycamore tree.  Here are some of the screen shots I captured - isn't he an entertaining fellow (from a distance)?

Once warmer temperatures arrive to the lower elevations, the snow disappears quickly.  My trail cam documented not only wildlife, but the receding snow banks around our house.

Speaking of trail cams, I was so delighted last month to capture another coyote picture, this one in the daylight!!!  And a fabulous series with a turkey!

Here are some other pictures documenting snow around our house - now you see it, now you don't!

It may surprise you to see Easter pictures in this post ... but I include them here for 2 reasons - one, Easter was April 1 - so it belongs in the April re-cap!!!  Two- we just ate the last of the Easter candy - does your holiday candy linger, or does it disappear rather quickly in your house? 

Like the Easter candy, some of my 2018 goals are ... lingering.  I haven't done much cooking lately, and I am a little behind on my tea towel embroidery.

And I think I have a reasonable excuse - check out my new blogging studio on the back deck ...

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Graduate with Hat

The tassel has been turned.

Gone are the tears that fell like droplets of rain.  In their place, smiles broke through and shone as bright as daffodils.  Fresh opportunities beckon, like the crackle of the binding when opening that new diary to the first blank page.

#1 Daughter (AKA Graduate with Hat) graduated from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) on April 28.

A whirlwind week with family and friends began quietly at my sister's house with a morning garden walk.  I used to claim Autumn as my favorite season, but these days I give my affection to Spring.  Pregnant buds giving birth to unblemished leaves.  Vibrant floral hues taking over from the gray of winter.  The promise of fruit hidden within the flowers.  All of it a fitting metaphor for the bright-eyed hope of spring commencement.

My Mom hosted lunch at her house (it doesn't get any better than homemade sauerkraut soup and bread, followed by friendly Euchre competition!)  We rounded out the day with Ada and the Engine at the KNOW Theatre in Cincinnati; Graduate with Hat serves as the Stage Manager for the show, a position she landed before she even graduated.  Continuing the streak, she has been offered the Resident Stage Manager position at the KNOW in the fall, following her three-month gig at Theatre Aspen in Colorado.  It's always reassuring to the parents when a graduate is able to put that degree to work right away!

The big day dawned sunny but cold.  We were grateful for our fleece blankets as a few of us huddled together on the metal bleachers of Nippert Stadium (and so was the dad seated in the row behind us, who shivered without the sport coat borrowed by his graduating son ... out of compassion, we loaned him one of our blankets partway through the 2.5 hour ceremony).  Just as the sun edged toward our section, clouds moved in with a bit of wind ... brrr!  Graduate with Hat was glad for the sweater under her gown, but it didn't do much for her bare legs ... it felt good to get moving toward the stage and the diploma.  Over 2,000 students walked the stage in her commencement, and we were proud as peacocks to hoot and holler when it was her turn!

The rest of the family joined us for lunch hosted by CCM (thankfully, indoors!)  When feeling returned to my fingers, we briefly ventured into the courtyard to snap family photos, especially at the customary graduation photo spot near the CCM sign.  The afternoon wrapped up with the CCM Convocation, a special graduation ceremony for CCM students.  As I looked around Corbett Auditorium, I couldn't help but remember an orientation meeting that was held just around the corner in this same building.  Where had 4 years gone?

Back at my sister's house, we noshed on a Mexican food buffet and gourmet cupcakes while catching up on family news and playing cards (more euchre!)  Graduate with Hat opened her presents and cards while the family looked on.  All too soon, yawns and sleepy eyes suggested it was time to bring the curtain down on this emotional yet eminently satisfying day.

Our eventful weekend continued on Sunday with lunch at the Melting Pot, long a birthday favorite of #1 Son, who turned the big 20 in April.  His girlfriend joined our meal in Columbus, and we observed that it's only two years before we are celebrating their commencement.  Oh my!  Then our journey led us onward to Cleveland to meet up with former neighbors and work colleagues.

Lodge at Punderson State Park
What a walk down memory lane. Twenty of the "Super Bowl" gang gathered at the Chesterland Tavern, akin to the old days when our house was the meeting place for football, food and friendship.  Driving cross-town to have lunch with former work colleagues was a deja vu moment, recalling hundreds of times I'd passed that way, and there was laughter a-plenty as we shared stories old and new.  A night at Punderson State Park was reminiscent of a stay here over 10 years ago, when we returned to Cleveland from the UK and rented a cabin until our furniture arrived.  Joining friends in the hotel bar, three hours passed like quicksilver, as time does when you re-connect with like minds and hearts.

We took advantage of a break in the action to pop in to quaint Chagrin Falls on a sunny afternoon - a delightful spot where our kids tumbled around the town playground and savored ice cream from the famous Popcorn Shop.  For old time's sake, I enjoyed a couple of scoops!  Spousal Unit even caught 40 winks in the warm sun!

The next day, we were sent on our way with tummies full of a delicious breakfast made by one of our former neighbors (thanks, guys!) On the road again ... back to Cincinnati for an afternoon at the zoo, joined by my sister and Graduate with Hat, who had been aching to see Fiona, a baby hippo born on January 24, 2017.  Apparently, everyone else is just as infatuated with little Fiona - it was impossible to get a picture of her ... but I did manage to capture some nice videos - an elephant taking a bath, feeding time for the giraffes and two Bengal tigers playing (?) together.  

As we wandered the tulip-laden walkways, Spousal Unit reminded me that this very zoo had been one of the first places he visited upon his arrival in the US.  Such is the circle of life.

The fun-filled week was capped by a barbecue dinner at my niece's house; we sipped wine and beer while the kids and the dogs entertained us with their antics.  I looked around and sighed with contentment; the last six days had been jammed and I was ready for a 'vacation from the vacation', but it was worth everything to honor Graduate with Hat.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

To Infinity and Beyond (or, there is life after moving day)

Reading in the great room
The nights here are quiet, with a velvet black sky littered with sparkling stars.  Fresh, crisp air enters your lungs with each deep breath you unconsciously draw, the body's natural reaction to the serenity and awe of standing underneath the mighty constellations.  An occasional sighing sound reaches your ears as the breeze rustles the pine boughs.  Another deep breath brings the scent of earth and living things.  No longer just the figment of my dreams, this is my new reality - as of April 14, our new log house is HOME!

Josie helps with packing
MOVING DAY: If you've ever moved yourself, you know the drill.  You pack.  You stage.  You pick up the U-Haul truck.  You ask strong friends to help.  You load the truck.  You drive the truck.  You unload the truck.  You return the U-Haul.  You return home.  You assemble your bed.  You collapse into it with exhaustion.

Well, our story had a couple of wrinkles along the way.  First, we could not fit everything in the truck(in fact, we still have a few items to pick up from the Whitefish townhouse).  So we nixed our plan to pick up our (new to us) antique desk along the way.  Second, the truck could not make it through the snow on the driveway at the new house.  Yes, folks, this was April 14 and the truck was stuck.  We tried traction sand and boards under the tires, and succeeded only in digging bigger holes.

But this is Montana, and frontier spirit and neighborliness are alive and well here in the Treasure State.  Our borrowed brawn for the day, a neighbor's teenage son, wasted no time in calling his dad, who soon arrived in his Tundra with four of his other kids in the truck bed.  Lickety split, that Tundra pulled the U-Haul back down the driveway, so it could get a running start.  And this time, it cooperated and pulled right up to the house.  (In the meantime, the house enjoyed the pitter-patter of children's feet as the explored the nooks and crannies with me.  The upstairs loft bedroom, with its low roof and 'hidey holes', was an instant hit.)
Of course, this is a couple days later, when the bed is assembled.
"Hidey hole" is behind the bed, below the log beam.

We were ecstatic to find a desk with
accents that match the terracotta
wall color
And this week, another neighbor graciously answered the call to assist Spousal Unit with the desk.  A 50-year-old roll top owned by a doctor until his retirement, the desk could be separated into two pieces, which enabled the boys to manhandle it into our neighbor's Silverado, and later, into our loft.  Although we had measured carefully prior to purchasing the antique, I still heaved a sigh of relief when it slotted perfectly into place!

And the household goods in Whitefish?  Fortunately, volunteer activities require our presence there at least twice a week, and our visits have made a serious dent in what remains.  So, bottom line: we made it through relatively unscathed.  Of course, on moving day, cooking is out of the question; the Kila Pub whips up tasty pizza pies, and we enjoyed a refreshing beverage while waiting for take-out.

It may be a bit unconventional, but we chomped our way through a 16-inch sausage, green pepper and olive pizza while swilling champagne.  It was a heavenly reward after a long, tiring, emotional day.
Upper right: Josie enjoys champagne for her work on the move
Bottom: view from the great room

SINCE MOVING DAY (COULD THIS BE OUR "NEW NORMAL"?):  Of course, moving does not end when the champagne bottle is empty.  In fact, maybe that's just the beginning.  So let me tell you about our adventures in the last (has it only been) six days.  Hanging mirrors in the master bathroom.

Viewing wildlife. Whether on our own property, or on our way to and from town, wildlife abounds.  Eagles (often several together), mountain bluebirds, ground squirrels, the ubiquitous deer, turkeys.  But the best so far are the sandhill cranes on the small lake at the foot of our property.  The picture quality is not the best in this video, but it shows a flying pair of cranes joining another pair already at the lake.  You can hear them calling each other and see the head and neck movement.  Regularly throughout the day, the calls echo around our valley.  Eerie and magical.

Inaugural dinner party. Six neighbors celebrated our new home with margaritas, fajitas and chocolate cake.  Housewarming gifts included a hand-made bird box (house), which was erected yesterday with another bird box and bat box given to Spousal Unit by the kids at Christmas.  We hope all three will soon be occupied.

This lovely basket, a neighbor's gift chock full of wine and party napkins, became a centerpiece on our dining room table yesterday when I added a vase arranged with natural materials from our acreage.

Breakfast on the deck.  It may be April and the U-Haul may get stuck, but the sun on this south-facing aspect puts Grand Cayman to shame.  Need I say more?

Sunsets.  And another dreamy day draws down, pulling the curtain of night into place.  Soon these same trees will silhouette against the sky like so many bristly pipe cleaners, directing my eyes once again to the heavens as the wind sighs in the trees, telling me I am HOME.

P.S. Due to the move, I have not been able to visit many blogs and make comments.  My apologies to you all.  The next week looks to be the same due to our upcoming trip to Ohio for our daughter's college graduation.  Thanks for your understanding, and I look forward to catching up on my return!
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