All of Us!

All of Us!
Finally! All together with enough time to spare (??) to capture a picture of all six of us in the same spot, same time. Now this is a precious photo! I tried to get one last year for our Christmas card and didn't succeed. So when I had the chance I threw out the lasso and rounded everyone up (at my niece's graduation party) to grab a couple snapshots. My oldest son, Casey, and his girlfriend Nika are on the left; and my youngest son, Brady, and his girlfriend Jenne on the right; that leaves Bob and I in the center. (Bob is the one who doesn't look very happy about having his picture taken!!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm A Bloomer!

See that flower down there – it is a bloomer. See the other group of flowers over there – they are a family of fellow bloomers. I have decided to become a bloomer; and I think we all should become bloomers! My blooming idea is a label I have put on my change in attitude. I’ve decided that I will no longer hold grudges. (See–resolutions are not just for New Year’s). Recently, I’ve heard and seen on TV that holding grudges can reduce a person’s life expectancy. A grudge sits like an ugly little troll on your shoulder and in the back of your mind, picking away at a corner of your happiness only to possibly fester into something even uglier still.

I think the younger generation has a great slang saying, “Don’t be a hater!” It is so true, even if sometimes it is used in parody at fun-filled sporting events, backyard basketball games, etc.

From now on, I’m making peace with myself and peace with the world. If something is said or done that upsets me or I don’t like, I will label it a disappointment, fold it up, and tuck it away in my pocket. If my pocket becomes full, like taking out the kitchen garbage, I will discard them and wait for the next pocketful to do the same. But I refuse to hold onto them for too long of a period. If they grow old in my pocket and I forget about them, they will eventually fall apart in the wash.

Sometimes things are hard to pick up and put in the pocket, but I will be resilient in doing so. The saying that it is easier to forgive than forget, is true; but forgiveness makes me feel better. Forgetting can be done just as easily as my pocket metaphor afore-described.

Do you know that Wiktionary defines a grudge (as a verb) to “to grumble, complain; to be dissatisfied. . .to be unwilling to give or allow (someone something).” The Free Online Dictionary describes a grudge (as a noun) as “a persistent feeling of resentment, esp(ecially) one due to some cause, such as insult or injury.” A persistent feeling of resentment – those words – just saying those words – makes me feel sour; who wants to become a sour person? Not I, said me.

I recently saw an episode of Dr. Oz where he raised the question of “Is holding a grudge bad for your health?” The answer was “Yes. Research shows that feelings of anger, hostility and resentment are risk factors for heart attacks.” Okay, do I (or anyone else) really want to pile on another risk to my health? Hell, no, not me. Hence, my own campaign to rid my life, my body, my mind of those feelings.

I know it is hard for people to do this. After traveling down this road for some time, I finally hit a fork in the road and decided that it was time to make a decision. I want to make my life better, healthier. If that means filling my pocket with little scraps of disappointments, so be it. As I said before, it doesn’t take much effort to reach in there, pull a few out and throw them away. You lighten the load and you feel a heck of a lot better. I’m not a saint, I never pretend to be. I’m not a therapist nor a psychiatrist nor a psychologist nor a mental health practitioner; and again, I don’t pretend to be. But if this will help me to become a better person and restore some harmony to my well-being and relationships with others, then (in my own mind) I'm a healer. Definitely, I may not have discovered the Fountain of Youth, but maybe something much more worthwhile and important to my life – the Fountain of Lightening the Load A Little At A Time.

Everyone should try it – blooming, unequivocally, costs a lot less than Valium.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

All The Girls Got It Going On

Peonies, oh, how I love peonies! These are just a couple shots of my peony bush in front of the house as it is just starting to bloom. I received this bush from Bob for my birthday a few years back, so it along with us, are maturing together. There are a couple other peonies on the side of the garage but they are still small and so when they bloom they aren’t as impressive, but I ‘m sure, in time, they will be.


My memories and love of peonies go way back into my childhood. My mom had peony bushes planted throughout our yard. There were some white ones and some pale pink ones. I always loved the peony-blooming time of the year. It always followed the lilac-blooming span so I could go out and cut lilacs for a while and then after that, I would clip off some peonies for arrangements in the house.

The peony bushes didn’t get their full appreciation when we – my brother and I – were little nubbins running around in the yard. We had a fence around the yard that kept us and the dog in. The peonies were planted along the edge of the front yard nestled up against the fence and in the backyard. The fence, well-intentioned, kept our dog in for a while until he finally started to tunnel underneath the fence. Once we found his little getaway exit, we were able to escape to, until my mother frantically found out what was happening. The hole was filled and a more vigilant patrol of our whereabouts ensued.

After a couple years the fence came down, and then the rest of the world was able to more fully appreciate the peony bushes.

After Bob and I bought and moved to our farm, a peony bush was one of my top priorities on my planting-to-do list. Accordingly, one year I put it on my birthday list, and was so surprised and thankful to see that he had bought me one. I planted it right in front of the house so that I could look out and see it daily while it was in full bloom. It wasn’t an enormous plant when he purchased it, but it didn’t take long for it to take off and after a couple years it has bushed out nicely. I have always put stakes around it to aid the delicate stems in holding up the gigantic blooms. I’ve always felt that the stem of a peony plant must have always had a strong “back” in order to shoulder the substantial weight of its magnificent blooms. If only the blossoms would survive longer than they do.

Can I give you a little Greek mythology lesson on the peony? The peony is named after Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. Asclepius became jealous of his pupil; then Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower. Paeon, a physician to the gods, obtained the plant on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. It is said that once planted the Peony likes to be left alone and punishes those who try to move it by not flowering again for several years. Once established, however, it produces splendid blooms each year for decades. Believe me, I don't intend on moving them if I don't have to.

Mythology also tells that mischievous nymphs were said to hide in the petals of the Peony thus causing this magnificent flower to be given the meaning of Shame or Bashfulness in the Language of Flowers. I have a glider that sits next to the peony bush by the front walk. It is a very satisfying atmosphere to posture myself in the glider and take in the stupendous fragrance emanating behind me. When I see the magnificence of its blooms and take in the aromatic scent, I can understand why little nymphs would like to hide in the petals.


It is the same when wandering through my backyard when the lilac bushes are in full bloom. In fact, I generally don’t even have to wander into the backyard. All I need to do is walk out the front door and I am swept away with the grandiose bouquet that surges forth from lilacs bushes.

There is a whole lilac family of girls in my backyard – I call them the “girls” because of their age, height and the magnitude of their blossom-bearing abilities. There are the Mother and the Grandma who are very aged and consequential in size. The Mother spans 15 feet or so and sports a height of 10-12 feet; and the other, the Grandma, is approximately 20 feet in length/width and is probably at least 12-15 feet tall. When Bob got a chainsaw last year, and since both of these old ladies were no longer producing the quantity of lilacs I had wished, my plan this year was to do some really good pruning on some of their more gnarly and interestingly-shaped branches. I’m assuming, now, that they are not hard of hearing and understood my intentions considering the fact that this Spring they proved they were not neither baron nor infertile anymore by producing tons of lilacs in spots I hadn’t seen in years. Which, in itself, is a lesson to all you doubters out there, we women can sure surprise the hell out of you when we want to. (Sometimes we just need a little prodding). Fortunately, for these old colorful flirts, there will be no trim jobs this year, except around the bases. Their limbs will stay untouched; hence, they can try to surprise me yet another year.

Additionally, there are three more offspring in the backyard, two of which I did not even realize at first were lilacs. There is the Aunt, the Older Sister and Baby Girl. The Aunt stands South of the Mother while the Older Sister and Baby Girl stand in a westerly line with the Mother. Baby Girl is just West enough to peek around the corner of the house to see the statuesque Grandma watching over her. The Aunt and Baby Girl were shaped like lilacs but for years never produced any flowers. I thought they might just be another wanton sapling looking for a place to roost and bear its soul. Without anything productive paying its rent, I was not going to have any part of it – hence the contemplation of cutting to topple its essence. A couple years ago, Baby Girl (now about 5 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide) came out in full glory. Just in time, too, as she was about to be chopped down. Again, I was ambushed by this little delight when all of the sudden it bore blossoms in a voluminous fashion. It was as if she was trying to stand up and shout “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar!”

The Aunt, on the other hand, who I assumed was just a baron old spinster, surprised me last year by also producing a mountainous array of lilacs. This maiden is as tall as the Mother but having not borne offspring, she has maintained her girly figure and is not as wide at only about 5 feet or so. The Big Sister, on the other hand, realizing that she is the matriarch forerunner, has always earned her keep since we have been there. She is about 5 feet in width with a height of about 6-7 feet. And she stands about 10 feet from her Mother.

I have another hole in the yard which I have never filled it and it is directly West of Baby Girl. I am not sure if at some point in time there was another lilac in there or what but I have never filled it in. Recently I had purchased an Elderberry and was going to plant it in there but I somehow changed my mind. For some reason, I feel that if I planted something else in that spot, other than a lilac, it would be almost sacrilegious. It is like there is a bloodline being followed in this straight path across the backyard almost circling back to Grandma.

Since all my lilacs are lavender in the backyard, I have been mulling over adding a white or pink lilac in this devoid little spot. It may be the start of a whole new pedigree in the O’Connor Lilac Girls’ lineage. She would then become the new lil’ baby girl in a group of overbearing, dignified visions of the fairer sex.

Hmmmm . . . I’m thinking there might be a new baby at the farm very soon!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Just Make My Day

The temps are hitting close to 100 degrees today, way off whack for this time of year. A few weeks ago we were below average on temps and now the last couple days we are way above average. What gives? All I know, is that I do, do love it. Yes, I can say that when I work inside all day during the worst part of this, but to me it beats the below zero temps and long, cold nights of the winters past.

Having said that, I do not like . . . I say . . . when I water my plants that every little gnat, mosquito and flying insect has to jump on their horse, drive hundreds of miles at speeds of 200-miles-an-hour plus just to feast on me or annoy me.

I started watering my plants with my two big watering cans this morning around 5:30 a.m. and now I have bite marks and bumps all over me. One hand was watering the flowers and I was waving the other hand like I was in a parade and brandishing a queen’s-wave but in fast motion. And then next I had to fill up Wolfie and the cats’ outside water dish and the hummingbirds had also drained their feeder. I was thinking of spraying myself down with Off but just couldn’t stand the thought of doing that for a few minutes after which I would be quickly jumping in the shower. So I let them feast!

Crap, really, who in their right mind would get up early and be out hunting humans already that early in the morning! Really!!?? I suppose they have learned from years of experience – when it comes to feast or famine – let’s go the O’Connor Farm Banquet. The chef there will be serving up meals at different times of the day, and if you are patient, early in the morning she comes out to serve up some appetizer – Shari on the Barby! It may be a little raw but it is tentacle-licking good. Egads! Maybe I should be slathering on a little honey mustard for a little extra tang.

Oh, and yes I did mention watering cans. Unfortunately, I’m still using the watering cans because I haven’t had time to get my hoses down from the garage ceiling – or should I put the blame on Bob as it is his job to put them up there in the Fall and again his job to take them down in the Spring. It is his job today (on his honey-do list) to get them down for sure because (1) I need them to water my bigger gardens, and (2) he informed me that he needed one of my hoses to run down to the free-stall barn sprinkler system.

Geez, now I have to pick up another one on my way home tonight, but that is okay – it is either that or my plants will whither away to nothing. And I can’t have that.

The one real problem I have . . . (well, I don’t really have a problem with doing it as much as the problem is . . . well . . .) I am going to be going into somewhere that has plants and I am a sucker! I have it written in invisible ink on my forehead and when I walk into a plant store or nursery it flashes and blinks like a neon light on a dark alley street at night – “SUCKER” “SUCKER” “SUCKER.” Honestly, it is there! I can’t see it when I look in the mirror; you can’t see it when you look at me; but you get a clerk behind a counter and it is almost blinding to him/her. They start ringing up digits on the cash register before I start to cross the threshold. I think they have special lighting in stores for people like me. And, yes, I know there are others out there. You may not admit it, but it is probably you . . . yes, you, the one reading this right now. Yes, I admit it – I am pitiful; actually, more like pathetic! If they made puppies to look like plants, there would no longer be humane societies to house these little infants – they would all be at my house. I’d be a puppy farm.

I know I should try to control my urges, but, again, they are urges, they are demons; they hit me at my most vulnerable times – like now, when I have new beds that have a need to be filled. The word has probably spread and all the plant clerks are looking for the woman with the flashing neon sign on her forehead.

Well, let me just tell them something . . . be forewarned . . . I’m coming to a store near you tonight and you just go ahead and try it . . . go ahead –


Thursday, June 2, 2011

They'rrrrrrre Back!

My hummingbirds are back!

I thought it was all very apropos that today I write about my hummingbirds in honor of my Aunt Doris’ (Auntie) birthday tomorrow, June 3rd. As I have written before she loved hummingbirds, had feeders out for them on the front of her house where she would sit and watch them. She incited in me an interest in them. During her struggle last year when she had fallen ill, I nicknamed and called her “my little hummingbird.” As recalled in one of last year’s posts to my blog and in her eulogy, she went “home” the same day my hummingbirds came home to me.


My hummingbirds seemed to be a little later this year. I’m not quite sure why that is but I think they are mad at me. I tried a new nectar for them early this Spring. I call their nectar their “hummingbird cocktail.” It was in powder form and it seems to dissolve fast in the water – by that I mean after a few days in the feeder it goes from bright red to no color at all. And we all know that the first thing that draws a hummingbird to its feeder is the bright red color. I bet there is not even any sweetness to it. Me thinks I’ve been hoodwinked!

I’ve always been one to make sure that “all my little pets” like what they eat. I’m convinced it is truly because of me that they become as picky as they are. Take my kids, my husband, Pongo, my cats and Wolfie, for example. I have found what they like through trial and error and that is what they then get fed (as in the case of my “human pets” – they get their favorites more often than not).

Summarily, my hummingbirds are rebelling against me, too!! Heck, I also think even all my birds have done the same thing. I tried one type of bird feed and they didn’t seem to like it. I found another and they gobbled it all up and now I have a more diverse species of birds than I have ever had before.

Consequently, I picked up a concentrate liquid form of nectar, the same that I used last year. I’m hoping that at cocktail time, this is what hits the spot for them. I’m pretty fussy about my cocktails, too, so why shouldn’t they be!

I think they were showing their distaste in what I was feeding them by having a little riot. Bob was standing outside the front door close to the feeder the other day talking to me through the screen door. Two hummingbirds kept buzzing him, as if to say – “tell that old lady of your’s to get her butt out here and give us some good food!”

My interest has grown so in hummingbirds that I thought maybe I would share a few facts with you about them.


Dressed For the Occasion. Did you know, that hummingbirds are the tiniest birds in the world? And that they can flash their bright colors as well as hide them when needed? That the bright radiant color on hummingbirds comes from iridescent coloring like on a soap bubble or prism? That the name given to the bright flashing colored feathers of a hummingbird’s neck is a Gorget? An average-sized hummingbird will have about 940 feathers. (Is that considered outfits in a hummingbird's closet? Maybe I want a hummingbird's closet?)

You’re A Smart Little Birdy Aren’t You. A hummingbird’s brain is 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom. They are very smart and can remember every flower they have been to and how long it will take a flower to refill? (Hmmmm...I wonder how we exactly know that? But this sounds like it might just pertain more to the female species than the male! Aren’t I right? I mean I can remember every nursery/flower shop I have been to, the prices at each, what they have in their inventory. I’m thinking it is the same thing!) Hummingbirds can hear better than humans? (A female thing, again, I think because sometimes my husband can’t repeat to me what I just said to him!) That hummingbirds can see farther than humans? (Well, no bifocals needed there!) That hummingbirds can see ultraviolet light? And they have no sense of smell? (That might be a good thing considering some of the places they go!)

Honey, We Are Now Going to Get Personal About Your Looks! A hummingbird will use its tongue to lap up nectar from flowers and feeders. It’s tongue is grooved like the shape of a “W”. (They must be Badger fans from “W”isconsin). They have tiny hairs on the tip of their tongue to help lap up nectar and it’s beak is generally shaped like any other bird beak, just that it is longer in proportion to its body. The edges of its top beak will overlap the edges of its bottom beak; (In humans, I think that is called an overbite!) and it’s bottom beak is slightly flexible. They do not drink through their beaks like a straw, but lap up with their tongues. (At least there is no slurping going on at the trough there!)

Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make. Did you know the hummingbird’s heart beats up to 1,260 times per minute and about 250 times per minute at rest? (If I flew as fast and zipped around like they did, I think my heart would be beating like that, too!) And, speaking of its heart, it is 2.5% of the total body weight. It will take about 250 breaths per minute while at rest. (Can’t imagine that at the speed they dart around that they would have time to breath then either); but their metabolism is roughly 100 times that of an elephant. (Mine must be close to that of an elephant’s!)

Winging It. Hummingbirds have very weak feet and can barely walk, hence they prefer to fly; but they also like to perch and spend most of their life perching. (It must be that metabolism thing again because geez if I spent most of my life perching, I would be an elephant!) An average-sized hummingbird will have about 940 feathers.

Size Does Matter. Female hummingbirds are usually larger than male hummingbirds (You go girl!!). Its body temperature is 107 degrees Fahrenheit and on average they are 3.35 inches long from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail. Hummingbirds weigh anywhere between 2 and 20 grams, e.g. a penny weighs 2.5 grams. (I think the hummingbirds that feed at my place must be on closer to the 20 grams size, as they are a little piggish when it comes to eating!!) Thirty percent of a hummingbird’s weight consists of flight muscles (e.g., a human’s pectoral muscles are about 5% of body weight).

It’s All About Her!! Female hummingbirds find iridescent feathers attractive. (Is that the same as checking out a guy's butt?) Hummingbirds do not mate for life. (hmmmm....) Female hummingbirds do all the nest building. (Oh, couldn’t I just go on about that one – stop me now!!!)

Him, Him, Him. Male hummingbirds do not help raise the young. (Enough said on that one!)

And Don't Forget the Babies . . . A hummingbird baby is about the size of a penny. Females will lay a clutch of two eggs. Baby hummingbirds cannot fly and will remain in the nest for three weeks. (All I can say from experience, it seems they “fly the nest” way too soon. I’d hate to be a hummingbird momma!) Most hummingbirds die in the first year of life, have an average life span of about 5 years, but can live for more than 10 years. The oldest known hummingbird was a Broad-Tailed Hummingbird that was captured and tagged 12 years apart.

I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane. A hummingbird can fly an average of 25-30 miles per hour, can dive up to 60 miles per hour and its wings will rotate in a full circle. Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have been known to travel 500 miles over the Gulf of Mexico to breeding grounds; and it is estimated it takes about twenty (20) hours to fly across the Gulf of Mexico. Some hummingbirds will travel over two-thousand (2,000) miles twice a year during migration times. The Rufous Hummingbird travels the farthest north of any other hummingbird to migrate –all the way from Mexico to Alaska. (So much for flying South for the Winter!)

Good Night, Sleep Tight, It’s Time for Torpor. When hummingbirds sleep at night, they go into a hibernation-like state called torpor. They enter torpor to conserve energy. When they go into torpor, their metabolic rate is one-fifteenth (1/15) of normal sleep. Torpor can save up to 60% of a hummingbird's available energy and when in torpor, their heart rate can drop to as few as 50 beats per minute and can lower the body temperature to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. (In humans, this up and down body temperature thing is called menopause!) When hummingbirds go into torpor, they will appear as if they are dead and have occasionally been found to be hanging upside-down. (Human definition: a drunken stupor!) It can take up to an hour for a hummingbird to fully recover from torpor. (Not fair!! I’d rather have the hummingbird’s hangover than a human’s!) Torpor can be fatal to a weak hummingbird. (No different here!)

Belly Up To The Bar! Hummingbirds need to eat on average 7 times per hour for about 30-60 seconds and can eat anywhere from half (1/2) to eight (8) times its body weight a day. (Egads!! If that was me, that would be a lot of food!) They can double his/her weight before migration. (Yea, well, I’d be grounded for sure!) A hummingbird will visit an average of 1,000 flowers per day for nectar but also eat small soft bugs for protein. (Following the daily hummingbird food pyramid . . . I think we are missing some important parts here, though). A hummingbird will lap up nectar at a rate of about 13 licks per second. (Hmmm... I’ve seen some people eat that fast, too!) Hummingbirds will not get addicted to a hummingbird feeder filled with nectar and will leave when they need to. (Good thing – or we would have nectarholics flying the skyways! Or maybe those are the ones that buzz you so close to your head!)

When Digging Up A Little of Your Past, We Find . . . Hummingbirds are only found naturally in the Americas, can be found as far north as Alaska and as far south as Chile. They are the second largest family of birds in the Western Hemisphere with more than 300 types or species of hummingbirds. Most of the types or species of hummingbirds are found in South America. The country of Ecuador has the largest number of types or species of hummingbirds. While there are more than fifty (50) types or species of hummingbirds that breed in Mexico, there are more than fifteen (15) types or species that breed in the United States and more than three (3) types or species that breed in Canada.

Who, Who, Are You? Hummingbirds are all part of the Trochilidae family of birds; Trochilidae is from the Greek trochilos, meaning small bird. (Oh, there was a rocket scientist there somewhere!) There are two sub-families of hummingbirds: (1) Typical hummingbirds, and (2) Hermit hummingbirds. Typical hummingbirds are found more in North America while Hermit hummingbirds occur from southern Mexico, through Central America, to South America as far south as northern Argentina. Most hummingbird types or species do not migrate. The smallest hummingbird is the Bee Hummingbird and the largest is the Giant Hummingbird. White hummingbirds (or albino hummingbirds) are not a separate hummingbird type or species. They are regular hummingbirds that never developed color in their plumage. (Someone should introduce them to some bronzer!)

I Know Where You Live! The typical hummingbird nest is tiny, about the size of half an English walnut shell. The outer part is covered with moss and plant fibers. Sometimes it is shingled with lichens. The rest is made of plant down and spider webs. They do not re-use the same nest, but often build again at the same location, occasionally right on top of the old nest. (I think that is for resale purposes – they always say you should remodel every 10 years!)

The Way You Do The Things You Do. Hummingbirds don't really sing, they chirp. (Don’t know if I have ever heard them chirp; it is usually just a buzz). Their favorite color is red (Duh!!) and like tubular type flowers the most. Hummingbirds pollinate flowers by rubbing their forehead and face in each flower as they get the nectar. (Necking, anyone? Oh, wait, wouldn’t this be more like Eskimo kissing?) Many plants depend on hummingbirds for pollination. (It’s an onerous task, but, hey, someone has to do it!) They get their name from the humming sound produced by their wings when flying. And the last, but not least known fact, Early Spanish explorers called hummingbirds flying jewels.

Flying jewels – now, isn’t that apropos!! Yes, Auntie if you could see my hummingbirds now. I think that they have migrated south from your place to mine to take up a new residence. No one is feeding them at the old homestead, and as I have pointed out, they sure do love to chow down. I hope that I am giving them an adequate amount of nectar and plants for them to frolic in. I’m trying to put in plants that are loved by both hummingbirds and butterflies in a lot of my new gardens.

Besides adding beauty to the landscape, if nothing else, these little flying jewels can bring just a little more of you back to me.