You know those awful junk phone calls you get?? I just got one which still has me puzzled. The man said “Gerald Searle, please” (pronouncing it as you would the word “early”, instead of, as it should be, like the word “pearl” – which always annoys me most unreasonably). I said “I’m sorry, he’s deceased”. And he said, “Oh, OK, we’ll try later.” Hello??? Perhaps Gerry is coming back? That would be lovely, but unfortunately I doubt it. And if he did, he’d give this feller what for!
And, talking of times past, my body, which for years worked like a well oiled machine, now sits around thinking up ways to irritate me. One bit after another wants to be either replaced or repaired, so that my calendar of things to do, instead of being a host of fun stuff like flying airplanes, riding fast horses, or dancing till dawn, has become instead a series of “fix it ups”. The latest thing was a lump on my lip which came and went with some frequency, so that I finally went to see a skin doctor, who pronounced that the lump was a scant few months from turning into some kind of cancer near a lymph node, and said he was glad I hadn’t waited. He stuck a very painful injection into my lip and burnt a good hunk of it off so that now I look like the spirit of Christmas Past, but, hopefully, cancerless. Undoubtedly, young was better.
I spent today working on my patio, which is my flower garden. As the ground around my house contains a lot of clay, as well as a lot of gophers, I have learnt over the years that by far the best gardening is to be achieved by planting things in pots on the patio, and this has become an annual spring occurrence. The last few years I had not felt up to it much, following Gerry’s passing and then the Grapevine fire, but this year I feel so much better that the other day I came home laden with some $130 worth of plants, which then had to be planted. The planting itself isn’t so much fun – your back aches, and your hands get grubby, and you get hot, even in this pleasant spring weather – but the aftermath, the shifting of pots hither and thither in order to get the best color effect and the best balance of height and shade and sun loving plants, is always a lot of fun – sort of akin to rearranging the furniture in the house, which was something I did with maddening frequency in my younger years. (My husband at the time always used to say that if he waited long enough, the dining table would go past him and he could sit down and eat.) Anyway, this year it has been a blast, and later, when it’s all settled down and decided to live, I will publish a photo of the result. I know, before anyone of you can tell me, that it could easily be confused with the photo from ’02, and ’03, and ’04 and ’05, but to me, it’s lovely and I enjoy sitting out there with that morning cup of coffee.
I think I mentioned here some time back that I had planted a Tombstone rose, also known as Lady Banks rose, on my south wall, thinking that it would be lovely to sit behind a wall of solid white flowers. The plan came adrift when Twiggy, one of my pet cows, invaded my domain and ate up the rose. It valiantly tried to make a comeback, and then my horse Comanche discovered that roses are extremely tasty and he ate up what was left. The rose is still there, now encased in a sturdy cage of mesh wire so that it looks imprisoned – but sadly, it’s small and stumpy, and a long way from covering the trellis. Furthermore, I had forgotten just how long these suckers take to grow. We have one at Grapevine, around the pool fence, which has covered the fence and also the arbored walkway beside it, so that in spring it’s a solid mass of rioting white flowers. I was talking to Jimmy the other day and mentioned that it grew fast, as it hadn’t been there all that long. “It was here before I came….” opined Jimmy – and we figured that to be twelve years. Later I worked it out to have been planted some 20—22 years ago. At this rate I don’t have the time to wait for it to cover my trellis! However, I don’t want to destroy it either, so I left it there and decided to plant a fast growing trumpet vine on the east side of the patio. To prevent another piece of four legged vandalism, I decided to fence off the area which I call my lawn in the rainy season, and which is a dusty patch of weeds the rest of the year. However, there was a catch. The fence had to be over 200 ft. long, and doubling it up, I would need more than 400 ft. of 2×4’s, which would be ruinously expensive.
But help was at hand, and from a very unlikely source, the local electric company. This is an entity I dislike for their having devastated the countryside by dotting it with their ugly electric poles, and by building a horrible power station in the middle of our beautiful valley, when they could just as well have built it near some town, and so blended it into an already polluted landscape. Anyway, some time ago they announced that they had to replace all the underground and overhead electric lines with new, superior cables. They came to Grapevine first and gave me fits by announcing that they would probably have to rip out a trench from the Cook Shack to the Natchez Casita, so destroying vegetation for about 300 ft. and 12 ft. across, and lopping huge bits off the oak trees to boot. It almost made me sick. Adam and I worried about this for weeks, and then lo and behold! it came to pass that they found that Gerry, in his infinite wisdom some 25 years ago, had put the underground line in conduit, so that all they had to do was to fish out the old line and snake the new line through. I was relieved beyond measure. So then, Grapevine safe, they advanced on the Cobre Loma, my home and the cattle ranch headquarters, the buildings of which are about a mile across the pasture from the Grapevine. And here they really had themselves a good time! They had to replace over two miles or so of poles going across the East Noonan Pasture, and so they drove with their megaton trucks with huge tires and wide wheelbase right across the pasture, tearing up the country and destroying not only fragile bushes which were about to begin blooming, but also lots and lots of grass which the cattle need to eat. That really made me mad – until they said we could have the old, wooden electric poles – and it hit me, like a bolt from heaven, that here was my fence to put around the lawn and keep my critters off my flowers. As the old saying goes …… there is good everywhere, you only have to find it. I enclose a photo of the new fence. And, as an additional bonus, I was now able to plant a couple of rosebushes around Gerry’s memorial slab under the eucalyptus tree. Now Comanche and Tequila, to say nothing of the donkeys, Miss Sarah and Miss Katie, gaze longingly across the fence and can’t get in there to gobble up the roses.
Today we began another Cow Camp, a very popular program which was the brain child of Adam, the barn boss. In this, a group of no more than 5 people first learn the rudiments of roping and cattle handling in theory; then they gather up a group of some 20 head of young cows and drive them into the big corral near my house. There they learn to cut out individual cows (harder than it sounds, as cows are a very herd bound and stubborn animal), put them into various pens, and they try their hand at roping. The next day they gather the cows again and drive them across the pasture to another set of corrals at the south end of the ranch. There they proceed with more roping and sorting practice, have themselves a steak dinner cooked over an open fire and sleep under the stars. Next morning more practice, and then after lunch they gather up the cows and take them back to their home pasture. A couple of this week’s students are also signed up to ride with us on the spring round up next week, and in fact, one of them, being a medical doctor, has volunteered to do some of the castrating, which will give Danny a break. And so life goes on… it seems to me that we just did that …. but no, that was last year – or was it the year before??
Take care now and have a lovely spring!