Suzy’s Gardens

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Suzy and Russ have lived in their home for 35 years. Suzy has spent thousands of hours creating a beautiful garden. Flowers spill out of dozens of pots. Plantings form several green “rooms,” each with its own ambiance. Every window in Suzy’s house looks onto a carefully thought-out view.

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An early morning visiter in Suzy’s Oregon City Garden (photo by Suzy)

Although she’s modest about it, Suzy became a Master Gardener after she retired.

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Trail cam photo

 

Their Oregon City home is less than ten minutes from Clackamas Community College and the Molalla Avenue business district. They enjoy plenty of wildlife; deer, raccoon, and birds.  Last October their next-door neighbors lost a goat to a cougar and the guilty party was caught on a trail camera. Fortunately, it was a rare visit and the cougar moved on

 

Before Suzy and I left for a day trip to their coastal cottage, we took a tour of her home garden while I snapped pictures.

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“You’ll find another ‘jungle’ at the beach house,” Russ said affectionately. I’m sure he meant to say, “another beautiful garden.”

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Along the way, we stopped at Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock, Arcadia Beach, and Arch Cape. Suzy grew up playing on Oregon’s beaches and she knows them well

We walked barefoot in the sand, dipped our toes in the cold Pacific, and breathed the sweet coastal air. Never mind that I grew up in eastern Washington, the Oregon coast always makes me feel as if I’ve found my way home.

Russ was right, Suzy’s coastal garden is as lovely as her home garden.

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After lunch at the beach house, Suzy watered her outdoor pots and shared family stories in anticipation of spending July 4 in Nehalem with her grandkids.

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A large elk herd frequently visits the beach house and I sensed that Suzy was eager for them to show up while we were there. I hoped so too. As it turned out, they showed up in large numbers, along with nine calves, about two days after my visit.

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Photo by Suzy

Even though the elk dine on Suzy’s flowers and pull inedible plants out of the ground and toss them aside, Suzy has patience and an abundance of affection for the animals When she’s not there, the huge creatures boldly walk onto her large deck to pick and choose amongst her favorite plants

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Another photo by Suzy – One of her favorites

Late one night Suzy woke to a noise at her window. Opening the shade, she looked straight into the face of the “peeping Tom” who was scraping his antlers on the window! She just laughs about it now.

Some of Russ and Suzy’s neighbors resent the careless animals and use brooms to shoo them away from their carefully tended gardens. Not Suzy. If they pull up her flowers, she simply plants them back in the ground.

Though Suzy  is a friend and we worked together for years,  I had never before spent a full day with her, in her world. It was a day for observing the peace and beauty Suzy has created, sensing the love she has for her family, and appreciating the good-natured way she tidies up her garden after the elk leave. I’m glad I know her better.

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Suzy likes to share the things she’s learned about the elk.  She remembers seeing a badly limping cow elk in the middle of a protective circle of the animals. The same thing happened to a cow who began to give birth in the sea of grass in front of their house. The other animals encircled and protected her while she labored.

 

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Recently, Russ and Suzy celebrated their 50th anniversary around a small bonfire with two other couples, relaxing and reminiscing. While they were enjoying the evening, the elk came out of the woods, lay nearby in the grass, and made themselves part of the celebration.

 

Obviously, they appreciate Suzy’s patience and affection.

Bald Faced Hornets!

This is an update to my July 5 post (Hornet)  about the fascinating hornet’s nest in our back yard. We had second thoughts about protecting the nest:

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Bald-Faced Hornet Nest (not ours)

Ryan, from Pete’s Pest Control, came over to take care of a Yellow jacket nest we had in the back yard. We used to take care of Yellowjackets ourselves but last year we started reacting to stings more intensely than before. More important, nobody gets stung when we call Pete’s!

Yellowjackets usually get aggressive later in the summer, but with the hot dry weather they started getting cranky in June this year.

Chatting with Ryan from Pete’s, I mentioned our hornet’s nest.

“They don’t seem to bother us if we stay away from the nest,” I said, “so I don’t need you to take care of them at this point.”

“They aren’t Bald-Faced Hornets, are they?” Ryan said.

“Well, I don’t know. I googled hornets and tried to figure out what they are, but they don’t seem to like me staring at the nest, so I didn’t hang around enough to get a good look!”

Ryan wandered over by the rhododendron where the hornet’s nest was. We carefully peeked at the nest in the middle of the bush.

“What! I said, “I can’t believe it. That nest is twice the size it was when I looked last week!”

There were many more hornets crawling around and buzzing around the outside of the nest. They seemed very cranky.

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Ryan cautiously peeked a little closer then jumped back, “Those are Bald-Faced hornets!” he said.

Ryan has been to our house a couple of times. He’s fearless in the face of a large nest of furious Yellow Jackets. Nothing much seems to scare Ryan, but he quickly backed away from our Bald-Faced Hornets.

“You can keep them if you want,” he said. but the nest could get to the size of a basketball and it’s only two feet off the ground. They can be aggressive, and they have a nasty sting. If your dog or a child accidently disturbs them they are dangerous! If you decide to get rid of them, there’s no extra charge since I’m already here. It’s up to you.”

“Really?” I said.

I was thinking about my neighbor Scott’s grandkids who play on the other side of the fence and my little dog, Teddy.  About that time, as if on cue, a couple of agitated hornets flew our way

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“Okay!” I hollered as I ran toward the house.

Yes, I am a bald-faced coward.

Once I was safely inside, I silently said, “sorry” to the creatures who couldn’t help being what they were.

Ryan said he doesn’t always bother with his bee suit when he takes care of yellowjackets, but for the Bald-Faced Hornets he was covered from head to toe.

Dave and I watched Ryan from the safety of the back window. Ryan had taken care of the Yellowjackets in a couple of minutes. For the Bald-Faced Hornets, Ryan worked slowly and very carefully.

Since then I’ve heard several stories from people who have had miserable experiences with the bald-faced hornet. Check YouTube if you want proof!

I hope none of you have followed my example and tenderly protected a Bald-Faced Hornet’s nest.

They have a place in the world, but it’s not in our back yard.

Never Look a Hornet in the Eye

 

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While trimming a large rhododendron bush in the back yard, I discovered a hornet’s nest. It’s a clever paper structure, built under a shelter of leaves and somehow actually attached to a couple of the largest leaves. You can’t see it very well in the picture below because I’m not brave enough to get closer.

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I wasn’t even near the nest with my clippers, just trimming a couple of limbs that were stretching out over the lawn creating an obstacle for the mower. Moving the branches disturbed the nest. One insect began circling my head, then two, then six. Like any sensible gardener, I quickly left the scene

Once the insects settled down, I went back to look for the nest. Wasps have been building small paper nests under the covered patio for years, but this nest was much larger. It piqued my curiosity.

Dave and I talked about whether we should destroy the nest. If we did decide to destroy it, the answer to how it should be done is the punch line to an old joke, “Very Carefully!”

We decided to let them be. They seem to leave us alone as long as we don’t disturb their home and they are valuable predators of flies, grubs, and other insects.  I’m anxious to study the nest up close,  but I’ll definitely wait until this fall when it’s empty!

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Yesterday we watched hornets flying in and out of the opening on the bottom of the nest. Curious to get a good look at the creatures and their home, I bent down and looked through an opening in the tangle of leaves and branches. I was able to do it without disturbing a single leaf and I had a perfect view! Exactly what I wanted.

Dave was studying the nest from another angle. Suddenly I realized one of the creatures was sitting in the opening looking straight into my face

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“Hey Dave, see that guy hanging out at the opening? He’s actually looking me in the eye!”

It felt very odd. Insects are so much smaller than us that we don’t get a sensation of their consciousness. I don’t think of them as having a consciousness, but for a split second I saw the creature register my presence.

A second later his big fat body took off headed straight for my face! I only screamed a little bit, but I ran really fast!

I may have thought of him as a tiny robot, but he had taken a moment to look me in the eye, and he didn’t like what he saw.