How to Plan for the Future by Living Now

The only way to get something done is by starting it. Last week, I ordered 50 periwinkle plants. They arrived and I left the box on the counter a few hours, thinking it was full of seeds. This was no time to procrastinate! The box was full of juvenile plants with their roots all neatly tucked together and rolled into a giant bouquet of vines.

Honestly, I did procrastinate for a day or two, buying myself some time by leaving the plants in a container on the front porch and watering the roots. When it came down to it, most of the work had already been done by my boyfriend when he had transferred some quality top soil to the area under a magnolia tree where I envision a tiny field of periwinkles.

All I needed was a dowel, my garden gloves and a half hour to dig holes and place in the plants. In about a year, I should have a blanket of ground cover. It would not come to pass if I had not gotten off my duff and done the basic work.

Newly planted periwinkle plants
Baby periwinkle plants

Standing back to admire the rows of plants, I looked over at my slightly larger lily patch. Growing up, a neighbor had an amazing patch of tiger lilies that had to be at least 30 feet in diameter. Everytime I came down our stairs, I would see these burning orange flowers across the street through frame of the front door.

Eventually, I became committed to the dream of my own lily garden. I bought and planted day lilies in the area where the periwinkle is now. They didn’t seem happy, so I moved them to a sunnier spot. Last fall, I dug them all up and divided them to cover a little more ground. Hence, the patch is a little bit bigger. We’ll see what next year brings after I divide them in the fall again.

Pink day lily blossom
Resurgent day lily

Sometimes, after you lay the groundwork, literally and figuratively, amazing growth can occur. When we went to the animal shelter to see about rescuing Buster (then known as Mr. Trembles), he was tiny and sickly. He weighed five pounds and was estimated to be about six weeks old. A volunteer handed me this poor little Catahoula Leopard Dog puppy and I could see how terrible distended his belly was from worms. He was weak and undernourished. He could barely look up. I held his precious body and worried he might not make it.

Buster the babyI said I was nervous about taking him home, but I committed. You can’t worry when you need to act. We took him in, fed him, got him medicine, cuddled him and nurtured him. And now, just shy of his first birthday, he is a big boy. He’s about 60 pounds and appears to be growing. He is incredibly sweet and apparently will be by my side for years to come.


Catahoula leopard dog napping on human's bed
Buster the big boy

Don’t wait for a future that won’t come just from wishing. Plant your future now.

Cheers, The Sage Leopard

Mimosas, Texas Sage and Garden Musings

This morning I stepped into the thick sauna of the backyard garden to steep for a moment in the semi-tropical paradise my boyfriend has planted in his slice of Texas heaven. He is planning to put in another mimosa tree next to the patio, which will be so lovely.

The mimosa flowers are brightly colored

The one we already have is something I enjoy simply staring at with its fluffy pink flowers and green fronds. It’s been raining here for weeks, spurring full-throated chortles after dark from happy toads and frogs. After a full day, watching a rosy sunset and then nightfall drop over a big palm in the distance always calms me. The garden soothes me at any time of day: with morning coffee, under the full sun (but not too long), and especially as the lazy rays of late afternoon take their dance before the onset of twilight. I’m not Southern, but I love living in the South/Texas (the latter being its own category). I love warm winters, the food, the expressions, the friendliness (yes, Northerners are friendly too, with different accents). I love the plants: hibiscus, dogwood, Texas sage, mimosas, bougainvillea, etc. When I was a kid, visiting my paternal grandparents in South Carolina was such an adventure because they had alligators, Spanish moss, cypress trees and palms as well as grits and, of course, a stack of Southern Living magazines. Now, I have lived in southeastern Texas for 10 years and it love its lushness. Well, it has been rather lush due to a rainy spring. A few years ago, we endured a drought, which inspired the planting of many drought-tolerant, native plants. The local fauna and flora are very different from the hardwoods and mammals of my New Jersey youth. Here we regularly see armadillo, toads, lizards, etc.

Elephant ears give the garden a tropical vibe
Elephant ears give the garden a tropical vibe

On hunting trips in various parts of Texas, I have seen astoundingly beautiful birds, including roadrunners, Harris hawks, caracara, great horned owl, turkeys and, one memorable afternoon, even at least 20 red-bellied woodpeckers all at once deep in East Texas woods. Our dog Higgins, a.k.a. The Sage Leopard, has an amazing eye for spotting creatures (squirrels, of course). On one early morning walk, he floored me by guiding me toward the sound of a great-horned owl. It was at least a quarter-mile from where we had originally been standing and Higgins pulled me in the right direction. When we drew close, or about 50 yards away, he nudged my sight line upward by pointing with his snout. There, on a power line pole, was the perfect silhouette of the owl. Another time, we had a great-horned owl hanging out in the trees behind the house for several nights and the hound was going bonkers. I was just relieved the dog is big enough to not be lifted by an owl.

Echinacea flowers are very happy looking and attract butterflies.
Echinacea flowers are very happy looking and attract butterflies.

Higgins loves the garden just as much, if not more, than his human. He runs around and round the garden beds and sniffs plants. He watches butterflies, doves and mockingbirds. For some reason, he won’t chase the black birds. He likes to walk the parameter, guarding his domain and checking on his favorites, including lantana and echinacea. To keep the butterflies coming, my boyfriend planted a bed exclusively devoted to milkweed. The milkweed actually hides the air conditioning unit, which hums softly near the mimosa tree. The mimosa grew to create a gentle canopy, keeping that corner of the yard in its sweet embrace.

Go outside and admire at least one flower before the sun goes down.


The Sage Leopard

Seeking sunshine, veggies and casserole

“I will emerge!,” proclaimed a sign at butcher shop in the neighborhood where I grew up. The butcher spun off from a family business to open his own food specialties shop and he posted the sign as motivation to get the business rolling as a going concern. It worked. That, and the fact his Italian sausages were delicious and all the meats were of the finest quality. Plus, he had an amazing personality that customers liked as much as the food. I’m reminded of his mantra as I attempt to emerge from what feels like hibernation thanks to two weeks of a head cold. Whenever I am feeling encumbered or withdrawn, I need to boldly emerge. For instance, I gave a Toastmasters speech today to an Open House to promote my club and advocate for excellence in public speaking. It is as if the only thing that will make me emerge from pajamas after I am sick is to do something big. I am admittedly way behind on something else big and that is training for a 150-mile, two-day bike ride coming up in April. Normally, people start training for this with 30- and 40-ish mile rides in January. Everyone else I know, save for one woman, has already been out there, peddling in crisp air with the sun on their faces and building stamina. Meanwhile, I have been home, coughing, drinking tea and eating crackers. That changes tomorrow. The aforementioned fellow straggler and I are planning to ride 20 miles tomorrow rather than 40-something miles. It has been two weeks since I got this cold. Week 1 included medication. Week 2 has been haunted by a lingering, nasty cough. Last weekend, I was not healthy enough to ride, but I did feel good enough to step outside. I had wondered if I could handle just a little weeding. The fresh air did wonders. After a couple of hours, I had cleaned up some garden beds, transplanted some flowers and began sets of seeds for cucumbers, watermelon, bell peppers, delphinium, echinacea and foxglove. toasty carrotsThis week, my appetite awaked after a series of soup dinners and I grilled vegetables. Carrots, bell peppers, squash and zucchini hit the grill a few different nights for very fresh dinners. To take the edge off the chill in the air, I baked a parsley and cheese casserole. Embraced by warm food and welcomed by sunshine, I feel ready to emerge this weekend and really get rolling down the road for some good country bike rides.parsley casserole

Preparing ingredients for parsley & cheese casserole
Preparing ingredients for parsley & cheese casserole

Parsley and cheese casserole: Cooked rotini (half box), half of cup of freshly shredded parm, half a package of cheddar cheese dip, dollop of sour cream, can of cream of celery soup, freshly cut parsley (at least half a cup). While pasta is cooking, place chopped parsley and shredded cheese into a bowl. Mix in soup, cheese dip and sour cream. Fold in pasta and the spread mixture into greased casserole dish. Sprinking on dried onion flakes, Creole seasoning, paprika or whatever you fancy. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes until top is golden brown and the sides are bubbling.