Waking Up from Winter

The first green growth peeking out of winter foliage always lifts my spirit that growing things and signs of spring are just around the corner. It’s in my East Coast upbringing that by April, yards are lush with budding trees and bushes with vibrant blooms  from landscaped gardens.  Wyoming is different with the land not truly waking and stretching  until later.

The winter has felt unreasonably long this year due to work keeping my focus for longer work days with more challenging deliverables across many time zones from my home office here. As the weeks have worn on, I’ve found myself eyeing the dark windows in the mornings and evenings, wishing to see the beginnings of spring to see some element of change on the horizon.

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With that in mind, it surprised me recently to see our rock garden already with hardy succulents and tundra plantings sending out green colors and new leaves. It does something for the spirit to finally see the beginnings of growth again.

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Many of these were sprouts were the beginnings of roots that we tucked into the crevices of rocks and soil wondering just how much of our first foray into rock gardening would take. We hoped that half of the plants we purchased and planted would take, but so far, only 2-3 have been lost – not bad for our first try with these types of plants.

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The clear winner of durability and hardiness so far has definitely been the ice plants purchased at an annual master gardeners community plant sale. Those little plants, per their names, seem to be able to tolerate all forms of winter and still come out swinging.

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It’s encouraging to see the original plants still hanging in there, but even more so starting new shoots and buds from within. Things are definitely stirring under the soil!

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The Wyoming winter is definitely not done with us yet, even here in mid-April. The threat of snow and freezing temperatures likely won’t pass until end of May. But as these tough guys are proving, they’re thriving despite the blizzard that just passed through last week. Yes, they’ll do just fine here.

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I’ve already got the next local plant sale on my calendar to add to our expanding landscaping. Just the idea of picking out more plants and doing more with our relatively new property is a pick-me-up that the cold and gray winter is soon to give way to sun and warm temperatures soon.

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A Fast Week Down Under

This week has me in Australia of all places, for work-related meetings. My typical work travel generally takes me to cities in the continental US, when needed. But this is a rarity to go to such a distance for my job.

A week may not sound like a quick trip at all, but it really is when it’s this far away. Coming out here I drove south into Colorado, and departed from Denver International which brought me to Los Angeles, California (LAX). Then it was on for the long leg of the trip overnight to Sydney, Australia. The week definitely felt like it was shortened from the start when I departed on a Sunday evening and arrived, nearly 20 hours later, on a Tuesday morning (time zone shift).

Nearly every moment of the week would be taken with either meetings, dinners with colleagues or jet lag, so it definitely would not be the most conducive trip to outings. This made me want to use the opportunities I did have to see what I could.

2019-02-19 Sydney 01On landing, I had expected to be so tired and out of sorts I’d want nothing else to do other than sleep. However on arriving in Sydney, after working my way through customs, I felt nothing of the sort. Energized, I taxied to the hotel I was staying at and showered for my first excursion. On walking out into the street with iPhone walking map in hand, I began to find my way towards my only “must see” of the trip: The Royal Botanic Gardens. Interestingly, these oddly billed birds were everywhere. Much like you’d see pigeons in US cities, I later found these to be the Ibis. Local teammates later filled me in that the ibis is a wading bird, but much like most wildlife, was lured to the bigger cities due to trash and the result of humans enticing it inland.

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Hyde Park is really a beautiful green space where I was staying with my team. It is filled with buildings, monuments, fountains and the most gorgeous and impressive trees I’ve seen yet in my travels.

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Being at the lunch hour, the park was filled with those taking in the day as well as those taking lunch from work. This was a pretty intense game of chess in the park that had a small gathering intensely following each move.

2019-02-19 Royal Botanic Gardens 01Now keep in mind, I’ve just left Wyoming where it was snowing and cold and dry. At this point in my first day in Australia, I’m walking in the heat of summer in a more humid region. It quickly came to my attention I was struggling. And it wasn’t any one particular thing, but a combination of registering the fatigue from an entire 24 hour period of driving/air travel, feeling like the air was dripping off of me and noticing everyone else in the park was huddled under any shade available. Thus, my tour of the gardens became more direct and guided by shade trees.2019-02-19 Royal Botanic Gardens 02

I do not know the history of this monument to the Australian Desert Corps, but I’m interested now to find out.

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The fountain looked and sounded so refreshing on this hot day, I could have easily been tempted to walk right in (though I’m pretty sure I would have been asked to leave).

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I took this photo of this monument not for the monument, but as an example of the many park-goers who took refuge under any shade they could find.

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The park gates were noticeably ornate and very stately. The full gates were actually wider than I’ve captured here in the photo, but there were large advertisements for garden activities on either side so I elected to snap only the middle section.

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As I mentioned earlier, the trees were just amazing. Larger, very healthy, and sprawling. Each variety was distinct and offered welcome respite on the many winding pathways throughout the gardens.

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Due to the heat, this was one of the few bunches of blooming flowers I could find. The park was still massively expansive and full of lush greenery, but it seemed to be a bit past the blooming season we might expect in the US spring time.

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The ornate rose garden reminded me of the type of presentation a historic English manor garden might have (which of course I’m sure is reflective of the English/Australian historical relationship).

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The rose garden design was really quite lovely, even if it was in the heat of the summer-to-fall transition.

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Trees like this one have surely made for fantastic hiding places for birds and small children over the years. What stories these trees must know.

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I did find an interesting treat in the conservatory building where a carnivorous plants show was available indoors. Granted indoors was still in a tropic green house, temperatures and all, but it was a bit more comfortable.

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Hanging bromiliad arrangements were something I was surprised to see among the jack in the pulpits and venus fly traps. (But they do indeed belong).

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The “creepy” fog effects were a fun touch with added plant glass sculptures.

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With so much greenery and standout arrangements, it’s easy to not look down and admire the tiniest of the botanic carnivores, yet there they were.

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Someone obviously spent significant time planning, growing and building the living wall as the backdrop for it all.

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More jack in the pulpits.

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And this hanging display I have no idea what it was – you can see some growths that resemble pitcher plants but I’d need to do some research to figure out what they are.

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You simply can’t have a creepy botanic carnivore display without fright night movie posters setting the theme in the hallways, naturally.

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Just on the outside of the building here, was a giant-sized display of cloth and metal structures of pitcher plants and fly traps that definitely did the job in attracting attention of passing tourists.

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After I made the return walk back to the hotel of roughly a mile, jet lag began to set in. Honestly I thought I’d arrived unscathed and had evaded the price we pay for jumping time zones, but I was not to win that battle.

I elected to take a “short nap” before meeting colleagues for dinner that night. The short nap became a 6 hour rest that I realized included 2 hours of sleeping with my alarm going off. This was NOT a pleasant wake-up either. This was a near head-ache, foggy-brained, what-happened-to-me-sleep. Needless to say, after earnest regrets, I declined the informal dinner and after ordering a quick meal via room service, fell into another long sleep.

Sleeping in was not to be had, though. This began my habit this week of waking at unholy early hours (the following morning, my day started at 2 a.m.) as my body worked to adjust to having lost an entire day in time zones.

With business meetings, come business dinners. Our team enjoyed a delicious meal of superb seafood at Nick’s Seafood in Sydney off Darling Harbour. It was open air seating and eating and afforded us a beautiful view to enjoy while we ate.

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After this lovely night on the harbor, work resumed and the next two days were non-stop. I kept waking up at 2-4 a.m. every day and there was nothing for it other than to do some work online until breakfast and then start the day. Evenings usually extended through 9-10 p.m. until I returned to my room to take a quick shower and fall into bed.

However on the last day (Friday), after the last of the meetings concluded, those of us who remained one more night due to Saturday flight departures elected to make a last-minute run to Manly Beach via one of the area ferry boats.

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We passed the famous Sydney Opera House which was still striking despite the foul weather that evening. It sprinkled on us off and on nearly all evening but nothing so much that we couldn’t keep on with our little self-guided food tour.

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The views from the Ferry were just beautiful. It almost reminded me of a modern, Mediterranean town somewhere remote. What isn’t captured in these photos is the impromptu storm we rode out on the ferry. Swells rose to such a height the captain brought everyone inside the boat to ride it out as best we could. A few faces did look a little green.

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Once the storm clouds began to clear the sail boats came out to race and enjoy the evening light.

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Evening seemed to last quite a while and it seemed everyone who had a boat was out in it. It made for quite the show for the ferries.

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The sun started to go down though, as it always will, and we made it to Manly Wharf and then the beach walk just in time for a few final pictures before the night fell.

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The evening was really quite comfortable and the air surprisingly didn’t seem to smell that salty. However it was a harbor after all so I’m guessing the actual ocean-facing beach probably had a bit more salt in the air.

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We noticed this restaurant on the main walking street that strongly resembled Burger King from the US, quite a bit. We even walked up to it and took a peek into the restaurant and even the menu and interior was nearly identical. Possibly the Australian branch of Burger King?

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On our way back from an amazing restaurant we ate at, the Manly Grill, the shops and eateries were lit up for late night business and kept our path illuminated.

Our group just barely made it back to the ferry wharf where the boat was waiting and we enjoyed a peaceful and swift trip back to Sydney where we all collapsed back in our rooms, packed our bags, and took off the next morning for the long flight back to the US.

Fury’s Journey (Fall-Winter 2018)

Continued from our last post about Fury the cat

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If you’re working on a task with an open lap (like in your arm-chair filing bills), Fury often sees this as a prime opportunity for a snuggle. I’ll take her cone off for these moments and let her snooze.

During the fall and winter months, we continued to follow veterinary guidance to explore the realm of diets that can hopefully either point to an allergen or exclude food-related allergies as one of our culprits. (Fury has come to love her diet food of rabbit and pea Royal Canin even better than what we were buying in the pet stores, so that’s a bonus since it was a must-eat prescription food for many months.) The end result we came to was that the occasional itching/scratching below and behind Fury’s ears were not due to a food-related allergy.

We learned though as pet owners that allergies are a long test to understand. While some cats need 2 months or so to determine if an allergy is present in food, with the risks related to Fury and being sure of an outcome, we took 4 months to be certain.

Our goal continues to be to have her not having to wear a cone at all, but so far, we do have to rely on it most of the time to ensure the risk for self-injury is prevented.

Continue reading “Fury’s Journey (Fall-Winter 2018)”

A Warm Oasis in Winter Wyoming

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Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

I am a North Carolina gal now calling Wyoming home sweet home. I have embraced all things snowy, cold and windy without too much complaint. Of all the things I miss the most about the East Coast, #1 has to be the year-round greenery of grass and trees and the variety of common garden flowers found in most yards and commercial properties.

Today being a wonderfully quiet and free day, I decided to take myself to the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens here in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In the last several cities I’ve called home, I’ve always gravitated towards the local gardens available to the public. It was just what the doctor ordered for a typical day of freezing temperatures and whipping winds – a long morning walk in the sunny mist of a tropical oasis. One can’t enter the conservatory on the grounds of the gardens without seeing this beautiful, very big boot on display as you walk in.

It’s very much all that is Wyoming to see boots sitting outside public properties crafted by artists. In brighter light and contrast, the coloration appears like a large sculpture of stained glass.

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Artwork by Vickie McSchooler on display at the Botanic Gardens, Cheyenne WY
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Fairy Garden, First Floor

The first thing you see in entering the inner conservatory structure inside is a lovely fairy garden display. Simple, yet whimsically detailed, it’s easy to find yourself slowing down to look into every corner and over each pebble and leaf at the many intentional little corners and crevices where any fairies might venture from.

As you stroll further, the sound of trickling water soothes the soul and you are met with the most popular spot on the main floor: A larger corner of waterfall fountains that feed a small koi pond and stream. The whole area feels secluded being surrounded by thick and lush green plants and small trees. Most visitors saunter slowly throughout the three floors of the entire conservatory, but all (including yours truly) stop at this relaxing space to take in the visual feast for the senses.

Next, your feet and the pathway will take you to an open door that leads into a side room called a Theme Garden. Among other plants and growth, this tree trunk caught my eye. On further examination, it has been carefully planted with lightly affixed succulents. It’s so natural looking you almost have to do a double-take to realize the greenery is not moss or lichens. Someone spent considerable time on this, undoubtedly. Would love to try this in our yard someday.

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Second Floor Misters and Balcony

On taking the stairs (there is also an elevator) to the second floor, it was a pleasant sensation to walk into the misters being turned on briefly. Actually, these aren’t even “misters” per se. The spray and moisture are much finer than it looks. I stood directly under the falling moisture and I could hardly feel it. In a region that is as dry as Wyoming, it was a welcome experience. These misters are positioned all around the conservatory and high above across the angles of the ceiling. In fact, they help keep the place cool as well as moist. It’s not hot at all here. I toured the entire facility with a t-shirt, a fleece long-sleeved work shirt and an outdoor light jacket complete with a large SLR camera cross-body bag and I never felt hot.

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Second Floor Overlook
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Second Floor Quiet Space

A really great (and surprising) feature of the conservatory is that on the second and third levels, visitors find small cafe tables and chairs positioned quietly around the balconies. I imagine this would be a great place to come to with a book or your laptop to sit in the sun and light and breathe in the clean air and list to the water feature below on a lunch hour or a weekend day. It also allows you to sit and simply look and take in the entire space; a nice change of pace from continual walking. When was the last time you were able to stop and sit in quiet in a place you enjoyed?

Also on the second floor is an aviary gifted by philanthropists housing a variety of very tiny birds. It’s a popular pause-place (especially for little ones, thus the signage) and enables you to faintly hear these sweet birds singing and chirping as you travel the upper floors. The care that was taken to construct this habitat is obvious and even the branches dip and sway like real tree branches.

Despite it being late January, and everything outdoors being asleep and dried out for the winter, indoors new growth continues and can be seen everywhere. Nearly every plant or tree has some budding or new shoots of various types happening year round here.

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Flowering Maple, Second Floor

On reaching the third stairway entry (elevators reach this floor as well), the entryway before you re-enter the conservatory is lined with succulents and cacti. It’s fascinating to see more common household varieties as well as several I’ve never seen before. Likely these are better suited to the more dry, outer hallway, but sunshine and warm is abundant here as well.

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Entryway corner with general cacti and succulents

This area was also a calm and welcoming spot to sit and rest while taking in the third floor of the conservatory. The flooring of the balconies is grate-patterned (so heels are not advisable). The sunshine and comfortable quiet enticed me to sit for a while, enjoying the respite it provided both from the cold outdoors and from the noise (both literal and analogous to daily distraction). It certainly could be appreciated that this small space was surrounded by shelves of orchids and hibiscus which added an exotic aesthetic.

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Third Floor Quiet Space

Last stop on the third floor was a look at the bonsai on display. I noticed on the outside observation deck just outside this level, there is a seasonal “bonsai hut” but this seems to be the winter location for bonsai specimens being cultivated at any given time.

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Bonsai Display

As the walking adventure of the indoor conservatory ended, I elected to step outside briefly into the wind and cold to see what the outside observation deck offered.

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Variety unknown but beautiful!

I can imagine in the warmer months, this is a very popular place to gather with friends and enjoy the sunny Wyoming spring, summer and fall months. What a great spot to bring a lunch and grab some Vitamin D! (See the bonsai hut in the background).

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Outdoor Observation Deck, Third Floor

If you stand at the rail of the observation deck, you can overlook Sloans Lake which at present is frozen over quite well. We commonly see ice-fishing huts and set-ups on the lake when we pass by in the winter. In the far distance, you can just make out the local National Guard Airport.

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Sloans Lake, Cheyenne WY

This wonderful public garden and conservatory is a true oasis in the cold winter months. I’m so glad I took the time to visit. It’s free to visitors but there is a donation box at the entrance that should receive a few dollars on your visit, as it obviously takes a lot of effort and passionate volunteerism to keep a high-quality organization like this running. And that friends, is money well spent.

Morning Hoar Frost

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This morning started off with fog rolling in and enveloping much of our area with crystalline hoar frost.

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The back yard aspens were in greater contrast when covered with the briar-like formations but they quickly melted away with the rising sun.

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The pines also sported their own armor of white spikes as well. Interestingly, there must have been a slight breeze or wind as the frost only formed in the direction of that air movement and other parts of trees and structures had no frost at all.

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It did make for a very interesting winter wonderland scape while it lasted.

Sunset Over Cheyenne

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My husband and I pulled over on the side of a road overlooking the city of Cheyenne, WY on our way home from errands as the sun was setting.

We are blessed with many beautiful sunrises and sunsets here on the high plains, but every once in a while, we get a really spectacular one. Tonight was a really lovely display with the city lights stretched below us and the Rockies in the far horizon, backlit by the sun’s final rays.