The Cat Crew at Campiello Maurizio


I’ve been sitting here for hours unsure of what to write about. Last week I was low. This week I’m just emerging slowing into December. I work shorter days in the cold but it is still difficult to recover from once I’m home. My body hates the cold. I’ve also decided to make Italian food each day this month so that has taken a lot of my free time and energy.

What’s left then? The cats of course!

Long ago I found Mona under some bushes in a parking lot at a strip mall when she was a kitten. She was alone and it was a dark and rainy night. She was starving. I think she is around 16 now. Up until this year she liked to be outside a lot, but as of a few months ago, she is now a full-time housecat living in the basement with all of my plants and a lot of privacy. We used to keep her apart from the other 3 because she’s part-feral but she is no longer upset by the younger 3 cats and they all seem to get along.

Her best friend was the cat I named the garden after, Maurice, and he passed away several years ago now. Just before he passed away here at home, they spent his last few hours together in the garden. I’m still too sad to post the photo, but the garden is no longer hers. She has passed it on to the younger three.

LuLu is 5 now. I bought her off of the internet. She’s part small ferocious barn cat, part Turkish Angora, part linebacker, and part diva. She rules with an iron paw, will beat up the boys for treats, and she likes to have her lion cuts done at the cat spa. She has very soft hair and it gets into knots easily. She hates to be combed, she dislikes being held, she hates this, she won’t tolerate that, but overall, she knows she’s incredibly pretty so that’s all that matters.

Did I mention that Piggy is difficult? Did that come through clearly? She loves to snap her tail around and catnip makes her go psycho, but each night she grooms my chin and curls up under the blankets right next to me or above my head on her pillow. She’s our angel.

It feels odd introducing Felix. He is 4 and has a huge personality. He was hand raised and this makes him different. He loves attacking dogs that go by the house, he likes car rides, and he loves attention. He loves people. He wants to be in the action, on the go, in the middle of the noise. He likes to knock things over, eat my food, and keep an eye on me at all times. If I work too much away from home, he pouts. He wants each day to go his way and he will let me know that from the moment when I wake up and put on my pants for the day. He has a huge vocabulary. When he hears the word “work”, you can see his irritation. “I have to go to work today Felix.” Big eyes stare back at me and I can read in them, “Didn’t you do that yesterday? How dare you.”

The baby cat is the baby of the bunch. Oliver is now 3 and he is huge. Beneath the fur he’s rather skinny but he’s huge because he is fluffy and full of love. Oliver is nothing but love. He has a huge heart. First and foremost he loves Felix, but Felix does not return the love, mostly he picks on Oliver. Their relationship is complicated though. The dudes or the boys as we call them are buddies in the garden. Outside they protect the palace. Oliver does most of the protecting though while Felix wanders around his territory. Oliver doesn’t attack though. He flies at things. He has never been in a fight. All he has to do is run at another cat and they run away. His speed and size are intimidating and he is very fast.

In the house he is Snuggie. He loves to snuggle and is an aggressive snuggler. We call him Yoda Bear too. When he was a kitten his ears were so big he could barely hold them up. He looked like baby Yoda and a bear. He even knows that name. I love that cat.

Their first album cover.

Every so often the cats all come together. While this fall and winter season may be challenging, I have this crew to keep me going. I’m good with cats. I am a cat person. Believe it or not I can herd cats. It turns out you just need to give them treats and train them.

The crew with their catnip.

That means grow your own catnip too. All four of them love their catnip plants and I always have 2-3 plants growing year round. It’s another way to keep them in line.

But this cat crew, they’re good.

I think we’ll keep them.

May I continue? (May, 2018)


As is usual, I have not yet blogged about the annual Garden Bloggers Fling. Since I cannot afford to go to Denver in 2019, let’s hope that I follow through with my posts after I am finished with my monthly summaries. Maybe I could get around to posting about every other Fling I’ve been to as well. I guess some part of me has more fun attending these events then writing about them. I know, this doesn’t make sense. I just feel like everyone else who is actually a blogger does a better job of writing about the gardens. For me, they’re usual big health disasters that take a lot of work to prepare for, and recover from, so while I am there I am having as much fun as a human can possibly have while they’re in the moment.

All I can say is that Austin, TX did NOT disappoint and it was a great deal of fun to be there is such a large group of Portland friends. We showed up and we showed up strong!

(Funny family fact, the last known relative I knew about ever having been in Texas was my great-grandmother’s cousin and he was hung for cattle rustling. When I say I’m a spaghetti Westerner. I’m not kidding. Clearly this guy was not from my Sicilian side.)

After the Fling I was able to follow through on a little side trip to Peckerwood Garden. To say that it blew me away is not an exaggeration. I also plan to do a post about that in the future but let’s just say it was a business trip of sorts and I returned with a carryon bag overloaded with so many plants I can’t even remember what the final count was for cuttings, plants, and seeds, but it was a bit over the top. I also fell madly, and deeply in love with Clematis texensis while I was there.

I also realized that someone should name a begonia ‘Yosemite Ann’. Funny I’d never noticed the resemblance until I held one of those poor cane-like begonias up to my face. By this point in the trip I was delirious from health concerns, exhaustion, and excitement so if you see me doing this again, just be warned. I needed a nap pretty badly.

Upon my arrival home I was happy to see that my Beschorneria from Lance over at Garden Riots was kicking it and starting to bloom for me. I am sure in Texas this thing would have already gone to seed but hey!, this is Oregon, so I was thrilled to come home to this new surprise. Luckily I love hot pink and it sort of spared well with the classic giant pink Rhodie across the street.

The three cats continued to enjoy the quieter house and Felix continued to develop his odd quirks. He smooshed my seeds, sat in seed trays and on soil bags since he’s a house cat. LuLu wandered on her own and Oliver, well, he just loved life everyday with all of his heart. He’s just one big fluffy happy guy.

Life at Cistus Nursery had changed a bit while I was away. Sean had sold his house and had moved into the house at the nursery so basically all of the land was reunited under one roof so-to-speak. I also learned that the day Sean moved in Nigella retired officially from living in our retail area. I have to say it’s kind of amazing that she just knew she could do that. She continues to thrive in retirement.

Back at the house I think this was the point at which I was kind of amazed at how everything could explode at once. By the end of the month, I was pushing to get things in while it all just grew around me. That’s why I am doing more gardening this winter. I would have done this before but I just wasn’t well enough.

IMG_4185My neighbor’s meadow has continued to grow and develop. I help her with this a bit and I am trying to take more photos to keep track of what we add and remove. This is not a static place. For the entire warm season my neighbor puttered out in her meadow. She gets a lot of pleasure from spending time out here and it’s fun to watch as things grow and improve.

My other neighbor was someone I visited too. Little did I know then though that she’d be selling her place in just a few months. She’s already moved away so seeing these photos made me feel badly. I spent a lot of the summer and fall though working with what I was able to get from her place before the sale. Her houseplant collection was huge and that alone has taken me 3 months to sort and propagate. Once temps are warmer, I will begin to send her starts of her own plants. I’ve kept start of everything and have been selling the extras to pay off medical and/or personal debts. The process has only deepened my love of houseplants, improved my propagation, and I’ve learned to do some light retail work from my garage.

But back in May, I had no idea that’s how my year would end up. It’s still kind of amazing to think of how much I’ve done thanks to a balanced schedule, understanding folks, and anabolic steroids to help with my hereditary angioedema. I guess physical therapy isn’t the only miracle in my life.

Lastly, I had to leave these two goofy pets. On the left is my friend Paul Bonine’s pup Miles. He has a fondness for me and I for him so when he fell asleep between Paul and I like this I melted. He’s such a sweet dog too. Then there is Oliver. Sigh. Oliver is a terribly handsome cat but he’s a scared of everything. Most of the time he just wants to snuggle or sleep. Other times, he’s like this, and luckily when I laugh at him, he never even registers it. Can’t say that about there other members of the current kitty crew.

(I swear this is a garden blog.)