It’s cookout season! We love to relax on the deck before dinner and while we wait for the grill to heat up, we need side dishes of all kinds to keep the ravenous guests happy. One of our favorites is Deviled Eggs. It’s an easy snack – easy to make and easy to eat. Sheila eats the plain ones and I eat the ones topped with paprika.
We promise that no bodies were ever found either during or after one of our cookouts. 😉
Planting season started a few weeks ago in this part of the country. The danger of frost has gone, so we’ve been looking at perennials for now and bulbs for later, that will finish the beds underneath some of the trees in the yard. Daffodil bulbs are great because they multiply and spread on their own and they will come back up and bloom for years. And, ya gotta love that great splash of color in the Spring!
BUT, the friendly gal at the garden center saw Hammett and told us that if he chewed the bulbs he would get sick, so we were warned not to leave daffodil bulbs on the ground while waiting to plant them. We bought a few and stored them on a shelf in the garage, waaaay out of a snoofing dog’s reach.
We had dealt with the toxic plants for people last season, but now we had to think about what might be dangerous for Hammett, our lovable Irish Setter. We catsit every once in a while, so they were a potential worry as well.
The garden center gal steered us through the ground covers and shade plants. Caladiums, whether the plain green and white or more colorful varieties, may cause an intense burning in the mouth, as well as vomiting for both cats and dogs.
Pretty, but we crossed them off our list.
We were hopeful about Day Lilies, since Sheila wanted an entire slope in the side yard filled with them. We heard partially good news. Day Lilies, no matter which variety, are non-toxic to dogs, but highly toxic to cats. So toxic to cats, in fact, that they can cause kidney failure. Sheila suggested that we get the Day Lilies and keep the visiting cat in the house or in the fenced-in backyard. Problem solved.
Then I remembered one Easter when we ate dinner at Sheila’s mom’s house. Her cat kept peeing on the Easter Lily we had brought as a present. We were all horrified, finally exiled the cat to the back porch and put the plant outside to ‘air out.’ Turns out the cat was pretty smart. The garden center gal confirmed that Easter Lilies are just as dangerous to cats as the Day Lilies.
We headed toward the flowering perennials, still positive about what we would find.
We wanted something showy, splashy with color, and a natural lure for butterflies. Lantana seemed to fit the bill and we knew that it would not need much water in the heat drenched summers. But they were a big NO for us, since they are toxic to both dogs and cats and can cause vomiting and other nasty things.
We don’t have houseplants as a general rule, because Hammett has a big tail that seems to have a mind of its own. More than one potted flower bit the dust until we decided that Hammett was more important than having the indoor plants. But, a friend of ours does and as we passed the exotic plants section, I saw a Bird of Paradise in full bloom. We had seen one in the Azores growing in front of a school and admired the color. It’s not normally a houseplant, but our friend is able to grow one in her greenhouse-like kitchen area. Her BofP is about four feet tall and spectacular.
But, guess what? It’s mildly toxic to cats and dogs, causing mild nausea and vomiting if they eat the fruit and the seeds.
We have more research to do, but so far zinnias, bachelor’s buttons, and coreopsis are on the ‘okay flower’ list. Zinnias and bachelor’s buttons aren’t perennials, but they will reseed themselves. Works for us and works for Hammett, too!
For more information about plants that can be harmful or harmless to pets, go to
*Photos taken by Patti Phillips
My grandfather’s house burned down.
Ownership of the house and all the acreage had passed outside the family many years before, but I still liked to pass by when we were in town. Seeing it always brought back memories of rocking on the front porch and playing under the pines. It had been a place to spend the summers of my youth, on a large working farm hundreds of miles from the honking horns of the city.
My grandfather built the house with his own hands. He was a pretty good carpenter and the place was solid. Remarkably, he didn’t pay cash for any of the materials. He bartered for everything at a time when money was scarce and that was possible. Watermelons for nails, chickens for paint, smoked pork for the milled lumber. An amazing achievement to be able to say that you built your own two-story house.
And, now it’s gone. Up until a few weeks ago, some of the walls could be seen from the road, but the owners finally decided to tear the building down. I took these shots a few days after the fire, once the Fire Chief had been and gone.
I called and asked about the cause of the fire, but since I had no ownership, nor did any of the family anymore, I was told that it really wasn’t any of my business. True. But, it did seem suspicious to my ever-questioning mind.
A family friend (who traveled that road on a daily basis) told me that she saw the renters moving out on the Thursday before the Saturday fire. The tenants had not been evicted, so were they in on it? I knew that a portion of the larger property (including the house) was up for sale and there had not been any offers. I knew that the entire road had been under development for some time and that most of the property owners on that road were trying to cash in on the mini-boom. The timing was odd. Or, was it just a sad coincidence? Big red flags to a detective’s way of thinking.
I wanted to blame somebody for the loss of a childhood landmark, but the newspaper article announcing the fire stated that no arson was suspected.
I accepted the verdict as I walked around the property and took my photos, but what was the Chief (or the arson investigator) looking for when he made his decision?
Arson investigators get called in whenever insurance fraud is suspected, threats have been made to the people inside the house, or lives are actually lost. They look for the fire’s point of origin and then search for clues to see if explosives or flammable liquids have been used. If evidence of accelerants is found, then the fire is ruled to be arson. The case is generally handed over to the cops, who then search for the culprit(s) involved.
Arson investigators take photos like these, but lots more of them, because they are also recording (with photos) the damage to the interior and the hot spots inside (where the fire reached the greatest intensity).
They will use all the photos if the case ever gets to court, to help explain to the jury where the fire started, where it traveled, and the extent of the damage.
Arson investigators often work with insurance investigators to discover the cause of the fire. Even if the fire is found not to be arson, the fire department needs to come up with a cause, and the investigators can help if the source is not clear right away.
Even accidental fires can cause a tremendous amount of damage, with a fire doubling its size and intensity in a house every minute, fueled by cabinets, curtains, couch fabric, and carpeting. It doesn’t take long to lose everything you own.
The owner has been compensated for his loss, and now the FOR SALE sign stands in an empty field. I still have my memories, but I sure wish the house was still standing, home to another generation of children rocking on the front porch.