a day at the opera

Hello everyone; once again it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, here to tell you about our day in the garden. You may remember me from such posts as “A Close Call” and “Life With A Nut”, among others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose. Looking serious again.


Really, though, I don’t always look so serious. It just took the guy I live with several tries to get me to look “reasonably noble”. My mommy used to make fun of my “hound dog lips”, just because I don’t have a pointy muzzle like other border collies. I am, in case you hadn’t guessed it, unique.

Here’s another picture of me, gazing upward in thought.


I’m supposed to show some milkweed pictures now because the subject was brought up earlier, so here are some of my mommy’s milkweed pictures. That is, pictures she took. 

This is Asclepias speciosa.




And Asclepias asperula.


Okay, those are the flower pictures.

You may wonder at the title of today’s post. No, we didn’t go to the opera. They don’t allow dogs, even purebred border collies with hound-dog lips, and, anyway, the guy I live with can’t sit still for that long. It isn’t that he has a short attention span; he has arthritis in his hip. I’m the one with the short attention span.

He told me just yesterday that he was going to spend the whole winter listening to operas. He has a lot of them on CD, and, believe me, I can hardly wait.


He went to the opera once, back in the 1970s. In Santa Fe. He was sitting there, and sitting there, when all of a sudden he realized that the woman sitting just a few seats away was Grace Kelly. The actual Princess of Monaco. He always thought she was really good-looking, to say the least, and sitting so close to her, well, he almost passed out. So he equates opera with attractive women.

My mommy started to like the opera, hanging around with the guy I live with so much, especially the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on Saturday, with the quiz at intermission. They were pretty much two peas in a pod. He’s just one pea now, although I think I should count as a pea too.

So, anyway, that’s what I have to look forward to this winter. Aren’t I lucky?

The guy I live with finished his fence today, or at least the part he got a permit for, and so tomorrow a whole bunch of pea gravel is being delivered. Guess who’s not going to help move pea gravel? Especially since it’s supposed to snow. He can move all the gravel he wants, in the snow.

Don’t worry, we’re getting to the best part. The guy I live with was putting up pickets today, and there was all this squawking from magpies and crows. We didn’t used to have crows here but they migrated west. He got up from his work at the fence, knowing exactly what was causing the squawking, and went inside to get the camera. This is what he saw.


He made clicking noises and the owl turned its head completely.


Then the owl lost interest in him, so he made more noises. The owl looked pretty angry. Like, quit making noises and interrupting me in my work.


Kind of scary, huh? It’s getting close to Halloween and so we thought this was timely.

I know I’ve rambled some here, so I better go. Until next time, then.

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22 Responses to a day at the opera

  1. Opera all winter, scary (really!) owl, Grace Kelly propinquity, prospect of snow! Tis an exciting life you lead, Chess, on the outreach of Denver. On the other hand, the opposite of exciting is the requirement of a permit to put up a fence.
    That owl had me cowed right through my computer screen. Your person is a brave photographer, Chess, especially after the squirrels-in-tree episode.
    Wow, Asclepias asperula! My milkweed plants don’t show like that. Once again, Chess, you live a charmed and charming life.

    • paridevita says:

      I do indeed lead a charmed life. Humans have been here with me every single day since I showed up here. My mommy stayed at home with me and my buddy Slipper, and we all liked that.
      The guy I live with says that getting a permit is easy. It was only 32 feet of fence. “Now for the pea gravel”, he says.
      Asclepias asperula is also called antelope horns. It’s a dwarf plant with linear leaves.

  2. Diana says:

    Amazing owl pictures!

    • paridevita says:

      Yeah, thanks. It was next door in the honey locust, with crows and magpies screaming at it, and doves hopping around it. Must have been very annoying.

  3. Susan ITPH says:

    Those eyes have flames. Owls are scary.

    • paridevita says:

      Owls are scary. Look at those talons, and imagine yourself to be a bunny, just wanting to eat a bunch of stuff and hop here and there.
      This isn’t the usual one, either; the one with the bad eye.

      • Susan ITPH says:

        I recently saw a Youtube video where a family released a baby bunny they had found only to have a hawk immediately dive on it, and fly away with it, screaming. It made me flash back to my an October night as a young undergraduate. While walking home late through an isolated part of campus, an enormous owl silently and suddenly alighted on a tree branch directly in front of me and began to look at me intently. An owl’s intent gaze quickly starts to look menacing. Needless to say, I moved away from him quickly.

      • paridevita says:

        They’re certainly not as agreeable as we might like to think. We’ve often interrupted large hawks dining on animals out in the open space. Usually pack rats.

  4. Deborah S. Farrell says:

    I enjoyed seeing the types of milkweed that grow in Colorado (or, at least, your yard). I grow A. incarnata (swamp milkweed), A. tuberosa (butterfly weed — specially adapted for clay from Prairie Nursery in WI), A. viridis (the flower resembles A. asperula, but the leaves are bigger), A. curassavica (tropical annual), and cynanchum laeve (volunteer — a vine with designs on global domination). I grow these for the monarch caterpillars. This is the first year I haven’t had any caterpillars, and I’ve only seen 15-20 butterflies. Monarch Watch measures the monarch population each winter, and last winter was the lowest # since they started keeping track back in the 70’s. Last year’s drought was a killer. Even though it’s too late in the season, I still find myself searching the tropical milkweed for caterpillars.

    I love the photos of the seed pods. I read that the silk is so lightweight and buoyant it was used to make life jackets in WW II and kids were let out of school in WI to pick the seed pods. The silk is used in some non-allergenic pillows these days. I think it would make very comfortable dog beds, too.

    I am fascinated by your owls. We have a Cooper’s hawk that stops by for a snack (mourning dove) every so often.

    • paridevita says:

      The milkweeds were posted for you, of course. I don’t know that monarch caterpillars feed on the dwarf ones. There are a couple, beside A. cryptoceras, that are highly desirable rock garden plants, another being A. ruthiae, aka A. uncialis subsp ruthiae. For some mysterious reason I find that plants which grow in dry clay or adobe soils are very difficult to grow in the garden. It would be interesting to know why this is so. Clay soils hold more water, but less is available to plants than in loamy or sandy soils, so I would think these things would like it dry, but they seem to prefer dying instead.
      Haven’t seen caterpillars of anything here this year. (Also heard no meadowlarks this year.)
      I’ve written off A. tuberosa as ungrowable here. Half the back yard is clay subsoil trucked in from somewhere else (like Hell, say) about 18 inches deep, over the natural soil here which is decomposed sandstone. I’ve tried tuberosa in clay, in the natural soil here, etc., and it never survives a winter. Whatever.
      A. speciosa is self sown, and normally grows along the backs of the canal, but tolerates the vastly drier conditions in the front yard. Honeybees get fatally trapped in the flowers.flowers are very fragrant.

      Where there are rabbits, there are owls. Their favorite food. “Tastes like chicken.” There are hawks, too; red-tailed or Swainson’s, Cooper’s, etc. And the occasional bald eagle, whenever I don’t have my camera, of course.

      • Deborah S. Farrell says:

        I looked up A. cryptoceras, and it’s beautiful. I hope yours makes it. Did the guy you live with start it from seed? Where does one get the seed (or plants)? I have a tiny rock garden that is over run with sedum & in need of revision. Tell me a plant is difficult to grow, and of course I want it.

        Actually, I have a wonderful microclimate for dry plants out by the mailbox. Things that die a slow death in our gloppy clay subsoil — like geum triflorum (prairie smoke) — thrive by the mailbox. It took me a while to realize it’s probably because it’s right beside the road & there’s drainage gravel under the road. I also have a nice slope on the south side of the house where lavender thrives. And my little pea gravel rock garden is a slope on the south side. So you can see how I might be wanting A cryptoceras. Challenge.

        The bottom shelf of my refrigerator door is full of seed packets — mostly native plants. Mostly milkweed. I saved the seeds from the paw paw that came in our produce box a couple of weeks ago & will see if I can get those to grow. My focus the last couple of years has been native fruit & nut trees & shrubs. Edible forests. For people and other critters.

        We have rabbits, dubbed ‘evil bunnies’ because they eat my plants (newly planted blueberry bushes, for example) with impunity. But no owls. Buddy the Bunny-killer has gotten a couple of them. I tell him that’s bad dog behavior, and he cocks his head and gives me that, “Surely you must be joking: this is exactly what rabbits are for” look. Mostly I take photos of them, and I leave food for them at the back of our yard in the hopes of keeping them away from the plants that I want.

      • paridevita says:

        Sprays like “Deer Off” and “Rabbit Stopper” seem to work okay. They’re just stinky rotten-egg products. Smell dissipates quickly.

        You get seed of the asclepias from Alplains. It’s pretty easy to germinate, just a cold treatment, and after a year you get a miniature parsnip for a root.
        I don’t really understand the growing requirements of plants that inhabit clay soils in the west. There can’t be “drainage”, and the soils obviously aren’t highly aerated, and there isn’t much rain. Maybe the plants tolerate waterlogged conditions but only to a point.
        Alplains also has Asclepias hallii.

  5. petabunn says:

    Hadn’t noticed before but love those hound dog lips Chess. Are you being sarcastic about the opera as you had a look of oh no not opera, and you had such an expression on your face with your tongue poking out and closed eyes. I personally do not like opera. Beautiful photos your mummy took and aren’t you lucky to have visiting owls all the time.

    • paridevita says:

      Indeed, hound dog lips. I have no choice about the opera business. The guy I live with knows more about music than he does about gardening, which might not be saying as much as he thinks it does. I just suffer through everything.
      Owls are kind of scary. We live at the extreme western edge of Denver. The houses you see sometimes in pictures, across the open space, are part of this little neighborhood, but then that’s pretty much it until the foothills. Mostly emptiness beyond. (The guy I live with says that’s a metaphor. It isn’t.)
      You might call it semi-rural.
      My mommy took lots and lots of pictures with her Olympus camera and quite a few were posted, along with some of her poetry, and some poetry in German that the guy I live with translated, last October, starting on the 8th, and lasting for a week or so. Starting here. https://paridevita.com/2012/10/08/leaves/

      • Fisher, the Wonder Dog says:

        We traveled back to those posts and now better understand how truly deep is your loss and yet how much of true value Cindy left behind.

      • petabunn says:

        You are also quite psychic Chess. You read my thoughts. I was looking at all the photos wondering how big your garden actually was and how many neighbours you had as I could see another house. And finally I was wondering where you actually lived. Wow, what a Chess!

      • paridevita says:

        It’s not a very big garden compared to the guy I live with’s fantasy garden in his fantasy climate.

  6. Vivian Swift says:

    New entry on the bucket list: Make eye contact with an owl. Sheeeeeeeeesh.

    I love weeds. Especially thistles and milkweed. So self-determined, so indomitable. They are the border collies of the plant world.

    The look on your face, Chess, over “opera” is the same look I get when the guy I live with listens to his Greatful Dead bootlegs and, even worse, his “roots” music. Before I married the guy I live with I was engaged to a guy who had 400 CDs of jazz. I’ve never found a live-withable type guy who loves the music I love: 90s Brit pop. Stone Roses and Oasis, real loud, is my Wagner.

    • paridevita says:

      The guy I live with used to listen to rock and/or roll. (He still thinks about the Simpsons, too, but hasn’t watched them since my mommy died.) Nine Inch Nails and Tool, deafeningly loud. My mommy liked that too, also a lot of Scandinavian stuff like Garmarna and especially CMX. She would order CMX CDs from the Stupido Shop in Helsinki.
      Above all, though, Radiohead. They would listen to Radiohead in the car when they drove around to go to places they liked to go to. My mommy played “Pyramid Song” over and over again the day before she died. She didn’t know she had a blood clot so it wasn’t symbolic or portentous or anything.
      The guy I live with gave away all his rock and/or roll CDs shortly after my mommy died, and won’t listen to things like that. He grew up with classical music anyway. That meant he was always alone. He does like jazz, Louis Armstrong, Ellington, Charlie Parker, Coltrane, etc. And Indian classical music too.
      What he mostly does, though, is play DVDs of The Big Bang Theory on the little kitchen TV (which is the only TV here).

  7. So many thoughts on this. Especially about the music you stopped listening to. The flower photos are stunning and that owl so well captured in your photos. Now I must go read that poem.

    • paridevita says:

      Lots of poetry in that month. It was beginning to get to be a little too much; you can only keep up the gloom and intensity for so long.
      I think there are quite a few posts featuring Cindy’s pictures; digital, slides, and even some film I scanned.

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