The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Life Page 1 of 22

Family | Dogs | Thoughts

Welcome, 2024!

As I grow older and older, new year no longer feels like a new start. Work continues, renovation continues, and life continues as it is. But I still like to set an intention for the upcoming year. In 2023, I hoped to evolve into a more active and fulfilling life; and I think we somewhat achieved it by becoming foster parents for shelter dogs. It was not the exact fun activity I planned at the beginning of the year – I was thinking more about hiking and snowboarding, ha! But seeing our foster pups finding their forever homes was immensely satisfying.


But looking back 2023, there were also things I should have done, or at least gotten started. Interestingly, the reason I didn’t try was not because of the fear of complete failure, but rather less superb results. This is easily seen from my work projects. Since having my own lab, I no longer have access to the top-notch technology and equipment I used to have during my postdoctoral training. I could have developed some cheaper and less impressive alternative strategies to achieve basically the same results, but I just stayed away from these experiments all together. Subconsciously, I might be thinking that if I could not done it in the best way possible, I should not even try it.

Because of the same attitude, I did not perform as many home projects either. Post-renovation fatigue was real and we took a good a couple months not doing any home renovations after our kitchen renovation. But during 2023, there were a few projects I really wanted to tackle, but we didn’t. One example is rebuilding our back fence.

When we moved in, we had wooden fence at the very back of our property and chain link fence on all other sides.


We have since replaced the chain link fence with horizontal cedar fencing. Slav and I built the fence ourselves which is still holding up very well after five years.


We did not replace the back fence at the time due to limited budget and time. But we knew that the time of this back fence was numbered. Although it looked OK from distance, it had many splits and broken boards. In 2021, some fence panels started to detach from the posts; we had to add supports from the back.


It was also built with different wood species. Some panels are made of cedar boards, which naturally turned grey. But some are made of redwood, which stayed yellowish red all year around. Finally, I could not take the patchy look anymore and painted the yellow panels grey/black to match the rest.


When 2023 started I wanted to have the back fence replaced so bad. But when the Fall came to the end, we realized that we have missed another year of opportunity. Slav did not have as much time in his hands, so we were afraid that we would not be able to do as good a job as we did for the side fence. Once again, we tolerated a really bad situation for the fear of not to have a perfect outcome. It is almost silly to let the concern of not being perfect to get in the way of the good.

Another example is the need of changing the color of the garage door. Since we installed the new roof, painting the garage door in the same color as the fascia and soffit has been on my to-do list. But at the same time, I was worried that painting such a large surface so dark would not work. In the past six years, I have changed my idea so many times on what color to paint – red, white, almond, even painting a mural on it. But every winter, we ended up with the same, boring brown. So one day I asked myself – if the color I picked does not work, what will be there to lose? We might have to live with a color we do not like for a few months, but we have been tolerating this color we hate for six years now.


It is interesting that when it comes to gardening, I had a lot more tolerance for imperfection. Maybe it is because I can always get it right the next year? But I could apply the same attitude to hardscaping project such as a fence, or my work projects. Not trying it obviously does not yield the results I am hoping for. So why let the perfect be the enemy of the good? For 2024, on both work and home project fronts of things, I would like it to be the year of

Don't Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good

That means I need to identify the most important tasks I want to accomplish, for work and home. I will put the fear of imperfect outcome aside, and just do my best to achieve the best outcome possible. I might not be about to get an A+ I hoped for, but as least I will finish what needs to be done and likely learn from the experience. So here you have it, my 2024 intention! Watch me in 2024, everyone!

A New Foster Puppy and Fall Planting

“Love, soft as an easy chair
Love, fresh as the morning air
Time won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen”

Summer flew by and suddenly, we are in September. The leaves have not turned their colors yet, but the crisp morning air and clear night sky are signaling that my favorite season is coming.


The dogs are enjoying the cold air + warm sun combo too. They spent lots of time in the yard even in the evenings.


In these photos you can see Dazumble, our first foster puppy. But I am happy to announce that she has been adopted! Dazumble went to her forever family about 10 days ago, and we brought her sister, the Snorch home to foster on the same day.

In addition to the new foster puppy, we also brought home new evergreen trees! They were purchased during the 50% tree sale from Home Depot. We always wanted more evergreen trees for our property. This time, we were fortunate to grab three decent sized evergreens for just over $200!


The first one is this weeping Norway Spruce. Isn’t it cute? We planted it next to the ginkgo tree and expanded the flower bed around it.


With the weeping habit this Norway spruce will grow to 8-12 ft tall and wide. We planted it 6 feet away from the fence and the ginkgo tree, so it can grow to its mature size without trimming. I also planted some daylilies to fill in the empty space around it. These daylilies were given to me as a gift. I spent a couple weekends dividing the irises in the front yard and gave away most of the rhizomes through Nextdoor. The irise giveaway attracted many gardeners to our house. One lady, when picking up irises, brought me daylilies she divided from her yard. These daylilies should bloom golden red. I cannot wait to see them flower next summer!


Here is the ginkgo tree, which was a small twig three years ago. Now it is 6 feet tall with very nice lower branching. Its leaves should turn to bright yellow color in a months or so.


This is the first year I planted flowers in the vegetable garden. The marigold has been blooming all summer long.


Besides the weeping Norway spruce, we also got a pine and a Colorado spruce. This Vanderwolf’s Pyramid Limber pine is about 6 feet tall right now, and eventually become 20′ tall and 15′ wide. We planted it in the new patio garden, with plenty of room to spread.


Behind the new pine is this Malabar spinach planted on a trellis. It is an annual in my area and a great climber. I planted two seedlings at the base of this metal trellis. I love its shape and purple-red stems. A must-have in the garden just for its beauty!


Here are the volunteer sunflowers in the same patio garden bed. They came up where our winter bird feeder was, probably planted by the birds. We can see at least two different varieties blooming.


Here is the last new evergreen we bought – a Colorado spruce! The Colorado blue spruce, also called Colorado Spruce or blue spruce, needs no introduction. It is a Rocky mountain native and can get to 70′ tall when planted at the right spot. Fortunately, it only spread to up to 20′ wide, making it possible to bring it into our backyard.


We situated it near the garden shed, in front of the two Ash trees. It gets dappled shade in the morning and full sun from noon to sunset. We also positioned it 9 feet away from the side fence and the hazelnut tree, so it has plenty room to spread.


Not until we planted the Colorado spruce I realized how much we needed its blue color in our backyard. Most of the trees here, including the Ash tree, the crabapple tree, the fruit and nut trees all have green foliage. Adding the icy blue color here really draws your eyes to the far corner of the yard, which makes the yard feel bigger.


On the other side of the hazelnut is the wisteria planted this spring. It has put on some growth and started climbing the trellis. 🙂 The weeping cedar planted along the side fence is also doing well. I have not see much growth from it, but the needles are all green and the tree seems to be well hydrated.


While all three evergreens went to the backyard, I added some Fall perennials and decor to the front yard garden. I’ve shown you the new boxwood in front of the new front porch. They are putting on new sprouts since planted a few weeks ago and appear to be very happy.


On the other side of the front door, we planted three junipers in early Spring. They should eventually crawl onto the gravel and cover the area around the foundation, but it will take lots of years for them to get there. To fill the space between them. I added three dwarf Joe-pye weed called “Euphoria™ Ruby”. It will only get 2′ tall and wide, a perfect size for this area.


Most of the plants in the front yard bloom in spring, so I have been wanting to add some color to the front yard garden for late summer/fall. The Ruby Joe-pye weed will bloom purple pink from mid-summer to frost, exactly what we need.


I also want to add more Fall colors along the sidewalk. Here are six Fall blooming mums new to the front yard! These little plants will grow into 2′-3′ mounds of cute flowers which last the whole autumn. They might not be able to bloom this season, but they seems to be taken in very well and I am looking forward to their blooms next Fall.


Believe or not, some pumpkins in my vegetable garden have matured. I have never picked pumpkins this early, and they may not last as long as those in previous years. But I was happy to get the new front porch decorated early. I grabbed two flowering mums from the stores and added pumpkins from my own vines. I like how colorful and cheerful this small decoration looks.


As the summer is coming to an end, we will be harvesting, grilling, dining outside, and cozy up with Roxie, Charlie, and our new foster puppy. Are you fond of fall too?


Someone must be waiting for me

Happy 4th of July, everyone! If you have been paying attention to my instagram feed, you must have noticed a new addition to our household – our foster puppy, Dazumble.

Slav and I have been talking about fostering for a long time. With all the house renovation going on, we did not want to expose shelter dogs who are likely sensitive and skittish to construction noises and potential hazard materials. Last summer, we wrapped up the interior renovations, and immediately adopted Charlie, a 2-year-old hound mix.

It took Charlie over 9 months to completely bond with us. Once he started acting totally secure and relaxed, Slav and I started to consider fostering again. We visited a few shelters to learn about their foster programs, and eventually settle on Soul Dog Rescue, the same shelter we we adopted Charlie from. The Soul Dog Rescue is a local shelter serving the rural communities on Native American reservations. They come to the tribal lands periodically to offer free spay and neuter services, and bring stray and surrendered dogs and cats back to the shelter in the Denver area. We applied to their foster program in May, went through background checks and a house visit, and got approved! This week, we finally were able to bring our first foster home.


Dazumble was born in the shelter. Her mother was captured while being pregnant, and she and her siblings were raised in the shelter until they were ready to be adopted. Growing up in kennels, Daz had not been exposed to a regular household. Generally, she is scared of leaving a place, and does not want to be put on a leash. Our hope is that by living with us, even just for a few weeks, she can be house trained, get familiar with household items, and get used to seeing new people and spaces. Being comfortable with the big outside world will help her to be more social during adoption events, which helps her to find her new family!


We brought her home on a Saturday. She was a bit scared at first, but started playing with Charlie quickly. Being with other dogs probably helped her to feel safe. By Wednesday, she has mastered the doggy door, slept through the nights, and become BFFs with Charlie and Roxie.


We ordered her a new elevated dog bed just like the ones Roxie and Charlie have, so they can chill outside together.


But she definitely prefers sleeping inside – unless playing, she naps in her crate, on the sofa, or the living room carpet, or even in our bed.



The following Saturday, one week after we first brought Dazumble home, I took her to her first adoption event! She was a bit nervous when I dropped her off, but she let the adoption workers take her inside without a problem. She did well there, and when I brought her home, she ran straight to Charlie and started playing.


So far, Daz has been with us for 10 days, and is doing excellent. I can already tell that she will be an excellent family pet. She is smart, calm, playful, and independent. I am sure the right family will come soon! It is heartbroken to see how many animals waiting behind bars for their forever family. But I see hope in their eyes. “I do not know where I will be, but I know someone must be waiting for me. “

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