It's been raining non-stop for days upon days--but the air is sweet and mild and it's been wonderful to open a few windows to let in the spring air. This picture was taken last weekend on a sunnier day, after lots of garden puttering. It's taken about a week for all my scratches and wounds and sore muscles to heal, but I'm ready to take it on again this weekend. Weather permitting.
Before I forget...it's time to mention that this month's bonus designs are up on the website, and as always, they are a glimpse of what I'm seeing or experiencing around "these here parts". In the garden, tree frogs are croaking, brown bunnies are bouncing, bumblebees are buzzing, and birds of every kind are busy building nests.
A few weeks ago, there was a bit of a tussle between the bluebirds and the English sparrows--each trying to take up residence in the birdhouses. As it happens, the sparrows won, but I never have the heart to evict them! The parent birds are now busy bringing food to their hatchlings--and we listen for their tiny peeps while out weeding or sitting under a tree with a book. Yesterday, a wild turkey hen stepped cautiously through the yard. I'm sure she was the lone survivor from last year's brood. I'm curious about where she's making her nest. One can't let things get too quiet back here because you never know who or what might decide to move in. I won't soon forget the skunk under the house earlier this spring! Or the vole who set up housekeeping in the upstairs sofa bed. We probably never would've known it was there had it not been for the stash of birdseed under one of the cushions. "Surprise!"
Quail have been snooping around the grounds back here. We've been watching one particular pair from the kitchen window--watching as they've picked their way all around the yard, testing different areas for nesting. The male was endlessly patient, always on the "look-out" with his little noggin-feather bobbing like a loose spring on top his head, while the female peeked and poked cautiously for days making up her mind. For awhile we thought they would choose the 'pineapple-mint' bed (above), as they seemed particularly fond of it, and for several days the female popped in and out of that little burrow in the thick undergrowth. See it there, above the right end of the board? Unfortunately it didn't work out, being that it was right next to the main path to the garden. Our frequent comings and goings rattled them, I guess. The cat had also spotted their activity, and no doubt, they'd spotted her. Eventually they found a safer hideaway under the blackberry bramble behind the house; a popular nesting ground for many fowl and fauna. Any day now, I expect to see an obedient string of roly-poly chicks trailing through the yard.
And...our 'golden chain' tree--which is so lovely just now and I had to show you!
The timing for this flower couldn't have been more perfect. In my garden, the round peony buds are ready to burst. We have here five different color varieties growing, from white to burgundy, with pink shades in between. I'm partial to the fluffy pale pinks myself, and decided to do my flower block that way. No particular color variety was ever designated for the state flower, so the choice is yours. Stitching it up was a slight comfort, as I'm again having trouble with deer in my roses. I didn't get them sprayed early enough this year, and then with all the rain, the deer return before I can spray again. Will have to cut them all back now; there's just nothing left to do. Here's the DEER REPELLENT RECIPE (pdf) in case you missed it--or need it! It works really great when it's applied.
So that's been a bit frustrating. But I am comforted right now by these gorgeous flowers, which are not nibbled by insects or deer. The only downside to peonies is they only bloom once, but what a glorious show it is.
Going back to stories of old, mischievous nymphs were said to hide in the petals of the flower, giving it the meaning of 'bashfulness' in the Language of the Flowers. Greek myth named the flower after Paean, (Paeonia officinalis), a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. When Asclepius became jealous of his pupil, Zeus turned him into a peony to spare him the wrath of his teacher. (No one's going to thrash a peony I guess!)
These beauties are native to western North America, as well as Asia and parts of southern Europe. Most are herbaceous perennial plants about 4 feet tall, but some types resemble trees and can reach over six feet. The leaves are fan-shaped, and deeply lobed. Flower heads are large, mildly fragrant, blooming in late spring and early summer. Once planted, it prefers to be left alone and sometimes may take several years to flower again if it's moved. Mine flowered again the very next season after transplanting--so although it's a possibility, it's not the rule.
Apparently, Indiana has had a long, tumultuous history regarding state flowers. It actually began with a carnation by Concurrent Resolution in 1913, but protests resulted because it was not a 'native' plant to the region, and the blossom of the tulip tree was substituted as the state floral emblem until 1923. Then, there were some shenanigans involving commercial growers and state representatives and conflict of interest issues that ushered in the zinnia in 1931. Apparently even the simple business of choosing a state flower is not exempt from corruption. Shocking! Eventually, this was over-turned, and the peony was granted victory on March 15, 1957; although it has also been subject to criticism because it is not native to the state, the flower has endured to the present time.
COLORS: Petals #602/603/776; stems & leaves #367
COLORS: Petals #602/603/776; stems & leaves #367
Stitches used were stem stitch (for outlines), and back stitch for the letters. STITCH GUIDE: For general color and stitch guide; print out the original PDF Directions here:
Stitches used were stem stitch (for outlines), and back stitch for the letters.Images should be about 4 x 4-inches---to fit a 6.5" quilt block. To get the image:: RIGHT CLICK to save it as a file, or for size options--LEFT CLICK and use the flickr 'all sizes' link.
STITCH GUIDE: For general color and stitch guide; print out the original PDF Directions here:
Finally it seems, the garden is waking up! Right now, the Iris are standing tall, front and center. It's their turn to shine.
I want to EAT these.
Nautre at her finest.
A delicate dance. A brief encounter.
On the homefront: Our two year-old granddaughter has been staying with us the last couple of days, and boy, have I been BUSY! Mostly learning things all over again. I'm amused and somewhat shocked, at how a mother of four (nearly grown) children can forget how to change a diaper. You never think you'll forget, because you've done it so often--but without practice, you do! Funny. Thank goodness this child is patient.
I have lots to 'show and tell', but my time is short today. Still catching up on a few things. But I did finish another flower block and will share it on the next post. Have been adding more state flowers to the list as they come in too. Soon to start on the next flower--a peony--for Indiana!
Planting a garden = hope in action. Our garden has been underway for a few months now in one form or another. Both in dreaming and in doing. Early peas, beets, carrots, lettuce, and a variety of tomatoes are already sprouting up---most of it, still under-cover or under the gro-lite inside, safe from danger of frost; always a possibility here, even in May. I'm actually shivering at the moment, watching a cold wind ruffle the trees outside.
In between storms there's been a little sunny weather though, like on the day I took this picture. And a beautiful Saturday it was too! Spent mostly outside preparing beds, digging weeds, and dragging myself around gasping and wheezing from the exertion of it all. After a cozy winter curled up with hand-stitching and books of every sort--not exactly in ship-shape. It happens that I forget to remind myself to ease back into the yard slowly. . .I get so crazed with excitement that I never remember until it's too late. It's annoying sometimes, to accept the fact, that I'm no spring chicken anymore. (ahem!) A languid two-hour soak in a hot bath after wards, with all the windows flung open, smoothed my feathers and revived me though. A 'just reward' for all my toil. I was like a limp noodle when I finally crawled out.
And now, I am totally re-considering an outdoor bathtub like this one, pictured from MaryJane's Farm Bed & Breakfast. Some ideas take time to warm-up to. I read the article entitled, 'the art of outdoor bathing' in the April-May 2010 issue of MJ's Everyday Organic Lifestyle magazine, with dreamy photos and directions showing how one can rig-up an "outpost bathtub", heated with a propane tank. Looks easy enough.
But while I'm daydreaming about that claw-foot bath tub nestled in the trees off the beaten path, we will be building instead, a "hot house" designed for tomatoes. And I'm pretty happy about it. Because here in the northwest, tomatoes NEVER seem to ripen in ANY predictable way. Or in abundance before summer ends. And I'm hoping for abundance, so we can make ketchup and chutney and marinara sauce, and yummy stuff like that to fill the pantry shelves.
Looking up from my stitching momentarily--and noting that Spring is most definitely(and nearly "officially"), here. And that calls for a new banner to usher in its arrival. The sweet magnolia outside my door was quite accommodating and bursting with helpfulness in that regard.
Good bye snowflakes...hello birdsong and sunshine. At least for today. (sigh)
While the dust was still settling after a whirlwind of spring cleaning yesterday, I walked outside to soak up a little sunshine and fresh air, and was surprised to find something wonderful had happened. Look!
A perfect little bunch was gathered up.
No matter how you look at it.
Right before I left the house yesterday for a dental appointment, I happened to glance out the window and saw eight deer grazing on the lawn. Seeing so many all at once is always a bit alarming, but I do appreciate their efforts in keeping the dandelions and other weeds in check. One of them got to my roses however, and ate them all up in a matter of seconds. Ouch! It was bound to happen though. Overall, the grand rose experiment went pretty well, despite my lack of diligence toward the end of summer to spray the " magic concoction " repellant. My fault. I'll know better than to leave it to chance next time.
As the garden gets put to bed, the golden autumn days are shuffling in, one by one, and I suddenly feel the need for fall fun and adventure. Apples are definitely on my wish list this weekend. What's on yours?
The heat wave finally broke this morning. One of the worst heat waves ever recorded for the state. Our outdoor thermometer read 115 in the sun/108 in the shade Tuesday at noon, and it was more or less the same yesterday. We never left the house; so very grateful for the A/C, which incidentally broke down last week just as things started warming up. It's an old unit and the repairman did what he could to keep it going, but no guarantees so I just kept my fingers crossed and prayed!
Um...no. That's not my laundry hanging in the vegetable patch. But almost.
I raided the linen closet and strung up whatever I could find to make shade. We've been enjoying our little salad garden way too much to let it all dry up. I had to move the canopies around every so often to block the sun. I'm a little worse for the wear, but the crops were spared.
This morning, stepping outside to enjoy the cool air, a wild turkey hen and her brood crossed my path. I'm hoping that's a good sign. It made me smile anyway.
It's blackberry time again! A bit early, but no one's complaining. These grow on the other side of our backyard fence. We went running back to the house for containers as soon as we saw them today. There's a skunk that lives somewhere underneath all the bramble. We've never actually seen it, being a creature of the night, but he's hard to miss if you know what I mean. We step lightly so as not to disturb him -- just in case, humming softly (and nervously) to convey, "we mean no harm--just passing through". Nope. Not even a skunk, poison oak, or those wicked thorns discourage us.
I found out the basket on my salad spinner is a great container to use for picking. When it's half full I can rinse and spin the berries very efficiently. And we are all about efficiency in the kitchen, are we not?
The first few bowls get gobbled up pretty fast. I like mine with a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt. I'll pick more later to make jam when it cools down again. There will also be a blackberry cobbler or two. And hopefully, more of these. And some of these. Yum.
Remember the garden 'fortress' we built a couple of seasons back? Well, in one corner, we discovered an old abandoned scrubby (dead-looking) rose stalk. It was left alone, with hope and a prayer--and just surprised us with this fantastic show.
And more surprisingly, these peachy beauties appeared, growing from the same stalk. Apparently when plants are stressed (due to lack of water), the grafts that create hybrids, can separate like this. After a little TLC we now have two varieties instead of one. Hard to see in this photo, but the peach flowers have bright pink "freckles".
Also...it's nice to know I'm not alone when it comes to my "deep rooted" feelings about trees. It was nice reading your comments about that. A few days have passed now, and we are all getting used to the big empty spot where the tree
The light is wonderful in parts of the house though, and that's been a really nice surprise. (Cats have a way of claiming that perfect sunny spot, don't they?) BTW, Lily isn't FAT, she's a husky breed--and at ten years old now--solid as a brick. Except for that jelly-belly thingy, due to the spaying. Seriously funny, as it flaps from side to side when she trots. Poor darling. She's wearing that, "I'm tolerating that camera in my face as I wait patiently for my treat", look. Our morning ritual. If I forget, or dawdle, she stares me down, sending telepathic messages. Oh she makes me laugh!
Just noticed that 'Does Anybody Hear Her', was playing on Pandora as I wrote this: a sweet bit of synchronicity. I'm addicted to Instrumental Folk lately. Love it.
Yesterday we had to have an old tree taken down. A honey locust, planted too close to the house, when it was first built. My lament about this tree has always been; if only it had been planted 20-feet further out. I've lost count of how many times we've had it pruned back to keep it off the roof, out of the bedroom windows and the rain gutters, only to have it grow back in the exact same place the following season. Hardier than ever. Unfortunately, woodpeckers and insects feasted on it a little too much, which only added to the never-ending fallout of pollen, pods, leaves, twigs, and a host of creepy-crawly things that got sprinkled daily (and liberally) over the deck, chairs, tables and anyone who sat under it. This year seemed worse than ever. Looking closer we noticed stress-cracks in the bark and began to worry about the integrity of the branches (perhaps one falling), and the overall health of the tree. So, taking everything into consideration; a hard decision was reached. We'd been discussing it casually for years though. I suppose, getting used to the idea. Knowing eventually, this day would come. There were a few tears and a bit of angst during the final showdown. To be expected. We could hear and feel the thumps of tree parts falling heavily to the ground. No one could bear to watch.
I bravely opened the back door, snapped this one picture, then ran away and hid during the rest of it. (I'm sure the tree men thought I was bonkers.) Gosh. This picture makes me sad. It's hard to look at. Change is hard sometimes. We'll surely miss the song birds perched at the windows in the morning and the dappled shade under its feathery branches. That's the sad part. But looking on the bright side, we most certainly have more light in the house. A new view of the mountains. And there's the ease of sitting under an open sky.
Which has been quite lovely under big patio umbrellas. (Sarah and I have been reading Bread & Butter Journey by Ann Colver c. 1970. About pioneer families crossing the Alleghenies to find a new homestead.) The strawberries...we picked early Tuesday morning. Both the girls and I visited a local farm and picked 15 lbs. of strawberries in 30 minutes. Those professional berry pickers have nothing on us! Already made 8 small jars of jam; making more today.
Dessert last night; a spruced-up "hot milk sponge cake" with strawberry jam filling.
Served up with more berries and a dollup of whipped cream on the side. Truly a sweet comfort after a rough day. Like a wake for the sad poorly tree.
Hey! Thank you for the garden love; it's day 5 and the roses are still with us! I appreciate the great suggestions for improving the weed situation too. I'm just cringing at the sight of them all at the moment. We seem to have every variety under the sun. BUT I think I'd much rather save any back-bending efforts for...picking more strawberries.
We do have our priorities.
An update on the frontyard landscape project. For years, we've puzzled over the treatment of this huge lot--with the goal always moving toward using less water, less fertilizer, less weed killer, and acheiving low maintenance. To reach that end, we reduced the size of the lawn last year, basically cutting it back by two-thirds, which was a bit too much we now realize, as weeds are filling in the bark-covered areas at an even more unmanagable rate. So we're rethinking that, figuring things out as we go along. The grassy slope is gone now though, and the new retaining wall and walkway are awesome. I love it! Especially the little round "courtyard". Still need to do something about the BIG dirt piles. They were left behind because we thought we could use the extra dirt somewhere else, in the new garden plan perhaps. However, this type of soil expands when you dig it up. It's crazy how much dirt was excavated from this relatively small area.
So. After the weekend, we've gotten this far planting the new garden area. Dwarf boxwood along the path, (a pair of Japanese Snowbells planted last spring--on both sides), and um, a few rose bushes. I know! I'm such a glutten for punishment. They've been thoroughly sprayed; like three times in about 48 hours now. Heavily doused. Heavily. At this rate, I'll probably kill them myself without any help from the deer!
OK...meet the new kids on the (chomping) block while they last. This is sweet 'Kimberlina'. A mildly scented flower with a hardy reputation. She'll need it.
Sunny 'St. Patrick', a hybrid tea bush, slight fragrance, matches color of my house.
And this one, appropriately named, 'Double Knockout', from same wholesale grower, that knocks out both your eyes when you stare at it too long--this pix was not photo-shopped--the color is blinding!
None of these have a particularly strong scent, which is what I was looking for, ya know, so as not to invite trouble. Keeping my fingers double-crossed now.
View from the kitchen window this morning. Rinsing dishes...
Ever get the feeling you're being watched?
Zooming in. Sweetness! Times two. The other was hidden in the grass, except for it's ears poking out. Mama Doe was no where in sight. Probably parked them here while she checks out the neighbor's flowers. Which taste much better than mine. (Thanks to the magic concoction.)
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.
After a little rest, thanks to a teensy thunderstorm that passed through yesterday, I think I am fully recovered enough to pick up where I left off in the garden. I'm happy to say, that I now have a plan for the comfrey, thanks to Kristy's suggestion to make fertilizer from it, and directing me to green wellies for the know-how. I so appreciate the other suggestions too and am thinking them over. Thank you ladies!
The playhouse (above) has taken on a new look this summer. These field daises surprise us in new places every year. Actually had to mow down that one side to find the stepping stones. It's so pretty and magical right now. I almost expect to see a little fairy or gnome peeking out somewhere. Just for fun, click on the image to bring that idea to life. There might be other *surprises* around too. Hint, hint. Oh, and the frontyard landscape project is done! We just couldn't be more pleased with how it all turned out. (Pictures soon.) Now to don my apron and roll up my sleeves...
"Thinning out, is one of the many tricks of the trade, not an invention of nature; it is entirely the invention of a good workman."
My Friend the Garden by Fernand Lequenne
Though acting on the above advice, there are still days, I must admit, when my garden seems overwhelming to me. Like, um. Now. This is the comfrey that grew back double, from the very same spot I'd moved it from last season because it was getting unruly and crowding out the chives and the chicory and generally wreaking havoc in the small raised bed I planted it in.
It was shy and demure the first year. No trouble at all; then took off. Always it seems, there are things to be done, in every corner, and before I knew it---there were three huge bushes. Now, in two locations. No doubt waving to each other from across the yard and secretly plotting their next move.
I asked one of my daughters, who's studying and practicing herbalogy, "What's this one good for again?" Mainly, abrasions and bruises, she tells me. (oh) Naturally. And for good reason; like after you wrangle it into the wheelbarrow, you just might need to apply some.
And...continuing our backyard garden tour...in another corner we find Iris in bloom! I shared these beauties last spring. They were gifts from a friend's garden. I love them so. Definitely worth showing again.
Pale pink Rhodie's share the plot and make a perfect backdrop.
I turned around and noticed the sky matched too!
After a fantastic weekend of Mother's Day indulgences and perfect gardening weather, a lovely spring storm passed through yesterday and gave me a chance to rest up and recuperate. Oh boy. Did I need it. Always, and without exception, the first few days getting re-acquainted with my yard after a long season of neglect, and the physical toiling required to whip it back into shape is sheer torture. Along with whipping myself back into shape. I think it rains weeds here in Oregon. Yes, I'm convinced of that. We maintain a lush organic environment and using harsh chemicals is not an option; the same weeds re-emerge year after year without fail and need to be dealt with face to face. A territorial battle ensues. I put up a good fight, but the weeds always take-over. Eventually, it pays off (for a season or two), but getting there requires honest-to-goodness back-breaking work. And it just seems never-ending at times.
Hauling in over 700 lbs. of river rocks for borders didn't help my back situation either, but it brings us closer to creating smaller low maintenance solutions. This little corner is shaping up nicely now. You may recall, it started out like this. I love the look of natural stone for borders and ground cover. The trees that we had trimmed and chipped earlier in the year made a nice dressing to cover the soil inside the beds. The deer no longer bother the azaleas, rhodies, or the 'Harlequin Glory Bower' (peanut butter tree). But everything else that's tempting, has been sprayed with the *magic concoction* . For those who have been asking about it again, you can download my DEER REPELLENT RECIPE and print it out for safe-keeping.
Last year, we added another section to the herb garden the length of our fenced-in veggie garden. This is so much bigger than it looks here, at least it felt bigger when I was weeding it; it got the rock and chipped bark treatment as well. I'm so tickled with how it all turned out. I threw myself into a 2-hour salts bath after this project though. And, I'm still hobbling...
Which is why I picked up some fresh new fabrics yesterday to tackle some tame inside sewing while my muscles knit themselves back together. Besides, I can always use a few more gardening smocks. It's actually quite possible that this may end up being my summer wardrobe at this point. And I actually couldn't be happier about it.
BTW thank you all for the baby doll dress LOVE. I'm already thinking about the next one, for big sister this time, who turns 5 this summer.
And, on another note...if you're looking for a little vegan romance--get out your embroidery needle and floss and check out sweet surprises. Those veggie heads are rocking.
What better way to herald Earth Day than in the garden. The sun IS peeking in and out, but night temps are still dipping down into the 30's here, so our seed starts are happening inside, under a grow lite. Peas were planted in the ground though and should be OK. If the blue-jays don't find them first.
Herb garden is looking good. However, I spy a few things that shouldn't be there. Things that hopped over from nearby flower beds. I sprayed the roses and a few other "at risk" flowers with the *magic concoction* (deer repellent). In case you don't know, this is earth friendly and can be mixed up in your kitchen. Here's the link to the original recipe if you want to check it out. I'm still having great success with it.
Oh, and the wren house has been hung and already had a few lookers (English sparrows), but no takers. It's in a location we can easily view from the kitchen sink. We keep watching and waiting for the wrens to return. Which, should be soon. At one point yesterday, we looked up to see about a hundred Canadian geese in loose formations heading north. They were up so high we could just barely hear them honking as they passed overhead. We watched them as they disappeared in the distance, thinking about their incredible stamina and perseverance. It always amazes me. What a marvelous planet we live on.
We suddenly find ourselves in the midst of beautiful weather here. I'll soon be heading back out to enjoy it while it lasts. Finally making a little progress in the garden; there's still so much to be done. Great to get a jump on things for a change; it's usually damp and chilly here until after the 4th of July. Nice to open up the doors and windows again and let in the fresh air. Almost makes me want to tackle some spring cleaning and wash the windows. Almost.
Until something like this unexpectedly stops me in my tracks.
And I wander off, again. . .
Every spring, it surprises me how a scrubby patch of weeds under one tree suddenly turns into this glorious show.
It seems to happen so fast, making me stop and catch my breath.
And go running for a camera.
Such a lovely view from which to sit and contemplate the world.
I'm busy stitching...will be back on Friday to announce the winner of the "spring chicks" embroidered tea towel. Thank you for the sweet & lovely comments..and for the *smock love* too.
Good luck all!
There's been a soft rainfall since we last talked, a slight cold spell too; and as I look around, I keep noticing the small signs of spring's steady renewal all around us. A sonata of birdsong, a tiny brown rabbit peeking out from the underbrush, little things like that, causing me to slow down and take a deep breath and appreciate the wonder of it all. Then yesterday, as I sat working at my table in front of the window, I looked up and was absolutely shocked to see that poor injured deer grazing peacefully on the lawn right in front of me. At first I didn't realize it was the same one, (there are so many here as our home backs up to a heavily forested area), but then as he hobbled away--it was obvious. Many of you expressed concern when I shared about this recently, so I thought an update might ease your minds a bit. The good news is, the deer actually seems to be healing. The fact that he's getting around on three legs and eating is a good sign, I'm told. The bad news is, there's no outside help for his situation. Calls were made, but wild deer are difficult to catch, treat, and keep in captivity for any length of time. Our state laws forbid any method of capture, so shooting darts with sedatives is not an option either. I don't want to end this on a sad note though. The very fact that he came right up to the window, where I could see that he was surviving OK, was such a cool thing to have happen. It's eased my mind for now anyway. And made me a little more forgiving about the lovely grape hyacinth, he heartily devoured.
It's official. And it does indeed seem to have arrived on time here in the Willamette Valley. The cheerful "daffy down dillys" are in bloom, seemingly over night. Listening to Foghorn Stringband this morning and feeling energized to grab my shovel and turn some soil.
Time to tackle a bit more clean-up in the garden and start making preparations for planting. My helpers are on it. Darling four-year old granddaughter has (very jubilantly!) requested pumpkins, so we absolutely must make space for them too.
And a wonderful surprise found on the back porch yesterday from a friend. Yes, so far, spring is taking shape quite nicely. Bring on the (rainy) weekend!
For the past few days we've had sunshine here in the northwest, and it has me longing for spring. I think we might even need to mow the lawn soon. The gardener has been here cutting back the dead brush and trimming trees, putting all of it through the chipper, and we now have a few nice piles of mulch to work with. Some of it will be spread throughout the flower beds, and some of it will be composted to enrich the soil for the veggie garden. This picture (above) is for my sweet friend in northern Michigan, who asked recently (via SKYPE) if we had any bulbs coming up yet and as you can see, the answer is yes! To our surprise and delight, a variety of small daffodils were uncovered by the afore mentioned gardener this week. With all the craziness going on everywhere, it's important for me to remind myself to stop and "smell the roses", and appreciate the miracles around us.
I'm really happy to hear that my little blog happening is being so well received and that many of you found a use for that first sweet offering. In the meantime around here, I finally finished reading, Can't Wait To Get To Heaven by Fannie Flagg, and it was just as good as everyone said it was. A wonderful story, and with more home-style recipes in the back. The first thing I did when I turned that last page was head straight for the kitchen to see if I had all the ingredients needed to make Neighbor Dorothy's Heavenly Caramel Cake--page 361. (I'll report back when I get around to baking it.)
My cupboards aren't fancy. We buy organic spices in bulk. I just re-labeled some of the jars using SUKIE labels from modcloth, (just noticed they're sold out--check Amazon). I love that site, especially their quirky fashion blog and "style inspirations". I think nerd in tartan is one of my faves so far.
But anyway, I was speaking of cakes, and I have to tell you that I found the recipe for one I remember from a childhood birthday party, way back in the late 1950's...and I nearly gasped out loud in the used book store when I ran across the original Betty Crocker's Cooky Carnival cook book that it obviously came from. I've never forgotten that cake, and when I saw the picture on the cover, well, it just made me smile. And drool. Just a little.
As summer fades, sadly, so do the blooms. I never have the heart to toss out spectacular roses once they start drooping either. These aren't from my garden though, they're from a bouquet the Mister surprised me with a couple of weeks ago. We were celebrating small victories. I'll add them to my hatboxes of aromatic potpourri once they've dried completely. I think the colors here are amazing. Sweet memories for sure.
And the last of the delectable blackberry filling. . .until next year.
Our family went out on another sustainable living and organic garden tour, here in our local area on Sunday. Got around to six out of the ten homes that participated, with everything from backyard gardens like this one, to working farms with livestock and bee keeping. Utterly inspiring. The ingenuity, creativity, and thoughtful solutions to energy and land management that can be achieved on a personal level is always so hopeful. Bumped into old neighborhood friends and picked up some handy gardening and composting tips along the way too. A good day spent. We can really learn so much from each other.
It’s been a bumper crop year for wild blackberries. At least, in my neck of the woods. I’ve been out picking almost every morning this week, and putting the bounty into cobblers and pies for freezing. It’s a peaceful activity I really enjoy first thing in the morning, although I surprised a skunk and think I may have gotten into some poison oak which grows abundantly in and among the thorny brambles. My hands and feet have been thoroughly doused with tecnu and other suds, so only time will tell. But now I’m getting that crawly feeling, like when you think a bug might be hitching a ride on ya somewhere.
The blackberry situation is in sharp contrast to the vegetable garden this year though. We had a hard time getting it going. Birds swooped in and either ate or replanted our seeds in novel places. And we had a vole that terrorized the peas and beans (chewing off the base of the stalks) just as they started to produce. He (or she?) absolutely had no shame, coming and going in broad daylight as we toiled nearby. Humane traps were set, but didn’t work. Finally, Grace got so fed up after discovering more carnage in the garden one day, that she waited quietly with a bucket and slammed it over the thing as it scurried through the fence. It was a cute little creature, we had to admit, but it was promptly re-located to a vacant grass field several miles away. No sign of trouble from that one now, but another one apparently crawled inside the Mister’s auto and clogged up the mechanics! We had to take his car into the dealership this morning for some dismantling and a clean-out, again, after just having had it serviced about a week ago. On the way back home, we stopped by a friends place and picked up a bunch of pickling cucumbers they had too many of, from their garden. I wasn’t planning on making pickles this week, but now that I have them. I might. I’m still thinking about what I’m going to make to put inside the little bird bag too—thank you for all the great suggestions btw! You’ve given me some good ideas to ponder while I'm filling pickle jars. OK, it's time to do something with this bucket of berries. Think we can we stand one more blackberry cobbler? No problem.
The blackberry situation is in sharp contrast to the vegetable garden this year though. We had a hard time getting it going. Birds swooped in and either ate or replanted our seeds in novel places. And we had a vole that terrorized the peas and beans (chewing off the base of the stalks) just as they started to produce. He (or she?) absolutely had no shame, coming and going in broad daylight as we toiled nearby. Humane traps were set, but didn’t work. Finally, Grace got so fed up after discovering more carnage in the garden one day, that she waited quietly with a bucket and slammed it over the thing as it scurried through the fence. It was a cute little creature, we had to admit, but it was promptly re-located to a vacant grass field several miles away. No sign of trouble from that one now, but another one apparently crawled inside the Mister’s auto and clogged up the mechanics! We had to take his car into the dealership this morning for some dismantling and a clean-out, again, after just having had it serviced about a week ago. On the way back home, we stopped by a friends place and picked up a bunch of pickling cucumbers they had too many of, from their garden. I wasn’t planning on making pickles this week, but now that I have them. I might. I’m still thinking about what I’m going to make to put inside the little bird bag too—thank you for all the great suggestions btw! You’ve given me some good ideas to ponder while I'm filling pickle jars.
OK, it's time to do something with this bucket of berries.
Think we can we stand one more blackberry cobbler?
I was in the garden, admiring the roses. Glorious Roses! Roses which, on their own are not that spectacular as far as roses go, but which have managed to survive the most discouraging of circumstances, and which have triumphed and climbed half-way up the tree! I can almost see them from the second-floor bedroom window. What is so miraculous about this is, our dear friends, the deer, have usually gobbled them up long before now. In fact, all three varieties planted here at the base of this enormous tree are thriving, and I’m feeling pretty confident that the Mister's Magic Concoction is primarily responsible. Yesterday, there was a deer standing less than a foot away from these beauties, chomping down on the sun chokes a friend gave us (that I forgot to spray). From the window I watched it graze and held my breath, feeling quite relieved when it moved on, never touching a single rose bud. WooHoo!
To recap for new readers here; this rose ordeal has been an ongoing experiment since last Spring, when I first began using a natural home-made deer repellant that I mix up in my kitchen. The original post is here, with the recipe, if you care to try it. It also seems to repel pesky insects as well, not all, but some.
Something else I’ve noticed is, I haven’t had any leaf spot at all which tends to be a problem here with the damp. It is possible that the weather could’ve been responsible, as it was dryer than normal in early spring. But I have noticed an improvement in general with dark glossy leaves. Since I haven’t given these any fertilizer or care at all, I have to conclude that it must be the magic concoction working its magic.
In the fall, I plan to prune the rose canes back, dig them up, and move the whole lot to another location for a number of reasons. In the meantime, I’m enjoying them twisting and climbing, dancing and displaying all over the place.
They deserve a shining moment at long last.
At this point yesterday, after hours of work, I still had about seventeen more wheelbarrow loads to go. The Mister and I did a lot of trimming and yard clean-up over the weekend, and I'm feeling it today. Boy, am I ever. But at the same time, I'm feeling good about the fact that it's done. At least that one corner back there.
June is here! The roses have bloomed, and the deer haven't touched them! I need to keep on top of spraying them with the magic concoction now as it seems to be working.
Especially with these dangerous characters looming. They'd all been lounging peacefully on the grass until they caught me hanging out of the window with my camera, trying to catch them unaware, but as you can see, those big eyes and ears miss nothing and they soon got to their feet.
Another one decided this was a good place to take a nap. They seem to like drinking out of this birdbath when it's full. It always cracks me up when I see them do this. I want to say, "Will there be anything more I can get for you, deer? Caviar? Champagne? Dew-dipped Rosebuds perhaps?"
Another shot of the blue Iris. So pretty. I appreciate the tip about dividing them regularly so they don't turn purple. I didn't know that, so thanks Jenera! In fact, thank you all for your comments and conversations regarding these lovelies and other topics of interest. Including my small attempts at needle-felting. Which, incidentally, lead to the discovery of this beautiful book, and an excellent tutorial for making felted sheep toys, compliments of Kim. (Her autographed book even comes with a free felted sheep! For which, I just put in my order.)
I need to unplug from the blog for awhile. Grace's 17th birthday and our 27th Anniversary are coming up (both on the same day), and there's much more to do in general, inside and outside, so my posts will be sporadic at best, with just a few words and pictures sprinkled in now and then. Feel free to drop by here anytime though and say "Hi". I'll be here. Wandering around. Somewhere.
I love how daisies project sunshine even when its cloudy. We were expecting thunderstorms with heavy rain over the long weekend but surprisingly never had a single drop. Apparently that particular storm missed us by about a hundred miles. It was however, cool and gray with glimses of blue sky. Perfect gardening weather. There was a fair amount of puttering that happened too, mixed with movie watching (The Water Horse was quite enjoyable), some home cooking, a three day game of Monopoly spread out across the floor, chocolate-chip cookie baking (and munching), a backyard BBQ, and a little crafting. A new foal has joined the menagerie! I think I'm finally getting the needle-felting down. Fewer needle jabs to the fingers anyway.
One more glance at sunny inspiration. Enjoy!
This was yesterday, but mentally, I'm still lingering over here in happy land. That cupcake was especially good, compliments of Grace who's real-life baking is just as sweet as her dollhouse goodies. If this keeps up though I'm gonna have to let out my pants! I've been particularly charmed with the May 2008 issue of Romantic Homes, (shown above) starting with the letter from Editor, Jacqueline deMontravel, about the changing art of communication between women. About blogging in particular she says, "Step inside these cozy places trimmed with crafty borders. You can visit any time of day, dress as you please and type a few nice words to your host that will be as appreciated as a bundle of flowers." She really captured the essence of it all so nicely in just two simple sentences I think. I keep going back to this issue for all the amazing articles, like the one pictured here about retro baking, Betty Crocker style, so fun, and the cute aprons it inspires like these darling ones from Heavenly Hostess. I feel lucky to have some of those old cookbooks from Mom's day and cherish them. Most are dog-eared and spattered, a sign that it was a favorite and used often. I don't really cook the same way today, but they're a lovely connection to the past. And, of course, lovely to linger over.
More lingering out here too. The garden is at its Spring peak right now and I've been spending more time outside admiring the flowers, trying to keep on top of the weeds, and planting a few things. Field daisies are always a welcome sight. They've propagated themselves throughout the yard dotting the landscape with bright spots of light. Each year they fill in a little more. Some may consider them weeds, but give me a choice between weeds with thorns and weeds with flowers and I'll choose the flowers.
See them over there in the background? They've wrapped themselves around the lawn in this way purely by nature's design. The effect is charming! I'm still gushing over that blue Iris too. It's the perfect accent with all the pink and white. Well, my lingering time is just about up. I have lots to do and I know you do too, so I won't keep ya, but I just want to again say, thank you for stepping inside to visit with me here today. You're most welcome anytime!
Last year, toward the end of summer, the Mister came home with a bundle of rhizomes from a friend's backyard and stuck them in the ground, knowing nothing about their color or size. Infact, all that was left were the gnarled, dirt-encrusted root divisions that needed new homes. Well, after they were buried we all promptly forgot about them. Until yesterday, when I saw this.
And this. What lovliness!
they will come.
I'm happy to report that the first bluebird sighting took place this weekend in our own backyard! There's actually a pair of them, and they've been back several times scoping out the location. House-hunting it seems. (These birdhouses were specifically made for them by our friend John.) As luck would have it, Grace was out in *the fortress* with her camera that morning when one landed right in front of her. Somehow, despite utter shock and surprise, she managed to get this one fantastic picture before it flew out of sight. We'll keep ya posted.
I was meandering around my yard yesterday and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this Rhodie; a perfect puff-ball of pink petals. Planted a couple of seasons ago, it has finally come into its own. Worth waiting for don't ya think? Sorry, the official name escapes my muddled mind at the moment. I try and keep a small garden journal for such things, because I'm good at forgetting details like this, however, no time to dig it out this morning. We've got "Bitty", our 3 1/2-year-old grand-daughter staying with us during the day so mama can get the rest she needs.
Baby Olivia is doing fine, no jaundice at all and already gaining weight. We were in sync with matching pink outfits this morning. Sigh. I could stare at this face forever.
I'm glad my bunny tales are giving you all a good laugh. Reading your comments has helped me keep a sense of humor over this silly situation. That last post is just a small example of what’s been going on around here. All these furry rabbits are cute, but it can be alarming to see so many of them running amok and grazing everything in the garden, and knowing that the gestation period for these critters is only about a month.
By summertime most of the rabbits are gone due to predators of one kind or another, but in the meantime, I’ve been covering a few plants with cages and spraying the magic concoction (deer repellent recipe) again this weekend, which also deters rabbits. Yesterday, we were somewhat relieved to see a falcon surveying the backyard.
And fortunately, there are ‘volunteers’ like this borage plant that need "natural pruning". Isn't it amazing how borage (and other plants) can spring up like this from a tiny crack?
I am also on the hunt for this tree spotted in a park over the weekend.
Anyone recognize this variety of dogwood tree?
Spring came bearing gifts this weekend. Sunshine and warmer temperatures being one of them, which was a wonderful surprise as we'd been expecting more rain. Naturally, we dropped everything and bounced out the door. The moment had finally arrived to spruce up the the garden and plant a few things.
Birds like to plant things too. So lovely to find little surprises like this.
To see the fresh glow of little morning faces.
Buds on the crabapple trees ready to burst.
The next sunny day may bring an explosion of fireworks.
Our friend John, recently made bird houses from recycled wood (using crate packaging), and kindly gave us a couple of them. They are primarily for the preservation of the Western Bluebird, which is considered a sensitive species due to loss of natural habitat. They are darling little birds, part of the thrush family related to the Robin, and primarily eat insects--making them beneficial to the garden.
These nesting boxes are made with optimal specifications to attract them, but the English Sparrows sometimes take up residence too. There's a hatch on the side that can be opened to evict them if need be. I'm not sure I could ever do that though.
Within half-an-hour of erecting the first one in our backyard a pair of chickadees was already checking it out. I started getting nervous. Fortunately, and to my relief, they didn't move in.
Still, no sign of bluebirds, but we will keep watching.
The bean tee-pee makes a great hiding place. I think this is the nicest looking one we've ever grown. And of course, there's all those the scrumptious green beans that magically appear, seemingly overnight.
But what I really love, are the herbs!
The colors and textures are at their peak right now.
I tried to weave the subtle shades of the garden into a crazy quilt. This has been a long work in progress--but it's almost to the "finish line". Will share more pictures soon.
Somehow, all seems right with the world in a blueberry field. It's peaceful. There's birdsong. And the berries seem to taste the sweetest. As summer draws to a close, we've been enjoying the last of its seasonal gifts.
We've made our share of muffins, jams, and pies this season, so these will be frozen, to revisit summer, all winter long. Yum.
Update on our backyard garden: SUNFLOWERS!
Each day seems to yield new surprises. We've learned that there's nothing quite as wonderful as keeping a little garden just steps away from the back door. The girls have especially loved tending it and picking their homegrown vegetables to prepare for our meals. I watch them from the window, gathering baskets in hand, and it all makes me so happy.
As the September harvest peaks and a new season sneaks in, I realize, somewhat sadly, that soon our sunny garden days will be over.
However, that can be a good thing. Especially when "zucchini watch" is waning.
The girls think it's hilarious every time one gets away from us. Usually it's only a matter of hours since we last checked on them.
How can something grow so fast?
I'm quickly running out of new and delicious recipes, not to mention friends and neighbors, to give them to.
Our postal carrier is in for a
surprise . . . um, I mean TREAT, when he opens the mailbox tomorrow.
Yes, I'm afraid it's come to that.
If I hadn't lost my momentum with the A-Z Quiche recipes, I could've wrapped it all up neat and tidy with a nice Zucchini Quiche about now. Maybe there's still time. . .
All crazy activity and excitement over secret "project 503", (aka x-treme m.o.h.e.) in our neighboring area has come to an end and things are slowly returning to normal. I believe the show will air in October.
Over here on this homefront...we're having barrels of fun in the garden. Run your mouse over the above two photos for a sneak peek and a backward glance.
Summer is clearly here and it is keeping me so very busy. A good kind of busy, puttering in the yard and visiting places that inspire fun gardening.
The Thyme Garden is such a place, as it demonstrates so beautifully the evolution of a dream come true, or how seeds when planted, will grow. Read the backstory here.
We visited the Thyme Garden recently--and I am still giddy. The coastal range weather was mild and misty and everything seemed to be at its peak bloom.
Who knew there were so many shades of green?
Did you know that there are over 400 species of thyme recorded? Thymon means 'courage' in Greek, and was thought to impart strength and fortitude. Ladies in Medieval Europe gave scarves embroidered with springs of thyme to knights as tokens of bravery.
At one time gardeners thought a thyme garden provided a home for fairies, so they planted one just for them.
I didn't see any fairies, only a small mouse that zipped by.
An incredible 80 acres. Including streams, forest trails, and a small pond which supports their current 'stream project' that provides habitat for the salmon that return to spawn in the fall.
It all just makes me smile. And dream.
This is the hanging berry basket i bought from the farm stand a few weeks ago. I love it and have been fussing over it, moving it around to various sunny spots under the trees on the patio. Yesterday it was really loaded with ripe strawberries and this morning I went out to pick them.
Every berry was gone, and half the plant. Yep. You guessed it. We had visitors. Two bucks. And they even had the gall to lounge around on the grass afterwards patting their bellies and licking their chops.
Talk about wearing out your welcome.
But (sniff) there's still a bit of GOOD NEWS: the roses have not been touched. Not a single bud or flower has been munched. So it's not all bad. And that can only be attributed to the Mister's magic concoction. I truly hope so anyway, because several people have been asking for the recipe, which we are happy to share--I just don't want to make any wild claims. You know, just in case. Here it is:
Deer Repellent Mixture
To 1 quart spray bottle add:
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teas. dish soap liquid
1/4 teas. vegetable oil
5 drops clove oil (available at craft or health food store)
Water to fill container after all ingredients have been added.
It's recommended to spray this mixture once a month, but I have been misting a few times a week, because I'm still not totally convinced this is all it takes. So far it does seem to be working though. Just for fun, I'd love for anyone else to give it a try and tell us what your experience is with repelling deer, bugs, slugs, aphids, or whatever you discover it's good for.
So dear ones, that concludes our garden tour for this week. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for coming along and drying my tears.
And yes, I definitely think I need to plant a snowball bush now. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and information about it. I've been doing a little more research and was surprised to learn that it's a distant cousin of the hydrangea. Which would explain a lot of things, in my mind anyway, like size and shape similarities. I've always been fascinated by how you can enrich the soil and change hydrangea blossoms from pink to blue. Our soil is on the acid side, so I see a lot of blue ones around our area. Last year, I planted a hydrangea start as an experiment. So far, it's not going that well. It faces west and gets too much late sun, to the point where it faints--and I have to revive it with a cool drink of water, and hold it's leafy hand and encourage it to hang on. Oh, the drama! I plan to move it to another location. Right now, it looks rather pitiful surrounded by chicken wire, sometimes draped with a wet sheet, which is even more ridiculous looking. Maybe when its all grown up it will thank me one day with a few glorious blooms.
There are 3 kinds of flower varieties at my house: annuals, perennials, and experimentals. When something survives around here, I feel like throwing a party. It's not easy. Weather aside, we have deer.
Even the lupine, which the deer have never bothered, have become a target. I just happened to catch these spires standing tall and graceful in our backyard this morning. Then looked over and saw a bunch on the other side of the path that were eaten down to the ground.
Oh the sorrow and utter horror of it all. It hurts, it hurts!
Especially because these flowers are friends to endangered butterflies. Like our Fender's Blue Butterfly, particularly. Although it prefers the Kincaid's lupine for laying eggs. I actually spotted it twice (for the first time), in the last week now. It made me so happy to see it!
So, I'm thinking I need to mix up some deer repellant, some of the "magic concoction".
And quick too!! I think I hear rustling in the trees.
I keep seeing these snowball trees everywhere lately. Their fluffy little flower globes are hard to miss. Apparently they attract bees & butterflies. All the more reason to plant one, I say. This one was growing in a neighbor's yard we visited over the weekend. It was twenty years old and about ten feet tall. I just stood right here staring up at it for the longest time.
But it was only one of many mesmerizing wonders that were growing over there.
The entire garden had deer fencing around it. Something I found very encouraging as we continue to work on our own fortress. . .
. . . which is coming along nicely, despite a few small fuzzy distractions.