Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Day in the Park

Yesterday was the hottest day of the summer so far. Probably 95+, yet I met with friends from work whom I haven't seen in more than a month since school ended. We decided to have lunch at Glenmere Park in Greeley, one of Greeley's little treasures, close to the university. Of course I took my camera and my telephoto lens. The photos are fair, a bit over exposed, but it was exciting to see the water fowl and photograph them. I need more practice, admittedly.  
The Pavilion 

Cattle Egret: Sports a bit of orange during mating season 
We are not real sure what this bird is. I saw movement and took a picture. Given the location of the bird in the shade underneath the rocks pecking in the water, I am not surprised that the bird is hard to see, and thus hard to identify. We are thinking some sort of Rail, Clapper which is found more in California or a Virginia Rail, which is more wide spread.
Cattle Egret in flight
Snowy Egret

Snow Egret all fluffed up

Carp in the lily pond
Glenmere Park is home to a variety of wildlife: from the carp in the lily pond, the crayfish, bull frogs I heard one), to dragon flies, a variety of ducks and geese, both wild and domestic, and a large variety of song birds and other water fowl. The egrets are nesting. With binoculars we could see a nest of baby cattle egrets being fed by their parents. The egrets were quite active, flying hither and to collecting food to feed their young. I grew up on two different small farms where dad nurtured wild life. He built lakes and ponds, stocking them with a variety of fish, turtles, and bull frogs (oh the stories I could tell about his adventures catching bullfrogs to bring home). He grew water lilies, having at one the largest collection of water lilies in Denver. Yesterday while I walked with my friends around the pond, dripping in sweat, swatting mosquitos, dying of thirst (forgot water), I returned to a piece of my childhood. It was the best day.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Week in Photos

Granny Boot Camp ended with Jacob's mom and little brother Nathan (2) spending the week-end. It's great fun to teach the little ones about hens and horses.


The child shows no fear.

The blogs that I follow have inspired me to learn more about photography. I've always had a passion for taking pictures, starting as a young kid using mother's square box kind of a camera. Once I had my teaching job, one of the first splurges was a used Pentax Spotmatic 35 mm SLR. I still have it and it was faithful, full proof, and my best friend. One pal I hung around with spent a summer shooting cowboys at rodeos--in the arena, while they rode their bucking horses and bulls. I was never brave enough or fast enough to get in the arena. MJ's aim was to sell the photos to the cowboys. So she'd shoot the photos then we'd go home to her basement darkroom and develop the photos. I dragged that heavy Pentax to England and Ireland along with a little point and shoot, taking over 400 hundred Kodachromes. On our last trip to England, I went digital and the Pentax has been retired.

Today I use 3 cameras: two Olympus point and shoots and my Canon EOS Rebel that I absolutely love. But sometimes I long for the days of the old Pentax. At one time I understood f. stops, focal point, and aperture settings. Today I seem to rely more on the automatic features. Some of my best macros shots are taken with the little Olympus, though. I want to buy a macro for the Cannon and maybe even a larger telephoto. Currently I use the 75-300mm that I bought with the camera to take pictures of birds, but I could use a bigger lens. With the digital age came the ability to edit our photos. I use Picasa for my collages, but rely on iPhotos to do other editing. I have Photoshop on my work laptop, but it is far too advanced for me. When we get our basement finished (We are finishing 1900 sq. ft. of basement--one large room with a craft, sewing, library area. I haven't blogged about the project, for who wants to read about drywall and paint, anyway), I hope to set up some sort of little photo studio. Enough of the narrative. Here is my week in photos:
 I want to photograph flowers with a black background. So I did a bit of an Internet search. Simple. Use black velvet as the background and the camera's own flash. I set a box on my dining table and laid the black fabric over the box. Only instead of black velvet, I bought black fleece because it was cheaper at $8 a yard instead of the $15 a yard for velvet. The two, however, are not the same. The fleece does not have the sheen, richness, or texture as velvet, so when fabric is half off, I'll buy the velvet. But the results weren't too bad.  I need more practice. My lovely Gertrude Jekyll, my only David Austin, looks near perfect. Any one have any suggestions on how to improve my shots?




I call her The Sleeping Mermaid. I bought her years ago at the Renaissance Fair. She is just a plaque that I had hanging on our fence at the old house. 


I found this Lenox teapot at a junk store for $35. Had to have the rest of the tea set. The other pieces I found on Replacement.com. No flash, so the gold edges are a bit out of focus, giving an interesting effect.


Hot Papaya. Shooting the garden after dark will give a black background, too.


This alum is amazing. I'll add more photos of it later.


Try shooting your garden at night. The sprinkler had just shut off, so the garden was shinny and wet.


I nearly stepped on Peter Rabbit. I went back into the house to get the camera, expecting little bunny to have left the area. But he was still there, frozen in place. We have quite a few cotton tails. When they are threatened, they freeze in place until they feel it is safe to flee and then they make a mad dash for their home in the neighbors' wind break, running as fast as their little legs can take them across the pasture.


Rabbit on the Run

And that was last week. We'll see what this week brings. What are your photo tricks and challenges? For you all inspire me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ft. Collins Junior League Garden Tour



Jacob's first trolley ride.
Granny Bootcamp 2011 has come to an end. I learned a lot about life and the ways of an 8 year old boy. The house is quiet, though still not totally but back together after the little guests. Mom came up from Denver with the 2 year old Friday night. We were all up early Saturday morning to attend the Ft. Collins (CO) Junior League Garden Tour.  There were 7 homes on the tour, all on the same street or just a block or two off. The gardens were in an older part of town that has been rescued from college rentals. The neighborhood is a lovely area with the old craftsman style homes, many of which have been restored to their former grandeur. The streets are line with ancient trees maple, ash, and Linden trees. Daughter (the arborist) said some of the trees must be over a 100 years old. We found the first home easily and were prepared to walk the route, when the trolley stopped. We hopped on and rode to the next house.



The trolley ran in Ft. Collins from 1919-1957. In 1977,  its restoration began. The trolly runs from the city court house in Old Town west several blocks to the city park. Adults pay $2.00 and children pay $1. Rides the day of the garden tour were free for those who had tickets to the tours. It saved a lot of walking, and for us stroller pushing.



At one of the houses, Rabbit Shadow Green House, a small nursery in Loveland, had a free activity for the children. They were able pick out a couple of plants and plant them in a clay pot. 


The ladies were so nice. Jacob's first pot fell and broke and they kindly let him pot another plant.


What a little trouper he was, following his mamma, grandma, and grandpa around for 3 hours looking at plants. 

 I had to take this frog's picture. It was just so cute, seemed to have real attitude.


This shrub rose was so beautiful. I used the macro on my little point and shoot digital Olympus. The rose was not labeled, so I have not a clue what it was. I want one, though


I took this photo not for the beautiful soft peachy climbing rose, but for the American flag. I love to photograph the American flag. Nothing quite as American than roses and flags.

 The Junior League organizes a wonderful garden tour each year as a fund raising project to the support women's and children's charities. One thing I always look forward to is their rhubarb punch. It is so good and very refreshing. I'm sure they won't mind me sharing their recipe:

10 cups chopped rhubarb
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 (6 oz,) cans frozen lemonade
9 cups of water

1. Bring ingredients to boil and simmer until rhubarb is soft
2. Strain liquid through sieve or food mill
3. Disgard leftover mash or use it make jam, pie, etc.
4. Cool liquid concentrate. (May also be frozen)

To serve punch: mix concentrate with one 2 liter bottle of lemon-lime soda (7-up). Serves 20.

On a final note, an answer the question How to get a violet to re-bloom: The number one reason your violet has stopped blooming most likely is because it is not getting enough light. Place your violet in a sunny window that has filter light from either a shady tree or a sheer curtain. They cannot tolerate direct sun light because it will burn and discolor the leaves. You can grow very healthy violets that never bloom if they don't have that filtered sun light. They also do well in an office under artificial light. There are other reasons why your violet might not bloom, too. Check out this web site for more information on Why My Violet Won't Bloom.Violets will take a rest and not bloom, nor do  they don't like to be moved around when they may stop blooming until they adjust to a new spot. Keep these simple growing tips in mind:
*water from the bottom weekly with tepid water
*use a commercial violet fertilizer with each watering
*place in a northern window or one with filtered sun light
*read up on violets; there a dozens of web pages with good instructions for keeping and even propagating these beautiful little house plants.

It is supposed to finally get hot today: 91. I say "finally" because it has been quite cool and windy, and not very summery. I have a fine crop of weeds to tackle. Happy gardening to all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

African Violets Part 2, Giant Hostas, and a Bad Moon Risin'

This little one loves to bake cookies.
This is grandchildren week at the Garden Spot, a week set aside where nothing gets done except play, lots of play. We drove to Denver late Sunday afternoon to pick up Jacob (8) so that he could spend the week with us. On Tuesday Ellie (4) and Lucy (2) came to spend the night, too. We baked chocolate chip cookies, roasted marsh mellows on the gas grill, played with a tub of Barbies, mastered the fine art of building with Legos, and tonight home made ice cream. The little girls went home last night, and I was just plain worn out. Today Jacob and I made videos of his "tricks" on the swing set. Little gardening gets done when there are children in the garden. Ellie did find a packet of baby lima bush beans, so I let her plant a short row.  
Hay

The Head Gardener got his hay bales picked up today. While the cut hay got rain on and the baled hay got more rain, the hay doesn't look too damaged. It is now nicely stacked in the barn.

African Violets Part 2


My post a few weeks ago on African Violets received a bit of attention with posts ranging from "I love African Violets," to "Once they are done blooming, I throw them out." Oh please, don't do that for a healthy one will bring years of joy, as will this one that I re-rooted. It took several weeks for the violet to grow a healthy new root system. I planted it in a clay pot using African violet soil. I prefer the clay pots to plastic, but I always dip the top of the clay pot in melted paraffin (the kind that you use to seal jelly jars) because if the leaves rest on the clay they will rot if the clay rim is not sealed. 

Ihave two more violets that need attention, so I worked on a second one, one that had been my mother-law's. It's stem had grown rather crocked, so I cut it down, stripped off the lower leaves, hoping to create a more symmetrical plant. I placed it in an empty spice bottle and took the healthy leaves that I stripped off in water to root. I will get a lot of new babies, more than I can possible use--well, we see.


An otherwise healthy violet that I hated to mess with, but it will be much healthier and more attractive once it is replanted
















On the Road, Again

 Last week-end I traveled 115 miles east to a little village on the Colorado prairie, Haxtun, to spend the week-end scrap booking with my dear friend Sherry. Now, there is a gardener. Her story really is no different than the rest of us, she loves to garden and has created her own little paradise in her back yard, but what is so admirable is her tenacity, patience, and endurance. She has had over a dozen back surgeries and deals with a considerable amount of back pain daily, yet she digs, she hauls, she carries, she bends, she stoops, she lifts, she plans, and she plants. She does get help with the the hard chores such as rototilling and removing sod; she also hires two school boys to do other really strenuous work, but for the most part she has created a beautiful garden all on her own. Some years ago she asked me what she could put at the back of the lawn underneath a big cedar tree, something that would grow in shade and hid the back of the neighbor's shed. I suggested hostas and bleeding hearts. I hadn't seen her garden in a few years because I just haven't made the trip out there in the summer. And boy was I in for a shock. The hostas are 3 feet across and 3 feet high. I asked her how she got them to grow so big: "Lots of water and slug bait."


There is much more to Sherry's garden, but I got busy scrap booking and didn't get out to take anymore pictures. I think that she should join Blog Land, but she really isn't a computer geek like the rest us; I guess as long as she has me to blog for her, then that's all that counts.

There's A Bad Moon Risin'


Hubby called me out last night to look at the moon. It was just coming up over the horizon, big and orange. I had fun taking pictures of it as it rose above the trees. I am not too good at using the camera at night; the results were fair. 

This week-end: the Ft. Collins Garden Tour. Can't wait to tour the six gardens on the tour. Jacob's mom will be up Friday night with the 2 year old, so more play and no work. You all have a good week-end.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rainy Day Rose


We had rain last night accented with a bit of hail along with loud thunder and lightening. The hail did little damage, thankfully, but the rain rather ruined the hay. Bummer. I love walking the garden after rain, camera in hand. Have a great week end. 









Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Productive Weekend

We did have a busy week-end tackling projects that need to be done, marking each one off of the list, so that we can get on to the next. I put each project in a collage.

Project: Cutting Hay


Our hay field is about 2.5 acres. The previous owner, also a horse owner, had the foresight to plant good grass hay. The grass stood quite tall, thick, and lush. We have a custom cutter cut it; now it lays neatly in rows to dry out. Of course, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature not to rain on the downed hay and spoil it. Hopefully it will be dry enough to bail by the week-end. We should get about 70 bails, enough to keep Sun Dance well fed through the winter. We will get a second cutting in August.

Project: Saving the Water Lilies


At the old house we had a 750 gallon water garden. We brought our water lilies with us to the Garden Spot. Since we have yet to dig our new water garden, the lilies live in a horse tank. 

1. the tank has fouled, growing red scummy, gunky stuff
2. loaded up the pots in the EZGO gold cart, rather ratty looking, but alive 
3. dumped them out of the pot and washed off gunk and old soil
4. using a sharp knife, I cut divided the tubers, getting into several small plants
5. prepared a clean pot
6. added plant food to the newly potted lily
7. covered them with just plain garden soil
8. eleven new plants
9. back in the horse tank with clean water

As long as the water is kept clean and fresh, the lilies will grow and do well. I have two colors, a yellow which I purchased and a dainty white one that I transplanted from my dad's pond. I was told that it was one that he had brought from a friend's pond in Texas, so it has special meaning and I don't want to lose it. It will probably even bloom in the tank; it did last year. I have more lilies than I will need in the new water garden, so I will give some away. They are quite easy to keep and divide and share. We have a third one loaned out to the next door neighbor. It will probably need to be divided too. Hopefully we can get the new pond dug in the next few weeks. 

Project: Organizing Seeds


How do we end up with so many seeds? I got tired of the pop corn can full of seed packets, so I sorted them, clothes pinned them together, and stuck them in an old tupperware bread box. Over at Animal Instincts, the writer wrote several weeks ago about attending a seed exchange at their local library. What a fabulous idea. I have enough seeds to plant dozens of gardens for years to come, but at least the packets are now well sorted. Then it was time for lunch, a nice pasta salad. I add a can of salmon the the pasta, veggies, and Zesty Italian dressing for a light, healthy lunch.

New Visitors Just Passing Through


The ratty, old snowball bush that my horticultureist daughter says has aphids sure provided a banquet for the birds headed to the high country. The Bullock's Oriole won't hang around and neither will the Yellow Warbler. We will see him again in the fall as he heads back south. I remember when my grandson was about three showing him aphids on the underside of a leaf. I asked him what eats aphids and taught him the best answer: lady bugs. So from then on I would ask him from time to time: What eats aphids? He would give a big grin and proudly answer: Lady Bugs. I did see a lady bug wandering on one of the sickly snowballs and hoped that the birds wouldn't eat her too. 

So. It was busy week-end. We also made a trip Ft. Collins Nursery and bought Black Knight butterfly bush, a new peony, and a clematis that will bloom all summer. 

 I am taking this next week-end off. Headed to my friend's home 2 hour away to spend the week-end scrap booking. We will cut 'n crop, laugh, stay up way too late, and let the world go by. I will probably have a few pictures of my friend's garden to share. cheers.

Monday, June 6, 2011

If things look a bit different, I have been playing around with the blog tonight. I wanted to create a new blog for a reunion of cousins. We are meeting here at the Garden Spot the end of July to work on family genealogy, so I wanted to create a blog page to show them how we can create a family blog. Not knowing what I was doing, I messed up The Garden Spot blog-- mainly my profile. I guess I needed to rewrite it anyway. We have been quite busy the last few days, so I will catch up on the blog when I get a moment. Right now I am obsessed with this family reunion. You know how that goes: when you get something going on in your mind, you tend to neglect other things. See you soon.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Correction

I just popped in to make a correction on a bird identification in my last post. I misidentified the little guy on my snowball bush as a virginia warbler. Not so.  It is a Macillivray's Warbler, a shy fellow who makes his home in the lowland riparian areas, aspen forests, and the foothills. We will see them in urban and suburban gardens as well.