Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Back To Normal

We love vacations and our Texas vacation was fabulous, but it certainly was wonderful to get home, which also meant getting back to work. Our first project was a two day affair. Last year we had two large large loads of not so prime wood chip mulch hauled in with the idea of mulching the dozens of trees on the property, so we finally got around to that chore on Saturday. Preparation began with mowing around the trees with the lawn mower where the Zero Turn mower didn't reach, then weeding underneath the trees, and even applying some Roundup to get rid of the thistles and bind weeds. 


I ran the rake and the pitchfork. . . .


. . . and he ran the tractor.  Each tree took at least a couple of bucket loads of mulch.




The crab apples look tidier now along the drive way.

Meanwhile out in the vegetable garden:



The garden survived while we were gone; although the weeds did get out of control. I have too much pride to photograph the weeds, so you will have to imagine the worst case scenario. Here are some of the tomatoes. Our home seeded tomatoes were really pathetic when we planted them. The Head Gardener had little faith that they would do anything, so he bought back up plants at the nursery. I said: Just put them in the ground. They will be fine. (I hoped). They are nearly as tall as the nursery grown sets.

Water Water Water


I once asked my dad what his secret was to his successful gardening. He offered a simple answer: water. Watering a large garden always poses a challenge. Here is our system: a timer attached to a hose that will either run the oscillator or the homemade system that allows for two rows to be flood irrigated at a time. We like that system better. The oscillator really does not give enough coverage. We can set the timer for 20 minutes and not have to worry about forgetting to turn off the water--which we do. Right now we use city water, but one of the projects is to convert to using water from the irrigation wells that water the lawn. 



What we do have growing thrives; however, you will notice a pretty big gap. We changed the way we planted peas. Big mistake. Around here St. Patrick's Day is the day designated to plant peas. The seed packet also recommends soaking the seeds over night for better germination. Do you soak your peas? We never have done either one--planted in March or soaked the seeds. Well, you can see why. First in March there just isn't enough moisture to germinated even soaked seeds. And we just neglected to water. Then the weather got so crazy--cold and wet and freezing. So we have a only a hand full of peas.

Nor did we get a lot of other things planted: green beans, beets, carrots.

The green peppers are pretty puny, too, but hopefully with some water they will perk up.

First Sunflower


I planted teddy bear sunflowers, which didn't come up, but look a this little beauty. You can tell that she is a feral (I like that term instead of "volunteer"--indicates a wildness, a free spirit, kinda like our Mo cat). Anyway. I have a nice stand of sunflowers that self seeded from last summer, also feral last summer. She is a real beauty. The first one of the season. I photographed her at the end of the day with end of day sunlight behind her. She has many sisters, so I will  get to enjoy the wild sunflowers all summer.

Starting Over

  So here is the flower bed that we killed off by top dressing with horse manure last fall. Big, Bad mistake. Killed everything. I blogged about it. The head gardener raked the bed clean and hauled off the pooh. We purchased Eco Complete from Home Depot along with topsoil that he will till in, which we should have done to begin with.


Here are my bargain plants from Ft. Collins Nursery. Two butterfly bushes, a bleeding heart, two echinacea, and Buddleia Aleternifolia, a butterfly bush. We went to two nurseries on Sunday, but there really were slim pickins. The plants are long and leggy, stressed from the heat, and still very expensive; however, we were able to buy the small containers at Ft. Collins Nursery at half price.


So while the Head Gardener worked Monday ditching corn for his friend, I headed to town to find more bargains. I love Lowes. They have the best selection and the best prices.

Gold Rush Yellow Shasta Daisy
Lupin (half off)
Delphinium
Geum



I love this geum.


Honeysuckle to grow up the blackberry trellis.


And the herbs: Parsley, sage, and thyme (one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel tunes)
 And a pot each of basil and lavender.

I was reading on Pinterest a post on natural herbal remedies for a variety of poultry ailments. Quite interesting. Herbs to increase laying, herbs to relax, to fend off rodents, as antioxidants; for example Basil as an antibacterial, sage as an antioxidant, lavender to relieve stress. So I purchased 5 that I will grow in pots by the house that I can use in the kitchen and in the hen house.



 Speaking of Pinterest. Do you Pin? I know that I follow some of you and some of you follow me. Nice harmless fun, unless, of course you get addicted and find yourself pinning at 11:00 at night when you should be getting your beauty rest.

I never was much on succulents until my daughter introduced them to me. We have this private little nursery in Ft. Collins that we go to each year where she buys her dwarf plants and alpine plants for her little garden. She helped me get my little succulent garden started in the front around the water garden. They have done so well, that I planted some in that back patio bed where they have done quite well. I like the combination of the sharp leaved hens and chicks with the softness of the delicate dianthus flowers and the lamium



So I decided to plant my lady's head with succulents. Well, let me tell you just how hard it was find succulents. I am speculating, of course, that Pinterest has inspired many to plant beautiful little succulent gardens. So now that I want to increase my succulent garden, they are suddenly very hard to find. I found these two at Lowes, and though they are bigger than I wanted, they will do.

I also have been gathering plates and dishes at the thrift shops to make some of those gorgeous glass plate flowers and I am having a very hard now finding pretty dishes for that project. Blame it on Pinterest--everybody else wants to make those pretty flowers, too.

One Year Old



And finally, my sweet little Lily Ann turned one. I gave my camera (yes the Cannon) to Ellie to take pictures while I videoed. She took the top photo. I love it. The composition is perfect with sister Lucy looking on and mom coaching the blowing of the candle. Jen made Devil's Food cupcakes frosted with cream cheese frosting topped with fresh raspberries. Lily loved the raspberries so much that she really didn't eat much cake.

It's hot today. I have been in the basement all day cleaning my craft area, putting away stuff I moved out of my office, and blogging. Once it cools off, I think we will work on the back garden, tilling in the Eco Complete and hopefully getting my little plants settled in their new home. I'll share the results. 

Thank you for all of your kind thoughts on our loss of Max Dog. He was the greatest dog (but then aren't all of our dogs). We miss him so much. Any second we expect him to be under foot. Your kind thoughts helped.

So what are your projects as summer really begins to heat up? 

Stay cool, drink plenty of fluids, and keep the mosquitoes off.








Friday, June 21, 2013

Road Trip: Destination Deep in the Heart of Texas


Every time we decide to make the trip to Texas, we have the same discussion. It goes something like this: 
       Me: I think we should fly this time.
       He: I thought we'd drive.
       Me: If we fly we could get there in just a couple of hours.
       He: But then we wouldn't get to see the country.
       Me: We've made the trip before. We have seen the country.
       He: I'd rather drive.
       Me: But it'll take at least 18 hours.
       He: We'll stop for the night this time.



Somewhere in the middle of New Mexico. 


More New Mexico.  My plan was to blog along the way, so I used my iPad to take photos, as you can see in the mirror.



Texas: a windmill farm. I thought about blogging about alternative energy sources--some day. 

After 18 hours we arrived at our destination. 

We had an opportunity to visit a Texas Ranch. The rancher and his wife have a small herd of cows. Big Mamma with her long horns looks pretty docile as she rest in the mid day heat. She is a corriente, not a Texas a long horn, but a descendant of Mexican wild cows. 


Our hosts were quite proud of their garden, especially their corn. The rancher began work on the garden in January by tilling virgin grass land and fencing the acre plot with a fence strong enough and high enough to keep the deer out of the garden. For their first time garden, their results are impressive. They planted the usual garden fare: tomatoes, squash,  pumpkins, a varitey of peppers, okra, cucumbers, and sweet corn. They planted strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. They also planted 21 fruit trees. And potatoes. Have I left anything out?  They planted 7 rows of sweet corn, 22 feet long.



This gardener spent weeks designing and installing a rather sophisticated automatic watering system. Drip for the fruit trees, and sprinklers for the corn. Timed to water at the same time every other day, the sprinkler system helps the garden thrive, though the Roma tomatoes suffer from end root. We discussed the cause of end rot: not enough calcium or irregular watering. Any other suggestions?


Lucky us. The corn was ready to be picked. With raccoons lurking in the woods just waiting for the corn to sweeten, this  rancher was determined to pick his corn before the varmints did. Raccoons can ruin a corn field in one night. They are picky eaters, too, generally taking one bite from each ear, ruining the whole ear. 


So we helped husk corn. I believe the count was 287 ears of corn. 


Did I mention the zinnias? At the end of the tomato row was a beautiful stand of pink zinnias covered with butterflies. This one is the gulf fritillary.



Next week the gardener and his wife will probably harvest their potato crop. He dug 4 while we there and I think he was surprised at the size and quality of potato.His wife served us a Texas style dinner entirely prepared with food that they had produced in their garden, including their own range fed beef, a cross between the corriente and Angus. No antibiotics, no chemicals, no processed food.

 The ranch has a lot of wildlife, especially deer. I caught this fawn darting across the yard.



The deer are so beautiful, not too tame, curious, and cautious.


Turkey vultures silhouetted against an evening sky. 


Who does not love the cardinal? We don't have cardinals in Colorado, so in all of the trips that I made to Texas over the years, my one goal has been to photograph a cardinal in the wild. 

 

This bucket list item can be checked off. Not only did I get a decent photo of the male in the wild, but photo is even in focus. I used my 70-300mm lens and sometimes I don't get the image focused.



The first cardinal is in a tree near the house, while this photo was taken in the woods. We drove the gator (a small 4 wheel drive unit) down into the woods where they fill a feeder with corn to feed the deer. We park the gator, release the corn in the feeder and wait. When the feeder dispenses the corn, the wildlife slowly begin to come in a bit of snack.



This cardinal sits on top of the feeder to get his corn. Not a very focused shot because we were losing daylight.

And who do you suppose this little miss is? We toured the Blue Bell ice cream factory one afternoon. If you haven't ever had Blue Bell ice cream, it beats Ben and Jerry'S.




Just as the sign says, the world's smallest Catholic Church. Located on a busy highway in the middle of  pretty much nowhere.




One last look at the ranch. It was hard to tell our friends goodbye. I wanted to stay. There is a peacefulness and tranquility that Texas country life offers. While we think we live in the country here in Colorado, there is the constant highway noise, barking dogs, the continuous trains that rumble through town, so it really isn't as very quiet here. But at the ranch we hear the breeze, the cardinals announcing their territory, along with a whole host of wild birds. We hear the grasses rustle in the late evening, the locusts in the woods. We see abundant wildlife: armadillos, possums, raccoons, and fire flies. I saw fire flies for the first time--golden flashes of fairy light in the darkening forest. I felt like a kid again.

We said our goodbyes, hoping to return some day.

Somewhere in the middle of the Texas prairie, headed north  before we stopped for the night, I announced: Next time we will fly.

The hardest part really about traveling whether you drive or you fly, is leaving your garden and home behind. Luckily we have a college student who lives with us, and though she is taking summer classes and working, she did have time to look after the chickens and Sundance and she did some watering too. We also had our nephew stopping by to water the garden. We stopped in Dalhart, TX for the night. I woke up in the middle of night panicking over the gold fish in the front pond. The little water garden is over crowded right now and with the hot weather I worried that the water would evaporate and the fish would die. What if no one watered the hens? And Mo cat. He doesn't like dog that has come stay for the summer so he hides out in the barn. What if he ran off? We had just lost our dog Max; I couldn't bear to loss another pet.

We got home about 2:00 in the afternoon to find the grass brown, the weeds knee high and taking over, but everything was alive an well. The fish were good, Mo eventually showed up, the horse greeted us right away, but only because he wanted to be let out in the pasture. 




I was afraid that I'd miss this lovely miniature lily bloom. Isn't it just the sweetest little lily?


I dead-headed the roses today. They are at their height of their first bloom. Hubby mowed, watered, and weeded. I went shopping for a birthday gift. 

We are getting back to normal.

Tomorrow we will hit the garden--wage war on the weeds.

We will end the day with little Lily's birthday party. She will be one June 25th. 

I am sure that you have seen the news. Colorado is on fire again this summer. Currently twelve wild fires are burning. We came through Wassenberg, CO down in the southern part of the state yesterday as the fire at there at Spanish Peak was just getting a good start. But we are all praying for the small village South Fork population 500 with two fires headed toward it. There is little hope that the town can be saved. 

Well, dear readers, I hope in my absence you have not forgotten me. You will find me now in the garden and at the garden centers bargain hunting. I'll be catching up on my blog reading in the next few days. I hope that your garden is thriving. Have a fabulous week-end.






Sunday, June 9, 2013

Winners

Last week was granny camp with the grandsons. Little four year old Nathan made his first solo trip.  He has weepy night the first night, but he adjusted easily being without mommy and daddy. All city kids need grandparents who live in the country.



Of course, they always want to drive the EZ-Go. The EZ-Go is for work. Let's mulch a tree. Pull up over there next to the pile of mulch and give me load. (We  learned that it is much easier and quicker to get Grandpa to use the bucket on the tractor!)


Life at the Garden Spot is not all work and no play, so we took the boys to the archery range for a little target shooting. Jacob started shooting a bow when he was five. He's a pretty good shot.



Nathan got his first lesson. He was so cute. If his arrow reached the 10 yd target, he'd exclaim: "Now that was nice shot." TCBY for the little winners.


Iris


The iris are blooming. Who doesn't love iris? My love affair with them began as a kid. On the old farm, they grew in purple/lavender clumps year after year mingled with bright orange poppies. Even as kid I'd take my Kodak Brownie and snap photos of them. Now, every so often we dig up a clump of iris that gets too big or stops blooming. We separate the new toes from the main rhizome. There are always left over rhizomes, more than we use. We moved our collection of iris from the old house to add to the ones that were already growing here. What we don't give away or set in the garden bed get planted in the Iris Patch where they live neglected amongst the weeds to just do their thing--grow and multiply. We can easily dig up a clump or two for a friend. I love they way look with neighbor's hayfield as a backdrop. It is really hard to kill an iris.









We started iris in front of the chicken house and at the far end of the garden last summer. They bloomed for the first time this year. 


This is an odd clump. It has two varieties entwined with each other. 




Some years ago, hubby bought 5 iris that were Dykes Medal Winners. Check out the website. 2012 is gorgeous. I want one.



Meet Edith Wolford, 1993 winner. She is the only remaining one of the five. They didn't do well. Maybe it was where we planted them at the old house (I take back the comment that you can't hardly kill an iris). I have also purchased iris from C and T Iris at Eaton, CO. I bought 3 last year and got two free ones from the garden. One will bloom in a few days.



Most of the iris in our gardens, however, go unnamed, passed from gardener to gardener or planted by previous gardeners. We just take them for granted, not really thinking about them until they begin to put on their show every spring all over town. We drive by some fancy clump across town wondering where we could find that exact iris. We don't know their names, but maybe we can find the color. C and T, by the way, has 2,000+ different varieties, including re blooming iris.  We really shouldn't have to buy iris, but some of us just cannot resist!

Digging and separating iris seems to be foreign to some gardeners. I know my mother in law thought I was crazy when I announced that I was going to dig iris and separate them. On the farm, ya' know, they never dug iris. They let 'em grown. Years ago as a new home owner and beginning gardener, I a met a lady who had an iris patch. She taught me a bit about growing iris:

1. They do not require (or even like) fertilizer.
2. The main rhizome grows toes, with each toe blooming only once. So clumps do need to be dug up and the new toes separated from parent rhizome. Sometimes you will find rotted rhizomes, so you simply trim away the icky stuff.
3. Dig iris after they have bloomed. We dig ours after the 4th of July.
4. Sometimes you can't even give them away. When you separate the toes from the main rhizome, you will end up dozens more  than than what you need, thus our iris patch. I took boxes full of newly cut rhizomes to the teachers at work. They loved the freebies.

I had a substantial collection at the old house; here I am trying to reestablish my collection. My new additions last summer got pretty beat up from our crummy spring weather, so instead of setting blooms they had to put their energy to repairing themselves. One will bloom. Can't wait to see which one. Hello Darkness (so dark a purple that it is nearly black), perhaps.



Would you look at Miss Kim, a lilac tree planted last summer. She's a winner, too. 


 I wanted something tall in the courtyard. She is now in full bloom, scenting the front entry along with the roses. She has not disappointed at all. Once she is done blooming, I'll cut off all of the spent blooms and will try to prune her so that she grows a nice spherical head.


We have had our gold fish farmed out to the next door neighbors, but they have moved and sold their home, so we are bring our fish home to live in the tiny pond in the front. They have grown quite  huge. Soon they will have their permanent home. The gold and white koi belongs to the neighbor, and it is going to another home. But he is a handsome fellow.


The little Mermaid sings to them.



Do you ever just do something off the wall, a "what if?" in the garden? Like take an old dead cane from the blackberry and just stick it in the ground to see if it would grow? Dumb. Early in the spring we trimmed the dormant blackberry and tied up the canes. The canes were beginning to show new growth, but suffered badly with the late spring, killing the new leaves that were forming. I gave the blackberry another hard pruning back to the new growth that was coming from the ground up. On a whim, I poked 4 canes in the soil just for the heck of it. Just to see what would happen. And guess what? One of the canes actually sprouted. Really. I have proof!

 No ordinary stick in the mud!


Shaded with dill weed and rag weed (yes, I need to do some weeding), the new little bush looks pretty healthy. This little guy wins the Take a Chance award.


Who doesn't love playing with water? 

On another Note 

 We lost our old dog this week. I catch myself going to check on him or scanning the yard looking for him or worrying that hubby will forget to look for him before he moves the truck or tractor. The house is very quiet. No more raspy breathing, or his collar jingling, or toe nails clicking on the kitchen floor. No more begging for pizza crust or a piece of that cheese stick. Max was a dog pound dog that his guy rescued 14 years ago. Our daughter worked at the USDA while she was in college and one of her co workers did Dalmatian rescue. She told Heather about a German short hair pup at the Greeley dog pound that no one wanted because he was a hunting dog. Destined to put down, the dog only a few days left. I remember laying bed with hubby discussing the possibility. We had lost our other short hair. He decided that he wanted a register male--. Yeah. $400-$500 fancy huntin' dog out of some fancy Nebraska kennel.

Monday night he didn't come home at his usual time from work. I could always set the clock by him. When he did arrive, he walked in the room and I asked him why he was so late. He had that look. I remember saying to him, "You didn't?" "Yeah I did." He went out to the truck and was quite literally dragged into the house by this 11 month old pup, nose blowing green snot, with a bad case of kennel cough, and really bad manners--well, no manners. It was not love at first sight for me, but for hubby he saw something special in that young pup. It did take years to train him, but he was smart and a fast learner. Max was a gentle spirit. He loved everyone. He loved kids because they would play with him, but he knew that they also carried food in their chubby little hands. He was kind to the cats, though he loved to flush them and tease the heck out them.

He lived a long, healthy, spoiled life. He was always by our side. He gardened with us, he slept with us, he ate with us, he camped with us.  I say "us", but Gerald was his pal, his guy.

He got sick in the night. When I got up, he was laying in the middle of the floor and when he stood up, he just wasn't right. I called to him and he just had this glassy, far away  look in his eye and was pretty much non responsive. Hubby put him in his bed and that's where he stayed until he was done. Our vet in town was out of the office and our traveling vet was traveling, so Max just silently slipped away.



 He had arthritis, so his favorite place was in front of fireplace where he'd stretch out and sleep until he got so hot I had to turn off the heat.


He was German Short Haired pointer--a bird dog. Hubby doesn't really hunt birds much, but he did take young Max out to our farmer friend's wheat stubble where Max flushed his first pheasant. That was way back in the day when Max was a runner--a runaway dog. Hubby took aim and hit the bird. The next challenge: would Max retrieve, or run, or eat the bird? Instinctively, he brought the pheasant and dropped it at hubby's feet, just as though he had been professionally trained.

Hubby did get his registered short hair with field trial champions in his line. The Humane Society had the owner who gave him up call us, so we knew his story; he'd had two owners who just didn't understand how to deal with him. He was registered and came from a long line of champions. Even though he was never professionally trained, he was our champ. While he never competed professionally, he won our hearts.

Another dog? Hubby bought his first short hair Baron from a breeder 36 years ago when Heather was just a baby. We adopted the second one Ginger after we lost Baron from the Greeley pound. We had Heather's  golden retriever when we got Max. We've always had a dog, so it is going to be really odd not to have one following us around. At this moment in time, no. No more dogs. So we are down to 2 cats, 9 hens, 1 horse, and a few gold fish. The house is very quiet.

We are traveling this week. Headed to somewhere deep in the heart of Texas to visit my brother and sister in law for a few days. I hope they will let me blog about their garden as first time gardeners. They are private souls and I will respect that. I downloaded a blogger app for the iPad, so hopefully I can touch base with ya all.  (See, I can feel that Texas drawl already).

Hope everyone has a great week. The temperatures are beginning to heat up. It will be in the 90s this week. I guess summer really is here.

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