Saturday, July 30, 2011

Which Came First? The Egg or the Nest?

 Last spring we (I say "we," but it was actually hubby who did all of the work and planning) bought a dozen baby chicks, converted the storage shed to a chicken coop, bought a chain link dog run on craigslist. com, and then we waited for our first egg. . . and waited . . . and. . . . I had been telling the chicken master that he needed to get his nesting boxes built or he'd go out to the hen house one day and find eggs all over. He came in the house the other evening and asked me to go with him---and to bring my camera. The nesting boxes had been installed and then he showed me the little brown egg. Indeed when he went to install the nesting boxes, there in the sawdust was this little brown pullet egg.

He fluffed the nests with hay (he says chickens like hay)

and today there was a second egg. 

And then there were two

The hens bring a lot of interest to The Garden Spot. It's fun just to sit and watch them peck and scratch in the dirt and the hay and to listen to them cluck and chatter. Even the dog likes to watch them, though he goes into his bird dog behavior and tries to flush them as though he were out in the field hunting pheasants. 

But not all is right in the Garden Spot

We have some very sick tomatoes. While some are quite healthy and producing, 4 are quite ill. I finally convinced the gardener to pull the worst one out. In doing a bit of research, I 'd say that they have some sort of fungus due perhaps to too much rain? Too much heat? Not disease resistant? Who knows. What a disappointment. The tomato plants were all doing so well this year and now these sick ones. 

And these murderous creatures are back. I wrote about them last year. They are called assassin bugs. They sit on flower heads waiting for unsuspecting bees and butterflies to land on the flower seeking a quick bite; instead, they are bitten by the assassin, injected with venom and killed. While there are not as many as there were last year, I so hoping that they wouldn't return. 

What better way to end the day with God's Promise.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Project: Water Garden

Early last spring Fer at My Little Garden in Japan asked what projects we had planned for the coming season. I had quite a list and at the top of the list were two water features. At our old house, we had a 750 gallon pond where gold fish thrived, reproduced, and lived happily. We also had a nice collection of water lilies. In the front yard on a burm we had another very small pre-formed water feature in a garden shaded with aspen trees. Because the sound of water attracts bird, we always had a great variety of birds coming to drink and take little baths, including migrating birds that were passing through Colorado. I have missed my water gardens. So, Saturday hubby installed the first water feature in the court yard to the front entry of the house. We bought the pre-formed tub last year, he had a pump on hand, and I since I brought my water lilies with me, I had one to put in the new little pond.

A clean slate

Careful Measurement

Does it fit yet?

A good start

A lot of digging and then shaving away a bit at a time.

Making sure the tub is level.

Adding a mound for the water fall.

Raking the mound smooth

Wow.  We now have the sound of water in the yard again. I have missed my little water gardens. 

One water lily rescued from the horse tank. We divided them earlier in the summer and this one has been blooming nicely.
A nice start. Later we added a miniature cattail and 2 water hyacinths.  Next we need to add a few oxygenating plants and then we will be ready for fish.  My gold fish have gone to live next door in the neighbor's pond. I had about 30 gold fish, so I will bring 3 or 4 home in a few days. Now we have the landscaping to figure out. I'd like some sort of shade tree because the house faces west and the afternoon sun is just plain hot. 
Adding a bit of bling.
Hubby's reward: apple pie. 

Do you see a face? A grumpy face? He loved it, said it was best apple pie that I have ever made. Truth is I only make one  each summer, so of course it was good.
One water feature in, another to go. The next one will be quite a project. We haven't decided where we want to put it yet. It will be about a 1,000 gallons, but we probably won't start it until next summer.  And it will probably require more than one apple pie.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shakespeare on Weeds

We weeded the centered circle this morning while it was still cool. It had rained at 5 A.M., so the ground was wet and the little boogers came out easily, but there are so many of them. With our energy spent getting ready for the Cousin Reunion, the work in the basement, and a lot of rain, the weeds have thrived at The Garden Spot and the only way to get rid of them is to just simply pull them one by one. And we are not done yet. We only did about half of the circle garden (actually it is rather tear dropped shape). William Shakespeare in Henry IV used weeds as a metaphor: "Now 'tis spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted; Suffer them now and they'll o'er grow the garden." While he was speaking of Henry's enemies, for gardeners, he offers sound advice to weed the garden. How do you control massive amounts of weeds from taking hold? Or perhaps you are far more vigilant weeders than we have been this summer.

 Yes, that is a day lily. There are 3 day Oakes day lilies that the Mr. bought last year, and they were costly and they are forced to live in the slums! 

My little garden around the patio is nearly weed free because I pull them as soon as I see them stick their ugly little heads up and I use Preen, a pre-emergent that keeps the weed seeds from germinating, and it works.

"O thou weed, who art so lovely fair and smell'st so sweet that the sense aches at thee, Would thou hadst ne'er been born. (Othello) 

Then we have plants that while they are beautiful in limited quantities, if left to their own, they become quite invasive. Take for example this beautiful Russian Sage. it smells so good, the bees love it, and the butterflies flock to it. I love to brush against it, releasing it sweet fragrance; however, it sends up shoots all over the garden which if left to grow, they would easily over take the garden, so the young sprouts must be pulled out and the mother plant must be cut back--rather dug back.

If I never planted another sunflower seed again, the wild ones would come--and that is exactly what happened this year: I planted 6 teddy bear sunflower seeds and only one seed sprouted, yet we have a nice variety of sunflowers around the garden.

And then there is this herb--cat nip, oregano? I don't know what it is, but it is taking over in the center garden and will have to be dug out. The bees love it, but it spreads so voraciously that it is quite hard to control. Hollyhocks, too, are quickly gaining weed status, for they are easy keepers and produce thousands of seeds which seem to go everywhere.

Some may love their herbs, but unless potted in pots where they can be contained, herbs quickly reach weed status, as least here in The Garden Spot.

 Not a Canadian thistle which some states require land owners to control, just a thistle that is tough to eradicate. 
 Weed or  Echinops?
Then we have the noxious weeds, the stubborn ones, the arrogant ones, the ones that spread uncontrollably: thistle, bindweed, and dandelions. For them, pulling them out only encourages their growth, so it's Roundup time. But what about this little guy? I have beautiful Echinops (Blue Globe thistle) which I think has reseeded itself for there are dozens of thistle looking sprouts. I am letting them mature until I can tell them from the noxious weeds. 

Bindweed is so annoying. If not caught early, it becomes really hard to manage. Here one gracefully winds itself around a rose. This one cannot be sprayed. How rude these ugly vines are.

This is milk weed was purposely transplanted from our old garden just for the monarch butterfly, but it must be carefully controlled because it can very invasive. It should be honored to live amongst the echinacea. I'd better see some monarch appreciate the sacrifice that I am making letting milk weed flourish in the garden.

See that big clump of green at the point of the center garden? Not a desirable; instead a huge clump of that oregano type what ever it is. Pretty bad when we have to haul trash cans on the EZ GO to load all the weeds that we had pulled today.

My plan for the front garden is to get it weeded and then spread a healthy dose of Preen to try to keep the weed population down. And while I may teach William Shakespeare's sonnets in my literature class, I must keep his wisdom in mind as I work the garden:

"Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste."...William Shakespeare Richard III

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Duchess of Albany Makes her Debut

The cousin reunion/work session was a great success. Four 2nd cousins from Arizona, Washington, Texas, Denver, and a husband from Colorado Springs all arrived Friday afternoon with the goal of updating a family genealogy that dates back 400 years to the Mayflower and the Revolutionary War. We told stories, puzzled over pictures, scanned documents and photos, and finally realized that we had only scratched the surface, that we would have to meet yet again and probably again. So while I focused all last week on cleaning and cooking , the garden went untended. Instead of weeding, I ironed and starched dust ruffles for beds, pillow cases, and sheet cuffs, shopped for groceries, cooked and made sure the house was ready for guests.  It was a pretty amazing week-end. But I missed my garden and things did happen while I was otherwise occupied.

I am sure you have all experienced the wait--the long wait: I planted Clematis Texensis "Duchess of Albany" at the end of the summer last year, so it was a long wait for this beautiful bell shaped blossom--all winter, through spring, and half a summer. My other clematis bloom earlier in the spring and I wanted one to bloom later, and here she is:

Another fav: The plant is a bit sickly--. so it won't bloom as it should; I love the delicate star shaped blackberry lily. The blooms look almost like orchids.

I have a love affair with sunflowers. I only planted one variety this year, the teddy bear. Only one seed germinated and is growing and yet to bloom, butI have a lot of wild or feral, or volunteer sunflowers that are an assortment of hybrids all over the Garden Spot. You will be meeting them as they open their sunny faces.  I have a nice assortment of odd balls growing, and one that lady bugs particularly like.

 Ever play peek-a-boo with a sunflower?  She is rather shy hiding behind her enormous leaves.

Another fav: echinacea. 

 These daisies will soon reach their peak and have to be cut back and perhaps bloom yet again.

The garden looks good, better this year. The Broccoli has bolted, though. 

 And my beautiful water lilies are doing so well, given that they are crowded in a horse tank. I blogged about them early this spring when we divided them. And now look at them, a couple are blooming. I was quite pleased to see the pink one, for I had given my pink one to our neighbor and had forgotten that I had divided the original. We need to build our water garden!

Another long wait for this beauty: Crocosmiaflora Lucifer

Baby Western King Birds just ready to fledge, which they must have done while I was  in the basement sorting musty old documents.

And finally, what visit to the garden would be complete with a beautiful butterfly?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hollyhock Dolls and Lady Bugs

I've had a busy week, and an even busier one coming. The cousins arrive next Friday for our reunion. We have plenty of work to get done in the long week end updating our genealogy. Today I had three different workmen here as we are madly trying to get the basement project finished: the carpet layer, the plumber, and the electrician. Two of them brought their sons with them to help. While the young ones don't really want to install floors or do electrical work for a living, it is rather nice to see sons and fathers together, dads teaching sons work ethic and even a skill should they need one later in life. The carpet layer brought two of his sons, a 17 year old and a 15 year old and the electrician brought his 7 year old who installed the face plates on the outlets and switches. The room won't be totally done in time, but it will be a great usable space by the end of the week.

I have been ironing too, pillow cases, top sheet cuffs, bed skirts, using a good dose of spray starch too. My daughter said: "Mom, why didn't you just take them to the dry cleaners?" Never even crossed my mind.  I was raised in the day when we ironed and starched. She is the modern working mother and the dry cleaners sounds like a wise choice next time. I have one bedroom ready for company--the lady bug room with the lady bug quilt that I made (the only quilt I will probably ever make) and two more bedrooms to do. One will be a brand new room and will be the sunflower room with a sunflower quilt I ordered from a catalog. The other bedroom will be the blue room with Target's shabby chic bedding that I already had. Still more cleaning to do. Some cooking, shopping, and getting the 12 boxes of genealogy records ready to use.

Hollyhock Dolls

 Hollyhocks flourish at The Garden Spot, so much that we are constantly digging them out. I will be sending out seed to Randy and Meg's Garden Paradise, so if you would like some too, email me your address. It will be a while before they go to seed.

My Hollyhock doll. Just playing around with iPhoto. I faded out the color and blurred the edges. When I get a good photo and a pretty doll, I may order greeting cards or note cards.
I spied this beautiful swallowtail butterfly from the bathroom window. One nice thing about living in the country is being able to run out and snap a photo--in one's night gown. Hey, butterflies don't hang around while we dress. Isn't she beautiful? I 'd say it had just emerged from its metamorphosis because it was perfectly beautiful.

While mom was taking a riding lesson, the girls and I made dolls. They got a bit carried away the tooth picks--making arms for their dolls. Ellie is nearly 5, has a year of pre-school behind her, and she gets the idea of a craft project. 

Lucy soon to be 3 had fun too.

Elie is quite creative as she stacked too blossoms together to create a tiered gown. It really was very beautiful

The little flower dolls are very easy to make. I hold them together with tooth picks and tiny seamstress pins to keep flower hats in place. For younger children, adults need to supervise. But what fun to head to the garden to pick a few little flowers and have fun creating pretty little dolls. I will be trying to dry the dolls after the reunion using silica gel. More later on hollyhock dolls. Why don't your try and share your results?

I did have time to make it to the garden, camera in hand:

The knophia (aka Red Hot Poker) were amazing this year. I moved one clump from the old house and separated it into three clumps. They have done quite well. They really are stunning flowers, but they just don't last very long. As soon as they begin to bloom, their skirts fade rapidly from the bottom up.

Lady Bugs!

New this year Manarda. I love this color. There will be more photos of this beauty. It is quickly become a fav, running a close second behind my various cone flowers.

Finally, a huge head of broccoli. I have never grown such a huge head. We only planted three broccoli plants and they have done so well, but not enough to freeze for the winter.

Well, that is the end of this week. A really busy one ahead. I am excited to welcome cousins whom I have not seen in a very long time. You all have a fabulous week end. 

The Last Hollyhock

(Note: if the font in Safari is too small: press option command + keys to zoom your Safari screen.)  Here in Northern Colorado, we are all f...