Sunday, January 29, 2012

Flower of the Month

Most of us are aching for Winter to end, longing for Spring show signs of new life. I am getting anxious, like all of the other gardeners in Blog Land to get started in the garden. The weather in Northern Colorado is cold and dry with plenty of wind. As we leave January, the weather people say that January is a dry month and promise us more moisture in the coming weeks, with March supposedly our wettest month. Until then bloggers are keeping themselves entertained and satiated by posting beautiful photography of seasons gone by. I am no different. Wanting a fresh springy look for the Garden Spot, I chose an old favorite, my Colorado Columbine, the states official flower for my banner to welcome visitors to The Garden Spot.

Aquilegia caerules became the official state flower in 1899. In 1925 the state legislature passed more  legislation protecting what they called a rare mountain flower, making it unlawful to dig or pick the columbine in the wild. Likewise it is also unlawful to pick the flower on private property without permission of the owner. The law makes it Colorado citizens’ duty to protect this rare flower. For more information of state flowers, check click here, then write about your state flower.

My grandparents built a cabin where grandma called the foothills west of Denver. They cut the logs for the little cabin on an antiquated sawmill that grandpa had acquired from somewhere. Relatives helped build the little log cabin that became the center of the family gatherings. Located in a quiet, peaceful little valley called Beaver Brook, the cabin became a family refuge where families traveled an hour or so from Denver on weekends to just simply play. Grandma named her little paradise Shangri La. I can still hear the clang of horseshoes echoing through the thin mountain air, along with the whispering pines mixed with joyous laughter. Grandma would take her little brood of grandchildren on walks through the woods, teaching them the names of the wildflowers, telling stories, and instilling in her grandchildren a passion for nature, respect for the wildflowers, and a love of the beauty of life. She taught us to love and respect the beautiful columbine along the path in the shade of aspen trees. So I grow Aquilegia caerules not only because I love it’s graceful beauty and periwinkle color, but because each time I pass it in the garden I am reminded of my grandmother, wonderful memories, and our beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain wooded forests.

A perennial now commercialized so that both seeds and plants can be purchased at garden centers, the columbine is an easy keeper. Planted in shade underneath aspens here at the Garden Spot, it blooms earlier—about mid-June—than it’s mountain cousins that bloom in around 4th of July. It readily self seeds, so new plants are easily transplanted or left where they sprout to naturalize a woodland scape. Add some moss rock and other wooded plants and a mountain retreat is just outside your door. In the wild, they grow in large quantities amid the aspen groves, which mean that they are at about 10,000 ft. elevation. 

Aquilegia caerules has been hybridized to a number of varieties and colors, and while I do have other varieties, none are as outstanding as the state flower. Go to the USDA’s web site to learn more about this beautiful Colorado native. What is your state flower? Do you have it growing in your garden?

 Will we get moisture this week? We shall see. Have a good week. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Let me introduce you to Mo. Mo stands for No Mo Cats.  He is the third feline pet child, a youngster compared to Country and Jasmine who are both approaching 16. He is feral cat, a wild child, an independent soul. He was found in a junk stuffed old rundown, falling down chicken house on my dad's little place. I had family there trying to sort and clean so that we could sell the place after dad passed on. Dad was a keeper and saver, like many of our elderly who lived through the Great Depression. Dad saved everything because it might be useful someday for something. His little acreage had several buildings filled with stuff--junk--30 years of collecting, storing, stashing, saving. In his later years he had taken to feeding feral cats, so the population grew. Very poor cat management. So the kids were in the old building scrounging when they heard a sound. They dug around finding a tiny, wet mass of fur. Jen (yes, Jen again) brought this little guy to me in tears afraid that he was near death, insisting that we had to do something before it died. Luckily a vet lived next door. She gave the little guy a shot of B-12 and some warm milk, bringing life to the little cat. Jen's husband was wise enough to tell her not to come home with another cat (she already had 2), so I was charged with his care.

Today Mo thrives. He loves to be outside; in fact, he prefers to be outside. Despite all of the humanly love and affection as a baby,  he is a loner, aloof, and distant. While he has all of his house manners, he doesn't much like us. He tolerates us, barely. He is a bully to other cats. They fear him. While Country sleeps with the pet dad and Jasmine has her own little cat bed, Mo gets sent to the garage to sleep; otherwise, he spends the night terrorizing the elder cats. He has no respect.

Looks innocent enough, doesn't he? He was probably, according to the vet, only 4 weeks old, not old enough to be weaned, but I couldn't get him to nurse on a bottle, so he started on cat food early. But he also ate dog food. We had to laugh: a tiny little baby eating dog food while the big dog held back watching the baby eat the dog's food. Probably not the best diet for the little guy, but he was tough. Later he began napping on my clothing if it wasn't hung up. And while he slept, he chewed holes. He ruined some of my favorite clothes. Still, 7 years later he likes to sleep on my clothes. I'd like to think that he does consider me the mom, but he'd never let it be known that he is the least bit attached to anything or anyone. He may have outgrown the need to chew clothing, but I don't trust him. What makes cats eat fabric? Lord knows he has eaten enough polyester, wool, cotton, cotton blends, and nylon to rot his gut.

Perhaps the most endearing quality about this fat cat is his love for the dog. They are best buds. Max is the only creature here at the Garden Spot that Mo relates to. He follows the dog, plays with him, rubs up against him as other cats do their owners' legs. Max is his friend, his only friend by his choice. His pet dad tries to befriend him, tries to get him to accept kindness and affection, which is returned with claw and tooth. As I said, he's not a nice cat.

He is not the cute, cuddly, endearing little fuzz ball that purrs when his ears are scratched; none-the-less, we worry about him when stays out all night, we see to it that he has all of the amenities that the other cats enjoy (including his shots), we try to overlook his bad attitude, we even try to keep the secret that he is after all feral. He will never be the lap cat, he will never be loyal or loving, but he is a survivor and he is part of our pet family.

Tomorrow is Friday. TGIF in triple. I am quite exhausted by the end of the day. Tomorrow is a light day: office hours and tutoring. I'll swim after work, get groceries, and relax over the week-end. Maybe do some garden planning. Still a bit early here in Northern Colorado to get too excited about planting yet, but we can dream and plan. Hope everyone has a good week-end. Give the pets an extra treat and a hug.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Miss Priss

They (whoever "they"are) say those with pets live longer. Well, we here at the Garden Spot will live a very long time. I have introduced you to Stevie, The Wonder Bird, an aging cockatiel and Mr. Country; now meet little Miss Prissy Kitty, Jasmine. She came to live with us shortly after Country who arrived as a graduation gift to our youngest daughter from her boyfriend--the one we didn't much care for. I hinted that the ugly boyfriend went away. Without going into too much gory detail, our young daughter decided to take a road trip to Missouri where the fellow had moved to see what life there would be like. Just let me say that she made a good decision and came home bringing with her a little baby kitten for his sister. Just how Jasmine came into her possession is still clouded in mystery. I didn't really much care, for my young daughter chose her family over a creep.

Not quite a glamor shot; she wasn't in the mood to pose.
Jasmine had a growl like a bob cat for one so tiny. Early on she and Country were buddies, but in her old age (15 years old) she is picky, prissy,  and snobby. She barely tolerates the other 2 cats and has learned that Max the dog is not the enemy; however, she still exercises great caution when he is around, not quite trusting him. We laugh when she sneaks up on him as he sleeps to sniff his tail or his foot.

She is a hoarder. In the old house I had my office/craft room in the basement where she hung out a lot. When I sewed, I would find scraps of material and ribbon that she had drug up stairs. She comes alive at night, sneaking around the house looking for things to do when no one will disturb her. She likes to collect things and she chews paper.

We had a college student living with us in the spare bedroom in the basement. Shey was a classically trained ballerina. One morning she asked if I had seen her ballet slipper. We went through the whole list of did your look in your car, did you look in the trunk, did you look. . . ? She was really quite annoyed and perplexed because ballet slippers are very expensive and she would have to travel to Boulder or Denver to buy a new pair and she was very poor college student. She could have left it anywhere between home and the dance studio.

Several days later as I made by bed, I looked down behind the headboard and there lay a pink ballet slipper. Now if you have ever seen a ballet slipper you know that they have a block of wood in the toe about an inch in size, giving the slipper some weight. The tell-tale tiny hole in the satin ribbon tie pointed directly to Jasmine. I had to keep reminding Shey to shut the door to the basement  to keep the cats from going downstairs, but she didn't and Jasmine when exploring. She is a small kitty, but she managed to drag the slipper from the far side of the basement across the cement floor, up the stairs, through the laundry room, through the kitchen and into the my bedroom where she hid her little treasure under the bed. We had quite a laugh over the missing slipper. While Shey was convinced that her resident ghost who took her other things had hidden her slipper, the mystery of the missing slipper was easily solved.

 I don't know about everyone in blog land across the planet, but here in N. Colorado we need moisture--any kind will do: rain, snow, sleet. Instead we have had warmer temps and winds that dry the gardens out. The head gardener will have to do some watering today. He started sorting seed packets last night and making his list. We are going to start seeds this year, hoping to save some money. We buy the usual sets: broccoli, egg plant, tomatoes, cucumber, and squash. They are becoming very expensive, so we will set up tables in the basement by the large windows, hoping that there is enough natural light to grown healthy plants. He tilled the garden beds last fall, adding chicken do-do that he had cleaned out of the coop, so we will be doing some things differently come spring. Big plans for the garden: a strawberry bed and a new rose bed. What are your garden plans? Seems early to be thinking about gardening, but we can't help it can we?

Have a wonderful week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

There's a Bad Moon Arisin'

One thing I love about the Garden Spot is the wildlife. We are not exactly out in the country, more like a rural suburbia of very small town (pop. 1, 000+). Near farm fields with lots of open space, we can see fox, cotton tails, even a prairie dog ran through the yard once. The fox does not come around much; we suppose because of the dog. We do see sign of skunk and raccoon. Then there are the plethora of birds. Here is one handsome fellow I snapped yesterday. He is the main reason that our hens don't roam free.

We think it might be a Ferruginous Hawk, native to the grasslands. Its main diet consists of prairie dogs, which are plentiful just east of town. We see these large birds frequently patrolling the air space above looking for food no doubt. The little song birds at the feeders disappear from the feeders, taking refuge in the thick pines when this fellow shows up. I shot this photo from my bedroom window with the 70-300 mm telephoto lens.

Action shot: Stroke of Luck

There's A Bad Moon Arising. Any Credence Clear Water  Fans out there? Not quite a bad moon, but certainly a spectacular moon. Photo taken about 5 PM. It was large and pinkish and spectacular. I managed to get a clear shot through the trees, but couldn't avoid the electric lines. Another telephoto shot.

What do you love about your garden?

Classes at the university started yesterday. Since my classes are on Tuesday and Thursday, I will have Mondays off.  It will a very busy semester with 3 college research classes and a 4th class Writing on a Theme for education majors (future teachers). I have 2 75 minute classes back to back in the morning followed by a 75 minute break and 2 more 75 minute classes in the afternoon. A long, rigorous day for sure. 

Thank you all for the kind words on my post about Kenneth. Cousins are such special people. They become our best friends made more special because of that special bond of kinship.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Farewell Sweet Kenneth

A somber post this Saturday evening. Our dear cousin passed away suddenly Dec. 10. We attended his memorial Friday in Denver. While he died suddenly and unexpectedly, Kenneth lived a full and wonderful life for 70+ years. I write a bit about him tonight to honor him and to honor the generations of soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice. He served in the American Air Force for 23 years. While his ashes will be spread else where, he will be honored with a marker at Ft. Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

Kenneth loved family. He was actually my mother-in-law's cousin. He and his immediate family lived in Denver, about an hour away from where most his relatives live here in Northern Colorado. Every few months the cousins would gather for breakfast at the Village Inn in Greeley. The breakfasts began with just 4 cousins, but over the years the membership grew and grew with out of state cousins adding attending the breakfast as an  item on their Bucket List. The gathering grew from those four original cousins to 20+ on some Saturdays. Three other cousins preceded Kenneth in death, and a fourth cousin, my mother-in-law, is in a nursing home struggling with dementia, unaware that her family is passing along.

Those of us who do not have military background  do not understand the sacrifice of military service until a time comes when we must face the reality of military service. I had been to Ft. Logan as a young teen when my best friend's daddy was buried there 4 decades ago. I was too young to feel the impact of the rows upon rows of graves over acres and acres of gently rolling hills.

Most impressive were the young men and women who performed the flag ceremony. I recalled the days of my early childhood when we were taught to honor and respect the American flag. The reverence and respect this day was touching and emotional.

Finally, Kenneth was honored with the 3 gun salute, most emotional and moving, but not quite as much as when the ceremony concluded with "Taps."

We will miss Kenneth, but promised each other at the end of the day to keep meeting for breakfast at the Greeley Village Inn.

Farewell Sweet Kenneth.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Jackson and Perkins roses have been in the garden for at least 10-12 years. This year they have been spectacular. The bushes were taller and...