Sunday, February 24, 2013

On the Inside Looking Out

It is one of those days when we just sit by the fire, do a bit a crocheting, blog, relax--and, oh yeah, grade papers should one happen to be a teacher.


We are in the grips of a winter storm. Storm and blizzard warning all over the state. Finally. For February we have  normal amounts of moisture for the month; now that does  not mean that the state in any way is out of the drought. In fact our county was declared a disaster area this week due to the drought and the peril that it is placing the farmers in. None the less we welcome the snow. We do know that Spring will soon come dancing in, hopefully with raindrops on her fingers to moisten the hard ground and with warm toes to heat the soil as she makes her entrance.

The bird feeders need constant refilling. We feed regular bird seed mix in the  flat feeder, but here close to the house we have a thistle feeder for the gold finches, a wood pecker suet feeder, and a peanut feeder for the wood peckers, but the house finches and chickadees along with blue jays and sparrows feast in the peanuts. Our feathered friends are fat and healthy.

So far about an inch of snow has fallen. It is supposed to continue snowing through the day and night. Glad that I don't have to in to school tomorrow.  (My free day-- I am not ditching school). 

Funny, though, attendance was pretty poor Wednesday when we had a bit of snow. The college kids think that a bit snow indicates that classes are canceled. I have come to think that as the public schools probably cancel school more often because of the huge task to get the buses on the road, these 21st century kiddos seem to think that when it snows life stops or at least school. 

"Not so," I told them. The university cancels classes only in very rare circumstances: 6 feet of snowfall, power outages, and massive falling trees due to heavy snow. So as long as I can get out of my garage I will there and if I can't get out of the garage, my husband will bring me. Hope attendance is better Tuesday.

We added a small ground feeder on the patio of the juncos which are ground feeders. We also have a heated bird bath that keeps water year round.

                                While the weather rages outside, these lovely super market daffodils lighten our spirit. I splurged Friday and just had to add two bunches to the grocery cart. Hubby made nice comment, making me feel even better for splurging on what is my favorite spring flower. What spot of joy the bright yellow has added to the dining room table.

Spring also abounds in the kitchen with a really beautiful bouquet. Yesterday we had my mother in law's memorial. After all the details had been finalized, I remembered on Thursday that we had forgotten the flowers. Hubby called DJ's Flowers in Eaton and she said, "No problem," then created 3 beautiful bouquets in Violet's favorite colors lavender and purple. While the hues were more pinkish, the arrangements were gorgeous. Instead of flowers we had requested donation to High Plains Hospice. While Violet did not succumb to cancer, she was in the Alzheimer's unit in the nursing home where hospice volunteers tend to the patients, giving them more attention and medications than the regular nursing home care provides. She was well cared for and the volunteers called regularly to update us on her well-being.

As February comes to a close, we are surely feeling cabin fever. We probably ought to be ordering from our favorite catalogs soon because it seems that they sell out the best things early. This year I am looking for a variety of zinnias, especially the green variety since I didn't get to save any seeds last year. I want a larger variety of sunflowers too, and more cosmos. And the list goes on and on.

If you are in the path of this latest storm, I hope that you have dug out from the last one and are prepared for this next one. The one that hit Kansas so hard last week pretty much missed us. It seems that we are always on the outer edge of the storms and get just gratuitous amounts. 

Well, enough about the weather. 

Hope everyone has a fabulous week.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


When folks in other places think of Colorado, what images of the state do they conjure up? 

The Denver Broncos with John Elway, Tim Tewbow, and Payton Manning? Probably only sports fans. 

Do they think about the fine universities in Colorado: 
  • University of Denver, a private school known for its School of Law; 
  • Or the University of Colorado in Boulder, known for a time as one of the top party schools in the nation, but better known for its School of Medicine?
  •  Perhaps they think of Colorado State, with its prestigious School of Veterinary Medicine, especially equine medicine and now doing important cancer research on golden retrievers. 
  • Then there is my alma martar and current employer the University of Northern Colorado recognized as a university that trains the best educators. 
But probably foremost on the list of Colorado's recognizable attractions is no doubt its ski industry. Everyone has heard of Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain.

But there is another destination in Colorado: Bittersweet Lake. I blogged last year about taking Ellie to see the lone swan on the lake. Much to my surprise when I drove past the lake a few weeks ago there was a pair of swans. As I explained last spring, swans here are rare, but every now and then they migrate south to Greeley with the Canada geese, the destination spot for hundreds of thousands of migrating geese. I decided Friday to take my camera with me to photograph the swans after work. The wind blew bitterly cold across the lake from the north. I wasn't quite prepared for the cold as I walked across the park into the wind to the lake shore. Much to my disappointment, the swans weren't there, nor were the hundreds of geese that generally blacken the lake there are so many of them. Much of the pond is iced over, with only a small bit of water for the fowl. While we haven't had much snow, it has been really cold.

Mallards bounce in the windy waves.

I am amazed at how the fowl can take their afternoon naps on the ice.

Gulls linger with geese and ducks, floating on air as they glide in the wind.

I haven't given up getting the swans' pictures. I will keep my camera in the car and take the long way home past the lake just in case the swans return.

There is another migration taking place here in Northern Colorado.

 I am trying to transfer files from my tired, worn out little MacBook that has been so dependable for years to my new iMac. I broke my ankle right after the first of the year in 2007. Slipped on ice. It was a serious break that kept me non-weight baring for 15 weeks. Since I couldn't get to my desk top computer in the basement, I had my daughter buy a lap top and install a wireless Airport. I became so accustomed to the laptop that it has been my constant companion and hubby has taken over the desk top.

Wanting more power and a bigger screen to work on photo editing, I have replaced the tired little black lap top (before it completely crashes) with a new iMac. Isn't she beautiful? But what a struggle it is to get files transferred. Twice the supposedly easy migration from from one hard drive to the other failed, so I am using an external drive to move files. I got my Quicken files moved yesterday with my brother's long distance help. And I have my photo library moved. Now I am working on syncing the iPod with the iMac. I used Face Time to get tech support from my brother in Texas (thanks, Brother) and from my daughters who are far more advanced than I (Jen does tech support for real--she works for HP).

Technology is passing me by. I am now in the cloud, too, but I don't really know what that means. And because I like to putter on the lap top when I watch TV,  I also bought an iPad to replace the Mac Book. Too much technology, really. I don't how much life the Mac Book has left. It stumbles now and then sending me into panic, so I fret that it will just die in the middle of an amazing Pinterest excursion. I took advantage of my educational discount to upgrade my computer system and went all out to upgrade my technology.

This bad girl is loaded with Photoshop Elements II along with Picasa, so I have a lot to learn.  

I have always been a computer geek-- a Mac geek. But as the technology gets more sophisticated, I do struggle to figure it out. Soon, though, I hope to dazzle my blog with amazingly edited photos--well, after I get my grading done.

We've had another mild week end with no snow,  just cold, dry wind. The lawn is so dry, and while it has been cold, the ground isn't frozen. Hubby is in the mountains ice fishing. I posted on my Facebook that I am on chore duty feeding the horse, feeding the chickens, feeding the cats, and feeding the dog, but I don't have to feed him for a couple of days. He is having a good time sitting on a bucket on the ice dangling a string attached to a pole in a small hole in the ice hoping to snag a trout or two.

As for me, today I have laundry to do, papers to grade, and tax documents to assemble. I don't much like February. The only flowers blooming greet me as I walk into the super market and I'd love to take them all home.

I am rather enjoying reading your blogs to see how you deal with the same winter cabin fever that we all seem to have this time of year. Your beautiful flower photos, recipes of breads, pies, and soups, your trips, walks, and tours (especially in England), and your wonderful narratives all inspire me, keep me cheerful, and put a smile in my heart.

Hope everyone has a great week. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Really Mother Nature, can't you be a bit more fair in the way you dispense your weather? I mean look at what you did to East Coast. What's up with burring those poor folks in over 3 feet of snow. And in the South. OMG. Tornadoes in February? Really. Were tornadoes and all of their destruction necessary?

 Good Grief. 

And here on the drought damaged plains of northern Colorado we get this:

Not even a decent skiff of snow.

Barely a dusting.

Inside the head gardener has assembled a grow light system for starting his seeds. He has used PVC pipe to assemble the stand.

He has hung a grow light only inches above the trays. We have always relied on sunlight from a window with not very good results. 

He also added warming pads to stimulate root growth. Last year our tomatoes grew tall, leggy, weak, with little root system. So the lady at the nursery suggested heat pads to encourage rooting. We shall see.

He gives each plant a gentle soaking from a spray bottle. I prefer to water from the bottom up to get a good, thorough soaking, but not soggy.

Lights, Camera, Action. 
24 tomatoes, 8 red cabbage, 8 green cabbage, 8 broccoli, 6 Anaheim peppers, 4 jalapenos, bell peppers: 2 red, 2 yellow, 2 orange, and 2 California wonders. And a few marigolds.

And now we wait for spring. I have been obsessively pinning flowers and gardening ideas on Pinterest. I have decided to attempt to grow ranunculus. I absolutely love them. Have any of you grown them? The garden centers here used to sell the bulbs, but I haven't seen any recently, so I am going to order them online. They need to be planted in early spring. I am beginning to wonder, though, if I should have started them inside earlier to give them a head start. But I think they are doable.

So the garden planning begins. I just wish Mother Nature would send us some moisture to help us along.

What garden plans are spinning around your head? We will keep each other company as we pass the time waiting for Winter make her exit, letting Spring make her entrance. Hope to see your garden plans soon.

Have a good week.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

No Winter Whining: Part 3: Hey Mr. Dudley, Is It Spring Yet?

At the old house on the other side of town where we lived for 18 years, Mr. Dudley lived behind us. An old wooden six-foot privacy fence separated our yards. A retired schoolteacher, he is also an avid gardener who over the years we came to think of as our herald of Spring. We knew that Spring was surely on her way mid-February when the large panels of aluminum insulation were removed from the wide patio doors and we could see the morning sun warming the yogurt containers on the dining room table. Soon we would see the tops of his tomatoes poking out of the recycled yogurt containers; we knew then that Spring was surely on her way.

We’d watch over the long weeks as the tomatoes grew stronger and taller. In time they were strong enough to placed out on the patio to be hardened off. Our hearts lightened for we knew that soon we would be planting our own garden. Mr. Dudley is also a generous man for he graciously shared his tomatoes sets with us. We are on our own now here at the Garden Spot. None of our neighbors garden, nor are they close enough for us to watch how they garden if they did. So we look for other signs. Yes, even in February.

 Beating the Winter Blues: : Plan a garden.

We took a class at the Ft. Collins Nursery yesterday: How to grow killer tomatoes. The speaker, Don Eversall, shared his gardening secrets that he had learned years ago from his grandmother who gardened on a Nebraska farm. The guy was amazing. At 75 he wrote his first book: Secrets From My Grandmother’s Garden after he sold his two seed companies. He has really great ideas on soil amendment, watering, and feeding a garden. We bought his book and will certainly try his ideas, which I will be sharing over the coming months. We also bought another book on companion planting: Tomatoes Love Carrots. Hubby will return to the nursery in a couple of weeks to take a class on drip irrigation.

In addition to the books, I bought a new watering can. Isn’t it awesome? I love the copper handle and pour spout. My old one sprung a leak on the bottom. I love metal watering cans. They are so Sun Bonnet Sue-ish.

Afternoon Tea

I finished my day at daughter Jen’s where she prepared afternoon tea for us (her daughters, her sister and a friend and her son). I took her a handful of red tulips. Now they don’t yell SPRING like nothing else will?  Her friend brought a pretty bouquet of spring flowers, too.

Jen set a lovely table with the help of her daughters. I love the little gazebo. She had her own look in mind, but Elinore decided to add her touch, annoying mother. But I thought the metal fairy garden furniture that El brought in the from her outdoor fairy garden made a nice touch, giving the table scape another dimension. I am not sure that I convinced mom, but she let Eliie’s addition stay.

A lovely table scape including a fairy door.

Always the little helper, Lucy set the spoons and napkins. 

Pretty dishes and pretty food.

A pretty little helper

And really awesome strawberries.

Hubby was out watering again today. I joined him for bit as he watered the berries. Here is the first harbinger of Spring. 

Hubby asked what it meant to see a bee the first part of February? 

I don’t think that a winter bee is a particularly good omen. Not for the bee if we have another cold spell, and certainly not good for the garden if we don’t get any more moisture. We agreed that the little bee must be a sign of an early spring. Good luck little bee.

It’s nice out today. The snow is slowly melting away, and we hope for more soon. Punxsutawney Phil has predicted an early spring, and it seems that the First Bee of Spring  agrees.

Talk about winter whining.

 The hens are whiners, begging the head gardener to let them out. They do love to scratch and peck in the dirt.

And look at what Henny Penny scratched up: a spot of green. Baby Iris waiting Spring's warm rays to wake her.

I am linking up with Heather at Life's a Garden where the is no Winter Whining.

Hope you all have a fabulous week.

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...