Sunday, March 24, 2013

Springing into Action

Happy Spring, Everyone, but you wouldn't know it. We have several inches  of snow on the ground and it was 11 degrees this morning, with more snow on the way. Did someone say it was spring? None the less, work here at the Garden Spot continues.

Weeping for Thee

There were some warmer days last week, so hubby was able to get started on some long over due projects. Our weeping willow had a rough winter and is indeed weeping. It is a very unhealthy tree and slowly branch by branch we are whacking away at it hoping to save it, but it will eventually have to come out. We keep saying "next year." With this main branch cracked, hubby had no choice but to cut it off before  wind or heavy snow brought it down.

Put a chain saw in a man's hands and you have a bare yard!
Adios Lilacs
Now, who would purposely remove lilacs? Well a man with a wife with a plan. South of the patio we had lilacs, an old stand that had grown leggy. Once pruned back, they didn't look too awful, but we have decided to to build our water feature here, so once again chain saw in hand, the head gardener cut down the lilacs. We had thought that we would save them and transplant them, but our arborist daughter said it would be easier to just buy new ones. Hubby will rent a mini back-hoe to dig the lilac roots out and dig the pond. Can't wait. We had hoped to have the lilacs totally out this week, but between the weather and too many other things to do, this project is To Be Continued. He didn't quit cutting with the tree and the lilacs; he also took out what we fondly called a crab apple bush--an old crab apple that had probably died back and then just sent up a whole mess of shoots until it took the shape of a bush. Now we have piles of limbs and branches to dispose of. Most likely we will have a tree service shred the limbs, giving a nice pile of tree mulch. The yard is now opened up. I can see the play set and the garden and the neighbors. I like the new view. I will love it when we get the pond going.

A Berry Good Project

Last fall hubby built the trellis for the blackberry bush, but we didn't get the canes tied up, so we finished that project. Some of the canes were over 6 feet long running along the gound. Now they are all tied up. The canes that we pruned off we just stuck them in the ground to see if they will root.

Because someone around here needs everything to be lined up in rows all nice and straight, hubby dug up the two raspberries and moved them in line with the trellis. And the rhubarb was out of line, so it had to be moved. It had just started to break through the soil; we hoped it would be okay to move it. But would you take a look at the root system that baby had. You can still see nubs of roots in the hole. Hopefully we didn't kill it. What do you think?

New Plants

My ranunculs came last week, too. I ordered them from Easy to Grow What nice people. They called to say that their system had gone done when I placed my order and failed to charge for shipping, so they were shipping the the bulbs for free. I'll order from them again. I haven't decided where to plant the ranunculus. They bloom in late spring, early summer. I may just pot them and see what I get. I ordered the rainbow variety so that I will have a nice array of colors--8 bulbs in total.

And I got my bleeding hearts. Last year at the plant sale I was disappointed that they were already sold out. So we bought the shoots to start our own. Cheaper. I wanted to get them out this week, but it was just too cold to work outside.

The Last Swan Picture (I promise)

The girls came to spend the night, so we had a picnic at Bittersweet and fed the swans. It was so cold, but the little girls didn't seem to notice. They sat so still and quite as the timid swans slowly approached the bread crusts that the girls threw to them. Their short little arms weren't quite strong enough to launch the crusts out very far from the shore, so I worried that the swans wouldn't come that close in to eat them. They must be used to being fed, so they were willing to come in pretty close. I was happy that the girls got to them so close up.

Spring Break is winding down. I have Monday off, so I go back to class on Tuesday. We have 6 weeks of school left. Semesters always go so quickly. For 18 years my life has been broken up in 16 week periods, semester by semester, a nice rhythm of life. I needed this break to get my batteries recharged so that I can go back full speed ahead.

The snow may be letting up, but I think the forecast calls for more in the next few days. All of this moisture will bring on the bulbs, which have already pushed through the soil, and the perennials weeds as well. Darn it. Well, I hope you have great week. If you have any special garden projects going,

Just Blog It. 


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Just a bit of Irish

Isabella Agusta, known as Lady Coole, led the movement to establish the Irish Literary Theatre along with William Butler Yeats and others. As an Irish folklorist, writer, dramatist, and a theatre manger, she also mentored Yeats as a young struggling poet. We visited Coole park in 2003 on our university tour of Ireland with college students studying to become English teachers. Now a national park, the estate preserves a piece of Irish history as visitors become aware of Ireland's struggles for independence from the oppression of the British crown. Once the center of literary activity for Irish writers, the estate's mansion was destroyed during the Irish Revolution. Also on the estate is the famous autograph tree where literary visitors carved their initials in the trunk of the tree. Located in County Gallway, the 1,000 acre park is a wonderful place to visit, learn about Irish literary history, and yes, to linger on the shores of Coole lake to watch the swans.

The Swans at Coole Lake
William Butler Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

 The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

 And now

The Swans at Bittersweet Lake

Friday afternoon hubby and I made our annual trip to our accountant to deliver our documents for tax preparation. (ick). We had thoughts of eating out, but at the suggestion of our accountant, we opted for TCBY yogurt for supper. Then we drove by Bittersweet to see if the swans were still there. Many of the Canada geese have left Colorado to head back home, but the swans are still there. They were close the bank, so I was able to get some very nice shots of them. 

As wild and timid creatures, they were not too unaccommodating for us get so close. None the less, I was pleased with the photos. I am on spring break next week, so the two little granddaughters will come spend a night and I am hoping the swans will still be in town. I am also hoping that they have found Bittersweet such a lovely home that they will stay to raise their family. Each time I drive the lake, I fear I will ". . . find they have flown away."

Today we are headed to Ft. Collins to tour our favorite garden centers. I want to get seeds to start pansies and petunias instead of buying sets that are becoming so expensive. Hubby's tomatoes and peppers that he started are doing nicely, so I am thinking that I should be able to get pansies started.

I am off all next week--Spring Break, then only 6 weeks of school left. My, how time does pass so quickly. I need a break, the students need a break. We all need to rest and relax and that's just what I plan on doing. 

Have a fabulous week, everyone. 
Happy St. Patrick's

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bird Watching

Once again I stopped at Bittersweet Lake last week (that's how far behind I am in blogging) to see if I could catch a glimpse of the swans. With the sun warm on my back instead the of the cold northern wind in my face, I spent a while watching the graceful couple float on the icy water.  The lake was busy with activity as geese came and went, ducks made a stop over, and the gulls always taking flight and circling above me to see what I was up to. They made quite a commotion on the other side of the lake. You have heard of a gaggle of geese, what would you call a clump of gulls squawking and making quite a splash?

As I ascended the top of the gently slopping dam, the geese resting the ice began to chatter, recognizing, I suppose, a strange figure on the horizon. It was sweet listening to them converse.

Bottoms Up

It would be wonderful if the love birds stayed the summer, but I doubt that they will. 

The Mallards out for afternoon stroll glide silently by as I snap several shots. The lighting wasn't quite good enough to get the velvet green cap on the male.

There is constant movement on the lake as fowl come and go.

I do want a larger lens for wildlife. My 75-300mm zoom does not quite reach far enough.

The gulls seem the busiest, almost ADD-like, making such a racket.

In constant flight, there were a few gulls always in the air.

I watched the grandma and the little girl walk half way round the lake to the shore where they could get  down to the water. I waited to see if the swans would swim over to them, and they did. Guess where I will be Wednesday afternoon? Shore line with bread in hand.

I lingered but a while in the sunshine at lake's edge listening to the geese chatter and the gulls squabble.

I was reminded of my childhood days growing up on our family farm with our little half acre pond that became home for a throng of migrating ducks and geese. I always asked dad if he'd get a pair of swans like the neighbors had on their pond. He said "no" because they would eat his precious water lilies. 

Then he bought grass carp to clean the weeds out of the pond and they ate his lilies. 

Here in the basement the garden begins. The sprouts are looking like tomatoes and peppers, but the marigolds and cabbages didn't germinate. Hubby will replant. He went to town today to buy peas, including sweet peas. I am bound and determined to have sweet peas this year. Generally we plant peas St. Patrick's day, but he says it is the right time of the moon to plant above ground crops; thus, the peas will go in tomorrow while I am working.

Looks like we are getting new neighbors. Five, in fact. I hate to be awful, but I had grown rather accustomed to the view of mountains the vacant lots across the street. A new builder bought the remaining lots in the neighborhood across from us and the houses have been springing up--a good sign really to see the town grow. A good sign that perhaps the housing market is rebounding. 

I graded today. Back to the classroom tomorrow. Next week is spring break. I hope that the weather is nice so that I can finally get outside and get started in the gardens. I have list of chores. I am tired; the students are tired too. We all need a break.

Hope everyone has a great week.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Passing Time

Waiting for spring can be quite tedious, can't it? We have to find things to keep ourselves busy when we are really yearning to get outside to play in the dirt.  Other than my school work, I do have hobbies that keep me amused.

Slowly I am teaching myself how to crochet something beside ripple afghans. I finished my last one (forgetting to take a picture) and gave it to my dear friend in Haxtun for her birthday. Needing a baby gift, I crocheted this little baby sweater. I had a bit of a struggle getting the size correct. I don't really understand how yarn and crochets hooks work when it comes to sizing, even by following pattern instructions. So I get pretty frustrated. The hats are for my granddaughters. I found a great pattern on Pinterest that gave 3 different sizes. I had made little beanies before, but never to the size correct. I think these will work. The pattern include instructions for the flowers. I have made flowers before too, but only one layer flowers. So I am rather proud that I was able to figure out how to add an extra layer of petals. And they say old dogs can't learn new tricks.

Don't we bloggers love to play with our cameras--and computers!

I am trying to learn how to get really good at using layers or textures. I follow Kim In addition to her online classes, she also offers free stuff. We all like free stuff. Each week she sends out a free texture to her email list. She also has free videos tutorials to learn how to do neat tricks with your photos. So today I tried to create my own texture. It is pretty basic and pretty raw. I photographed my shower curtain after a shower that a variety of botanicals on it: leaves, butterflies, shells, star fish, apothecary bottles. So today I chose two to work  with. I started in Picasa by creating a collage then using the overlay to create a layer. I didn't really like the look. So I fired up Photoshop Element II which I am just beginning to learn. 

And here is the final hurried up, a "just give me a minute to figure things out" attempt. I must get back to the Bittersweet lake to photograph the pair of swans that are now on the lake. This photo was taken last year. I'd like to think that this handsome fellow brought his bride with for an extended honeymoon in Colorado. So if anyone has any helpful hints about turning your own photography into textures, please, share your ideas.

I am revisiting the hen house here for my brother and his wife. Now retired, brother and his wife live on an acreage in the Texas hill country. I have teased him about getting chickens and I think they may be considering adding a few hens to their newly plotted garden. 

Last summer hubby (I get in trouble when I say "we") added a raised bed around the hen house. On the west end we planted strawberries. Around the front we will have iris and annual flowers.
Finally the potting bench is taking shape
Not quite finished, the bench will be a great addition as a work area. The dog kennel serves as a quarantine for the hens. Right now Snow our white hen is in isolation not because she has been bad, but because the other hens peck her. Raised together from the beginning, the other hens don't seem to like Snow. Removing her from the flock might help to reset the pecking order. Probably not though. Once her feathers fill back in, she will be returned to flock. 

For 9 hens we have 3 nesting boxes. Each box has a fake egg to remind the ladies where they should lay their eggs. Really. Otherwise we find eggs all over.

Taken through the window screen, this is a photo of the poop deck and roost when the hens sleep at night. The deck hangs by chains so that it can be easily cleaned.

The hens' door. The pen is a dog run that hubby purchased on Craig's List. It even has a top so that varmints can't climb in. Set on timbers, the fence is sturdy. To keep the fox--who does try from time to time--from digging under the timbers, wire mess has been installed a foot deep.
We had more snow today--a whoppin' 1/2 inch, if that much. But who's complaining? We need the moisture. Hubby attended a seminar on drip irrigation at Ft. Collins Nursery Saturday and almost came home with a "What's the point?" attitude since Colorado is still considered in sever drought. Perhaps March, generally our wettest month, will be just that: wet. Really wet. Drowning Wet.

Well, I've had fun today. Off to work tomorrow. We are now counting the days until Spring Break March 16th and the week to follow. We will plant peas and potatoes.

Have a great week everyone.

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...