Wednesday, January 29, 2014

For the Birds

Forgive me. I am behind on blogging and reading blogs, for I have become obsessed with finding my roots. We are hosting a family reunion here at the Garden Spot in July, so I have been devoted to discovering the family history. Obsessively. My dad's genealogy is complete, but my mother's was never done, so now I am trying to create a family tree. Not easy since everyone is gone. Her roots are in Ottumwa, Iowa. Anyway, that's what I have been doing.

Here at the Garden Spot there is little else going on. We had snow late Sunday and Monday. The sun came out yesterday and today, but more snow is predicted for tomorrow and Friday. It ha also been very cold with temps hovering just above and a bit below 0. Brrrr.

Poor Robin Red Breast was getting a drink when one of the nasty ring necked doves chased him away. He patiently awaits his turn.

Mr. Flicker waits, too, for his turn at the suet. At least he has some manners.

Mrs. Downy has her turn at the suet.

I really wonder what the juncos find to eat in the snow since they are ground eaters. They learned to eat at the suet feeder last year when I served the good stuff: homemade peanut butter suet. They always look so cold.

The unsightly abandoned grain elevators even look grand surrounded by the hoar frost covered landscape I should have put on boots and tromped around to see what else I could shoot, but I did not feel like wandering out in the sub 0 early morning. So life around the Garden Spot is pretty much for the birds these days.

And one furry cotton tails; even he looks cold.

Okay, Bronco Fans are you all geared up? Do you have your Supper Bowl meal all planned? No? Me neither. I will throw something together, chili perhaps. We have a friend who is doing missionary work in India this week, so if he is home we may have him and his wife come watch the game with us. Denver is all Blue and Orange and the Governor has renamed the 54 mountain peaks in Colorado known as the Fourteeners because they are all over 14,000 feet after the starting players. So we have Mount Payton Manning, Mount Champ Bailey, Mount Eric Decker. You get the point.

So whom do you pick? Former coach John Madden has predicted a Bronco win; he has been correct 8 out of 9 predictions. Another prognosticator has chosen the Sea Hawks. They say defense wins games and Sea Hawks has the best, but hey we have Champ.

Look at me go on. You'd think that I was real football fan. Like I said before, I don't even own a Bronco shirt. Still we cannot help but get excited for the home team. We have watched all of the games and we are psyched. PS: thanks for indulging me.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Barbie and the Pink Rose

She made her first 2013 appearance in early June; I watched her unfurl her soft pink petals until a perfect pink rose emerged in a few days.

She made her grand entrance in the first rose bouquet of the season a few days later, small, demure, and very pink, but nearly perfect.

A Weeks Rose "First Prize", she was one of the first roses planted in the courtyard nearly 5 years ago when we first moved here. According to her tag, she requires six hours of full sun per day, grows to a medium-tall height, and is a classified as a hybrid tea. Once she gets stronger soaking in all of that glorious Colorado sun and feasts on Bayer systemic rose food, her bloom size grows and grows and grows, as the label promises, pink petals with "swirled hues of rose-pink." She gets watered a couple of times a week and I attribute her best year yet to the automatic drip system that daughter Heather helped us install last summer.

I wish I had measured this last rose of the season to give a good idea as to just how big this prize grew. She was nearly the size of my hand and I have to say the biggest rose I have ever grown. With each bloom cycle over the summer the blooms matured as her pink shading developed the subtle hues that the tag promised. In the beginning she was a deep, hardy pink. As the summer went on, her blooms grew larger and more dramatic in color. She opened gracefully once picked and lasted in the vase for days.

So I  photograph her. First laying on the Autumn brown table cloth with the fall leaf motif.

Have I told you that pink is my favorite color? And roses my favorite garden plant?

Next, I set up my photo studio downstairs. I purchased a three fold poster board and covered it with black velvet, set up my photo lamps and began shooting. I am certainly not very good with the artificial light. I need more lessons on lighting.

Played a little in Picasa

Years ago I became obsessed with Barbie. I have a tub full of Barbies rescued from the GoodWill that the granddaughters play with, a curio full of Disney princesses, Wizard of Oz, Nutcracker Barbies, and more, and these two lovely ladies, also rescued, who sit on the shelves in my craft area. This lovely red head models the satin evening gown I made for her.

More fun with Picasa.

Barbie in her Cowboy Glam for The Denver National Western Stock Show.

 (Okay, I admit it: I am a bit silly, even crazy-- if you wish--, but I take very good care of my inner child).

As the sun sets in Northern Colorado, you can hear the resounding cheers of victory as the Denver Broncos are the new AFC champions, headed for Super Bowl. As for me, I spent most of the game working on this post, listening to the game in the background. Denver will be nuts the next two weeks. Everything in sight will be painted or draped in Orange and Blue.  I may even just have to buy a Tee-shirt.

I had fun reading your comments last week. Most were rooting for the Broncos, which I appreciated very much and I loved those who couldn't care less. Thanks for indulging me. The Bronco banner will remain here until after Super Bowl.

Hope everyone has a great week. Thanks a bunch for stopping by and leaving your kind comments.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Just had to Do It

Bronco Fever is at an all time high here in the Rocky Mountains, so I just had to go Bronco Orange and Blue for a few days or for a couple of weeks until Super Bowl is over. The Denver Broncos play the New England Patriots Sunday in Denver, a match-up between the  two all-time best quarterbacks in football history to see who will go to Super Bowl: Denver's Payton Manning against New England's Tom Brady. In past games, Brady has won most of the games against Manning (10-4, I think), so for football fans all over, this could be quite a game. I am nervous. 

So dear friends, I while I know that this is a gardening blog, I hope you will indulge me. I don't paint my face blue or dye my hair orange; I don't bleed Bronco blood; heck, I don't even own a 
Bronco t-shirt, but I will be watching the game. Will you?

Stay tuned for part 3 of my Fav photos of 2013: Barbie and the Pink Rose next week.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fav Photos Part 2: Colorado Wildlife

As gardeners, we appreciate nature and not just the flora, but the fauna, too. This year I managed to photograph some of Colorado's most exotic mountain species.

The Shiras Moose was transplanted in the Colorado Rockies in 1978 and 1979 from Utah and Wyoming to start a breeding population. They had done so well in their new home that today campers and mountain travelers will often see seem. This mamma and her baby were getting an early morning drink at the mountain reservoir where we were camped. Ellie spied them first from the camper window, saying, "Look at the reindeer." 

The Wapiti, or elk, are native to the state. This grand photo was taken outside of Estes Park. Hardly a difficult shot for this big guy was grazing along the roadside. Our Texas guests got quit a thrill.

Also commonly seen on the way to Estes is the Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep. What a sight to see them and again, no big deal to snap a photos as they are tame and lunch right by the road side. 

Plentiful now in the Colorado skies is the Bald Eagle. I see them with regularity on my way to town. They migrate from Canada and Alaska to our area for the winter. Since I remember the days when we feared that nation's national bird would soon be extinct, it is still a thrill to see these magnificent birds of prey soaring above or perched on high tree branch. 

I cannot take credit for this photo because the Head Gardener took it: Rocky Mountain Goat, a ewe and her kid, high in the mountains west of Denver. Not really exotic here either, but really cool to photograph.

Now I did take this this photo. Do you see the two billy goats napping the sun on the side of the hill, just above the rocks?

The Head Gardener hunts Colorado big game with a bow and arrow. After sending for a license to hunt the mountain goat with his bow for nearly 20 years, he finally drew his license last fall and had a successful hunt. The Colorado Division of Wildlife and Recreation allocates only a few licenses each year as a way to manage the populations of all of its big game. Hubby hunts with a bow for the challenge and feels that he gives the animal the advantage by hunting with his bow. 

Of course these are just lucky photographs, but ones that I am proud to add to my library and to fav photos list. 

Next: Barbie

We have suffered the last couple of days with cold winds. Hate the wind. Makes me nervous and uneasy. We are still weeks, well, months away really from gardening. i don't think that we will 
start our seedlings as early as we did last hear. The tomaotes grew tall and leggy. So until it is time to actuwllynvet serious, I will focus on my indoor activities. I am crocheting an afghan for Lucy, now. I also want to start writing a family history for a family reunion. In the mean time, keep you will keep me entertained with your gardening dreams and plans and anything else that share with us. 

Have a wonderful week.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Favorite Photos of '13

I feel like I have been slacking on the blog the last few days. Oh, I have been reading about your adventures and musings, commenting along the way, fretting all the while about what I could write.You all have such good ideas and interesting points of view both on life and from your camera lens. There certainly isn't much going on around here. The country is in the grips of what the meteorologists are calling the polar something or other. We have 0 and below 0 temps and some snow, but it is winter. It is supposed to be cold. We want snow for the moisture that it contains. We want the snow in January when it is supposed to snow, not in April when we want sweet showers for those gorgeous May flowers. The general consensus seems to be that January is a rather bland month. What happens in January? We start to yearn for the garden. The seed companies know that, so they start sending out their wish books. We salivate and ooooh and ahhhh over the the gorgeous plant material and begin making our garden plans months in advance. When we aren't pining away for our garden, we are getting our desk in order for the new year as we begin thinking about the dreaded preparation for Apirl 15, tax day.

January, blah as it may be, does have a bit to offer, here at least: the Denver National Western Stock Show,  a huge stock show with rodeo and horse shows and many other attractions comes to town for two weeks. I have not been in years and I thought perhaps we should take the grand kids this year. It is always brutally cold for the event, and the stockmen like it so that their livestock don't get too hot. After all, they bring their winter coats with them, except for the show horses.

So, wondering what to write about, I have just gone through a year's worth of iPhotos for inspiration. What started out to be a simple little project of finding favorite photos of 2013 has turned into a major photo extravaganza, so I think I will work with themes. I should get a couple of good posts out of what I gleaned from my photo library.

Theme One: Birds of The Garden Spot: We have a variety of birds here in Northern Colorado which we feed. We get the usuals year round: English sparrows, house finches, grackles, starlings, doves, robins, and a number of different hawks that prey on other birds, mice, voles, and I suppose our sweet little wild cottontails. So when I see migrating birds feasting at the bird feeders, I grab the camera.

I took this photo out of my bathroom window. While not a particularly pleasant subject, it does represent daily life at the Garden Spot, a natural predator, the little Sparrow hawk takes its meal.

We think this is a Swainson's hawk and he is the reason why the hens are not allowed to free range when we cannot keep a watchful eye on them. The hawks are here year round. They hunt the pastures for mice and occasionally they will catch a sparrow or even one of the plentiful and pesty ring necked doves.

Flickers are frequent visitors to the feeders and the birdbath, heated in the winter. They are colorful, but thankfully we have a brick home with metal soffit or they would be terrible pests.

We have both the hairy woodpecker and the downy woodpecker, sometime hard to tell them apart. The hairy woodpecker is larger with a more pointed head. The males both have the red spot on the back of their head and the females are plain, so the best way is to look at the size of the beak and the head.

Downy Male

Here is a Mountain Chickadee pecking away at bargain suet. We also have nuthatches, but while not rare in Colorado, they seem to be hard to spot here at the Garden Spot. We have had glimpses of the pygmy nuthatch on the old Russian olive that we cut down.

Blue Jays spend a lot of time at the feeders. Their favorite are the shelled peanuts. If you feed them unsalted shelled peanuts, in the Spring you will find where they stashed their peanuts by the empty peanut shells left behind. They are characters, often imitating other birds. Once one finds the feeder filled, he will call in his friends and family.

While not seen at the Garden Spot, my Bird Review would not be complete without the swans of Bittersweet Park in Greeley photographed on a very cold March afternoon. They did not come back this year. I was quite disappointed.

We do not have the Northern Cardinal in Colorado, although there have been rare sightings. So when we vacationed in Texas, my goal was to get a photo. They are easy enough to spot--bright red flashes flying through the air from one live oak to another,  and we can hear them, but to photograph one in the wild, oh wow.

 In this second photo, the male was feeding at a deer feeder on the ranch that we visited where the owners regularly feed the deer--not to hunt them, but just watch them eat.

A certain herald of spring, Goldfinches are a favorite and plentiful here at the Garden Spot. They come in pairs to feeders filled with niger thistle seeds and they enjoy the bird bath, as well. They are easy and fun to photograph, as well as entertaining as they sing their spring song. They are not too skittish when they see me approach the patio door to photograph them.

The evening grosbeak, both male and female, hang around all summer long. Over the years I have photographed three different varieties at the old house where we had small water garden that attracted all sorts of migrating birds: the rose breasted grosbeak, quite rare for these part and the blue grosbeak, also not frequently seen.

Humming birds are plentiful here, too, and such fun to photograph.

Next to the cardinal, photographing a male lazuli bunting was another "I can't believe it" moment. They usually come in pairs, both males and if we look really close and pay attention we may see the females, a dull brown. We also will have another  blue bird, the indigo bunting, that comes around some years. I have seen them once here at the Garden Spot. They are just passing through to the mountains.

Another photo goal is to photograph the owls here that I never see, but often hear. We have two varieties, the barn owl and the great horned owls that we hear at night. There is a pair in the area, but they are very hard find, perhaps because I just do not know where to look for them.

To photograph the birds, I use a Canon Rebel, 12 pixel DSL with a a 70mm to 300mm telephoto lens. Most of the photos are taken from my back door off the patio, a safe distance that the does not seem to startle the birds. Some are calm enough that they don't mind movement, others are quite skittish and leave at slightest bit of motion. In the spring there will be a plethora of warblers that migrate from South America. Once we get our main water feature built with the running waterfall, the birds will come. Can't wait. They will be attracted by the sound of running water. The Garden Spot will be the destination spot for the all of the birds migrating through on their way to the Colorado Rocky Mountains or even the Canadian Rockies. 

Next: Colorado Wildlife through my lens. 

See you soon.

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...