Monday, September 28, 2015

Mr. Stripey

So Fall has officially descended on the Northern Hemisphere. Here on the northern plains the mornings are cool and the nights offer the best sleep with windows open, allowing the house to breathe in fresh, clean air. The days, however, are just plain hot-- in the 90s F still. The lawn is as brown as it has been in the heat of summer. The mums seem to relish the heat as long as they get plenty of water. The weed patch garden continues to produce tomatoes. Despite the weeds, we seem to have the best tomato crop in a longtime with large, nicely shaped tomatoes of different varieties. Healthy tomatoes.

I picked tomatoes yesterday, adding them to the collection. I have tomatoes on the counter ripening, I have tomatoes in the spare fridge out in the garage, I have tomatoes in an egg carton, I have tomatoes all over the kitchen. And more to be picked. There are beef steaks, big boys, Roma, cherry, and grape tomatoes. And one egg plant.

Wednesday they will converted to salsa. I will gather them all up and haul the harvest to Jen's where we will make salsa. I hope to have enough Romas to have at least one batch. They are the sauce making tomato. I need 5 pounds of tomatoes per batch, so it will be fun to see how that salsa differs from the other. I'll let you know. This is first year that we have had such success with the Romas.

And then there is this guy. I had planned on posting about tomato disease and imperfections, which would have required some research. The Head Gardener had returned home late yesterday afternoon. I asked him about why so many tomatoes were discolored. He grinned broadly and answered, "that is Mr. Stripey, an heirloom tomato." Ah ha! Not diseased after all. It is an heirloom beefsteak that is sweet, juicy, and large.

I will get back with you on the salsa making project on Wednesday. We tend to make it mild, but I would like to make at least on spicier batch.  

I have to thank you all for your kind comments on the roses. Here are the girls all smiling, showing off their prettiness. The three tea roses have all bloomed now in the late summer, giving me hope that they will be gorgeous next year. The David Austin on the end continues to struggle. I do hope that it has enough leaf material and a strong root to gather and store food for winter. I had intended to feed them, but I am wondering if it is getting too late in the season to add food. They certainly do brighten up what has been a dark spot in the yard. Their smiles make me smile, too.

I leave you this morning with the Harvest moon and last night's eclipse. As it rose just before dark, I drove down the road to get clear shots of it over the barren farm field. Then I took the rest of the shots from the patio.

Were you able to see the eclipse? 

A busy week here. My two classes are taking up a lot of time. How did I ever work full time? I am loving the students; it feels good to back on campus.

Have a wonderful week and thanks so much for taking time to visit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Egg and I

For most of the summer life dawdled along at a peaceful, easy pace. Then I decided to go back to work. September thus far has been brutal with one group of company then another. We do love entertaining our friends and sharing our home with them. Often we do things that normally we wouldn't do, making entertaining family and friends even more special. So would you like to see what we might do should you come to Colorado to visit?

First have a a To Do List. Our guests this week end had their Must Do List and we did our best to help them check off all of the items.

Day One

1. See Pronghorn Antelope on the Pawnee National Grasslands

Our company arrived from Texas on an early morning flight Thursday. While I dressed for work, the Head Gardener drove to the airport to pick them up at 7:30. It is nearly a two hour drive to DIA. They managed to entertain themselves quite nicely all day while I worked. After dinner we took a ride out to the prairie to see the antelope. They are always far off in the distance choosing the grassland to the wheat fields, so can be spotted on the grassy knolls--about as elusive as my drive-by photography late in the day.

Often the prairie is thought of as dull, unexciting, but it hides so much history of the early settling of this part of Colorado, much like these old grain storages. The old buildings left abandoned tell a story as well as all of the new structures continue to the prairie's story, everything from elegant ranch homes, to poorly maintained mobile homes, to oil rigs, and gas wells. 

Sunset on the prairie is always worth a drive east out of town just to see the warm, golden glow as the sun sinks behind the Rocky Mountains.

Day Two
2. Elk in the wild

While the HG spends most of September in the mountains hunting elk (and not seeing any), a drive to Estes Park especially this time of year always gets the best results. So we planned our trip: shopping, eating, looking. Estes Park, known for as a tourist destination, sits isolated in a deep valley surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. Not only is the city full of cheerful tourists from all over the world, the residents and shop keeps welcome not just the tourists. 

Our guests were on a mission shopping for beautiful turquoise jewelry; the HG was hungry; I was along just for the company. After lunch we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park, using or Senior pass to get in free. (By the way, a senior pass will allow the holder to enter any of the national parks all over the country. Do you have yours?) On the way back down, we checked off item 2, a beautiful bull elk with his small of harem of cows hiding in the trees.

We headed out of town and there they were, a bull with his harem of cows causally grazing roadside in a neighbor's backyard. This time of year the bull are in rut; they are gathering their harems and have come down out of the high country. Soon the bulls will begin bugling, challenge each other for the ladies. The town will advertise "Elk Fest" to attract more visitors who come from afar to wittness the sparing matches between the bulls in the alpine pastures in the park. Once rut is over, the elk will settle in, wintering leisurely in town. Literally. Try playing a round of golf with this fellow on the green.

He seemed rather bothered by all of the attention that the onlookers were giving him roadside, so he rounded up the girls, disappearing behind the pines.

We weren't sure if we heard another bull bugling in the distance; perhaps that's what disturbed him.

Or perhaps there was better munching on the other side of the pines.

A small crowd always gathers to photograph the majestic animals. We caught up with them on the next block, pulled over so that our guest could photograph them with the iPhone.

He is majestic. Gorgeous in his late fall coat still dark and shiny.

During rut these big boys are irritable, edgy, vigilant, and protective of their cows. Generally, however, they take the toursists in stride.

Our friend was standing roadside in front our SUV snapping away to get good photos of the big guy. He notices her.

Now he is getting annoyed. We joked latter saying he was giving her the stink eye. She did feel threatened and while I was photographing him him, I missed her scrambling to get into the car, for the big guy had lowered his head--never a good sign--, glared at her, slightly shook his horns and then

decided to finish his lunch.

He was a massive fellow. What a thrill to be that close. I used my 300 mm zoom to get these shots safely inside the car. None the less, a two lane gravel road separated us.

Day Three

3. Picnic in the mountains, roasting hot dogs on an open fire.

While Fire Danger was HIGH, we were still able to build a small fire, closely tended camp fire where roasted our hot dogs, ate chips and grapes, and drank water.


We had four happy campers.

Our second day-trip to the mountains was a long day. We headed north out of Ft. Collins to Cherokee Park, the HG's hunting grounds, drove around up there to see where  he camps--got the tour. We drove over the river, though the woods, and down the little road where we found our spot to roast hot dogs. With a warm sun, slight breeze, and the fall colors around us, the day couldn't have been any better. From there we descented into North Park where some of the world's best hay is grown. We had fruit cobbler and coffee in Walden at a quaint log type cafe. From there, we headed for Poudre Canyon, always our favorite mountain drive. We took a side road to look for moose, a bumpy, rutted road that jiggled us until we were ready for smooth highway. The HG assured us that we might see some moose--well maybe--one? Try none.

4. Moose in the wild

 We came back to the main highway and just around the curve there she was, a cow moose taking her evening meal. We were at quite a distance but √ off the moose.

We know Fall has arrived when the aspen begin to turn in the High Country. We were a week early to see the aspen in their full glory. This weekend they should be spectacular.

Sometimes there just isn't road enough to stop to take a proper photos, so you do it out the window on the fly. Still gorgeous.

5. Bear in the field. Not this time. Bears, while they seem to get into a lot of trouble in the Denver suburbs, generally stay well hidden in the forest. Next time.

The Egg and I

You remember this photo from a few weeks ago when I showed the two huge eggs we had gathered. The green one had a double yoke. Always a nice surprise and not really that rare. The third egg was more the size of a goose egg and we wondered what misery the hen had suffered laying that one.

So while the folks were here, I opened the largest egg and look what was inside: another egg. An egg in an egg

Complete with its own yoke.
 She googled the phenomena to find a similar youtube of a woman breaking open one of her eggs with the same result: we could hear our own laughter and squeals of amazement.

We know which hen laid the huge egg, the maran with the chocolate eggs, those deep, dark brown ones. We don't think that she has laid another egg since.

We have lost two of the young hens. The last one, Baby, our little pet that didn't like anyone. She was put in the pen with the other hens to put the rooster in time-out in the dog crate where Baby was safely living. We don't really know what happened and I won't go into detail, but these two hens  died the same way. I am thinking a problem with egg laying. I need to do more research.

And that is the week that was. I missed Mosaic Monday, so I had some catching up to do. Teaching has settled into a nice routine with the weeks flying by. They always do.

Fall descends slowly. I noticed the red maples are beginning to color on campus. They were planted only a few years ago and have grown so much. They will be gorgeous this year.

I hope you have all had a good week, with more to come. I will be around to visit. I am way behind. Thanks so much for taking time to drop by. I appreciate your sweet comments--always.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Summer's Last Rose

I am up early these days now with purpose and intent: grading. I collected my first set of essays from the students last week; now it is time to get to work. I am finding that my long missed job is really just that: a job with work and responsibility--makes me feel good, too. So first this morning I am finishing up the blog post then I will grade essays for the better part of the day.

Remember way last spring how I bemoaned the loss of my roses in the courtyard because of the unusually cold winter? I should have sought advice sooner, from you, especially Judith, who said to be patient because they just might be slow to wake up after a long nap in a very cold winter and an especially cold spring.

I was not. So late were they, that Head Gardener and I took our now annual trip to the Town Far Away to buy roses. I've written about the Flower Bin in Longmont, the best place in northern Colorado to buy roses.

We came home with 5. It was still too early to plant them, we thought, so they lived on the front porch far too long, suffering shameful neglect. Finally, weeks later I told the HG that we must get them in the ground. I had procrastinated so long because I didn't know where to the plant them. They were replacements for the roses that died, but didn't, now I had to create a new rose bed. I decided on the north side of the house, a shady spot in the morning with lots of hot sun in the afternoon. I have managed to keep the weeds down in that space, so it required little prep to put the roses in. So far they are doing well, even blooming--a very good sign that they are happy. The medium sized bark mulch that we purchased from Lowe's keeps the soil moist and the weeds down.

Here they are now well settled in their new homes. Despite the horrible neglect that they suffered early on, they gratefully set down roots and even dared to bloom. Next summer they will be spectacular.

With all of the rain that we had last spring, the trees have grown, which is changing the gardens around the house from hot, direct sun perennial gardens to more shady spots. The roses seem to have settled in and will brighten up this harsh space. I will probably add some spring bulbs this fall. 

In the front court yard, the roses have thrived. I can't remember what this one is called, a gorgeous peachy roses that has done so well in her new spot.

Next year she will even taller and a more prolific bloomer.

 Dear James Galway, a David Austin  hasn't done well this summer at all. Gertrude Jekyll went through the same funk last summer, but came out it, so I am hoping that James will too. He is planted between the water garden on the wall with the hope that he would climb high, instead he struggles. I do think that brick tends to leach the iron out of the ground, so the plants may benefit from an iron supplement. If he does not perform next summer, I may dig him out.

Shropshire Lad, my other peachy David Austin, succumbed to winter's harshness, reverting the old rose. I'll have the HG dig him out. The front bed in the front of house needs a lot of work. There is little plant material; most of it winter killed.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles also shares the front garden and she has looked ill all summer. I am not sure what gets into these David Austins. Perhaps they just are not suited for for harsh, hot climate here in the northern part of Colorado. I haven't fed them all summer, but even with food Gertrude did not overcome her malaise last summer. She apparently had to sleep it off over the winter.

Finally this sweet girl in the front court yard blooms her little heart out,  giving roses with a glow-like bloom, and a radiant iridescence quality. 

As summer's last rose blooms before the killer frost that is bound to come any day now, I dream of the beautiful roses that will come next year. They are sweet companions that please all summer long.

The rest of the garden suffers from summer's very hot end with temperatures in the 90s. We haven't had measurable rain in weeks, so I get pretty depressed when I walk the garden paths. We didn't get all of our projects done; there is always next year I tell myself. If we have a mild winter, we might still be able to get a few things done. I do want to add fall bulbs, so I had better get them ordered.

In the mean time, I have work to do. Papers to grade and company arriving Thursday. 

I am so glad that you joined me today. In advance, thank you for your sweet comments. Be sure to check out Mosaic Monday hosted by Judith at Lavender Cottage. Just click on the link. Have good week.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An Aardvark Free Zone

With Labor Day now behind us, it seems that Fall has officially begun. While the grandsons began school two weeks ago along with the majority of other Colorado students, the granddaughters begin today, a more traditional school start according to this grandma. 

I missed Monday Mosaic simply because I was just too busy to write the post. 

Friends from the Western Slope came to visit their son and grandson who has begun his first year at Colorado State U, using the Garden Spot as their home base. As long time friends, they were welcomed company. My dear friend Patty celebrated her birthday. For four months out of the year we are the same age. We cannot remember the last time that we celebrated our birthdays together-- probably 40 years or more. Perhaps when one of us turned 21. So I baked her a cake, bought a couple of candles, some balloons, and noise makers (more for her little grand daughter), and hung up the Happy Birthday Banner. I took a blurry iPhone photo as everyone sang "Happy Birthday." (Note the the number candles are discretely blurred to conceal her real age.)

The Head Gardener took Jacob (12) on his first elk hunt. He worked hard to get his hunter safety card and had been doing push-ups to gain upper body strength to pull his compound bow. He is old enough to get a small game license so he was able to hunt grouse. He did shoot his first grouse with his bow. 

When they came home mid-day yesterday, he declared to me as we downloaded photos that this was the best time he had ever had in his life. I replied that his grandpa had waited a life time to give him that good time. Jacob is a boy scout, so he has spent a lot of time in the Colorado mountains, so he impressed his grandpa with his ability to hike the hills.

Since Jacob had homework waiting for him, gear was quickly transferred from one vehicle to another and we made the trek to Denver to take him home. While his momma and daddy served us hamburgers for lunch, they did cook the grouse breast for dinner and declared it delicious.

So this week it is back to normal. The HG left early this morning to help the Haxtun farmers harvest milo, a two day job. So my chore duty was on reprieve for a few hours. I am off to the university today.

On a final note, little Lily starts preschool today. She had the best quote of the week: Her sisters both have pets, Ellie has Peter, an old Easter Bunny who has finally been moved into her room, living a pampered, spoiled life. Lucy has new pet, Julia, a green cheeked conure parrot also sharing her room. So Lily of course wants a pet. The Head Gardener kindly offered to get her an aardvark. That poor little baby puckered up her sweet little face, pondered for a moment holding back puzzled tears and then declared as the tears came on: "I don't like aardvarks."

We have declared the Garden Spot Aardvark free. 

Have a great week everyone. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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...