Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ya Snooze, Ya Lose

The light of day grows longer, so early mornings now don't feel quite so bleak. I am able to get going a bit earlier with the morning chores. February seems a bit early to be checking the garden for signs of life, so I accidentally spied the daffodils poking their little pointy leaves out of the very damp soil the other day on the way back from the mail box. Thinking that that one clump might be an anomaly, I looked further to find that most of the daffodils and tulips have broken through. Oh yes I am most happy.

I had a bit of time to kill Thursday, so I wandered through my favorite garden center. Right now not much is going on there, either. I did buy these wonderful tea-towels. I tired to resit but the little blue bird called to me. I won't use them because they are so pretty; instead, I will place them on the oven handle to admire and enjoy. Every kitchen needs a spot of red.

In all fairness, I must acknowledge the artist: Cynthia Dunn and you can find more of her work at Sullivans, an online store.  They are too pretty to use, don't your agree.

After having breakfast with the relatives Saturday, we had a work day at home. The Head Gardener set about to clean the hen house, taking a while get it done. While he worked on the house, I herded hens. I even let Chanticleer and his lady out. They hadn't be allowed to wander all winter and they did enjoy their bit of freedom.

The hen house, all cleaned, ready for a good night's sleep for the girls. With liberally sprinkled diatmaceous earth to prevent mites, they should be nice and comfortable. The nesting boxes are clean and ready, too. Six of the 7 hens are laying most every day now. A couple have some featherless rear ends, which could be due to mites.


This big guy didn't get roam free because we worried that the two roosters would fight. He is a handsome Cuckoo Maran and is looking for a home. We thought we had a home for him, but the guy backed out. We don't need two roosters.

With the work done, I went back to the house, thinking that at the HG would soon follow.

Looks like the Head Gardener will do some garden work this week.

Top of this year's TO DO list is this project to get the garden put back together after having the water main repaired. We need to get it done before rain soaks the garden bed and washes it way--like we will have that much rain. Well, we could. He will have to soak the soil where the hole was filled to settle the ground than lay sod, a project for sure.

I asked what he had growing here along the side of the chicken pen. He couldn't remember. We had some bulbs in the garage left over last fall or ones that I didn't get planted. I know that I had picked up pack of summer blooming daffodils. Maybe that's what he planted. I hope. I added the old white fence that I have used for years to keep the dogs out of flower beds; this time to keep Boone out of the beds next to the chicken pens. I want to plant strawberries there. The cottontails dig holes to den and hide underneath the chicken house and Boone tries to dig in after them. I have my Edith Warford ires planted there and I don't want him to ruin them.

 Leaving the HG to finish up his work, I wandered around the yard  looking for signs of spring. Mind you, it is only the end of February, so one would wonder just what might be brave enough to show signs of life. Besides the spring bulbs, I found plenty:

I am always amazed at the amount of green plant material that survives sub-0 temperatures and layers of snow. Look here: Johnny Jump-ups blooming.

I checked the Eastern Red Bud to see if she made it through the winter. Look at all of her buds. Fingers crossed that we don't get a frost that will kill the buds. I may string Christmas lights in her branches to help fend off the cold if does freeze.

Be careful where you step because daffodils and tulips have appeared. So excited.

The blue columbine are getting an early start, too.

A busy day. I found myself in my favorite chair where I promptly fell asleep. Waking up feeling refreshed, I went out to find the HG.

While he was no where in sight, it was obvious that while I snoozed, he tilled. Thus, no photos. Ya snooze, ya lose.

So there you have it: the Garden Spot ready to plant. First in potatoes St. Patrick's Day along with peas. Since we tore out the hideous blackberry bush that never produced, I will plant sweet peas along the trellis. 

The HG surprised me with six baby chicks last week, too. They are kept in the office in a Rubber Maid tub with a heavy wire lid and a heat lamp. Visitors are surprised when they realize that they don't stink. They are so cute. I enjoy hearing their "peep, peep, peep." Just like I enjoyed herding the hens, listening to them cluck as they poked around in the lawn and dirt. 

Six of the cutest little girls--we hope: 2 Blue Lace Wyandottes, 2 americaunas, and 2 Black Jersey Giants. I have wanted black hens for two years. We were supposed to have had two last year, but they turned out dark brown and we lost both of them. These hens will be large and black and lay large brown eggs. When I look at photos of them next to the americaunas, they do look like giants. They will be fun.

I had fun photographing them. My plan was to put them all in the same big bowl with the checked cloth, but you can see why I didn't.

Even Boone gets into the spirit nurturing the little chicks, though they are safely secured underneath that heavy top. When he comes in from his outside kennel, he checks the chicks before doing anything else. I have had to surrender my guest bed to him, for he has found it to be a nice nap spot. 

A busy week. Taxes, doctor, and maybe I'll cut back the roses. Seems a bit early to cut them back, but it will be warm. I love spring. 

Thanks again and always for visiting. I'll be over this week. I hope your are finding my comments at the end of the week way down at the bottom of your list of commenters. I am slow to get around. Have a wonderful week.

oops I forgot. Mosaic Monday will return next week.

But if you are looking for more to read, check out my dollhouse blog that I have just updated:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Mute Swan

Sometimes the Seasons get really pushy with each other, anxious to exercise their clout with Mother Nature. Saturday was one of those mid-winter days when Spring seemed to be testing the Mother's patience to see if she could sneak in a day or two ahead of her appointed time with her own idea of how the weather should go. I must say that Spring has spent an entire week with us, with, I think, her main goal to melt all of December's snow. Goal accomplished. The TV weather lady reported the other day that we have gone 18 days without moisture. The weather map for this new week shows Winter flexing her authority once again with more snow on the way.

Spring won't give in easily as March approaches either, for she will bring with her a cousin, Wind. I don't much like Wind. Not a weak maiden this time of year, she flexed her own muscles last week with a fierceness that she proudly uses. Tree Hugger Heather with her boss off on a ski trip, spent one evening sending alerts to her tree crews to be on stand-by for Wind's damage the next day.

While the week was quiet, there were some exciting moments. On Thursday while in Greeley running errands, I caught sight of large white spot on Bittersweet Lake, located in the middle of town, the center piece of a wonderful park. I knew instantly that is was a lone swan. So after tutoring Friday, I stopped by the park to photograph the swan.

He floats gracefully, elegantly, nonchalantly on the rough water, bouncing on the waves driven by the breeze. By the time I parked the car he was on the other side of the lake. I took this photo with the iPhone, but I had my Canon with the 300mm telephoto. While the breeze was chilly, I lingered pond-side to wait for him to come back across the water, and he did.

And while I waited, I watched the geese and the mallard ducks coming and going. As you can see, the lake is still iced over, so some of the fowl float on the the waves, while others rest on the ice, standing on one foot, heads tucked under their wings, resting, soaking in the sunshine.

I ponder the dormant cat-tails and listen to the red-winged blackbirds jabber. Childhood memories of our farm pond stream through my mind. We had a small pond that the wild ducks and geese made home. I was always asking dad to buy a pair of swans. He always said "no" because they would eat his prized water lilies. The neighbors had a pair of swans. Now I am content to visit the lone Swan on the lake in town. In this part of the country, he is a rare bird.

 After doing some research on swans, I am discovering that these swans here in northern Colorado are an anomaly. According to Audubon Society's web page, this swan is a mute swan and is not native to North America.

Instead, these swans were imported from Europe by parks and wealthy estates as curiosities. As other animals that have brought to the continent as pets, these birds established themselves in the wild; now Audubon refers to them as feral in large enough numbers to become nuances. They re hardly a nuisance here in northern Colorado.

In parts of Northeastern USA, they are even pests, probably much like the Canada geese which populate our parks by the thousands, some never migrating away. They like it here.

A lone male mallard duck. I do wonder where the ladies are.

So is this fellow a young bachelor, waiting to find his life's mate or is he the old boy who was here a few years ago with a mate? I don't know that this bird is male or female, but it is a wonderful, magical bird either way.

I've not given up looking for the pair of swans on the river yet, but they may be hard find as the river goes on a ways.

Saturday I loaded up the SUV with 3 rascally granddaughters and their mother and drove to Denver to miniature show. It was located at Jefferson County Fairgrounds, my childhood stomping grounds. The Lakewood Westernairs were holding the regular Saturday morning drill practice. As a kid, I belonged the Westernairs for a time. Perhaps you might have heard of them. Formed in the 1940s as an organization to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble, they rose to fame performing in parades and rodeos all over the country. They are known for their precision drill team work on horseback, having performed literally all over the world, including Calgary, Canada and Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, CA. So we lingered for a bit, watching the kids ride, taking instructions as they learn how to maneuver their horses into positions. More sweet memories for me.

The miniature show was a bit of a disappointment. No need to go into detail here.

It is rare that I get both daughters and all 5 grandchildren together in Denver. At Heather's suggestion, we visited a roadside park located west of Denver dedicated to my grandmother. I blogged about her some time ago, Visit Colfax Avenue web page to read the background on the Blue Star Memorial Parks, rest areas across the nation, honoring American Armed Forces.

Here is Abbie Duston's legacy: Jacob, 13; Lucy, 8; Elinore, 9; Lily, 3; and Nathan, 6 (proudly smiling to show that he has lost his first tooth). We did get pictures of all of us, but they are on another camera. I'll share when I get my copies.

These ladies show the formality, grace, and elegance of the flower shows of the past.

This week's mosaic honors my Aunt Margie who posed for an article in a local newspaper on the park and my grandmother. As the article explains there are actually two memorial parks joined together. I have written before about Abbie Duston's gardening expertise in the Denver area and nationally. She was a certified national flower flower show judge and coordinated the flower show at the Colorado State Fair. I have fleeting memories of the flower shows. I do remember she encouraged me create little flower arrangements to enter in the Lakewood flower show. I keep thinking that I should recreate this arrangement with the daffodils and pussy willows. I think I'd use artificial flowers so that it would be ever lasting. She wouldn't mind. In the next photo she is the lady on the right. I don't know what the occasion was or who the other lady is, but look how they are dressed in the mid 1950s. Proper ladies with purse and hat.

One of the many flower shows that Abbie Duston judged

We are getting itchy around here to get out in the Garden Spot. I noticed today that we have garlic coming up where we planted it last spring with not such good results since it should haven been planted in the fall. We are wondering what we left behind to sprout. It is very exciting to see how these new shoots will grow and develop--hoping that the Head Gardener does not forget that the sprouts are there and till them under. 

Thanks so much visiting. I hope you enjoyed my meandering. I appreciate your visits so much and enjoy reading about your adventures, too. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Hodge Podge (In No Certain Order)

We had a very quiet week, which was much appreciated. With spring-like weather, we were tempted to get out into the garden to do something, anything. Instead as I tromped around inspecting what garden was clear of snow, I found mud, so much mud that I stayed on the pavement or the lawn. It will be sometime before we can actually do anything in the gardens. While Mother Nature teased us with sunshine hinting that Spring was just around the corner, she has smacked us back to reality with more snow and cold on the way. Ah, whatever. It's winter. The calendar says so.

 The Swans are Back

Fridays are my day to tutor at the university writing center. I see all sorts of clients with a variety of writing projects and writing concerns, all the way from the freshman research paper to the graduate student's thesis project. I love working one-on-one with each student. No grading. No planning. No getting up early. Right afterwards, I headed out west to the medical clinic for the bi-annual mammogram. Passed with flying colors. As I was so far out west, I drove the back road home. These country roads, used to be less traveled; now they are becoming more heavily used.  Road 59 has been widened and paved, but thankfully the scenery hasn't changed much-- gas rig here and there, a dumpy little shack house torn down since my last trip, a traffic light added, but the corn fields and the Poudre River remain unchanged.

As I approached the river bridge, I saw a car parked roadside at the river and as I passed I saw them, the swans, a pair. My heart fluttered. I had my iPhone. I could get photo, maybe. I didn't because there really wasn't a place to stop and turn around and traffic traveled in both lanes. I'd drive down the next morning with the Canon to get proper photos.


We got up Saturday morning to fog. We never get fog here. Well, seldom. I love the foggy countryside. It wasn't that pea soupy fog that is dangerous to drive, so I thought I'd take that short drive down to the river to see the swans. This is my only photo of the fog. I didn't even stop at the river because the swans could have been any where along the river. I will be taking this back road again and again, hoping to get lucky to see the pair of swans--and we just might take Boone for a walk along the river walking trail in hopes of seeing the swans again.

Yes, seeing swans in the wild in Northern Colorado is a big deal. They migrate here with the Canada geese. A few years ago they were on the lake in the middle of the city from early fall through April. It looks like this pair has found the peaceful river more secluded and private for their winter vacation.  The city lake is well-frozen, so the river is a nice winter get away.  I am on a mission now to photograph the swans.

When the door bell rang after dark Saturday night I wondered who would be coming by so late.

The neighbor, dropped by a gift: fresh milk, as in fresh from the cow. She and her husband care for a brood of 5 kids, 4 boys and a girl, all under 10 and invested in a couple of milk cows to help feed the family.  She comes from Indiana where she grew up on a dairy. She is now milking her young Holstein heifer, which is giving more milk than she can use.  We gifted her eggs.  A fair trade, don't you think? The federal government has put in place such strict laws controlling the sale of raw milk, so whiled she has a pasteurizer she doesn't sell her milk. A nice gift, don't you think I am trying to decide what I will make. I will skim the cream off the top and make butter, perhaps. A thick, rich, creamy custard maybe?

The Milk Maiden may have had another motive in offering her bovine gift, for she asked the Head Gardener if he would be her back-up milker should they decide to take some time off for a short get-way, knowing full well that the HG grew up on a dairy, too. He knows cows. His parents milked a small herd of Jersey cows for years. He knows the routine, too.

Happy Birthday

My friend's birthday is today. Happy Birthday, Sherry. We met her and her husband for lunch yesterday. They live  in Northeastern  Colorado and were in Ft. Collins for an affair at Colorado State University Saturday night, so we had lunch and wandered through Cosco while Sherry shopped. Before lunch the HG and I stopped at the local garden center to get her a gift card. I had to take photos of the fair garden display that they have set up. (Hey, this week I have been desperate for photos for the blog). Bath Nursery has probably the best fairy garden supplies a fairy gardener could want. I love the iron carriage. 
Valentine Sweetie

After hanging out with our friends, we paid a visit to Jen and the girls. She was busy making hand dipped strawberries. The girls were wired. Too much chocolate. Jen graciously shared her strawberries with us. I'll have one for lunch. Thank you, dear.

Irish Eyes

My genealogy search for my Irish roots has hit quite a snag. The mosaic tells the story, or part of it. The photo in the left is an image of my great grandmother's Bible. This page documents her marriage to William Riggle. The Riggles are my German ancestry on my Grandmother Eaton's side. My grandfather's great grandparents were born in Ireland and that is where I have hit a snag. Without going into all the details, I spent time in the Ft. Collins library with this little book that lists the Irish emigrants who emigrated between 1833-4 to ether Quebec or New York City. I am now searching these passenger lists to find my great great grandparents. I have found two Mary Eatons who traveled at the same time, same age. So I have questions:  Did my great, great grandmother travel alone or come with her husband Michael. On this list, this Mary landed in New York City. Is Eaton her married name or her maiden name? So while I know that Mary Eaton (two, in fact) emigrated, I have to find Michael. I am waiting for another document from the Denver Public Library that lists a Mary Eaton who landed in Quebec, Candada. I may have to resign myself that I may never know the answers.

Let me ask you, does anyone know the township in Ireland listed here: Collessan? When I Google it, I find only a surname. This Mary landed in New York without Michale.

A Harry Potter Moment

I seldom buy greeting cards anymore, especially birthday cards. Sherry and I are both scapbookers, so of course, a handmade card is appropriate. 

I was inspired by the Great Horned Owl that visits the Garden Spot and lives somewhere close by. I heard him/her late last night as I worked on the dollhouse down in the basement. We often hear the owls at night. Last night he was very close. The HG came down to tell me that the owl was in the big pine tree out by the play set. I went out on the patio to hear him. HOOOOO HOOOOOO, he said, then I saw him wing his way across the yard in the dark of night. A Harry Potter moment for sure. His winged form showed white in the dim light cast from the barnyard light as he flew across the yard into the darkness.

We made plans to build a nesting box for the pair. Wouldn't it be exciting to have a pair of Great Horned Owls nest here at the Garden Spot? The HG will see what he can do to attract them. They are often in the trees along the alley at the south edge of town just across our neighbor's pasture. I am sure that he was looking for a late night snack. Mo the cat was safely tucked in bed in the garage.

And that is the week that was. I hope you had a wonderful week and a sweet Valentine's Day celebration. We (the collective Bronco fans) are still basking in the glow of the Super Bowl win, as silly it may sound. I'll get around to removing my Bronco banner this week. I'm tired of it, too.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I always enjoy visiting you, too.

Be sure to check out Mosaic Monday over at Lavender Cottage. I'll see you there.

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...