In the Garden

There’s more gardening to be done here than two people can do!  Still, it’s a pleasure to get out in those gardens and see how the plants change week by week.

My first session outside was with a shovel, in the herb garden.  I have a “chat” walkway.  It basically tiny pieces of limestone.  It makes a nice contrast to the green in the raised boxes, and it drains well.  But, there are several plants that think it’s a better growing medium than what we provide in the boxes.  Feverfew and Lamb’s Ears and thyme all rub their little hands together at the thought of colonizing.

I’ve left a patch of Lamb’s Ear’s and a little thyme, but the rest had to go, so I took the shovel and sliced through to lift up the roots.  I trimmed the old, old sage back, and by then, wanted to go inside for a bit.  I need to take a rigid rake and rake out all the things I left in the walkway.

Yesterday I spent several hours with the string trimmer around the herb garden and the veggie boxes, around the north side of the house, and along the gardens at the front door. This morning I got an early start, pulling weeds and deadheading the daffodils and tulips.  I had the chance to assess what needs to be dug up, moved, replanted, or planted with seeds.  I’m going to work a couple of hours a day, early in the day, and see if I can’t get things whipped into shape.

I hope to clear out two small sections of the garden at the sidewalk.  I have daffodils and iris (and weeds) in an area that is much too wet during the spring that I want to dig up, and transfer.  There’s a couple of other  iris to be divided and two hyacinth to be moved.  That will keep me busy for a week or so. I’ll wait until the iris have finished blooming to move everything.  I hope the weather cooperates!

More Spring

We’ve recently made a trip to Kokomo and Indianapolis, Indiana.  We went for a belated birthday celebration for Frankie, and to celebrate her youngest daughter’s college graduation (with honors!).  It gave us the chance to drive through the farm lands of Indiana and Illinois.

The central and north central parts of both states are further along in disking and planting than the farms north of I80.  The northern farms are still too wet to support the machinery.  If it doesn’t dry out in the coming week, they won’t be able to plant corn this year.

Condition of the farms is always important to me, but the highlight of the past week has been the pleasure of all the blooming shrubs and trees in the Midwest.  We’ve had a glorious season, and I thank God that I am not allergic to them.  I have never seen so many blooms!

Outside the window of my studio there’s a redbud tree..  As I sat and pieced a quilt top I could see daffodils, the redbud blooms, pear blossoms, birdhouses that we collected for my mother, lilacs and more daffodils!  It was the most beautiful view.  Earlier this month the star magnolia and forsythia vied for our attention, and the tulips were amazing!

We are truly blessed with the beauty that surrounds us!

The Days of My Life

This morning I was thinking about how time moves through my life.  Like my mother, I mark the passage of time by what is blooming outside my windows.  I’m positive that I could find an entry in my blog archives for the day each year when I noticed that the squill leaves had appeared, or the squill was in bloom.

Mother was very aware of the quality of light, and I am aware of the change of the angle of light.  I’m going to have to adjust my summer habits so that I can work in the studio very early in the morning, when the best light of the day comes in the east window.

The Ice Follies daffodils have been fabulous this year.  The weather has cooperated for the first time in a number of years to give a longer period of cool temps which those daffodils prefer.  Today I noticed that the Darwin Hybrid tulips were in full bloom and I believe the star magnolia will open tomorrow.

I’m going to cut daffodils for the kitchen counter.  I have so many different types of blooms that I should be able to have a continuous decoration for the next several weeks.

The gold finches have returned!  I saw both a male and a female waiting their turns at the feeder.  It won’t be long before we have crowds of them.  I’ll have to top off the finch feeder with nyger seed.

The chives are up, and I can see green at the base of the mounds of oregano and in the thyme.  The Lamb’s Ears are greening up, and I have day lily and purple cone flower leaves.  It’s time to return St. Francis to the herb garden.

I know that there are people who would find my life dull, but I love the constancy, and knowing what to anticipate.  A few more weeks and the peonies and iris will be decorating the gardens, my favorite time of year.  This is my own little bit of heaven.

I’d Call It Spring!

Up until today I wasn’t willing to say that spring had arrived.  I know that once we get to the Vernal Equinox, it’s technically spring, but we weren’t seeing signs of it in things that should be green or blooming.

And then we came to April 9, 2013, and everything that grows is telling us that SPRING IS HERE!  We’ve had some pretty bad thunderstorms for the past couple of nights.  Thunder and lightening woke me briefly last night, and we could hear heavy rain on the skylights early in the day.  The result?  Grass greening up, and the squill has formed a tight green mass around one of the trees.

I have Ice Follies daffodils in bloom!  There are pods of daffodil greens coming up in all the gardens.  Tulips and hyacinths are beginning to show flower development, and the iris are shooting up.  I need to add some dirt around the iris corms.  Some of them are sitting on top of the dirt, where the soil has eroded away during the winter.

We still haven’t seen herons or egrets this far north.   I know they are down near I80, but it’s much warmer there.  We’re keeping  watch.  I think by next week we may see them.   Red wing blackbirds, Eastern starlings, starlings, Blue Jays, flocks of robins and house finches have returned.   The cardinal songs are loud and long. Chickadees and juncos are still here.  I’ll be watching for the visitors who stop off on their way north, like the yellow bellied sap sucker, and the gross-beaks.  We rarely get more than a couple off those birds, so it’s really fun to see them visit.

Our house is very clean and tidy.  No one has come to see it in the last week, but that’s okay.  We have long been confident that it will take us a while to find the right buyer.  Meanwhile, we continue to work on the grounds and the basement and the garage.  I think we will have time to let the exercise class come for breakfast in May.

I’m ready for the forsythia to bloom, and the star magnolia to burst into flower.  I’m eager to see if the new hydrangeas have made it through the winter.  I want the trees to shade us from the increasing hours of sunshine.  I’m READY!!!  Come on, Spring!

 

Greens

Green is on my mind these days.  I was standing at the sink, looking out over the herb garden, and realized that there are little tiny leaves growing around the crowns of the oregano plants.  I’m sure these were growing prior to Christmas, when it was so warm.  We’ve had a cold spate for the past two weeks or so, with temperatures much closer to normal.  I think it’s likely that we’ll loose these tiny leaves, and see another flush of them rise in March or April.  It’s been cold, but they are talking about the possibilities of temps in or near the FIFTIES this coming week.  Weather is very different these days.

I’ve been working on the blocks for a scrap quilt to use in the family room, something that we can curl up in and not have to worry about wear and tear.  I’m using the pattern called “The Missing U” from “Sunday Morning Quilts.”  Each block is 15 x 15.  In each block there is a scrap of white material.  Each block is made from a color family, so there might be 15 fabrics which are all purple or lavender in one block.  I showed the blocks to my quilting bee on Friday, and right away they were down on the floor laying out the blocks.  Of the sixteen blocks, two are lime and one is a sage green.  I said I was thinking about swapping one of the lime for a second purple block, and I was also thinking about removing the sage green block.  “Nope!”  They told me to leave it just as it is.  I have to choose a backing, and get a batting.  I’m looking forward to quilting this quilt!  Pictures later.

We need more greens in our diet!  I need to schedule stir fries, and sub gums, and vegetable soups.  We just don’t get enough greens.  Any suggestions?  I’m going to ask everyone to give me veggie ideas!

And last….I’m green with envy that my youngest sister  was wise enough to go south for a week right after Christmas.  The pictures she posted on Facebook made me long for places where grass is still green, and you can walk around outside without layers and layers of clothing.  We’ll have to see how Dear Husband’s knee is coming.  Perhaps we can get away for a few days in February.

Morning Has Broken

I’ve had a great morning so far! One of my friends at Facebook put up a link to Cat Stevens performing “Morning Has Broken” on You Tube, and I thought that was a great way to acknowledge the start of a beautiful day.
I was slow to get started this morning, but I was out in the gardens by 7:40. It’s supposed to be in the nineties today, so I wanted to get some gardening in before the heat rose.
I deadheaded six peonies in the long driveway garden, and hacked back the Bouncing Bet that tries to take over the garden. I noticed that the astilbe is blooming at the shady end of that garden. The astilbe, hostas, bleeding heart and meadow rue have come back for twenty years now. The short gold day lilies and the nepeta are making a nice showing, and before long the Rudbekia “Goldsturm” and Purple coneflower should be in bloom.
Earlier this week I ripped some weeds out of the sidewalk garden. It was the first time I’d done anything physical since the gunk settled it, so it didn’t take me long to be short of breath. I left the weeds on the sidewalk to be gathered later in the day. Of course, that was the only day I had visitors coming up the sidewalk! Today, I swept the dried weeds off the walk, cut back the vinca that has been trying to take over the entire bed, and planted a purple ‘Homestead’ verbena, and a fuschia petunia at the end of the bed nearest the front door. There are more to be planted but my knees were crying “Uncle!” I pulled a few more weeds, and began ripping out the volunteer ox-eye daisies that were going to seed. By that time it was warming up, so my last outdoor chore was to water the containers and the two transplants.
Bogie has ferns that she is ripping out because they are so vigorous. I have ferns that have died off from the heat we’ve had. The back wall of the garage is perpendicular to the house, and years ago, before I learned the microclimates of our house and land, I planted ferns in that corner. I thought it was going to be shaded and cool, on the north side of the house. What I didn’t know was that it would get a lot of afternoon sun, and the bricks heat up, and retain the heat, so it wasn’t the best of places to plant ferns. When I get out next, I hope to cut back the dead fronds. water heavily, and then mulch, to see if the ferns will grow more fronds.
So, my gardening is done for the day. I’ve been working on cleaning out the closet in the office that contains a jumble of things, including my mother’s fabric stash and sewing things, yarn, some of Dear Husband’s favorite posters, pads of newsprint and gridded paper, for quilt design, mailing supplies and boxes of papers that need to be sorted. It’s good to be getting one more closet packed up. I think the next packing chore will be the shelves in the mudroom that hold floral and gardening items on one side, and china and crystal on the other.
So, I have plenty to do today, and I’ve had a nice start to the day. I hope that your Sunday has started out as well as mine.

June Update

MORE odd weather! It’s been very dry. Other parts of Northern Illinois have had rain, but of the past three weeks, I bet we’ve had less than an inch. It’s been unusually cool, but now it’s warming up to more normal heat for June. My day lilies in the herb garden are sunburned, and the ferns in the corner between the garage and house have died. I’m going to try cutting them down, watering and then mulching to see if they are willing to try to grow once more.
I am still recuperating from the gunk. We visited the PA and she put us on an antibiotic and a steroid. My cough has abated, but I’m short of breath. I need to get out and build up my stamina. I’m going to start by cutting down the iris stalks. Bloom time is long over, and I hate the ragged look of the gardens. Next, I’m going to be vicious to the thistles!!! And then, I’ll trim back the peonies.
Dear Husband has been enjoying the weekends sailing. He’s a happy camper when he gets to spend his time on the water. He went to stow the winch handle last Saturday, and it wouldn’t fit into the slot. When he looked at it, there was a black walnut, husk and all, stored there for safe keeping. Some squirrel in the back yard is cussing, I bet! lol
I can tell that summer is here. I want to do a chicken salad with celery, dried cranberries, walnuts and grapes, and I thought I might make a cold pasta salad this weekend while DH is away. It’s not his favorite. I think I’ll just make one or two servings, so there aren’t a lot of leftovers.
Almost everything I’m doing is centered at home these days, but I’m looking forward to the Farmer’s Markets, the French Market, and the Antique Fair. I’m sure other wonderful outdoor activities will come my way. I understand that I may have family visiting later this month. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Happy summer to you all.

Tidbits

I saw SIX egrets yesterday (No, Cop Car, I don’t know exactly which kind they were.) I was driving to exercise, and saw two to the right of the road, and four to the left. And, earlier, I saw one of the herons. There must be a shallow spot at that point in the retention pond, because that seems to be a favorite place for fishing for both the herons and egrets.
Spring is really strange. I think we have had below normal temps for the past week, and last month it felt like late June. I’m glad that I didn’t plant anything tender this past week, because we had a hard frost and I would have lost it all.
Several of the iris have bloom stalks! Nothing is open, but give us a little warmth, and I’m sure the buds will open.
Have you heard about “Pink Slime?” Some companies add this sludge to their ground beef. Essentially, it’s assorted meat parts that are ground to a filler and treated with ammonia gas. I discovered that in my area, Target, Whole Foods and Costco do NOT use this filler, so I’ve changed my shopping habits. I stopped at Whole Foods for the first of my shopping today and picked up ground beef, fruit and bread. I also bought a basil plant. My car smelled like and Italian eatery on the way home! *G*
It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I’m going to spend the morning boxing things up. I need to begin shifting winter clothes out of my closet, but our weather is not cooperating. I still need sweaters and wraps in the evening.
Dear Husband is clearly ready for spring to land and stay. He asked for Taco Salad for dinner this evening. My new “Cuisine at Home” magazine came, and the cover features a shrimp boil for those of us who are land locked. Sounds like a good idea to me! I think it cooks in one pot, and you eat it like a picnic meal. Very little cleanup!
Dear Husband has an appointment to put the Arr!! into Lake Michigan, May 12th. Boating season is almost upon us. (Quilting days, here we come!)
And last, but not least, today is my little sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Frankie! I hope you have a wonderful weekend of celebration, and many, many more to come!

Volunteers

I love volunteer plants, but I’m being over-run this spring!
My raised herb bed has a walkway that is covered in what we call “chat,” or crushed limestone. I have a number of plants that have decided they like the limestone better than they do the raised beds which are filled with dirt and compost.
Feverfew, thyme, lamb’s ears, oregano, garlic chives, and lemon balm are trying to run rampant. It rained briefly in the past three days, so this afternoon I went out with the shovel and lifted the volunteers I don’t wish to keep. I raked up all the plants that had been loosened, sorted through the pile to separate the plants from the chat, and then raked the limestone back into place. I was going to spread Preen in the walkway to discourage future volunteers, but realized that I have kitty litter, not Preen, in the garage. I’ll have to get some Preen soon, or I’ll have to repeat this process.
My sister and her family are coming for Easter, and I plan to beg for help to get the beds weeded and ready for seed.
April 1st! Who would have thought I’d be out working without my sweatshirt so early in the year!?

Fullblown Spring

Usually by the middle of March we are seeing daffodil and tulip greens, with blooms expected in early to mid April. This evening I saw Ice Follies daffodils, forsythia, star magnolia, and squill in bloom. The crocus have fainted from the heat!
We’ve had a week of temps from the upper sixties to the upper seventies. I was talking with Dear Husband today, while standing in the kitchen. I looked out the window and saw a gray squirrel flattened out in the grass in the shade of the house, trying to cool his belly. He looked more like a flying squirrel who had come in for a landing than one of our regular visitors.
I had two golden delicious apples that were on the wrinkled side. I cut them each into 16 pieces and dropped them under the bird feeder during the middle of the week when I filled the feeders. One of the ground squirrels discovered the bounty. He filled his cheeks with seeds and then crammed an apple between his teeth and took off running up the herb garden walkway with his tail straight up in the air. He jumped over the timbers at the end, ran across the lawn and under Dear Husband’s truck to the rough area east of the driveway. I watched him do the same routine twice more before I had to go back to work. Half an hour later, the apples had disappeared! *G* I wonder if he was going to have the family over to share the feast or if he was planning on canning apple pie filling….
Tomorrow, when I go out to take pictures of all the blooms, I’ll check to see if the May apples are in bloom in the grove.
I love spring, but could be go back to the fifty and sixty degree temps and sneak up on it? Please!