Saturday, December 27, 2014

Settling down

Ah, the glorious weekend after Christmas; I can sleep in and there is no need to cook or feel stressed. One daughter is away visiting her boyfriend's family, and my other daughter is dog sitting, on site until Sunday. My son is preparing for a trip to Pennsylvania to enjoy some winter camping. Thus, I am happily in "hermit" mode with the dogs, surviving on leftovers from the holiday feasting. The house is quiet and I am content to putter about just enjoying the lights on the paper tree, doing a bit of knitting and writing (obviously) without any time constraints or demands. Such luxury! I might even pop a movie into the laptop...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Oh, Christmas tree...

Here is a pix of the paper tree all decorated. With the invention of cool LED lights we could go all out and even have glowing snowflakes! Ignore the unfinished bathroom. Blessings everyone!

Happy Knitted Gifts!

Now that the gifts have been opened and I won't be spoiling any recipient's surprise, I can reveal the results of the holiday knitting projects. I really enjoyed knitting up the ribbed neck warmers with the charming Laurel Burch cat face button. Of course, I found the buttons first and then had to find a project that would feature them. Happily, a free Ravelry download was the perfect solution, see here The only change I made to the pattern was the buttonhole; which I switched to a one row buttonhole instead of  the scrap yarn buttonhole the pattern designer suggested. Truly, the only reason I made this change was I was clueless as to how to do any other type of buttonhole, so make your own decision when you get to that point. The pattern used approximately a 1/2 skein of worsted weight Berroco Vintage yarn (washable blend) done on a size 9 needle. The stripe is Vintage Colors-Oasis #5222 and the solid is Vintage-Ruby #51181. The the 4 stitch ribbing gave cozy heft, almost a feeling of double thickness when buttoned and the Berroco yarn is comfortably soft on tender necks. Definitely a handy pattern for using up partial balls of yarn and the 22" length makes this a  fairly quick project. I am planning to make a couple more!

I also made two of these double cable hats, one in Forest Green out of  Encore worsted color #0204 and the one pictured here in Berroco Vintage worsted -Indigo #51182. I used size 8 needles and enjoyed the cable shift immensely. Another terrific free Ravelry download see here This hat is mesmerizing to look at, seriously that attractive and uses a little more than half of a 200yd. skein of yarn to cover the wearer's ears.

So here it is, Christmas day and I am without a knitting project... It feels really strange and my hands are restless. I was so anxious trying to finish these projects in time to mail, but now I am missing the pleasure of knitting something pretty & useful. My sister mentioned she would like a headband out of the same Mochi Plus yarn she received a hat in, last Christmas. Hmmm, I do have a ball and a half left; sounds like the perfect cure for restless fingers!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

Today is the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere, and a new moon which is 0% of full. It is dark outside. The sun set here at 4:43pm today, after rising at 7:16am, making today the shortest day of the year, but the longest night. As usual, given my night shift schedule, I missed the sunrise but I am well aware of the moonless dark of this evening. I have lit my bayberry candle to celebrate the season while I continue to work on Christmas projects.

A daughter's boyfriend will be the recipient of this stocking since he has passed the three-year duration mark. I love working with felt and have had a pleasant afternoon appliqueing the cutout felt to a store bought stocking. A crafting purist I am not! My perspective on holiday projects is fairly realistic... okay, well let's just say I have developed an awareness that I can only undertake the basics given the demands of the season. Besides who would say "no thanks" to a cute stocking full of gifts and chocolate?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tis the season of doggie hardships

 As you can see Emma is somewhat disgusted with the amount of attention last minute holiday knitting projects are consuming. No doggie walks and less hugs and pets, cuz Mom is messing with sticks and string ALL THE TIME! In Emma's little doggie mind, knitting garners as much disgust as when I am on the "box"... known to humans as the laptop computer screen. I have gone from a semester of school on the box, to now having every waking moment focused on messing with boring sticks, sheesh, I don't even throw them for a game of fetch!

I came home from the farm store today with a sack of assorted dog cookies, in hopes of getting into her good graces again :)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pre-Holiday insanity

I'm back!! I know it has almost been a month since the last post, but you know life is BUSY! I have just about finished my first semester with a full course load at the local state university; there is only one final exam left on Dec.15th. Add in the challenge of physical exertion on my night shift job, and family obligations like oh, meals, paying the electric bill regularly and those pesky, recurring chores like laundry or dish washing (yes, these can be options for as long as you can hold out) I've been a bit tired & overwhelmed.

Christmas is not my favorite holiday, probably because of my job... yep, I am one of those anonymous  workers that  insure the gift you ordered online, makes it onto a delivery truck in time for your holiday celebration. This is always an exhausting season in the shipping business, so I can't decide if it's my age or all the additional activities I have undertaken that are adding to my fatigue. Probably a little of both in all honesty.

This year we will be putting up a paper tree for our Christmas. This is an emergency alternative when a stressed family cannot find the time to purchase and decorate a real tree. We did this about eight years ago during a family crisis; it was so successful and fondly remembered, it will be resurrected this holiday season. I will do another post so you can all see the result.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the holiday knitting projects... I am a fool to even consider any projects but three are underway. I've been knitting to my favorite online endless loop ,the forever burning yule log; add a favorite music selection like Chopin or the Icelandic group Asgeir Trausti while sitting on a heating pad and it almost seems real. Hope to include these knitting projects in my next post too. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Accomplished 1 thing!

 I've had the last two weeks as vacation time, which means I have been sleeping at night rather than working. School was not on vacation though, so I was still in class and in homework mode. Admittedly, I felt like I had more time simply because I wasn't rushing to submit assignments before leaving for work on the night shift. It was nice while it lasted, but on Monday I'm back to the crazy schedule...

My one goal for this vacation was to finish the leaf shawl I had been working on and I did it! The blocking boards I had ordered this summer for one of Val's projects were perfect. Blocking made all the difference in the visibility of the lacy leaf pattern. Knitters confession... this is the first item that I have ever blocked :] Now I'm thinking I will toss a few scarves and shawlettes into the sink and block them out.

This project was the Lonely Tree Shawl a free Ravelry download by Sylvia Bo Bilvia, see it here:
This was an easy knit, just follow the charts. If you aren't familiar with knitting from charts, Lonely Tree is a terrific pattern to learn this skill. The charts are large, simple and the pattern is well explained.

I used a size 7-32" circular needle and Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted Superwash Wool in color #706-Marigold. I used one full 220 yd ball and perhaps 25yds of another; starting the second skein on row 2 of the final 8 rows of garter stitch before the picot bind off. This yarn was very springy and tight, because before washing and blocking, I literally had a large neck bandanna. As you can see, the warm water really relaxed the yarn and I magically ended up with a full size shawl.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tired but moving forward...

Bees on purple asters
I know it has been almost a month since I posted! I am still getting used to my full course load at university,  juggling the night shift job, while trying to keep up with the house/yard work. Schoolwork is going well, but everything else has suffered. Dinners have become snacking nights instead of sit down meals, I am sleeping with a load of clean laundry, and dishes pile up when we run out of paper plates, but I finally did two barrels worth of weeding! My youngest has been doing well with her driving, so she is running me to the grocery or library. Everyone is pitching in, but schedules have to be posted on our dry erase calendar just so we can figure out where & what we are all doing.

Swallowtail butterfly
After weeding the front garden I filled in the empty spaces with some new purple asters, sedum, tickseed, a daylilly and a small hyssop. These new plants are primarily, for wild bee feeding before winter. So far they have been visited by bumblebees, carpenter bees, and native Missouri bees eagerly sampling these new nectar sources. Unfortunately, I am not seeing many European honeybees this season. As for other nectar feeders, the Swallowtail butterflies are prevalent, but the Monarch butterflies are scarce this year.

A Fall chill has started; the geese are flying over the house in V-formation and a few trees are starting to color their foliage. This year seems to be winding down at a breakneck pace. Evenings have low temps around 58F/14C, so we run the attic fan through the night to cool the house; daytime temps are still about 80F/26C. Overall, the weather is very pleasant,... perfect for studying on the porch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ah, long weekends...

The first week of classes at university are over! I have two online classes and two classroom classes. All my first week requirements are completed for the online classes. I have a bit of catch-up to do in the junior English class I added after dropping a low enrollment class I thought would be cancelled. The beauty of this English class is that it is offered at the community college site where I am driving my youngest to her classes two days a week. I will only have to drive into the St. Louis campus two afternoons a week when the parking lots will be much less crowded.

Water lily pond with Chihuly floating glass orbs at MOBOT
This Labor Day weekend is a bonus break to catch up on sleep, complete an English paper and plow through my other course reading requirements. I took yesterday off to visit the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) with family & friends. I love the Garden venue and the Festival is a wonderful cultural event. Of course,  as a  foodie, I enthusiastically enjoyed a mushroom, bok choy, soba noodle dish and purchased some new chopsticks for home use. The day was hot and muggy but a lovely breeze cooled down the early evening. It was nice to simply walk throughout the Garden and enjoy nature.

Lantern photo courtesy of
The Japanese Garden is an 11 acre site that showcases specific traditional Japanese garden features. The garden has several waterfalls and islands as well as a tea house and hut. There are numerous stone lanterns and a zen garden. It seems every angle gives the walker or photographer a wonderful picturesque scenario.

Seasonally, the Garden changes offer a lovely environment whenever you visit. I often leave these gardens longing for just twenty-four hours of garden maintenance by MOBOT professionals for my own yard. I rarely see any weeds at Missouri Botanical Gardens and the perfect condition of the plants is amazing. Obviously, they have crews that are not distracted by school or work, that water regularly, and do the very important daily garden bed maintenance. I unfortunately, can only dream of this sort of dedication, so I manage with somewhat inattentive garden maintenance & survival of the fittest plantings.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day weekend!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Odd disconnect

I have retreated indoors... Shockingly I've barely been in the yard these last two weeks, only quick jaunts to the mailbox or to gather tomatoes. The front yard got mowed, but only once. Our frequent thunderstorms are greening the neighborhood environs, my unmowed backyard definitely looks pretty wild. All I want to do is knit and read; seems like a serious hibernation mode is happening here. Work has been quite physically challenging. I am more sore than usual which is somewhat depressing, but is probably the cause of my low activity level.

Lately, the world full of bad news ranging from the devastating Ebola epidemic in Africa, the horrific massacre of the Yezidi tribe in Iraq by Isis, the tragic border crossings of South American unaccompanied minors and the violence here at home, following the police shooting of a young man in Ferguson, Missouri. All these situations create a sense of helplessness for those of us unable to effect any change in these situations. The militarization of our community police forces is shocking and somewhat demoralizing, since apparently we, the local citizens are the enemy here in small town Missouri. The backlash from this situation is the realization all residents are potential targets, race doesn't matter, retaliatory police firepower is aimed at all of us!

Friday, August 8, 2014

On Break

Green beans and tomatoes are being picked! I love fresh garden veg and am always thrilled with the first harvests. My two months of classes got me way behind on garden weeding, but we are still getting a fair amount of produce from slightly neglected plants. A typical summer in Missouri is ongoing, hot, humid & dry, so extra watering has been required. The rain barrels were empty two days ago, but we've had several big thunderstorms this week, so now they're overflowing.

During these few weeks off before the fall school semester, I have been working on my "to-do" list. It seems there is no end to this list of chores!  My youngest, is learning to drive and as instructor in residence, I've been spending a significant amount of time in the car. She is doing well enough and I haven't been totally terrified yet, thus I am fairly certain she will pass her license test this fall. I'm also doing the final picot bind off on the Tiara scarf; I'm getting scary short on yarn so hopefully, I'll have enough...

I am primarily taking the remaining couple of weeks to rest up, clean up and generally get organized, so life once classes start, won't be a total disaster. The dogs agree & opt for rest.

Friday, August 1, 2014

World of Words

"The limits of your language are the limits of your world." Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1922

I discovered this quote in one of my notebooks and have been thinking about the depth & meaning of these words for several days. Initially, an image of the Eliza Doolittle character, from the musical My Fair Lady, came to mind... someone with horribly accented, mispronounced speech that dooms her to poverty in the gutters of London. Eliza's physical and vocal transformation under Professor Higgins' tutelage, offer this new, educated Eliza many more positive life opportunities. More recently, the dramatic film, The King's Speech, emphasized the extreme importance of speaking with clarity and power but... speech and language are actually, two different things.

Language encompasses both speech and the written word; yet, isn't it also a mental dialog we automatically and unconsciously apply to every aspect of our environment? We use language to communicate ideas as well as feelings through verbal, postural and written means. The depth of our expression is influenced by our creativity and the effective use of a familiar language. The element of shared meaning is at the crux of language, flavored by the delivery of speech. That which humans have not experienced, rather our limits are devoid of language & from which we cannot communicate.

Stroke victims who have limited language live in a more limited world than the one they previously inhabited. Speakers of languages different from our own have as many limits in our environment, as we would have as a non-native speaker in their homeland. Still, each human strives to develop language to express their ideas to others. Infants communicate without the benefit of what adults consider language but indeed their expressions convey needs, ideas and feelings. Perhaps instinctively mimicking our first primitive attempts at language millennia past.

Words, indeed language, so crucial to our survival are also the tinder of destruction. Disagreements through faulty expression, and even the dire specter of war can be the result of the limits of language. During my philosophical pondering of this concept I can see many situations world-wide that are dramatically effected by the limits of language. Language is deeper than the spoken word, it reflects limits of individuals and cultures. Language also delineates the limits of the world of the speaker. So many different lines in the sand...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sign of the times

Almost finished Tiara scarf
Our local yarn store, Knit and Caboodle has closed. This sad event unfolded over a month, with the final day last weekend. It is amazing how close you become to your fellow knitters while sitting around the knit-along table, working companionably on individual projects. My daughter has shouldered the responsibility of organizing a new knitting circle at our local library. Hopefully, a few of the "Saturday-at-the-shop" knitters will attend and we can continue our knitting camaraderie.

As much of a loss our local yarn shop is to us, overall, it is a positive change for the shop owner & we all wish her well. Thank you Connie! For seven wonderful years of local yarn, supplies, lessons & most of all, patient help with our knitting challenges, questions and problems.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gladiolas are blooming

July was starting out with the typical Missouri heat in the high 90's and dripping humidity, then one thunderstorm later we have been enjoying cool & dry weather. The highs are now only 80F/26C followed by the luscious coolness of nighttime temperatures around 58F/14C. The energy intensive AC is off and the attic fan draws in the lovely night air keeping the house a delightful 72F/22C. The rain barrels have still been filling from the occasional thunderstorm, so garden water consumption from the tap is minimal.

I successfully finished my two online university courses and am now enjoying some down time before the Fall semester starts. I received one scholarship and two grants to utilize in the completion of my degree, so as long as my GPA is in the accepted range, I don't need any more money for school. What a blessing! It is such a relief not to have to worry about school as well as household finances! I have started to feel like I am indeed, on the right path to forging a new career. This time next year I should have my Bachelor degree in hand, if all goes as planned...

Anyway, many household chores were neglected due to the intense workload from both of the month long online classes, so now I am slowly catching up. The garden is a bit weedy, especially the mailbox one; grass has grown through the lasagne layers of compost I laid down over the lawn two years ago. Thought I would share pix of the current bloomers, those wonderfully easy to grow Gladiolas. The bulbs are a quick plant, and if you do some plantings every two weeks, spring through early summer, you will enjoy a succession of blooms. They are considered annuals and I do plant bulbs yearly, but most survive the cold winters here. I have some bulbs that have been in the ground almost three years now and they continue to bloom. They do need some support because of the their heavy flower load. I have accumulated many bamboo garden stakes that I push into the ground near the tipsy gladiola, then I twist-tie the long gladiola stem above and below the blooms with the craft supply item called chenille stems. Works great and if you buy green or brown chenille stems, then the support system is visually unobtrusive in the garden.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Knits Done

Well, the Frankenstein socks are finally done. Yep, I finished them Saturday night. The gardens had been tended to and I needed a bit of a relax after all the classwork this week. Months ago I started these socks and that second sock sort of languished post heel turn; instep completion is soooo boring!

 I named them Frankenstein not just for the green in the Patons Kroy Jacquard sock yarn, but for the cobbling together of several patterns to get the finished product. I found a free rib & cables download on Ravelry, used a 1974 Coats & Clark Learn How to book for a nifty "box pattern" heel flap, followed with Ann Budd's gusset and heel turn, then finally back to Coats & Clark for their toe decrease to gathered tip. I am not a Kitchener stitch fan and much prefer the old fashioned gathered toe, it wears well for me and I can reliably remember how to do it. This toe decrease was much pointier than I have done in the past, but I loved the heel flap. I have to admit I really learned about sock construction having to fit together these separate pattern pieces and as a result I am a much more confident sock knitter. Well, given our current heat, I'll be putting away these beauties for much later in the year.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Watchin' & Learnin'

Since I am overwhelmed with school work for my current online class, I can finally squeak out a mini post today. This week has been full of online assignments: 2 papers & 2 responses written, 1 test taken and 4 chapters of text read. Whew!

I have made a fascinating garden/nature observation here in the yard... I have three perennial sedum plants that for some reason this year are being seriously nibbled. I thought deer were the culprits for a while, but the more I looked at the plants it was only the edges of the leaves that were chewed on, not a complete nipping off off plant growth, which is a pattern more common to deer.

Anyway, in the midst of a homework stint, I was taking a break & doing some stretching out of my desk chair; gosh, sitting is surprisingly tiring! Easily distracted as I am, I was also looking out the window at the blooming daylilies when I saw a Red-Headed Finch perch on the sedum clump and start pecking at the leaves! The only reason I can come up with for this bird behavior, is that the finch was sipping moisture/nectar from the succulent-like sedum leaves. This finch activity surely explains the the ragged leaf edges and the reason the most brutally attacked sedum happens to be located between the two thistleseed finch feeding socks.

I have never seen the finches do this before. There are two full watery birdbaths present in the front yard currently. Is this a response to climate change or an adaptation I've not noticed before? I have to admit I had a bit of a Thoreau glow, feelin' all naturalist-like since I've seen this finch behavior, but it's definitely an interesting observation. Wish I had gotten a picture, but it was over in a few seconds. So everyone be sure and spend some time quietly sitting and observing your yard, nature is in action out there.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dallying with Daylilies

Here's a montage of what's blooming in the yard now... They are lovely rain or shine and are reliable bloomers no matter what the level of humidity. Daylilies (hemerocallis) are very hardy, prefer full sun for the best bloom, but are definitely showy in part shade. They are called daylilies as the flowers only last one day. A little fish emulsion and water and you have years of beauty. I do not have all the hybrid strain names for these beauties, as the tags have been lost in the garden, but I look for colors I like. They are excellent garden space filler and I have used them extensively to anchor the slope beyond my patio. 

Monday, June 23, 2014


Blazing hot 90-100F/32-37C with so much humidity my glasses steam up leaving the house! The porch orchids are living in simulated Amazonian conditions and blooming beautifully. I finally emptied one rain barrel and almost the second one keeping the raised beds and front yard gardens moist; so far nothing has died. This past Saturday & Sunday we were finally blessed with some heavy rain that re-filled the rain barrels, gave all the plants a good drink but the humidity is staying at 87%. NOAA weather says thunderstorms will continue all week with temps around 87F during the day. Guess we will see...

Happy bean plants
The raised veg beds are all planted. The heirloom tomatoes from last year reseeded, so there is 1 Mortgage Lifter, plenty of Romas and hopefully, some German Pinks. I rotated the beans into the middle bed and planted Spartan Arrow bush beans, a change from the usual Blue Lake bush. We're growing 4 sweet peppers, called Carmen and one Jalapeno pepper. I purchased all the peppers in six inch pots from Wmart. The Black Hungarian pepper seeds I was starting got toasted one hot, sunny day, so I went with what I planted last year. Next year I will start the seed germination process a few weeks earlier.
Baby Roma tomatoes

It has gotten cloudy with thunderheads moving in, and the light has changed. So I ran out an got a few garden pix before the storm. I am onto my next online class at University, so I am unable to post as often. So my apologies in advance. I'm hoping to do some photo logs for posts and have taken some pictures of the currently blooming daylilies.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Difficult plantings

Do you have a difficult planting area in your yard? Some place where the light is variable, it's either too dry or too wet or if you leave this green-space alone it just looks bad? I do. Oddly enough my challenging space was originally built as a stone planter box at the front of the house! Every year I dig in different plants and they just don't do well...  All that silver brocade I posted about  previously, see here, has died out, as well as two lavender plants. When I pulled out their remnants this season, I discovered lots of tiny brown ants. I'm pretty sure all those ant nests didn't do much to promote root growth, so combined with our harsh winter this planter box was really a giant plant coffin.

A couple of years ago, when I was desperate for color (flowers never bloom reliably here either) I had tried caladiums with their brightly colored leaves, they did well, so I thought I'd give them another shot. Anyway, I turned over all the dirt in this planter, added a bag of topsoil and some manure fertilizer. Then I headed to Lowe's garden center to look for caladiums. Well, fortunately they had four plants left, while none of my usual garden centers had any, so I purchased the most colorful three.

The scoop on caladiums is that they are tropical plants in the Arum family; they are grown from bulbs with light preference ranging from bright shade to part shade or filtered sun, they thrive in temps over 70F and love high humidity. Perfect for most Missouri summers and the odd light requirement works for this funky planter location too. The only downside here is that I've got a 12 foot planter and 3 smallish pots of caladiums, definitely more plant mass is needed.

I found a couple of quart sized Gryphon begonias, another interesting primarily foliage plant. These begonia leaves are maple leaf size & shape, but have a reddish underside and a dark green topside with silvery spots. Their light requirement goes from part shade to shade and they don't need much watering. Sounds perfect, since half the planter gets variable sun with partial shade and the final 6 feet are mostly shady.

For the far end of the planter with least sun exposure, I though I'd try a Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), a Missouri native plant which grows in part to full shade and producing yellow flowers. This is a new plant for me, other varieties of poppies have not done well  in my yard, so this is a completely experimental planting. This plant likes moisture, so being closest to the rain barrel is a plus.

The plantings have been in for about two weeks and they look like they are thriving. I really like the foliage variety. I've got my candles on Pennsylvania blue stone slabs between the plants. I'll be monitoring how well these plants handle our 100 degree summer, but so far they look like good choices for this challenging spot.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rainforest conditions!

Missouri weather is never boring! Lately, it has been raining a lot, not sprinkles but thundering downpours. There was even a small tornado touchdown in St. Peters on Sunday. When it is not raining, its hot and humid, although the nights cool down to the 60's. Crazy weather for June, much more like early Spring.... Lawn mowing continues to be a challenge and I missed my single, afternoon window of opportunity last Friday. Instead, I was weeding the raised beds,  planting the beans and deadheading the rose bushes between storms; vegetables are going to be late season producers this year. Our cactus & orchids are thriving though in the steaminess and blooming!

The rain barrels are working wonderfully, in fact are overflowing, since I'm not needing to water with all this rain. I am definitely appreciative of the rain though, droughts are terrible. Strange how we can have so much precipitation here in the landlocked Midwest, yet ocean bordering California is in the midst of a severe drought...   Anyway, the Missouri River is on the rise again but we are no where near flood stage yet.

I'm in the final week of my online university class and hope to do well on the final paper. Happily, I am on vacation this week so I can devote more time to writing. Online class #2 starts June 16th and finishes in July. I'll take a four week break and start the Fall semester with two more online classes and one heatin' the seat class. I am really motivated, feeling like I'm finally making some significant forward motion in my life plans.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Currently blooming

Tough mowing!

I started back to university two weeks ago... only 36 credits from achieving my Bachelor's in Communication. This summer I enrolled in two online classes, so homework consists of reading lots of text & writing 3 papers a week. I'm not complaining, I really enjoy school and am so close to graduating that I am doubly energized. I thought I would include mostly photos of what is currently blooming in the garden. We've had lots of rain, heat & humidity. I missed a week of lawn mowing in the back yard and the grass was over eight inches tall! Hopefully soon I will get better a juggling school, work, garden and household chores. It's been about a year and a half since I was in school and I'm a bit out of practice...

Knockout roses are loaded with blooms

All my roses are loaded with flowers. This past cold winter and current heavy rains seem to have eliminated aphids and Japanese Beetles from munching on leaves and rose buds. I tossed around some granular fertilizer the other day as it will be effective longer than fish emulsion with this much precipitation. The climbing roses are also doing well, although the big Queen Elizabeth has fewer flowers post 5 foot pruning this Spring.

We just had a rain shower and I took these photos in storm sky light, so they aren't as brilliant, but everything looks lush. The hand made short trellis is probably on its last season as the deer knocked it over last year. I really like the primitive look from the weathered wood, so we will probably make another to replace it. The garden is always in progress with plenty of plans and potential remodeling projects in mind!
Blaze climber and notice the large green leaves of the hollyhocks

Bachelor's Buttons
The stump garden is full of herbs and what I  call simple bloomers. I've been fixated on growing Bachelor's Buttons for a couple of years, trying a few different brands of  seed. I favor the blue flower ones over the pink or white flowering plants. Last year I found these seeds for burgundy flowers and they didn't do much, except re-seed  for a lovely clump this year on the part sun side of the garden. They are charming and I hope they continue to reproduce, since I can't remember where I purchased the original seed packet!

The yellow yarrow was an early bloomer this year and has formed a nice clump of lacy leaves and large yellow flower pads. It is a cheerful bright spot these rainy days. The background catmint has got a good bloom on as well considering it just got transplanted into the garden this Spring.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Busy, busy, busy! Yep, Spring has finally hit full force. The garden seems to have burst forth with the week of 80F/26C temperatures. Rain has been forecast but only sprinkles arrived, so I was using all three of the rain barrels to water the newly blooming plants. The lilacs have passed, but the lily of the valley and bleeding heart are still booming. The irises are starting and a are a burst of color on the south side of the house. Val and I raked the winter leaf compost and whacked down the Butterfly (Buddleia) bushes in the 20 foot strip, shrubbery garden along the front driveway. One Buddleia was completely dead but the 10 foot blue has good leaf growth at the base. We then spread a truckload of hardwood mulch throughout this 20X5 garden which definitely sharped up this privacy hedgerow. I installed a wood pallet crate to serve as a plant trimmings/compost site.

Besides the winter kill, voles have invaded the garden and chomped quite a number of plants and bulbs. I lost two balloon flowers and a Missouri primrose to their underground burrowing and voracious appetites. These pesky creatures are bigger than brown mice, have a short tail and razor sharp teeth; they are omnivores. My beagle and cat will kill a vole but get sick if they eat them, although Emma will dig forever chasing these pests. If you want more info check out this on wiki We have been clearing the leaves to eliminate the protective cover they scurry under in hopes of tempting the local owls to stop by for a snack. I think it's working because I have not seen or heard the one that made a nest under my sage plant for about a week.

Seedlings are sprouting on the front porch in ziplock/cake pan greenhouses. The milkweed seeds were in the refrigerator almost 2 weeks, but so far no shoots yet. The butterfly seeds did germinate well and are sprouting, along with the lambs ear & catnip. Hopefully, we can get the raised veg beds planted this weekend as the pepper starts I bought are flowering!

I'm including a few pix of the iris I currently have blooming. This year I'm planning to move a few more around the yard as they are getting crowded in the south bed. So many projects! I'm just going to have to make lists and take one at a time.

Right now I am tied to the sewing machine again... Val is due to be paper marbling at our local Heritage Days May 17th and was in desperate need of a new Empire gown, befitting the time period. It is a bit of a challenge piecing and French seaming a 10 piece bodice, but happily it went together well, albeit  6+ hours with only hand stitching visible. I may just do a post on the gown just to brag...

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thinking about insects & the ecosystem

A bit chilly today and the clouds moved in this afternoon; we are anticipating thunderstorms tomorrow. The gardens are changing daily with the varying warmth, sunshine and rain. The latest fragrant bloomers are the lilac bushes, they are looking & smelling wonderful! There are also blooms on the dwarf Fothergill bush. I am hoping the honeybee populations will start exiting their hives to catch these plants at their peak bloom.

The spring chores are really coming together and getting done this season. Our third rain barrel was completed Easter Sunday and partially filled with the intermittent sprinkles on Monday. All the roses are finally pruned and I managed to fill four trash barrels with the thorny trimmings. My community has a free yard waste pick up this Friday, so I've been busy mincing up my pile of rose prunings to get them out of the yard. The healthy looking pruned roses are also starting to fill out nicely with their new leaves.
Fothergilla major "Mt. Airy"

Indoors, I started a tray each of Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) seeds and Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). The Monarch Butterfly populations have been decreasing dramatically (90%) due to habitat destruction as well as herbicide elimination of milkweed plants in agricultural fields. Mayor Slay of Saint Louis has announced his program, "Milkweed for Monarchs," in conjunction with the St. Louis Zoo, Missouri Botanical Garden, Forest Park Forever and the Missouri Dept. of Conservation, to plant milkweed at 50 police & fire stations, as well as other public gardens and encourage 200 residential gardeners to plant milkweed also. I figure I can do my part one county over and try to get a patch of milkweed growing too. Monarchs lay their eggs specifically on the milkweed plant, so it is crucial that there are some in their migratory ecosystem.

I also started a few dozen pots with seeds of Lamb's ears (Stachys lanata), catnip (Nepeta cataria), and some Black Hungarian peppers (Capsicum annuum). As you can tell my seed order from the Seed Savers Exchange has arrived and I was hot to get some baby plants started. I'm thinking the lamb's ears will be a nice gray plant, (see post  to add to the garden. This winter killed the Dusty Miller and most of the Silver Brocade. I saved one small sprouting piece of the Silver Brocade in a peat pot hoping to transplant it to a better location in the garden.

I recently attended a meeting of the Three Rivers Beekeepers in hopes of getting more information on bee favored garden plants. Bees in my area love the mint family plants, as well as lavenders and oregano. I also learned that given their short tongue many of the butterfly or hummingbird plants hold nectar too deep for the bees to reach. Bees are also more attracted to large clump plantings of the same nectar plant rather than individual or scattered plantings. Interesting to find out bees are more like Costco shoppers when in comes to sourcing nectar. I will be changing up the spring planting/garden plan to incorporate these new ideas.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday & Forget-me-nots

Our Easter weather was perfect, sunny and warm, with the high temperature peaking at 81F/27C. The family enjoyed a homemade waffle breakfast together and then I sat on the porch with my morning cuppa contemplating the day and listening to birdsong. Today is the final day of a weeks worth of vacation and I think I will take it easy. I have certainly crossed many chores off the to-do list, as well as enjoyed several fun outings. It will be disheartening to jump right back into my night shift schedule, but hey, it's a paycheck and there is more vacation time to come...

I mentioned my Brunnera plants the last few posts and wow! are they doing well. The little "forget-me-not" blue flowers are a cheerful spot of color in the early Spring garden. I have two types of Brunnera, each have the same blue flower but the heart shaped leaves on one are green and the "Jack Frost" variety has silver variegated leaves. Brunnera are perennial, need partial shade and well-rotted humus-y soil. They tend to grow into a one foot clump about eight inches tall with the flowers forming on spikier stems. I give them a dose of fish emulsion after they stop blooming as they are heavy feeders with significant long lasting foliage.

The "Jack Frost" brunnera resides in my shady woodland garden with hostas, solomon seals, astilbe, bishops cap, trilliam and wild ginger. It gets a bit of sun around the corner of the house and is heavily mulched with leaves and wood chips over winter. This plant has survived three seasons in this location with minimal care. I purchased this Brunnera in a gallon pot at my local greenhouse which tends to carry a terrific selection of some less common garden plants. Brunnera are a bit pricey at about ten dollars or so, but given its charming culture & durability, it is definitely worth the cost.

The Brunnera macrophylla blue is planted near a large rotting stump of a silver maple. It gets morning sun and afternoon shade. I purchased this plant about two years ago and since it is in a more exposed location I was concerned the winter polar- vortex-cold had killed it. Its leaves died back completely to the ground up until this mid-week. I had placed a large rock at the base of this plant and perhaps that gave the roots some protection because it looks marvelous. It seems to have popped out of the ground and bloomed!

We all enjoyed a quiet day in our neighborhood. With everyone grown up I didn't have to hide any eggs or fill baskets with chocolate. Although I did pass out some Schogetten (German) chocolate bars which are tasty individually pieced treats. The dogs, Emma & Wendy got an evening walk and are happily styling in their Spring "bluebirds of happiness" scarf-wear. Have a blessed Easter everyone!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tidying up

Simply an energizing day! The perfect temperature at 75F/23C, sunshine and a light breeze. Found myself drawn outside while sipping the morning teacup & wandering around the yard, finally, sitting with Wendy dog on the back porch steps just soaking in the sunshiny warmth.

I washed a couple of loads of laundry and today was the first clothesline day of the year. I enjoy having my clean clothes smell like sunshine after a few hours outside. I'm happily using the clothesline rather than the dryer, it definitely saves on the electric bill. Wendy dog has been lounging about the patio moving from sun to shade patio stones when she gets too hot. The shady clothesline area was the perfect doggie hangout for a while.

The leaf clutter was raked off the gardens in the front yard yesterday and although it is early in the season, I think a lot of perennials died over this cold winter. Four of the Buddleia bushes have no signs of life yet, but I will wait a week or so before I decide their fate. Happily, my Brunnera plants are up and blooming and the bleeding heart is getting ready to bloom out as well. I finished pruning back the last of the Knockout roses today. All the rose bushes had significant winter kill and needed canes cut back about one foot.

We also camouflaged the rain barrel #2 in the front yard with pre-wired bamboo screening from Home Depot. I don't mind looking at the blue plastic of the rain barrel but the neighbors might not find it as attractive as I do. The natural bamboo is an instant conceal rather than waiting for squash vines to grow, and it hitches together easily with my new favorite attachment device, zip ties. Tomorrow rain barrel #3 goes up at the edge of the front driveway complete with its own bamboo jacket. Rain is expected on Monday, it will fill the new barrel & hopefully inspire languishing perennial roots to send up shoots. Fingers crossed...