Saturday, July 29, 2017

A few bags less

My Grandmothers' things
I have been indoors cleaning & clearing out while the weather has been so hot 96F/35C and humid. Whenever I get stressed I clean, sort, and scrub, usually filling one trash bag and a couple of bags for donation during this process. It always amazes me how much paper manages to stealthily clutter throughout the house. So, just like pruning in the garden I have been busy excising stuff and streamlining my home environment.

A couple decades ago my mindset about stuff used to subscribe to the philosophy, "maybe I'll need this someday," now it has changed, and radically so...  I have felt almost possessed by the urge to clear out. While I continue to be seriously sentimental, I have realized that the physical burden of am item sometimes overshadows the underlying meaning or memory of the memento.

When these periodic purge-modes take hold, they get me to shed all sorts of possessions that have been languishing in dark corners or no longer benefit my lifestyle. While it is tempting to pawn some of these things off on my kids, I realize that I am doing them no favor by just shifting junk around through households.

I have been to many estate sales that were cluttered with the detritus of a long life; so many tchotchkes, years of "Precious Moments" figurines gifted when the family couldn't decide what to give a Mom for holidays. Believe me, estate sales are littered with useless stuff that cost hard-earned cash to purchase, yet is not worth $1 for anyone to buy on the second-hand market. That theory also applies to "Beany Babies," Hummels, Christmas plates or any other collector special edition knickknack.

I buy second-hand frequently, because I look at it as an effort to reduce, reuse and recycle, but trinkets from another person's life are rarely valuable outside their family. Occasionally, I will buy something to collect, but I have learned the best collections are intensively curated, not overwhelmingly large.

Conscientiously, gathering items of interest and beauty marks us as human. Our endeavors to possess or preserve something precious is a trait even Neanderthals demonstrated, buried with their artifacts. It was only when the elite began gathering treasures that the value of stuff started to be ingrained into all levels of society.

By1884, Lt-General Augustus Pitt Rivers had collected 22,000 cultural artifacts whose donation to the University of Oxford https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitt_Rivers_Museum started an era of museum acquisition and private collections of "curiosities." In the U.S., George Gustav Heye accumulated a one million piece collection of Native American artifacts, opening the Museum of the American Indian in 1916 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gustav_Heye . Even Sigmund Freud collected Middle Eastern and Etruscan art, considering it "an addiction, rivaled only by nicotine," see http://www.antiquetrader.com/articles/feature-stories/the_collecting_conundrum/.

While it seems I have placed myself in lofty company, all I am trying to say is collecting is universal and profoundly human, providing connection to our memories, and desires. Sometimes, though these physical/emotional links to stuff become a psychic and physical clutter; few of us would be eligible, or even invited to open our own museum. The stuff simply continues to occupy more space in our lives, add our current capacity to purchase in-store or online, and almost limitless amounts of stuff accumulate.

So, I try to keep in mind those packed estate sales, considering the stuff burden my children might face, and I happily prune out the deadwood of my possessions. Some things my kids would like now, some later, but the rest... if I don't see a need for it, well, it goes back out into the world to benefit someone else. It still seems like I have more than I need, but I'll keep weeding things and eventually, I hope to leave a tidier, curated legacy of just cool "heirloom" stuff.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Some Days it's too Hot to Garden...

Just blocked & dry
So, when it is too hot to work in the garden I have been knitting. While I was in Scotland this April, I was not only visiting new sights, but I was also on a personal international yarn crawl. I came home with 16 skeins of yarn! It wasn't all for myself, though I was tempted, my daughter received some skeins of yarn from that suitcase stash too.

I selected a wonderful lace weight yarn to knit first. I had made this purchase my first day in Edinburgh at Kathy's Knits, see http://www.kathysknits.co.uk/ . I was wandering, a bit lost with my backpack and looking for my B&B when I noticed Kathy knitting in a patch of sunlight at her basement shop doorway. I was very tired, my backpack had become much heavier the longer I walked, so I was more than happy to leave it on Kathy's stoop and shop for a few skeins of yarn. She suggested this limited edition wool, called Autumn, by http://www.blackbat.co.uk/ , a 50% Romney/50% Shetland lambswool yarn. Its color scheme reminded me of a mossy forest having olive greens, rusty browns and mushroom-y silver shades that stripe. I purchased this 50g skein (380 yd/350 mt) whose label had a photo of Kent, the sheep whose wool produced this yarn as a memento of my wanderings. I returned to Kathy's Knits later on my trip to purchase more yarn and found this wonderful shop a calming place to chat and relax, a LYS that made me feel "at home."

The pattern I used for this shawl is Sylvia McFadden's "All About Love," see here http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/all-about-love . This pattern was fun! You initially cast on for the lace border, then complete short rows for the stockinette section. Yardage-wise, I still have approximately a quarter of the Autumn skein left after completing the pattern as written. This pattern is completed as ONE piece, which appealed to me because I do not consider myself skilled at attaching lace borders. I now have a lovely souvenir of my springtime visit to Scotland. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Tomatoes!

Have just picked, or rather harvested my first tomatoes of the season. The larger Roma finally got fully red and the two yellow pear tomatoes are a great size for "minis."

I am looking forward to an upcoming deluge of tomatoes from my three plants. They are loaded with green tomatoes, so I will have to be patient while they ripen, but I am pleased with my on schedule success.

There isn't any vegetable tastier than a warm, sun-ripened tomato. I shall be slicing these three up for a gourmet tasting tonight.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Pests

The Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica) are back... I know I was all excited about being a Humane Backyard, but I checked the paperwork and insects are not listed for nonlethal resolutions to their presence. As I have said before, I do not spray anything but Neem Oil and soapy water, but with this many Japanese Beetles, I have resorted to handpicking them or knocking them off the plant into a coffee can with an inch of water before killing them. Also, I have noticed leaving a few crushed beetles around the roses does seem to discourage any surviving beetles from returning for a couple of days.

I have to admit that these bugs do creep me out with their front legs splayed like pincers, and they frequently fly in your face if you miss squishing them too. Every year they seem to target a different selection of plants; this year the Knockout roses, echinacea, butterfly bush (Buddleia) flowers, and surprisingly, only the yellow gladiolas seem to be their menu favorites. My son's poor nectarine tree is also infested, so I think this will be another year we see the fruit feeding nature instead of us.

These destructive insects emerge from the soil, where they have spent a year as white grubs underground. Historically, the Japanese beetle arrived from Japan before 1912, since then the beetle has spread west and north from New Jersey. See here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_beetle

So, while these beetles are doing their best to eat through my roses, I am committed to smooshing them before they complete the egg laying portion of their life cycle. I am sure this battle will end up at best a draw, more likely, I will make little impact in their population. In my gardening notebook I will highlight the timing of my Neem oil application next year for a late June hatch. Hopefully, the spraying and my squishing efforts this summer will create a smaller population of Japanese beetles next year.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Growing now...

The garden has been growing so well this season! Here's a few more pictures of my garden plants doing what plants do. I have to say that I am very excited about the ripening tomatoes, I am going to have ripe produce on the usual Missouri expected date of July 4th. The gladiolas are brilliant this year, I planted another 70, but the speckled cherry one has been reappearing for the last few years. The large, heavy petalled orange gladiola is one of the new ones I planted this year. The "tigerlily" has been a little less productive this year with fewer plants. I am hoping the seeds from this years growth will increase this charming plant's presence on my backyard garden slope.






Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Kimmswick Daylily Sale

Kimmswick Dayliy Garden
The garden on the south side of my house has been covered with roofing felt for the last year. I had grown irises in this garden for over ten years, but the plants had become overgrown with invasive Burmuda grass (Cynodon dactylon). I do not use poisons, so aside from futilely pulling the grass or fantasizing about more drastic measures involving fire, I was stuck. Eventually, I decided to dig up all the irises and replant them throughout my other gardens, then tacking down roofing felt to light deprive & hopefully, kill the Burmuda grass.

I've had a whole year to consider what I will plant to fill in this garden and decided daylillies would be the best choice. Daylillies (hemerocallis) grow in thick bunches, have lovely blooms, are minimal care and important to my Burmuda grass battle, shade the ground. Burmuda grass once established, can never be eradicated by non-chemical means, so I decided to pursue the easiest option, hence daylilies.

Mr. Carrol Wrather
Kimmswick has an Annual Daylily Sale as a fundraiser for their Visitors Center. The master gardener who grows all the magnificent daylilies is Mr. Carrol Wrather, and his gardens are a delightful experience. It is amazing how many different varieties he has planted in his garden! The sale has both hundreds of labeled bare root plants available, for those who can wait until next season for blooms or Carrol and his helpers will dig the specimen of your choosing. An additional treat is that Carrol is willing to freely impart his wisdom regarding daylily care. I got a wonderful garden tour, some helpful daylily tips and a lesson on composting. I toted home 20 bare root daylilies  and planted them all!


My son and I broke up the dry, dry, dry clay left below the removed roofing felt in my southside garden---pick axe mandatory, then added a soil mixture of these components:  4-40 lb. bags of topsoil, 2-40 lb. bags of cow manure compost and 2 bags of mushroom compost. It was hard work, but will benefit the newly planted daylilies and the central small shrub, Ninebark, now planted in this southern exposure garden.  Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) is a Missouri Native shrub, which will add seasonal flowers to support both pollinators and nesting birds.

There was only one nursery in Missouri that had this shrub available, so my road trip to Kimmswick morphed into a garden trek to the outskirts of Jefferson City to visit the Missouri Wildflower Nursery. See their website here http://mowildflowers.net/ They have a WONDERFUL free catalog loaded with pictures, categorized by plant sun and soil requirements, along with a helpful star rating appraising plant culture. My 2 gallon potted Ninebark was very reasonably priced, approximately a foot and a half tall and not pot bound. I am pleased to have found this Native plant nursery, as I continue to work to naturalize my yard and gardens. Next Spring should be exciting!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Donating

I just received my Humane Backyard sign from the Humane Society! It was a donation premium with an associated pledge to provide:

1.) Natural sources of food for wildlife, including native plants.

2.) Water for wildlife through natural or manmade sources.

3.) Shelter and safe places for animals to raise their young.

4.) Avoid the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

5.) Be aware of the harm free-roaming pets can inflict upon wildlife, and take steps to ensure that   my companion animals will not pose threats to wild animals.

6.) Use humane, nonlethal approaches for resolving any conflicts with wildlife.

This 12" x 12" metal sign is going to be posted in my more visible front yard, in hopes it will inspire my neighbors to participate.  Perhaps it will also notify the city inspectors that those "weeds" I occasionally get cited for are important plant resources for pollinators, birds and other wildlife. Regardless, I am thrilled to be part of this program as I continue to shrink my lawn by planting supportive habitat.

I found this program through the library... I read, The Humane Gardener, by Nancy Lawson, which is an excellent resource for beginning to experienced gardeners. Everyone can do a little to support our natural environment, see:  www.humanebackyard.org  Also included in the package are some helpful info sheets & a pair of gardening gloves.



Monday, June 19, 2017

More rain

I am not complaining at all, I love rain! We have had some hot temperatures, so my rain barrels were getting low. Natural rain is much more effective and beneficial to the plants than my hand watering, because I realize I probably don't water long enough, nor deep enough with my watering can. The gardens are looking marvelous! I got some "wet" pictures this morning after a thunderstorm last night. The daylilies and gladiolas look doubly pretty with raindrops on their petals. Enjoy.







Thursday, June 15, 2017

Leafy Harvest

The lettuce table has produced enough greens to create a salad bowl for three! Well our three, which actually means second servings. A little spinach, mesclun and leaf lettuce, all very tender and flavorful. I added some store bought tomatoes, mini cucumbers, mushrooms and feta making a lovely light meal.

This year I covered the lettuce table with the remains of a broken matchstick blind attached with pipe cleaners onto halved steel wreath rings. A good reuse of leftover household junk. Anyway, it has worked wonders keeping the lettuces from bolting, even with our week of 90+F heat. As I have said before, gardening is an ongoing experiment and over time you figure out solutions to previous season's failures.
 

Monday, June 12, 2017

What has happened?

The photo of my orange butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and blue speedwell (Veronica spicata) look lovely together,  but this is not a complete picture of nature in action. It's a sunny, hot 95F/35C mid afternoon, perfect for nectar gathering, but there are no bees!

I am very concerned; looking around the garden there are no carpenter bees, mason bees, or European honey bees, only a few tiny Missouri bees and two Japanese beetles. My organic garden is bee-less, and I see none in my clover filled lawn either.

Another absence I have noted are the American goldfinches and House Finches. Normally, they are eating thistle seed from the sock feeder and I am filling it weekly. I have seen only one pair of American goldfinches briefly, and a single house finch. I have watched these birds for years and they are big eaters, usually lining up on nearby bushes to get their opportunity to eat at the sock feeder, but this year there are NONE! My feeder is still full from when I hung it out in May.

Two blocks from here an 88acre green space was leveled, topsoil scraped off, a creek rerouted underground into culverts, along with all the mature and dead trees removed, cut down and dug out. Literally the site was stripped, no more osage orange trees, turtles, or fox... making way for huge development of $250,000-&500,000 homes with sterile sodded lots and non-diverse sapling plantings. I am sure that this loss of local habitat has contributed to the noticeable loss of wildlife. Bees nest in dead trees, or underground and destruction of these environments reduce the priceless biodiversity within a community. I have no answer to give to city governments who justify this development as a way to increase their tax base to benefit citizens, myself included.  Yet, I am at a loss as to how to rebound from the elimination of this diverse ecosystem, that also benefited citizens. I have planted gardens to feed and support the bees, birds and butterflies, but if they do not come to my garden table to dine, maybe I have done nothing at all to help preserve them.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Environment is in Our Hands

As I walk outside in my personal garden environment, I hope that the changes I have wrought are a benefit to my yard, and in a small way promote a healthy ecology. I try to fend off fungus & plant bugs with Neem oil, and fertilize with fish emulsion and compost. I use rain barrels as a primary water source and I incorporate Missouri native plants into the garden. I attempt to feed bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to promote and preserve valuable threatened native pollinators.

Even within my home I conscientiously stick to the motto, "reduce, reuse and recycle." I use LED lightbulbs, recycle trash, bags and batteries, keep my AC (when I use it) at 74F, I eat more veg than meat, and shop at thrift stores all in an effort to limit my carbon footprint. While I am far from a shining example, I try to be a responsible human with respect to my influence on the environment.

Humanity's overall impact on the environment is in my opinion, the driving factor behind climate change. Waste, and fossil fuel use have taken a toll on the air, water and land resources of the Earth. For too long, humanity has placed itself at the top of the hierarchy of Earth's creatures, not living in symbiosis with the environment but arrogantly trying to bend the environment and its resources to our will. As a result of centuries of this narcissistic mindset, the June 3rd I experienced today, was hot, nearly 90F/32.2C! Certainly not like the pleasant early Junes of my past, where temperatures were comfortable, roses bloomed and evenings were cool.

President Trump's decision to leave the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, is not only an international debacle, but a revocation of the United States' role as a leader and steward for the environment. I am embarrassed to be an American, given the short-sighted and potentially catastrophic policies coming out of Washington, D.C. Energy conservation, clean energy and energy innovation are where the United States should be focusing, not in resurrecting the polluting coal industry. I am sorry coal miners are losing jobs, but everyone is dealing with losing or changing jobs because the world is changing. Instead of trying to control or dictate that change, perhaps we should listen to the scientists who are working to help us through these different and challenging times. 

Here are some powerful resources that started me on my small journey to help the planet. Perhaps if we all did a little something, it would matter more to solving our environmental problem than the politics of our homelands.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JD-k5BoZso

http://storyofstuff.org/movies/the-story-of-solutions/


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Berries comin' on

Blueberries!
My daughter actually harvested the first blueberry on Memorial Day. I picked about 20 yesterday. All in all, a small harvest, but I have been acidifying and "babying" these plants for three years. There are still several bushes that did not bloom this year, so zero berries from them. Gardening is a learning process, and I knew significant soil amending of our Missouri clay would be necessary to create the right environment for blueberries. I am getting closer to getting this process right since this is my best yield so far!


Blackberries
My son's blackberries are doing well again, and this is only their second season in the yard. These are thornless and we have supported them with a combination of bamboo stakes and wattle fencing made from pruned weedy yard shrubs. These need no additional soil amending, just fencing protection from the nibbling bunnies.

Raspberries
I love raspberries and have spent a few years coddling the one bare root raspberry twig I purchased from our local farm store. Last year, it  produced several handfuls of berries, then last fall I noticed the main bush had some sucker spread. This spring I added two more plants in hopes I will ultimately get a row of raspberry bushes. I had considered moving the first bush, but it seems happy enough to spread and produce, so I consider that success. I will need to get some bird netting coverage to protect the berries though, because as soon as they get pink the crows arrive to eat my harvest. They don't bother the blackberries at all, but these red raspberries are apparently food beacons to the birds.






Sunday, May 28, 2017

Garden Update

It was a bit misty this morning after thunderstorms yesterday. With all the rain, the fireflies have hatched out early; there seem to be more every night. I spotted these two climbing the spaghetti squash enclosure.


  The lettuce table is really sprouting! Oakleaf (L), Spinach (Center), and a Mesclun mix (R). The other two rows of Prizehead and some anonymous "Salad Mix" are spotty and I may re-seed. I may be clipping some baby greens for my Memorial Day salad! See original salad table post here http://dustoffurthinkin.blogspot.com/2013/06/waiting-for-germination-build-your-own.html



Planted three tomatoes this year: a Roma, a red Cherry-100 and in the foreground, a mini Yellow Pear. The basil and cilantro are looking good as well. The wood siding on this raised bed rotted and fell apart, so we are trying these narrow, 8" tall cement blocks anchored with rebar. I did a "lasagna garden" technique using a base layer of wet newspaper, and there do seem to be fewer weeds in this bed, especially the runners of bermuda grass that plague my yard. I also added compost, green sand, and powdered eggshell to the soil mix.



One of my favorite flowering plant this year, is the Missouri Primrose (Oenothera missouriensis), a local native. I have three that are blooming well. The yellow flowers are about 4" across and bloom from the end of the day through early morning before wilting. A cheerful floral greeting while wandering the yard with my morning cuppa tea. My pansies are being overwhelmed!



Another of my favorites has bloomed well this year, a Bellflower (Campanula latifolia). I think this blooms biennially, because it didn't bloom last year. This beauty is almost 4' tall with almost 2" flower bells. I had to stake it because another flower spike had fallen over and was being overgrown by the surrounding aggressive lemon balm. I am pleased to see this plant again and may try to do a stem cutting to root another plant in a less crowded garden.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Rainy

First day of the long Memorial weekend and we are having a very windy evening thunderstorm. The family has been busy out & about; I at an estate sale in Webster Groves, Jim fishing, Val working and Jul interning at Circus Flora. The dogs were the homebodies today!

I found an old folding sewing table made in So. Paris, Maine with an inlaid yardstick. I spent several years as a Maine resident, so enjoying my time in a rural northern community I get a bit homesick when I find Maine products. I also purchased the heavy German pottery mug on the table at the same estate sale. I am thinking about using the table as a portable worktable for my crafting adventures. Apparently, my financial future will be one of my own making... literally. I have still had no luck landing any career-type jobs. I am thinking the economic stats are all lies, at least here, when it takes at least a month to receive any sort of reply from an online application.

With a rainy evening ahead, we fired up the hibachi for some grilled hotdogs and mushroom caps. It was pleasant watching the rain from our garage while still enjoying a grill-out and a beer. The garden definitely needed a good drenching. All three rain barrels are now full, and outfitted with new PVC overflow piping. The lettuce table is sprouting and I have been adding a few new stepping stones to the gardens. I noticed fireflies two days ago, there's a giant toad in the front garden and the hummingbirds have returned, bickering over one feeder when I have provided them two! 


Thursday, May 18, 2017

2 weeks Abroad

Edinburgh Castle
Where have I been? Yep, again getting out of town was a good idea. A birthday gift to myself, a little touring, a lot of sightseeing, but mostly an immersion into a different culture. While traveling can be stressful to some folks, I thrive pushing my limits and experiencing new environments. Of course, I do miss my dogs and gardens, not forgetting my family while I am vacating, but I love the challenge of figuring out what to eat, finding sites on a map, blending in and talking with locals. Returning home is a smidge of a letdown, since those challenges are not part of my life here.

Scotland was wonderful, with only one sleety day, the rest were all sunny and 15C /60F; perfect weather for hiking through city, town and countryside. I had a second Spring season since the daffodils and wildflowers were all in bloom. Further north, there was still snow on the mountains of the Highlands. The west coast & the islands were truly pleasant, ice cream cones and shorts were the norm.
Isle of Iona
The Hermitage, Black Linn Falls





Culross Palace & herb gardens



Highland cow or Gaelic Heilan coo
Little did I know that after two weeks of perfect weather I would return to the States post-extreme rain. Landing a JFK, my next 3 rescheduled flights were canceled, then I was shuttled to LaGuardia Airport where my flight there was also canceled. By late evening, the airline was planning to send me to Philadelphia, until I begged to be routed through Chicago O'Hare. Yes, I spent the night on a cot at O'Hare, but everyone was very pleasant and the next morning I was back in St. Louis.

Once settled in at home, two days later... I'm outside working in the gardens, which are looking good from the two weeks of intensive prep I did before leaving town. I discovered a nest of baby cottontails underneath a large coral bells (heurchera) plant. Cute blaze on this little rabbit, but of course they will soon be munching on my plants. I will be making a few more wire plant cages to protect my favorite perennials from their expanding bunny appetites. Ah, nature...



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wedding Day

My daughter and her long-time beau had a lovely civil ceremony yesterday. The bridal bouquet and groom's boutonniere came from our local florist, Parkview Gardens, at http://parkviewgardens.com/ 
The bride's vintage velvet pillbox was sourced at a local antique mall.

Several hours later, wedding attendees enjoyed a jovial dinner at Llywelyn's Pub, St. Peters, at http://llywelynspub.com/st-peters The food was terrific and our waitstaff provided helpful additional services, such as a "vase" for the bridal bouquet and a large knife for cutting a delicious red velvet wedding cake purchased from McArthur's Bakery, see http://www.mcarthurs.com/.

Thank you to everyone who attended, and the gifts they provided to make this a beautiful & intimate day for a very special couple. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Early spring

Saucer Magnolia
We are in full Spring mode here. Daffodils and hyacinths are blooming, the magnolias are covered with flowers. One day the weather is a balmy 68F/20C and then nighttime temperatures drop to 29F/-1C. All the saucer magnolia buds and partially opened  blooms are now browning at the tips. This premature warmth has "tricked" the plants into blooming early while the erratic weather is capable of damaging this new early growth.

Last night there was a huge thunderstorm with hail here, and tornadoes in Wentzville about 20 miles away. This is the second significant thunderstorm/hail/tornado warning we've had this year. A bit early for extreme weather, but as we have all noticed the weather patterns are changing. Spring is definitely 3 weeks early.

Star Magnolia
I was listening to NPR and mention was made of this website: https://www.iseechange.org/ which is an online community climate and weather journal for non-scientist citizen observers. The site submissions accrue to document local observer narratives regarding environmental changes across the U.S. I joined to submit some of my observations. There are very interesting comments regarding the changes people are noticing, early blooms as well as an early onset of flea and tick bites. Do visit and join this site to add to the data base.




Tomorrow will be 75F/23.8C! I am enjoying the sunny warmth though, and the delightful fragrance of my yard full of blooms.




Saturday, February 25, 2017

Art in Bloom Event

I have decided to experience my own community as a tourist... this mindset is also getting me ready for my own upcoming travels. I think it is easy to forget the benefits, beauty and interesting history that is bypassed while we are distractedly engaged in our daily lives, particularly local museums.

I have tried to visit the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) a couple times a year, usually avoiding the advertised events like Art in Bloom, just to see the art. I noticed that the galleries had fairly static collections and given my year+ of ankle recovery, I had not made any effort to re-visit. But who can resist the draw of art and flowers? Certainly not me, a gardening addict who is also running out of wall space for my meager artistic possessions!

I am glad to have gone to this wonderful event! The St.Louis Art Museum has re-set their collection throughout the facility, displaying paintings that have been in storage and repainted walls in bold colors, giving a cheerful facelift to the galleries. The floral displays throughout were outstanding, including the seasonal decorations in the main sculpture gallery featuring blooming boughs of  Kazan cherry blossoms, that looked like pink pom poms and were wired with minute LED lights.

Floral arrangements were distributed throughout the museum collections and paired with a selected artwork. My three favorite offerings were:

#28 Grey Space (distractor), Julie Mehretu paired with flowers by David J. Bovier of Ken Miesner's Flower Shoppe. This gallery is in the new modern art wing, north entrance.------------------>

I loved the floral pairing of #14 Bathers with a Turtle, by Henri Matisse with flowers arranged by Rebecca Bodicky, ASCFG of Alice Blue Collective. Matisse is an artist whose joyous abandon with color truly appeals to me. The rich blue and turquoise of the sky & water are simply eye candy and the use of delphiniums is this floral sculpture convey the same contrast.

Finally, I found the drama of this darker floral arrangement paired with #27 Mary, Lady Guilford by Hans Holbein the Younger a three dimensional embodiment of the artwork. The flowers were designed by Alice Koritta of Carte Blanche Designers of District V Garden Clubs of Illinois. Notice how the fungal aspect at the left of the arrangement echoes the Corinthian pillar in the painting, as well as the basket feature representing the headpiece of Lady Guilford's wimple. The bold black accents also interplay nicely with the Lady Guilford's gown.  ------------------------------------------------->

A lovely day overall. After several hours exploring the museum we drove to our favorite Greek taverna, The Olymipa and stuffed ourselves with moussaka, gyros, shish kebabs, and dolmades. Spring is a month away but today was a lovely preview. (Do click on the photos to see larger visuals).

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Early Hike

Yesterday, my son & I decided to see if any local morel mushrooms had started to pop up. We have had  unseasonably warm weather 70F/21C with some rain this week and wondered if nature's schedule would be altered for the local mushroom crop. Since my roses, and lilacs are budding about three weeks ahead of schedule and our daffodils are in full bloom, we logically wondered if fungi had started an early bloom as well.

We hiked a woodland riverfront trail where morels have been spotted before, but we didn't see any. We did see a lovely oyster mushroom blooming (photo op only) and got to experience a pretty sunset. This warm weather is disorienting for us people too; we finished our hike almost in the dark because the sun is still setting early, 5:46pm (1746) and astronomical twilight is a half hour earlier. Luckily, we had a flashlight in our pack and got to the car without mishap.

Climate change is impacting both plants and animals, including us... it is truly disorienting, accelerating our perceptions and causing us to underestimate our place in the seasonal environment.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Wedding Bells

My oldest daughter and her fiancé decided Christmas eve that they would marry early 2017. They have been engaged for about a year and a half already, but her husband-to-be, who graduated with a BA in Marketing in 2015 has gotten insurance benefits (yay!) with his permanent, part-time stock clerk position at a local warehouse store. This financial benefit encouraged them to legalize their status. I am an excited mother-of-bride, and we are busy crafting a beautiful, budget civil ceremony .

March is when the nuptials will take place at our local courthouse. We have discovered it is possible to plan a reasonable, yet unique wedding with only a few months lead time. My daughters and I hit the January sales at our local Macy's & Dillards department stores. The bride purchased a lovely indigo lace dress for a little over $100, and my maid-of-honor daughter and I found lovely dresses for less than $50 each. I also discovered, at a local antique mall, a charming vintage blue silk velvet pillbox hat with a blue rhinestone pin for the bride's headpiece; it was only $10, and looks perfect! The fresh flower bouquets and boutonnieres will cost about $100 and a mini custom cake from our local market will cost $35. So, the main symbolic wedding pieces are in place through a combination of lucky providence and some smart shopping. 

The one item I had the primary responsibility of crafting was the wedding garter... ah, yes a little knitting had to be included in the ceremony for my knitterly daughter/bride. I found a lovely knit garter in Piecework Magazine Nov/Dec 2014 pg. 58, http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/bridal-garters-to-knit . I knit the wider Garter B, and I have to say, this is not the pattern you want to knit with either noisy distractions or a glass of wine on board, it's a little tricky. I used Silky Alpaca Lace, colour #2498 on size 2 (2.75 mm) needles. This little project accompanied me to Tampa, FL a couple weeks ago to visit my aunts. I was trying to infuse only positive karma, but honestly there was a little cussin' before this garter was finished. Today, I swished the finished garter in a "happy-joy rinse" prior to blocking. It looks good, with only 1 tiny mistake.... of course, that I noticed after pinning. Happily, I am sure this little jog will be hidden once the silk ribbons are woven through for tying it to the leg. 

So, exciting times and life changes! I am looking forward to this Spring season. It has warmed up here unusually early, temps today were 73F/22.7C! My daffodils are 6 inches tall and the dogs have been loving their daily walks.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Refresh

Odd how little stresses combine to leave one in a frazzled and exhausted state... I had to get outta town and have some riveting caring chats, lots 'o' wine and some TLC with my wonderful aunts in Florida. I took a phone, computer & radio blackout for the last week and it has made all the difference. I am sure there has been an "atrocity a day" while I was out of town, but I was glad not to know about them. Contemplating my individual future in a climate of angst is not conducive to developing any degree of peace of mind or a rational personal plan. And self-centered or not, I was really ready to have some significant me time to figure out whether I'm retired, or simply between jobs and how my life moves forward from here?

We ate like pigs, stayed up late watching wonderful movies and had some truly compassionate discussions from a female perspective. Listening to my older relatives and their older (than I) friends share their perspectives and experiences really allowed me to learn about maturity and womanhood. While I am the knowledgeable "sage" to my kids, I also need to search out mentors to feed me. Many of these women (one with a broken arm and another age 84) participated in the march on Washington, DC and had visionary wisdom from their experiences. I have come away renewed from their willingness to share and a bit steadier & sturdier, as I craft my future. Thank you everyone!