Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mom's Garden Tour

Hoping everyone had a great Memorial weekend! The kids and I made a road trip to check on my mom's progress Sat/Sun.  She has been graduated to a four-legged cane for about a week now. .and is getting around much better than when I left her a few weeks ago.  We had a very nice weekend. My sister and her kids were there too. We all did some gardening (while mom supervised). She had a lot of small projects that needed done that she hasn't been able to do. We spent a little time with my grandma and took her out to decorate grandpa's grave. Then my folks, my kids and I enjoyed meeting up with my aunt and uncle and their cousins for lunch before they all went to decorate family graves on Sunday. I took the kids shopping after lunch to stock up on summer groceries, shorts and shoes for those that needed them. Unfortunately, on the way home I started noticing a small sore throat. .that turned into a fever and body aches. .so I enjoyed most of my holiday from the couch.  Darn it!! The only good thing about that was that the wind was blowing about a million miles per hour. .so I didn't want to be outside anyway. Since I forgot my camera for the weekend. .but Grant was busy with his. .I'm showcasing his photos for your viewing pleasure!
My mom's newest project was a pondless waterfall. .which got put in a week ago or so. It turned out great!!
They used some of the native limestone that my mom uses in her gardens. . . and that I have been exporting for years to use in my gardens. 

She has some crazy, out of control vine growing in this same spot. .so we spent some time removing it from some of the areas and thinning the bee balm out as well. I have tried to grow bee balm several times with no luck. .mostly because it is so dry here. I took a small root of hers intending to try it in the bog garden next to the pond. It seems to be getting more sun than I thought. .so it might be just the place to grow the monarda.
This photo was taken from the back steps right off the kitchen. Behind the red rose bush is the waterfall. The noise level is just perfect! She also has several bird feeders right there. .so a good combination for her feathered friends.
Looking the other direction is the back patio with a pergola over it.  This is a perfect place to relax and watch the kids play while the adults visit. .and it's big enough for all 21 of us!
She does such a good job with the little touches. .and all the gardens are so beautiful, tranquil, and full of life.
Grant got a close up of this bloom. .I will have to ask her what it is. .it looks like a fanfare gallardia. .but it is red instead of the typical orange. She had 3 of these plants smothered with blooms!
You can see those plants in front of the purple salvia. The green as far as you can see is foliage from millions of plants that will bloom all summer long!
She had some peonies and late irises blooming. We cut back her autumn sedum (mine here in western Ks never gets tall enough to need cutting before it blooms) And so I was able to take some cuttings of her black sedum to root into my own gardens.  Right now they are just stuck in some pots of soil that Grant brought in for me last night, but as soon as I can, I will scatter those around my yard. The foliage is such an unusual color. .and blends well with all the green foliage.
She also asked us to make a jelly feeder for the few orioles she has seen around her place.  We used this clear plastic plant saucer and put holes in the lip (my dad misunderstood me when I asked for 3 holes around the lip and one hole at the bottom for drainage if it rained. .so I got four holes around the lip. .and I was probably lucky to get THOSE!) We tied some jute string through the holes and made a hanger. Filled 'er up with grape jelly and hung it from the dead apricot tree with the delicious honeysuckle blooms all over it! Nothing ate from it while I was still there. .I guess time will tell.
On the way out Sunday morning, we stopped at an old cemetary that we used to mow every summer for 4-H. Grant took some pictures and I just wandered around looking.
I think I may have him blow this one up for the fair. .I love the way the lichen accentuates the word Mother. I think it gives it a little bit of eery-ness. The fair will be here before we know it!! Hope you enjoyed a short tour of some of mom's gardens. We were blessed with a 1/2 inch of much-needed rain last night. .and no wind so far today.
Can you believe that tomorrow is JUNE?? Enjoy your week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Play Ball!!

This kid. .
. .has been waiting for baseball season to start since last September.  It was his turn. Both the older boys got to play when they were younger. .as time went along. .we found ourselves at 4 games a week, in addition to practices. .mixing busy job schedules and babies into that set up. .and we were WORN out!!  The boys resigned from baseball and returned to our old skiing habits and other summer hobbies. 
Dev has loved baseball since he was 3.  We told him he could play when they got to "coach pitch" age. .and this was the year. He has been asking since last fall. .when baseball would start. .who would be his coach. .when would they practice. .what would they wear. .and on and on
So after his mom totally blew off the first practice. .being out of the habit. .and having a little bit of life on my plate. .and he being sick with the stomach flu for the 2nd practice. .
He got to attend his first practices this week. .which he thought was a blast. . 
And tonight. .the first game!!
It's everything he thought it would be. .
AND. .
they WON!! 
Go Red team!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lawn Furniture Make-over

Has anyone else noticed a "make-over" theme to my blog lately?? Seems like we "make-over" a lot of stuff around these here parts!!
BEFORE CHRISTMAS (yikes) my father in law thought I had LOST my mind as he watched me in action at the auction of the estate of a couple of my dearest recently deceased patients. I had been looking for some old metal chairs to use in my yard.  As I looked around Vera's belongings for a momento of her to treasure, I saw these chairs.  Not ONLY were they chairs. .they were ROCKING chairs!! I didn't know they made old metal rockers!! I stood with my hand, unwavering, in the air as the bid went up, $5 at a time! The lady bidding against me was standing right beside me. .and there were only a handful of people left there at that point. She gave up as we approached $50. .and I felt like I got a great deal at $45 for the set.
And making it ALL better, was the fact that I got this swing right before that for $5. My F-I-L just shook his head, but helped me load it up onto his pickup and dropped it by the house later that day.
Fast forward a few months. .in April, we pulled out the sandblaster and got as much paint off the chairs and swing as we could. 
And I even took my turn holding the shield while being pelted with the little crystals of sand.  Then life happened again. .pushing us into last weekend.  I hand-sanded the chairs a final time before they got their paint job, just trying to remove any remaining, firmly stuck on paint crust.  I believe I counted at least 3 different colors of paint being removed!
Being the good sport he is, my smiling husband primed the furniture using his painting equipment.  He was actually only smiling because he had flipped off my camera and thought I was naive enough not to notice before snapping a picture. .PLEASE. .we have been married nearly 17 years now. .I learned a LOOOOONG time ago. .
The chairs were still rough in spots where the paint wouldn't easily come off. .but if you are perfectionistic enough, it would have come off. .with some work!
I was going to have him order some paint for me. .but as I wandered through Walmart a couple weeks ago, I found a Rustoleum spray paint in a hammered metal finish. I thought that would be perfect for disguising some of the roughness left on the chairs. .not to mention. .it blends in more with the surroundings. .which is good with me. Don't get me wrong. .the lime greens and bright reds would have rocked these chairs!! But I know the finish wouldn't have rocked as much with the imperfections of age. .and laziness!!
I spray painted a little bit. .but Jeremy finished them up while I was gardening Saturday evening. I think they turned out great!!
I found enough landscape fabric leftover to put under the swing and covered it with mulch. I will also add a layer of fabric and mulch under the metal chairs too. That will keep the weeds and nasty bermuda grass to a minimum. .and will look a little more manicured!! After all. . .
This IS the view out of my kitchen window! We haven't made time to swing while making smores. .but Devin, Cami, and I did enjoy swinging on the newly finished seating while listening to the birds sing. .in between their chatter!!! Some day. .my house is going to be REALLY quiet!
Happy Humpday! It's the last day of school here!!
Welcome Summer Vacation!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Birding Highlights

This weekend was just what we needed!!! A little more of a relaxed pace. .a time to finish up some drug-out projects. .and a time to just hang out!! Things are beginning to look and feel more like summer.  I got the chance each day to do a little resting on the decks and enjoyed some bird watching too!  We saw lots of interesting ones around. .and the binoculars were kept on the front table all weekend.
While swinging Cami on Thursday afternoon, the little hummingbird that I had seen showed up to graze.  We watched it for a little while before I dashed in and got my camera. The pictures aren't great by anyone's standards. .but that little girl moved SOOOO fast!! I did some research and think that we were watching a female ruby throated hummer. .I believe that because her back was definitely green irridescent. .and as you can see above, there was white at the tip of the tail. I never really saw her from the front. .
But I don't believe there was any sign of red to the chest.  I was more than tickled for the opportunity to view its habits in my own yard!! I have hung my feeder next to the honeysuckle, but I haven't really seen it eat from that yet.  The first flush of blooms will be gone soon, maybe then.
I was also excited to watch a pair of Western King birds. We typically have a few pairs of these around in the summers, but I haven't seen them yet this year. .nor have I had the opportunity to just sit and watch them.  The 3 crabapple trees to the west, seemed to host a lot of activity this weekend. .the tree this one is in didn't come back this year. .it was de-barked by a deer a couple years ago. .and apparently made a slow death.  Many birds sat in it's naked branches looking for lunch.
The kings aren't as brightly colored as these little guys. .
My friends. .the Baltimore oriole.
We have been blessed with their bright colors the last few years. I always think that the birding books show them as a deeper orange color. .and I would describe it as yellow!! But as I watched them yesterday, I think they would be considered more orange. .but still very hard to differentiate when you see them on the fly!
I have seen at least 2 together at the same time. .so I know there are that many. I kept thinking that I might see them try to eat from the hummingbird feeder, but I haven't yet.  I don't feed them fruit or grape jelly as many people do. .I'd probably get better pictures up close if I did!! There is something in my habitat that keeps them coming back, and I am grateful for the chance to watch them without having to do anything to keep them!
I saw two types of swallows this weekend. The barn swallows, above. .and then some tree swallows, which hawk bugs from the top of my pond. It is amusing to watch them come from no-where and swoop down to the surface and be gone before you even realized that they were there! I've never really liked these birds because they are always trying to build nests where I'd rather they didn't, but they are a very pretty purple color.
I was also able to identify a lark sparrow this weekend. My picture is just of a plain house sparrow. .I couldn't get a picture of the lark sparrow. .they seem to be very elusive. They sing a BEAUTIFUL song. .and that is what caught my attention. It sounds much like a wren in clarity of tune. .but a longer song. .more like a mockingbird would sound.  I was quite perplexed by it, as I saw the lark sparrow a couple weeks ago, but could never see it long enough to identify!! It also sat in the crabapple tree long enough that I could look it up and confirm it in my book. Grant noticed a bobwhite quail bathing in the back sprinkler near the tree row yesterday morning. And I caught site of a bluebird yesterday afternoon as Devin and I were picking up a few big rocks with the tractor.  I can hear the wrens and mourning doves in the tree row. .and they are sounds that are dear to my heart!!
Another project that we finished this weekend (in addition to the funnel planters and a couple more that I will share later this week) was the waterfall.  I have not been happy with the top of the fall since we put it in. .but I just didn't know where to go with it.  A few weeks ago, while in Wichita, I picked up 4 small rocks to use at the top. .along with some waterfall foam. 
You also might recall that, I loaded 4 wheelbarrows full of compost around the top of the falls, making it nearly level with the top of the water resevoir and then re-placed some of the rock to look a little more natural. But the spillway still annoyed me. That's what we were able to fix Saturday.
So, we added the two longer rocks. .one to act as the new spillway, and one to camoflauge the open side of the reservoir.  The smaller rocks got added to the sides as well. .and waterfall foam was placed around them to direct the water where we wanted it to go. .which was up, over, and between the new rocks. I am VERY happy with the final results!! The plants are taking off now. .and the fish and tadpoles are thriving as well.  I have enjoyed having the windows open and hearing the falls. 
It looks to be another busy week around here. .school will be ending Wednesday, baseball is starting, the bathroom will be complete this week, and our work and social schedules are full!!
It feels good to have done a little lounging to get a refreshed perspective on life!! Wishing everyone a blessed week. .thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Our Funnel Planter Project

We FINALLY got the funnel planters done that we started in March!!
I may have mentioned that we found some super cool old funnels at the flea market on the way home from my folks a couple months back. I was wanting to replicate some funnel planters that I had seen in a garden magazine. 
First we took a couple old funnels.  Any size will do, but I chose the largest ones I could find. .because I needed enough dirt in the things that they didn't dry out in an hour here in "hot and windy land." 
I let Jeremy punch holes in the top of this one. .it was cheap and not too fancy. 
This one though, was an old tractor funnel. .and it was super heavy with writing on the sidel, so I didn't really want him to make holes in it.  He has had it put together since right after we got it.  He took some old wire that was laying around, and made a little harness for the funnel to set in. .it will bring more at the auction when I die if we don't deface it now :-) Always thinking ahead!
He attached 3 small chains to each funnel to help it hang straight. 
I lined the funnel with an old plastic sack to help prevent it from rusting out.
The cheap funnel already had a small piece of screen glued into the spout. Jeremy fixed a small screen to the tractor funnel too, to keep the dirt from washing out. I cut a small hole in the bottom of the bag to let the water drain out of the bottom. 
After putting a little potting mix in, I sprinkled some moisture holding crystals on top, to conserve as much water as I could. These little crystals are similar to the things in baby diapers. .they absorb the liquid and swell up. The roots of the plant can then use the extra water as it dries out.  
Add a few plants of your choice. .
In this case, a chunk of some unknown houseplant I accidentally broke off when we helped grandma move to town (it spent the winter in the greenhouse rooting) and an overwintered coleus cutting. . 
And in this one went an airplane house plant. 
We hung them both up this evening on the back porch.  The magazine photo had a group of about 5 hung together. .and if the wind doesn't blow at your house. .it was sure cute that way. At MY house, we had to make sure that if the wind was blowing REALLY hard. .as it is prone to do. .that they wouldn't hit each other, or the house. .we ended up hanging them on separate ends of the small entry porch.  This door faces the east. .so the wind is less. .and so is the hot sun! A perfect place for some of my other house plants!
One of my favorite hobbies is taking TRASH to TREASURE!! 
Stay tuned. .we also had time to work on my other trash project tonight. .and hope to have it turned into treasure by the end of the weekend!!
Enjoy a beautiful spring weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Garden Update

As one would expect for this time of the year. .
Lots of things are going on in the yard too! The spring flowers are still showing off. .and the summer flowers are getting flower buds in preparation of their own displays.
The grass is green. .and is starting to fill in the bare spots. .but there are plenty of green weeds doing their part of coloring the landscape too! As in many other parts of our country, the weather has been unusual, to say the least. .and we go from unseasonably warm (like 98 degrees two days running) to unseasonably cool (frosting many areas). 
The goldfish are active. .eating water bugs and playing games with one another.  A few weeks ago, Cami and I picked out a small yellow Koi and a black, google-eyed goldfish to add to the collection.  The boys spotted the two new tadpoles Sunday evening, and they have also found a ton of snails. .which I did NOT place in there. .how they got in I will not know. The one large snail that Cam and I bought a couple weeks ago has resurrected itself after 4 days of laying belly up at the bottom of the pitcher pump water feature. .and got relocated by Grant. .to his indoor fish tank.
The plants given to me by friends, the new ones I ordered, and my own shrubs that got a new location this spring are all holding their own.  The yard is perfumed by honeysuckle, iris, and dianthus.  I FINALLY saw a hummingbird Saturday buzzing around my orange honeysuckle vines.  I have not yet been able to get close enough to get a good look at it. .but hopefully soon. .I pray he will make himself at home and spend the summer with us.  Devin also spotted another bluebird out the window Saturday. .so I am hopeful that they are using our nest boxes.
The knock out roses are in full bloom and are quite striking! As are the peach iris. We enjoyed a bouquet of them on the kitchen table for the BBQ.  In fact, I was able to quickly collect 4 bouquets of different things to set around the house. .I LOVE fresh flowers!! The peonies have also had a great year. I bought a cheap grab bag of them a few years ago. .and this is the first year that they have had more than one bloom apiece. They smell divine. .and have graced several vases in the house. There is a white one, probably Maxima variety, a middle pink and a bright pink plant.
The dianthus and pink snapdragons that I planted around the stone bench that used to sit by the fire pit have made a comeback.  We started the antique metal furniture project 2 months ago and haven't gotten back to them. I hope to have them done soon to put back in this area for seating, especially since we started with the firepit the other night to fix some mallows!!
The veggie garden is doing very well!! I mentioned once that I was going to plant without tilling this year, and so far that is working.  After I got back from my mom's the weeds in the unmulched back half of the garden were taking over. I had Grant haul the tiller out there so I could make quick work of getting rid of them.  Unfortunately, the tiller shot crap. .and I still had to pull weeds.  So, I guess I was 100% tiller free this season.  Because of that method, there has been some remaining straw to pull across and protect some of the plants.  The beets have been thinned, and the carrots (visible right behind the beets in the photo) will need thinned soon too. .I am still amazed that they even came up!!
Here are the potato plants. .and as I dug out some Johnson grass last weekend, I noticed that the reds are making taters. Can't wait!! Saturday I managed to get 5 varieties of tomato plants, 2 types of pepper plants, 3 squash, 3 rows of baby corn, 3 rows of okra, 2 types of cucumber seeds and 2 varieties of watermelon, plus a small stand of dill planted.  I was beside myself with joy, because I was afraid that I wasn't going to have time to do it all. Things went in quickly. .and we are hoping for some rain this week.  Grant is pleased that his strawberry plants are setting fruit now. .and I am trying to find a place to put some raspberry bushes when they go on sale.  We'll still need to lay some newspaper down and cover it with straw in the back as the seeds sprout.  The ground covered with mulch from last year was significantly better than the harder, sunbaked soil in the back. And the weeds are much fewer throughout the previously mulched part, as you might expect.
the larkspur stand is adding some character to this weedy patch
The greenhouse is being cleared out slowly. We are still picking tomatos. .and the plants have had a lot of new lush foliage and blooms start again.  I know that it has everything to do with the abundant sunshine and added warmth.  Most of the house plants are moved out to the decks. .which leaves the house looking empty, but the outside entrances look inviting. 
It's hard to believe that May is more than 1/2 over now. School will be out for the younger ones next week. Devin is playing baseball this summer which is getting underway.  The big boys have been to tractor safety and will be helping our families with farming this summer. Everyone is looking forward to the first trip to the lake and the pool.  And I am eager for a morning warm enough (and unscheduled enough) to enjoy my coffee on the deck.
Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain beardtongue) is show stopping this year!!! It is supposed to be 24 inches tall by 36 inches wide. .and is just gorgeous! It is also holding up well in the vase with the peonies.
The window birding has been VERY good this week too.  And I consider my discoveries to be an encouragement for my soul from my heavenly Father!! Last Saturday in the midst of a particularly stressful day, we sighted the hummer and the bluebird.  Monday, while on the phone begging my sis in law to come watch the sick one for graduation, I spotted FOUR cedar waxwings in the elm tree next to my pond. I have NEVER seen one of these beauties here. .despite our abundant supply of cedar berries for their dining pleasure!! 
photo courtesy of cornell web site
I discovered in my birding book that they migrate out by the first of June. .so I was REALLY excited to have seen them here!! I am especially pleased with how our backyard habitat is shaping up. .and find pleasure daily at the sights and scents available to me right out my own door! Thanks for joining me today on the mini-garden tour.  Have a great week. .it's about over!