Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Time To Try Something New. .

This summer has been hot. .one of the hottest on record. .
Wait. .have I said that before??
I have re-evaluated my gardening tactics, and come up with a plan B.
It is ALWAYS hot here in southcentral Kansas. .always!! This year it is hottER, but not a new concept. Things take a lot of water around this place. .more than I can deliver, even with drip irrigation.
I have been trying to plant more natives and xeric things in the gardens that will be able to withstand the climate.
But, a month ago or so. .in the heat of the . .er. .heat. .and possibly a depression-driven manic state. .
I decided. .on a whim. .some of my best shopping experiences happen that way. .
to make a change.
This. .was. .the little mugo pine that I transplanted to the area between the house and the pond. .Not a good year to do that. .but it seemed to need more water than I was willing to give it even before it's move. (If you are horticulturally challenged. .the mugo pine is the brown stick like thing between the lovely green weeds. .of two different varieties!)
This. .was. .the lovely little baby blue eyes blue spruce (which I WILL try again someday. .just somewhere else). Now, I have maintained that the darn undetected bagworms got it. .but look at it's location. .Full sun (which it needs) 4 feet from aluminum siding on the south side of my house. .guessing it has a warmer microclimate right there. Honestly. .even though I babied that spruce with water up until it's demise. .I'm not sure it would have survived the higher temps there anyway.
My solution???
Succulents. .from where else. .but High Country Gardens.  This one is probably my favorite. .and the names and dimensions are for my future review. .cause you'll notice that the names are not easy to say. .nor will they be easy to remember!!  This is called Dasylirion Wheeleri. .Desert Sotal (Desert Spoon) and it will grow to a plant about 4 ft by 4 ft. I was drawn to it's blue-green strappy foliage. .I think it will fill in the area as well as I hoped the spruce would.
These little cuties are some varieties of living stones. This one Titanopsis, Karoo Red, should have fabulous red blooms on it, nearly covering the evergreen foliage. .another plus!
Similarly, another low growing variety that will also flower. They form tight mats of greenery, which I think I will like. This one is called Aloinopsis Spathulata.
This guy is what most people envision when they talk about agave. .I really like the look of it with it's thick, wide leaves.  It is called Agave Ovatifolia (Whale's tongue century plant) and gets about 2-5 feet tall and 3-6 feet wide. Yes, those are little spikes at the top of each leaf. .and they are sharp, they slice right through the wrist of a good quality garden glove!! I will consider it to be like a razor wired fence to keep children out of my waterfall rock. .only more aesthetic.
Here's a little agave. .
Agave Parryi Flagstaff gets 18inches x 18-30 inches. When it blooms will have a 12 foot high stalk with flower on the top that will attract hummingbirds. .I hope I live long enough to witness that!!
Finally, Agave Utahensis V. Kaibabensis (Grand Canyon Century plant) gets to be 12-15 inches by 18 inches.
The whale's tongue agave is in the locale of the dead mugo pine. .and the other two smaller agave are closer to the house. My hope is that they will grow well enough to fill in the bed. I watered them all in after planting. .and now need to leave them be. I will move the drip irrigation system out and curl it back down toward an area next to the pond that doesn't have irrigation. They should be happy with very little water. .20-40 inches a year. .and our average is 22 inches of rain per year. .we might be just a LITTLE under that this year!!
So far, I love the new look!! I'm pushing the cold limits on a couple of the plants. .they are hardy to zone 6. .which is the zone I am in. .but this past winter we had several zone 5 nights. I am hoping that the southern exposure microclimate will help them to survive any future cold snaps like that!
Amazingly. .I didn't have to ask twice for Jeremy's help to build a fence near the new Atlas cedar. We plan to use cedar trees from the pasture (it is a noxious weed in these parts) and do a split rail type of fence. It is slowly coming together in my mind. We postponed our cutting trip from last Sunday afternoon since it was 107. .looks like this Sunday and Labor day will be in the EIGHTIES!! HEEE HAAAAW!! This Joe Pye weed (above) self seeded on the north side of my house. So I think I will transplant some of them to the new fence area.  I also plan to relocate some Pampas grass, and some of my maiden grasses, Karly rose grass, and variegated grass that can easily be divided. I also have some seeds in mind to sow next spring in the area. Somehow. .I'm sure it won't look like it does in my head. .primarily because there will be no snow-capped mountains off in the background. .just broken and junk vehicles. .but alas. .I KNOW it will look better than what isn't there now!! 
Donkey tail spurge. .one of the only surviving succulents in my rock garden. .
not sure why. .
but will need to figure it out!!
Maybe one of the reasons that I love gardening so much is that. .
if at first you don't succeed. .
there are at least a million other varieties that will probably succeed. .
and if they don't. .
well, at least you had fun trying!!

By the way. .thanks to everyone who resonded to my last post. .I felt a little behind to know most everyone had already read the book, but enjoyed everyone's remarks about the book!! And congratulations to my friend Rhonda from Oklahoma. .who will enjoy every minute of the book she will receive in the mail!!
Wishing everyone a fabulous week in their own worlds!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Post of a Different Light

I've mentioned before that I am not much of a reader anymore. Mostly, because if I get started on a good book, I easily can't put it down and end up neglecting things I should be doing, or staying up WAY too late to read "just a little bit more!" I have been convicted over the last couple years that I need to spend more time learning about the God I serve, and becoming more familiar with instruction found in that big 'ole book known as the BIBLE! Additionally, the studies that we have done in our women's Sunday school classes have also fostered such an interest in my heart and soul. You may (or probably not) recall on my resolution list found here from Dec 31, 2010, that my goal was to increase my reading this next year. 

Well, I have managed to do that, and have actually completed the books on my goal of things to read.  The books I read were in depth enough that I could only read a chapter or two at a time, in order to wrap my head around the concepts. And that's good for me. .I learn better that way. BUT, my friend Kayla loaned me the copy of her book
which captivated me from the beginning. .
all the way to the end. .
which I finished the same night. .
I TOLD you. .I just can't help it!!

This book has caused an extreme sprititual stirring in my soul. I think that it has something to do with the other book that we are currently using in our Sunday School class. .
. .which I also finished this week.

Let me give you a little background. I was raised in a Catholic church. We attended church every Sunday, I went to the youth group programs, and even taught a kindergarten Sunday school class as a senior in high school. It was comfortable for me. I went, I prayed, I was a good person, in that I didn't do anything too horrible. All was good. All except that I just didn't get IT.  Though I thought I did. 

After we got married, we couldn't agree on a church to attend. .so we just quit going. However, when we were close to having our first baby, I decided that it didn't matter WHERE we went to church. .as long as we went. So we tried several until we ended up in Jeremy's home church. .a little community, bible-teaching church out in the country. 

It was in this little church that I realized that I wasn't getting the whole picture. It was here that I finally could put to rest the uncertainty of whether I had been "good enough" to make it into heaven by admitting my sinful nature and accepting God's graceful gift of eternal life from the death of His Son. It's been in this church that I have found the supportive encouragement to press on in learning and practicing obedience to God's biblical teachings. I have learned some AWESOME things from Beth Moore, James MacDonald, and Francis Chan. .and by grace. .and a teachable heart. .God is changing me daily. .and you know what??
It's not always comfortable!!
It stretches me in directions that my human-ness doesn't always want to follow.
It causes me to start walking away from doors that I like. .to pursue Godlier doors of the unknown.

The point of all of this??
Francis Chan's book Crazy Love has hit nerves. It has convicted me nearly out of even trying. Only to bring me to this conclusion. .I'm not supposed to be TRYING. .I am supposed to be STRIVING. .daily. .in a walk with God. A lot of uncomfortable, convicting stress to comprehend the message that God wants me to "get," and I believe share. .with people.

Isaiah 64:5-7
You welcome those who cheerfully do good, who follow godly ways. But we are not godly. We are constant sinners, so your anger is heavy on us. How can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away.

Translated a little bit like this. .I can be proud that I am a "good" person. .you know not a thief or murderer. .one who occassionally does nice things for people. .but God sees those deeds as pathetic. .like a used tampon (the actual LITERAL biblical translation of filthy rag) In God's eyes. .one sin is as bad as another sin. .they are all sin. .and we are all sinners by nature.
What God really wants is, not for me to be good (though if I am truly a follower of Him. .it is natural to desire that goodness) but for me to pursue Him. .with my thoughts and my soul and my body , to build a relationship with Him. Chan's book provoked me to realize that if I don't make an effort to pursue Christ daily. .through prayer. .or reading His words. .or working on bible studies. .or talking to other believers about spriritual things. .or sitting on a church pew, that I lose the zealousness for His goodness. Chan notes in his book that "We never grow closer to God by just living life; it takes DELIBERATE pursuit and attentiveness."
That, my friends, is when it clicked for me!! A relationship with God isn't just a quick muttered prayer, it is SO much more!! And he commands from us that it be more. .a true, loving relationship with Him. .one where we seek His counsel and read and study to learn about Him and His commandments and desires for us. 

The book Heaven is For Real tied in to my growth by offering me a tiny but real confirmation of what the reward of heaven is all about. And just a welcome little reality check to remind me of what there is to lose!

The book is about a 3 1/2 year old son of a pastor in Nebraska who took a little trip to heaven during a critical surgery to correct a ruptured appendix. It details out the next couple years as the pastor and his wife become aware that the little boy was talking about a trip to heaven (he never died. .but started referring to an "out of body" experience several months after the surgery). They gradually pull out all that little boy had seen, heard, and knew. .confirming the accuracy of his recounts against the bible.
I have always believed in heaven. .but this book just made heaven 100% more realistic to me!! And reconfirmed the purpose for my journey!!

And so, if you have managed to stick out through my ramblings. .the most exciting part of this whole post. .is the fact that I picked up one of the Heaven is for Real books the other day with the intention of giving it away to one of the readers of this blog post.  I'd love to give out a million. .it was such a great read!! I'll have the kids draw a number on Sunday evening to pick the winner from the comments left on this post.  If you would like to be in the drawing, leave me a comment!! I'd love to send the book to someone who hasn't already read the book. .but I would also LOVE to read the comments from anyone who HAS read the book to hear what you all thought.

This post is certainly a little different from my norm. .and I hope it was more of a blessing than a bore!!
Wishing you all a safe and wonderful weekend!! Can't wait to see who the recipient of the book will be!!
God Bless. .Melanie

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Late Summer Garden

Only one more week of August to go. .I don't ever remember being so eager for fall to arrive. This month has certainly been cooler than the previous two, but this week temps are expected to be well over 100 degrees again. We are only a couple days from breaking some heat records (like the most days over 100 in a million years. .maybe not a million. .it just feels that way! I actually think the record is a bit above 50 days) I have been nothing short of amazed though at how quickly the garden has responded to the cooler weather and the little bits of rain. Wanted to catch ya up. .Come on!
The fish are growing by leaps and bounds. The water is slowly clearing, so only the bottom is cloudy. I can hardly wait until I can count the fish. .seems that, as my girlfriend says, there is some "free love" going on in the murky depths. We have seen baby red goldfish, baby goldfish mixed with black (likely coming from my black googly-eyed gold fish I bought last May), and some babies that we aren't even sure what they are. .but they have voracious appetites. Hmm! I couldn't get a good shot of the yellow koi, but it is HUGE! And we are loving it!!
The pond has matured greatly this summer, and the plants are looking a little hot, but I expect that to improve as the temps continue to fall. We really have loved this pond since it's arrival! In more ways than I can even begin to describe!
I think I showed a picture of the annual red salvia earlier, but it is just so darn pretty. The four plants that I put in last May have finally taken off, and they are just gorgeous. I am thinking about looking into a periennial red salvia. .if anyone has good advice on it, let me know!
You'll notice that the pastures are greener than the last picture I posted. I thank God everytime I look across for the moisture and the appearance of life.
The Denver daisies are still short, but blooming. These blooms are more orangy than the yellow that they were earlier. I did get some seed heads harvested, but then someone closed the ziplock bag and they molded. .I'll start over! I found that you can get a LOT of seed from one little dried up head! I have not typically been a seed saver, and this is a new process for me! I'll get it!
The caryopteris are blooming, nearly a month behind when they did last year. Cami and I have been disappointed in how few winged creatures are on them. .NONE of the big black and yellow bees that usually swarm it by the hundreds. But we are starting to see a regular showing of big, beautiful butterflies!
Mixed in with the sunflowers is a red cardinal vine or cypress vine. I was tickled to have gotten this to sprout and grow in the heat. It is clamouring over an old bedframe that I moved from another part of the yard last spring.
It is also encouraging to see new growth on some of the bushes. This burning bush was really starting to look scorched. .a lack of water on my part probably. There is a new flush of that wonderful "new leaf green" going on now-can you see the difference? And not just on the burning bushes, but also on the spirea bushes, which also have a few confused blooms right now.
Speaking of reblooming, this orange butterfly weed has rebloomed too. Something (be it grasshoppers or monarch catepillars. .which I never saw) mowed it to the ground after the first bloom in June. I was amazed to see it shoot back up from the ground and bloom again. This is a 3 year old plant I think. .so maybe that is the normal procedure. .time will tell.
These plants came out of one of my weak OCD moments in LATE JUNE. .knowing full well that it hadn't rained, and it was too darn hot. .I picked up three of these threadleaf coreopsis plants at a nursery and planted them. They wilted for a couple days to weeks, and have been going strong ever since. I LOVE the bright blooms and the airy foliage!
I am forever seeing beautiful rudbeckia on everyone else's blogs. .but these plants that I seeded last year, which reseeded themselves this year look pathetic!! I can't remember now if they are hirta or goldsturn variety. .but they have one spindly little stem and a few smallish, though very pretty blooms. They need a blessing for sure! But color is color. .and beggars can't be choosers!!
The butterfly bushes are blooming now, and are being frequented by the monarchs. .which seem to be increasing in numbers here.
I have also seen this little critter, which I had to get out my butterfly handbook to ID
It's a painted lady, and there seem to be several of those around too. .I don't ever recall seeing those in my garden, so maybe I have something that it likes to eat!
We finally had enough moisture to build up our stand of weeds tall enough that the boys needed to mow. I was amazed to see how much bare dirt is visible in my back yard. YIKES! I've never been much of a grass grower (though not from lack of trying) but really!! WOW!
The front garden is filling in a bit too. There are some zinnias and sunflowers in there, and the pencil spruce trees are faring the heat well, though not as vibrantly colored as the spruce below.
The zuni's are getting bigger and brighter every day!!
The xeric Russian garden is even suffering. The sage FINALLY started blooming, and is about 1/2 the size that it was last year. The coronation gold yarrow behind it has been looking really dead for a month or so, and I was soooo glad to see some green growth at the base of it again the other day. I was worried that they were goners. There are two Texas red yucca plants back there doing well. .I think they are rooted enough now that nothing will hurt them. I can't wait for them to bloom. .they are very long lasting red blooms sticking up 3-4 feet above the plants. All the agastache plants have died there. .not sure why, or how to rectify that if I order them again some day.
Check out what the grasshopper did to my red honeysuckle bush. .They were very hungry!! Little devils!
Growth is coming back on them too, but I would doubt to see any more blooms again this year. .maybe this winter :-) I believe it was about last February when I posted some of the crazy little blooms deep inside the plant!
This was my exciting gardening adventure of the week!! I found that the nursery in Oklahoma where I work had some blue atlas cedar trees. I have been having a love affair with the ones I have seen for a few years now. I saw some mature ones at Grand Lake while we were gone that made the decision for me to find a spot to put one!
I toted this one home last week, and have been loving it ever since. Isn't he adorable?? I can now visualize a couple boulders to the left of the tree (or on the east side as you view it from the back door). .I am also thinking, split rail fence with grasses, sunflowers, cosmos, and some periennials. Jeremy is back to shaking his head. The finches have been perching on that stand of self seeded sunflowers, eating the seeds out of them. I decided that I really need to find a place to put a small stand of sunflowers, but somewhere different than where they are now. Along a fence next to the driveway would be perfect!
I haven't been sure that the green envy zinnias would make a repeat showing in the garden. .but they have really filled out and look prettier since the cooler weather. .believe they will be back next year. If I figure out the seed saving thing. .maybe I can plant them from these!
And, I just had to include this picture of snow on the mountain. It is a wildflower here, and is really pretty. The blooms aren't much, but the variegated foliage at the top is just fantastic! I took this photo by grandpa's pond last weekend, and then looked it up in my wildflower handbook to ID it. Amazing how lovely these flowers are and how numerous despite the lack of rain. .they must be well suited to it, cause you would never know that they were in a drought!
We have enjoyed a couple of overcast days. I sat outside ALL afternoon on Sunday. I just moved from bench to bench around the yard. .reading and looking. Jeremy had fired up his smoker and also fixed a cobbler in his Dutch oven. .between the great outdoors and the smell of smoke. .it was pretty near heaven to me!
Enjoy your week!!
Thanks for joining me on the garden walk-about!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fishin' Frenzy

We enjoyed a BEAUTIFUL day here in southern Kansas!! The best day climate-wise in months! It was overcast from the time we got up, till very near sunset. The temperature never got above about 85 degrees or so. It sprinkled a bit. .but perfect weather for being outdoors! Jeremy and Devin went to the drag races last night, which left the rest of here to our own devices! And this afternoon we decided to call Uncle Joe and go fishin'.
We enjoyed some pizzas and conversation, and then headed over to grandpa's pond. The water level has gone down LOTS in the past few months since we have been there. 
But what a gorgeous night to be there. .the picture doesn't even do the reflections justice. .they were incredible!! It's hard to believe that the family two generations older than us used to water ski on this pond!! We saw some old movie clips a while back that grandma dug up showing just that!! We just laughed to see them! The water used to extend back as far as the evergreen trees in the background. .and 1/2 way up the hill!
The boys particularly enjoyed tooling around in the old boat. . 
And discovered while putting the boat in the water, that THIS was the location that the new school shoes should be left. .Good choice!! 
It was a good thing that we packed up the leftover pop and no-bakes to bring for hungry fishermen. .er, girls. And if you leave 4 boys in charge of making no-bakes. .they may just end up forming the mix into a sheet cake pan. .
a No-Bake Cake. .Hmmm. .teenagers!!
I think the reason that we didn't catch any fish was this crew. .they were pretty much anything but quiet!! The water level here should be covering every green thing behind the kids--clear up to the green trees!! 
Not sure who taught these boys to row a boat. .but I'm SURE it was supposed to be as silent and graceful as this picture looks like it should have been. .it WASN'T!! by any stretch of the imagination! 
Keith and Cami ran a million miles. .and climbed hills and cliffs that went straight up to the sky! Oh, what it would be like to be this small again! 
Biggest lesson learned. .
Looks can be deceiving when you chance walking across a "dry" pond bed!!
Uncle Joe's garden hose made short work of THAT mess. .hope it came out of their clothes!
And the answer to that question of old. .
"If all your friends jumped into a lake, would you jump too??"
It's a definite YES!
Hope you are all finding something fun to do this weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to School and Other Crazy Occurrences

Well, it's crazy to think that the kids have survived two days of school already! But they have! A little sadness to find I only had 2 kids available to take the annual "back to school" photo! They were all ready to go. Dev has been asking for weeks when it would start. Funny thing. .I found that shirt he's wearing all cleaned and folded up with our camping towels in the big tub last week. I set it aside and forgot about it. Scavenger that he is, he promptly sniffed it out and wore it. I didn't think it to be the best shirt to wear for the FIRST day of third grade, with his new teacher and all. .you may not be able to read it well. .It says. ."TROUBLE is my middle name". .really!
I had to work Monday too, so their dad caught the picture getting on the bus while I was in the shower. .Grant started 8th grade and football on the same day.  It will be another year of hopping activities for him. If you are wondering where Tristan was Monday morning to miss out on the photo op. .He had his first high school football practice at 5:45 AM. .
We have required the kids to put a certain portion of their "earnings" whether allowance, or money made from helping their dad in the shop into their saving account. We had also decided that we would help to pay half of their first vehicle. This little car came available a month or so ago. .so Tristan wrote the check for the car, and Jeremy agreed to put new tires on it and do a little work to it for him; making it an equal deal. One HAPPY boy!! (and one happy mom. .since he earned his farmer's permit a couple weeks ago. .I don't have to get him to practice at 6 am and picked up at 6:30. .he can take himself!!)
Our supper table has been a buzz of conversation for the last two nights. .as everyone has information to contribute from the days!! The younger boys are enjoying things; Tristan, on the other hand, is feeling pretty overwhelmed!! Today was the last early morning practice. .so that may help. As I highlighted my calendar a couple weeks ago, I got a little nauseated with the reality of just HOW busy we will be. For much of the year, there will be 3 games a week between both older kids. .plus music programs, Wednesday night church activities, and 4-H. But you know what?? I'll bet we'll live to tell about it later! It'll be a wild ride!
This is my new motto. .
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, pina colada in the other, body thoroughly used, totally worn out and screaming -- "WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Speaking about "body worn out and screaming. .
I think I've mentioned before the way my husband collects old junk autos like other people collect stray cats. .or was that about me and my gardening obsession (which is another post later this week)?
Never the matter.
Check out what showed up at my house the day after Tristan's new car.
This old guy (1929 to be exact) has been sitting in my FIL's barn for MANY years.
My husband laughs and calls it his inheritance.
I love the sculpture to it. .the nice curvy running boards. .
Look at these wheels. .are they not ADORABLE. .and I don't even LIKE cars!!
This was Jeremy's great grandfathers feed wagon. .he used it to carry the straw bales for his cattle. And drove it till the end of it's days. .or the end of his days. .I can't remember which it was. But it was. .A LONG TIME!!
The plan. .to fix it up. There goes my winter weekend helper again. And Grant was a little miffed because he wanted his truck to be next in the refinishing line (which I believe it still is). They worked to clean out a spot in the back of JEREMY'S shop for this little guy. The boys were all interested to know whose THIS car's owner would be.  The surprising answer??
MINE!! HA!  (surprising even to me)
Now, normal people get his and her bathrooms or his and her recliners. .
We have his and her Model A's! How 'bout that!
Ya might be a redneck!
He says I won't need air conditioning. .
And I'm not sure that my dress pants will survive the seats. .
But I do get to pick out the color. . .
All by myself!!
How do you think I'd look in HOT PINK??
. .or not!!
Enjoy your week. .it's half over