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May 2010

Friday Round Up: Mixed Bag Edition

I don't know about you, but it seems like this has been a bit of a crazy week in BlogLand  Now, I can't really complain -- because my week has gone much, MUCH smoother than it has for some people I know.  And, while I might have had a broken air conditioner, at least I didn't have any snow.  And I haven't noticed any big, persistent woodland creatures in my birdseed (yet).  But.  I did spot some huge . . . HUGE. . . poison ivy in my neighbor's back yard. . . in an area way out behind their pool. . . where they never think to check.  It's nearing my fence.  I'm ready to do battle!

Poison ivy 004 

Graduation plans are in full swing this week.  My mom visited on Wednesday, and we worked hard, putting Brian's scrapbook together.  It's still not quite finished. . . but almost!  

Friday round up may 27 005 

I've also planned the menu for his graduation open house, and started gathering the supplies and equipment I need to pull this off!   Meanwhile, the newly-finished (former) high school student is enjoying just . . . hanging around.  Doing nothing!

In the garden may 27 021 

And. . . speaking of doing nothing. . . my bad knee acted up this week, relegating me to the couch with an ice pack (and maybe some wine. . . and some knitting. . . and an audio book. . .).  I broke down and got a cortisone injection yesterday, and things are improving.

Friday round up may 27 008 

That quiet time did wonders for my current knitting project!  I am very close to finishing this little summer cardigan.  (Horribly written pattern, though.  Horrible.)

Friday round up may 27 014 

And, in perhaps the biggest news of the week, I have purchased a new computer!  It's going to take me a while to shift everything over. . . but I'm really excited.  I have taken the plunge.  See?

Friday round up may 27 013 

Now, before signing off for the Memorial Day weekend, take a look at what's happening in my garden.  Our summer-like weather has encouraged all kinds of blooms . . . and vegetable growth at a rate I can practically WATCH!

In the garden may 27 001 

In the garden may 27 003 

In the garden may 27 026 

In the garden may 27 010 

In the garden may 27 028 

In the garden may 27 050

In the garden may 27 033

In the garden may 27 044

Have a relaxingl Memorial Day weekend! 

Friday round up may 27 010

Years Go Falling

Soundtrack. . .

Today is a Big Day.  It's the last "official" day of school for Brian.  Graduation is not until June 4, but he gets "out" today.  He is. . . Very Ready.  

May 21 006

But, you know. . . so am I!  I am "graduating" this year, too.  After today, I will have no children in school. . . ever again.  (Two in college, of course, but that's a whole other situation entirely.)

School final views 001

Brian is ready to be done with hall passes, "tardies," and lockers.

I am ready to be done with school policies, signing papers, and school calendars.

School final views 007

Brian is tired of Certain People, crowded hallways, and forced attendance at pep assemblies.

I am tired of Certain People, open houses, and providing cookies.

School final views 005

Brian is eager to put "Husky Pride" to rest.

I am eager to put being a "Husky Mom" to rest.

School final views 009

"School" has been a great experience -- for all of us.  We are fortunate to live in a community with excellent schools.  My kids received solid academic preparation, opportunities to excel in music, sports, and theatre. They were lucky to have some committed, caring teachers (and the opportunity to learn to deal with those who. . . weren't).  I was happy to be involved -- in the classroom, in the parent groups, on field trips, with other moms. 

But we're ready to move on.  Time passages. . . Buy us a ticket for the last train home tonight!

Back o' My Neck Gettin' Dirt and Gritty

Time for another soundtrack*. . .

We're having a heat wave!

Keeping cool 008

I don't like air conditioning, generally.  Oh, I use it sometimes.  Usually when it's unbearably hot upstairs -- where we sleep.  Or if we're having guests (because not everyone shares my disdain for A/C).  But I try to hold out as long as I can without it.

I open the doors and windows.

Keeping cool 006 

We have ceiling fans everywhere, and they really help to keep things cool.

Keeping cool 004 

And when it gets really hot, I bring out the auxiliary fans.

Keeping cool 001 

(Luckily, this fan is moving really fast.  Otherwise, you would be sure to notice the odd blue . . . bits. . . on the inside of the fan grill.  Telltale signs of my feeble attempts at cleaning off the results of one of Brian's "experiments" -- when he thought it would be Great Fun to spray Silly String through a working fan. . .)

Today, I can't use the air conditioning even if I wanted to.  It is Not Working.  I am waiting for a service call, although, apparently, the wait-list is long.  The first blast of heat always reveals the weak spots in air conditioning. . .

Keeping cool 007 

But I'm cool enough.  I probably won't even use the air conditioning today once it's fixed.  But it'll be nice to know it's there.  Just in case!

*Cool cat. . . lookin' for a kitty. . . (oh, please. . .)

The Livin' is Easy

Nothing says "warm weather" quite like. . . iced tea!

Iced tea 008 

Once the weather warms up, I switch from drinking hot tea. . . to freshly brewed iced tea.  My sister (who is not a tea drinker) gave me this nifty little contraption for my birthday.

Iced tea 001 

Although my model is called the Iced IngenuiTEA, it actually works equally well for hot or iced tea.

It really is nifty!  There is a built-in mesh infuser in the bottom.

Iced tea 004 

After you steep the tea leaves, you just put the pot over a pitcher, and a valve lets the tea flow out the bottom of the pot!

Iced tea 005 

The infuser/filter traps all the leaves . . .

Iced tea 006 

And it's really easy to rinse out and clean.

Iced tea 007 

Ahhhhh!  Summertime. . . and the livin' is easy!  Thanks, Di!

Making it Mine

Today is a perfect day for gardening.  It's cool, overcast, and a little bit rainy.  I used this perfect day to plant containers . . . and to add this-and-that to my garden.

I love planting containers.  I can play with color, texture, and style -- on a very small scale.  I can take some risks with plants I wouldn't normally grow; try new ideas and do a little experimenting.

I planted two of these on my front porch. . .

May 21 002 

Put together a "faux" window box under my dining room window. . .

May 21 003 

Filled in some spots in my perennial beds. . .

May 21 020 

And jazzed up the red geraniums on my patio.

May 21 023 

I love adding my own personal touches to my garden. 

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It makes it fun.

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It adds some flair.

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It makes it mine!

May 21 004 

Have a great weekend.

May 21 009 

Hope you can get outside - and enjoy!

May 21 014

A Different Kind of Digging

Last weekend I got busy with a different kind of planting.  This kind of gardening didn't involve perennial beds.  Or transplants.  Or seeds.  Or containers.

May 15 005 

It did, though, require a lot of hands-on "digging-in."  I planted . . . a living wreath!

May 15 008 

I purchased the wreath form online, and I picked up a few small succulents at the nursery.  Eventually, I plan to hang this wreath on the gate to my backyard.  For now, though, I'm keeping it flat -- so the roots can take hold a bit before they need to defy gravity.

This was a fun project.  It required a little imagination and creativity. . . and a whole lot of digging and dividing!  Although the "directions" suggested using a wooden tool to make the planting holes in the sphagnum moss, I found that it was a lot easier to just dig in with my hands.

May 15 010 

My fingernails will never be the same!

Incredible Edibles

"Life already has so many boundaries and pressures - why add more in the garden?" -- Felder Rushing

Now that I've shown/described to you my "backyard challenges", you can understand why I don't really have the right space for a "traditional" vegetable garden.  Steep slope(s).  Lots of trees.  I have long fretted about putting in a vegetable garden, though.  Should I take out some trees?  Install terraced, raised beds?  Dig up some of my carefully-planned perennial beds to make a potager?  Just thinking about has been . . . very stressful.

Planting day may 15 002

But then. . . I attended a lecture by gardener extraordinaire, Felder Rushing.  Now, if you don't know of Felder Rushing, he is one gardener worth checking out!  Although he is an expert gardener -- with the academic, professional and practical credentials to prove it -- he is perhaps best known for his laid-back, just-do-it, have-a-grand-time approach to gardening.

Felder Rushing inspired me to take a whole new approach to edible gardening.   Shoot, he planted vegetables in some potting soil - still in the bag - in the back of his pickup. . . and then drove around the country with his portable garden for the whole growing season!  (And it worked!)  If he can do THAT. . . why can't I?  Not in the back of a truck, mind you. . . but on my sunny backyard patio.

And so, my incredible edible plans were hatched!

(There is a great book specifically devoted to edible container gardening:  The Bountiful Container by Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey.  It is inspirational, complete, easy, and packed with great tips, information, and recipes.)

Planting day may 15 008

According to both Felder Rushing and The Bountiful Container gals, you can grow veggies and herbs in almost any container.  You just need to make sure there are adequate drainage holes, and that the container is deep enough for the roots of the plants you're growing.  I gathered together some plastic containers I had in my garagae, and then I picked up a few galvanized tubs (see above) at Lowes.  I also started collecting 5-gallon buckets.  Then. . . Tom drilled holes in the bottom of the containers for me (if they didn't have them already), and I spray painted the buckets and galvanized tubs bright red.

Container gardening 003 

Container gardening 001 

So far, I've planted peas. . .

Planting day may 15 006 

beans, beets, carrots, and parsnips (not all in the same container, but you get the idea). . .

Planting day may 15 003 

tomatoes and peppers. . .

May 16 001 

salad veggies and herbs. . .

May 16 002 

mint and lemon verbena for tea. . .

Planting day may 15 007 

and even potatoes!

Planting day may 15 001 

I've had fun planning and planting my incredible edibles.  I'm already seeing little sprouts and new growth.  Container gardening with vegetables may not provide me with a huge harvest, but I will get the satisfaction of eating my own home-grown food, and watching it all unfold before me.

The Lay of the Land

In gardening, it's always an important first step to become familiar with the "lay of the land" --  to take stock of the features and realities of your particular property.  It's best to work WITH the land, planting the right plant in the right place; understanding your soil; accepting the amount of sun and shade; and figuring out how you want to use your outdoor space. 

Every time I take a look at the "lay of the land" at my house, though, I kind of go into denial.

In the seven years I've lived in my current house, I've focused most of my gardening efforts on the "easy" sections of my yard.  The nice, sunny, mostly flat section that is right off my back door and patio, for example.  Or the front entrance, which is also flat and sunny -- and accessible.  Now, though, it's time for me to deal with. . . The Rest of It.

The Rest of It is actually . . . kind of a gardener's nightmare!  It's filled with . . . challenges.   Drainage challenges.  Landscaping challenges.  Just-standing-up-straight-while-walking-around-challenges.

You see, my house is built on a cross slope.  That means. . . that there are two slopes going on at the same time. . . in different directions.  It's actually hard to explain with photos -- because I can't quite capture the necessary perspective with my camera.  But I'll try.  The boundary at the back of the house is the highest geographical point in the yard.  From there, it slopes - drastically - all the way to the front boundary.

May 17 006 

In this photo, I'm standing about half-way down the slope (from front to back).  You can see the back fence - way up there -- and you can see the exposed walk-out basement.  The slope continues on to the front of the property.

At the same time, there is an equally steep slope working across the property in the opposite direction.

May 17 008 

In this photo, you can look up the cross-wise slope to see my pergola. . . way up there!

Because of this cross-slope issue, I have some interesting landscape features to deal with.  There are retaining walls, for example.

May 17 004 

(This photo is in the front yard.  I am standing in the down-slope portion of the cross-wise slope (you can maybe make out a rather steep hill), and you can see the retaining wall which deals with the back-to-front slope on the way to the street.)

There are also terraced areas.

May 17 005

This whole cross-slope situation really is a challenge from a gardening standpoint (however, it has always been fun from that kids-on-wheels standpoint!).  Although I have dabbled here and there on this lower, shadier side of the yard, I have never really given it my full attention.  Well.  This year, I'm digging in!  Over the next few months, I'm going to be working on this "down-slope" side of the yard.  I'm ready for the challenge, and I'm excited to see what it can become.

Manic Macro Monday

I had a fabulous weekend in the garden.  Fabulous. The weather was perfect and it just felt so good to be out -- digging and planting and thinning and sorting.

Now that it's Monday. . . actually a sort of Manic Monday . . . I thought I'd share some macro views of my garden (with a soundtrack, of course!).

(Oh, this video is such a time-capsule of 80s style. . . such as it was. . .)

Wisteria bud.

May 15 012 

Peony bud.

May 16 005


May 16 034 

Painted fern.

May 16 040 

Mugo pine.

May 16 042 

Austrian pine.

May 16 015 


May 16 045 


May 16 052 

Happy Manic Monday!