Learning Things

Stumbling Onto . . . A Little Surprise

Two weekends ago, I headed to the campus of Michigan State University for a day-long garden design conference sponsored by the MSU Horitculture Gardens.  The conference was wonderful - inspiring and informative.  During our lunch break, I took advantage of the first nice spring day we'd had this season, and took a walk in the gardens.

And stumbled onto this. . .



I discovered that the MSU Hort Gardens had been bombed . . .by knitting!


It was so delightful! 

There were even little knit bees in the trees.


It was such fun to watch the reactions of other garden visitors when they stumbled onto the trees-sporting-knitting!  They were surprised.  And delighted.  And really, really curious!

Yarn bombing . . .


just makes people smile!

(Click here for a cool slide show of other yarn bombings in the world.)


Moss for Meditation . . .and Celebration

Just before I took my computer in for a brain transplant (successful, by the way; although slow), I spent a day at the Chicago Flower Show.  I hadn't finished telling you all about the wonders I saw there before the computer surgery.  You see, my photos were either (a) on the soon-to-be-transplanted brain; or (b) on the reliable, external back-up . . . which was only useful on a Mac.  Which I no longer had in my possession.


It's time to catch up. 


When I was in Chicago for the Flower Show, Sandie and I took great interest in this. . .


Moss for Meditation.  (More information and photos here.)

My photos just can't begin to do justice to this beautiful, living artform.


The artist's website (link above) describes her work like this. . .

"The moss for meditation series is a creative response to studies emerging from the field of Ecopsychology, which represents significant evidence that consistent exposure and interaction with green landscapes, regardless of size,  significantly decreases stress and supports mental and physical health."

I would say. . . yeah.  Consistent exposure and interaction with green landscapes significantly decreases stress.


(Ecopsychology.  Who knew?)

Sandie and I were inspired.  INSPIRED!

In fact, Sandie . . . being an artist herself. . . dove right in and tried it fwhen she got home.  Her first attempt. . .


Small-scale and very cool. 

She invited me to join her in making moss creations for my birthday last Saturday. 

What fun!

She gathered the materials.


And set up a little studio space in her conservatory/sun room.


Then, we just let our creativity run wild with all the mosses and lichens and . . . stuff. . . she had assembled.


The glue gun came in mighty handy, although we also had access to other (more permanent and volatile) glue sources.


And, in the end, I ended up with this. . .


I've got the moss-piece hanging on the wall, under a clock, in my kitchen.  Once the glue-smell dissipated (which took awhile, I'm telling you!), I'm finding a sense of peace and calm whenever I walk by.


Just kidding about that last bit!  But I love my framed moss.  It was fun to make - especially with Sandie, and I love having it nearby -- where I can enjoy the Ecopsychology-effects on my well-being.

Ahhhhh.  I feel calmer already!


Field Trip

Yesterday, I boarded a charter bus with my friends Sandie and Jackie and headed to Chicago for the annual Flower & Garden Show.  We had a great time!


Sandie and Jackie at the entrance.  (Before we had pinned on our flashing flower pins!)

The Flower & Garden show brings together ideas. . .


Trust me, succulents remain BIG for the upcoming season!  They were everywhere.


This was a wall made of cement blocks.  They tucked pots of fern and moss, and hung little baskets of succulents.  I want one!


 Feeding my current love of the terrarium!


This garden flower was made from a soda can!  They looked so cool popping up here and there in one of the gardens.

charm and whimsy. . .


Bunnies.  In knit cardigans!  Couldn't resist.


Look at theses drawer pulls!  Charmed, I'm sure.



Flower umbrellas hanging above.


Painted tire planters!


Glass sculpture at the main entrance.

and shopping. . .


The shop (in Naperville) is as cool as their sign!


I bought one of these hanging terrariums (only in a teardrop shape), with a few air plants, to hang in my kitchen window.


There are plenty of classes and workshops, too.  (Attended a few; no pictures.)

It was an unbelievably beautiful day in Chicago.  Unseasonably warm (80s).  Who ever would have thought we'd be eating OUTSIDE on Navy Pier in mid-March?  Unthinkable!


It felt like summer! 


It looked like summer!


There were even sailboats out on the Lake!

As an added bonus -- there was a stained glass exhibit on Navy Pier (unrelated to the Flower & Garden Show).  Most of the designs were floral in nature. . .



(This one is Tiffany.)

but there were grids, too!


Back at the Flower & Garden Show, there was an exhibit of aprons created by the a Chicago area fiber artist group, Women's Journeys in Fiber.  Very powerful -- and creative!



The best part of the day for me, though, was being able to see these guys . . . up close and personal

Meet Mr. Barred Owl. . .


and Mr. Great Horned Owl. . .


My photos just don't do these awesome creatures justice!  They are just so So SO cool!

So much to see!  So much to do!  As you can imagine, by the end, we were quite weary.   This was a welcome sight. . .


And the bus ride gave me some time to knit!


Just a perfect field trip, and a great day, all the way around!



One Little Word

"Whatever you want to do, do it now.  There are only so many tomorrows."  -- Michael Landon


When I first finished up my chemo treatments and was tagged with the "remission" label, I was in a very fragile place:  I was at The Edge.  A lot relieved.  A little scared.  Suddenly. . . the colors were brighter.  The sky was bigger.  Things just tasted better.  Change had come.  I was learning to live with the uncomfortable certainty that . . . life really IS limited.  So make it count!  I threw open my arms.  I embraced the world around me.  I lived like time was precious.  I stepped away from The Edge.  But I was still close enough . . . to think about it all the time.

In that first year after chemo, I reached out to people and activities and dreams in a way I never had before.  I tended to say . . . "Why not?". . . "Let's do it!". . . "I want to". . . "YES!"  I didn't stop to overanalyze; I opened myself to possibilities; I didn't get bogged down with things.  I was really clear about what was important and what I wanted to do and who I wanted to do it with.  And that felt really good!

And now?   (Nearly) three years since?

Well.  Even though, from time to time,  I get close to The Edge again, for the most part, I'm finding my angle of repose -- that point where I've settled in to what's comfortable; to what seems "normal;" to-almost-but-not-quite where I was before I had cancer.

And, you know. . . this bothers me a little.

As I slide into a new angle of repose, I can feel myself losing that openness.  I'm starting to feel frozen by "oughts" and "shoulds"; I'm starting to say "yes" to things that aren't really important to me; I'm starting to feel like there is plenty of time.

I've learned that being a little close to The Edge. . . isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I mean, if your angle of repose lets you believe that there are plenty of tomorrows ahead of you. . . you may miss opportunities to seize today.  (And I actually like reaching out for those opportunities!)


This is the "anniversary-time" of the awful, dark days of my initial cancer diagnosis and the beginning of my treatment.  (Three years, now!)  It's become a time of reflection and remembering.  This year, I'm haunted by this new angle of repose; this feeling frozen; that, perhaps, I've actually stepped TOO far from The Edge.

And then, a week or so ago, I read one of Mary's posts. . . about the One Little Word project she was doing for 2011.  When I read her post, I was struck!  Like, in the words of Tom in Four Weddings and a Funeral. . . "lightning bolt city!"  Something about what she wrote resonated with me, and really got me thinking.

One little word (an actual word, not the project) has  been surfacing in my mind for a few weeks; a little voice that keeps getting louder.  I didn't realize there was actually a "program" designed to help you listen to that word -- but, WOW, was that an interesting concept!

After a quick pow-wow with Mary, I decided to join the One Little Word program myself.  Yeah, I'm quite late to the party.  Which is fine.  What it means is that I'll have to move through the one-month exercises at my own pace.  And I'm okay with that.  I'm ready!  I need this.

One Little Word. . . has been there for awhile.

One Little Word. . . is getting louder.

One Little Word. .  .is needing to be explored.

One Little Word. . .


Head Over Heels

Time for a little soundtrack.  Hit it, Neil.


Early in the summer, I noticed that my LYS had a 2-session workshop with Nora Bellows (of Noni Bags) coming up in July.  My knitting antennae went right up.  I've always admired Noni bags -- not really as bags. . . but as works-of-art.

I mean, most of Noni's bags (especially the early designs) were not really suited to my personal style -- too many flowers and flourishes, etc.  But.  I totally appreciated the art in those bags.  I loved the attention to finishing detail -- and how it all came together for a great-looking finished product (even though I would probably never use one myself).

So.  I signed up.  The particular workshop I signed up for was all about finishing -- how to shape that felted monstrosity into the desired configuration; how to attach handles and clasps; how to use stabilizer; how to insert a hex frame. 

The class prerequisite?  We needed to knit a Noni bag (any pattern) ahead of the workshop, and bring our still damp - but felted - bag to class for the finishing.

I decided to knit. . . the Bedouin bag.   3_bags_cropped_for_business_card_square

I stopped by the store to finalize my registration and purchase my pattern.  What do you know. . . there was a Noni trunk show going on that very day.  I checked out the bags, and totally fell in love with the Bettie BoopBettie_boop_dress_sized_square  Even though it was pink.  And had an abundance of knit flowers.  And sparkles.


I rationalized my switch from the Bedouin bag (simple) to the Bettie Boop (futsy) because. . . I wanted to get my "money's worth" out of the workshop (more finishing = more value).

But really. . . I was . . . Helpless.


The Bettie Boop is a charming little bag.  Charming.


I had fun making it.  And I think it turned out pretty well, too!  (I used far fewer flowers - and no sparkle; although I did use a couple of cute buttons.)








Ravelry link here.

(Noni ran a great workshop.  I learned a lot -- about felting, stitching, hardware, and - yes - even flowers!)



And. . . in the HOT department. . . here's how hot it is . . .

First, this is what happens when I take my camera (or my glasses) outside:


Intense condensation.  Can you say . . . sauna????

Second, this is the way my patio looks . . . 7 hours AFTER I watered my plants:


It is so humid that evaporation is not happening!!!  My patio is still wet - even in upper-90 temperatures - because it's just too humid to dry off!

With that . . . stay cool!



Weekend Overload

This was one of the those weekends. . . when I need a weekend to get over my weekend!


(This is possibly the coolest plant I've ever seen!  Too bad the owner had no idea what it was!)

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been at "Master Gardener College" (Michigan's annual state conference for Master Gardeners) for the last three days.

On Friday, it was a day-long field trip to a variety of plant growers in the West Michigan area.  We visited Walters Gardens -- a wholesale grower specializing in perennials.  We got to see all areas of their operations, including the very nifty tissue labs!


And we visited Wavecrest Nursery on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Oh, this is a fabulous place -- well-known for their trees and shrubs (and the originator of the weeping larch).


We visited the Saugatuck Brewing Company for lunch -- and a lecture on the hops industry in Michigan.


Then we headed to Spring Meadow Nursery -- another wholesale grower on the lakeshore.  You may have heard of them . . . they are the originators of the Proven Winners® line of flowering shrubs.


We ended our day with a garden tour at the home of the owner of Spring Meadow Nursery -- which serves as a real-life testing ground for their plants.  It was fun to see things that haven't hit the market yet -- and hear about things that never will!


On Saturday, it was a full day of conference sessions.  New plant introductions, the latest horticulture research from Michigan State University, composting, bees, and interior lakeshore gardening --- that's how I spent my day.

On Sunday, it was time for my favorite part of the conference --- home garden tours! 




Some people*. . .


have incredible. . .


absolutely amazing. . .




It was fabulous!  Every minute.  I'm inspired. . . but also tired!

*I was somewhat heartened to learn that the two biggest (and most amazing) gardens we visited were professionally designed and installed, and one of those is professionally maintained.  Puts my own gardening in perspective!


The Power of Gardening

This is Norm.


Norm was the bus driver on our Friday tour.  He was very sweet; very pleasant and cheerful.  A good bus driver.  I don't think he could quite figure out the excitement of his gardener passengers, though.  By our second stop, he was following the group around, listening to the tour guide.  I was hanging back, taking photos.  He asked me why we were so interested . . . because the plants weren't even flowering.  I explained, as best I could, about the allure of gardening; the love of plant material; the appeal of foliage.  Norm nodded politely.

By the last stop of the day, I noticed Norm again -- checking out the gardens at the home of the owner of Spring Meadow Nursery.  This time, Norm had his own camera out.  He was snapping shots of the landscape left and right!  He was even using the macro feature on his point-and-shoot to capture the beauty of pine cones, variegated leaves, and hydrangea buds.

I think Norm might have caught the bug!

Green . . . Any Way You Look At It


Thinking Green!

I'm off today for Master Gardener College, a 3-day extravaganza of tours, conference sessions, and field trips.

Wearing Green! 

I found this little t-shirt today. . . perfect for wearing to a garden conference.


Spending Green!

Well.  Maybe.  I'll have plenty of opportunity to buy plants, garden gadgets, and garden-themed EVERYthing.

Enjoy your weekend!


PS -- In keeping with this week's Ten on Tuesday theme of book recommendations, check out this list of Ten Terrific Summer Reads from NPR.


A Day in the Gardens

Last Friday I spent the day in East Lansing at Michigan State University's annual "Garden Day Conference" -- sponsored by the MSU Horticulture Gardens


Like all conferences, some years are better than others. . . fortunately, this was one of the Good Years.  The weather was perfect, the speakers were great, I signed up for interesting sessions, AND . . . the boxed lunches were catered by the Grand Traverse Pie Company!  (Trust me, it doesn't get much better than that!)

The keynote speaker at the conference was David Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.  His message is poignant -- and inspiring.  He explained, in clear language. . . with humor and wonderful photography. . . the importance of biodiversity, and how we -- as gardeners and "land owners" -- can make a difference in halting habitat destruction.  "Nature" doesn't happen. . . somewhere else.  It happens in our own backyards . . . and we really can do things to create a haven for wildlife in our own gardens.  My biggest personal take-away from Tallamy's presentation:  less lawn!  (Get that shovel ready, Tom!)


I went to a break-out session on building your own rain barrel.  Now, I'm already convinced I WANT a rain barrel (or two).   Rain barrels can help save water (statistics show that most homeowners can save 1,300 gallons of water by using a rain barrel during the peak summer months) -- protecting the environment.  Not only do rain barrels save money and energy, but they divert water from storm drains and decrease the impact of runoff to streams.  I attended this session to see if I could put together a rain barrel of my own.  And, you know, I could.  But I'd have to invest in several tools I don't already own.  Plus, it seems that finding food-grade, 55-gallon barrels presents a bit of a challenge!  And. . . the barrel they used to demonstrate during my session had been obtained from a pickle factory.  The smell. . . of pickles. . . was overpowering. . . once they drilled into the barrel.  My biggest personal take-away:  buy a ready-made rain barrel!


I also went to a break-out session on attracting native bees to your garden.  This subject is fascinating to me -- and I'm all set to do what I can to make it easy for native bees to nest in my landscape.  Honeybees get all the press. . . but they don't do all the work!  Native bees to do a fabulous job at pollinating the plants in our gardens.  Native plants. . . attract native bees, so I'm going to pay close attention to my plant-choices as I expand my gardens (see above. . . less lawn).  I'm also going to provide places for native bees to nest.  Some bees (mason bees) like to nest in small holes and tubes.  The wall in the photo above is just being installed in the MSU vegetable demonstration garden.  The tubes and spaces between the logs provide nesting sites for mason bees (they will be adding to the wall through the season; they'll also be drilling small 5-inch long holes in the logs for additional nesting sites).  I'm going to purchase some inexpensive bee houses to place in my yard.  I'm also going to provide bare spots in my gardens (instead of covering all areas with mulch) because other native bees like to nest in the ground.  My biggest personal take-away: native bees don't sting very often. . . because they're too busy collecting pollen for their offspring; they're the "single mothers" of the bee world.


I also got a chance to check out the wonderful gardens on campus.  It's always fun to check out what's new -- because the MSU Horticulture Gardens do a lot of testing of new plant introductions and new gardening techniques.  I saw that they're testing huge batches of sun-loving impatiens, for example. . .


They also have a wonderful demonstration vegetable garden.  I've never seen okra growing before, but now I think I might have to plant some. . . just for this blossom!


MSU has a charming children's garden, too, filled with kid-friendly plants like this one (straight out of Dr. Seuss, don't you think?). . .


(That's Elephant Head Amaranth.)  Or these really long -- and very cool -- red noodle beans!


There are cute little stepping stones throughout the children's garden. . .


and little touches of whimsy everywhere you look!


I had a great day in the gardens!