Monday, September 22, 2014

AUTUMN ARRIVES

 
 
 
 
Happy Autumnal Equinox. Fall is arriving on a day that is decidedly un-fall-like. It promises to be into the 80s F today, so I will be able to sit outdoors and greet autumn when it arrives at 9:29 PM Central Time.
 
I don't know the title or the artist of the painting above, but it does speak to me at this time of year. Not just the colors, but the melancholy feeling it conveys. Summer is over. Some planned projects are unfinished, leaves are beginning to collect everywhere, there's a crisper tinge to the air and a general shabbiness to the foliage.
 
A couple of weeks ago, already, we had freeze warnings. I put my car in my "new" garage.  I moved all my houseplants indoors and grouped together and covered as many of my potted annuals as I could. After all that, it did not freeze.
 
Then, about a week ago, we had a light freeze without warning. I did not put my car in the garage. I did not cover plants. I found myself scraping car windows the next morning, having thought I was done with that chore forever.
 
Fortunately, only my morning glories and sweet potato vines seem to have suffered. However, the march toward autumn is inexorable. One of my three luxuriant planters of impatiens has half yellow and half green leaves. The ivy that covers the fence between my neighbor to the north and myself has turned red. And while the trees are mostly still green, the tips of some have caught fire.
 
I have so many annuals that I cannot possibly cover them all. And while global warming has changed Bismarck's last average frost date from Sept. 21 to Sept. 30, there is a point beyond which I just have to stop trying to save my plants and accept the fact that autumn has descended.
 
So what did I and my helpers accomplish this year? An astounding amount, as it turns out. In the front yard, they installed my new cedar arbor, trimmed my hardy roses and added peat moss and manure to my existing garden beds so I could sow seeds. With the exception of the larkspur and cleome seeds, the marigold, bachelor button, cosmos and zinnia seeds just exploded.
 
Contractors totally re-built my old garage and seeded the lawn in my backyard. I created a new hydrangea border on the shady north side, featuring my re-located white archway, together with a new statue under the arch.
 

 
"Windblown" by Design Toscano
 

I transplanted my daylilies from the front yard to the back. I added a natural-wood-colored mulch to the areas previously covered by dirt. This alone changed the character of my backyard a thousand fold. We installed pavers to create a checkerboard courtyard garden, and planted the back half of it in shady perennials and the front half in sunny annuals.
 
We installed outdoor lights to match the Arts and Crafts/Mission style of my house.
 
 

 
But as I mentioned, there are still some small projects left unfinished - a new bed to be turned over on the sunny south side of the backyard, a gutter to be installed on the garage and a re-arrangement of fence panels and gates to make the yard escape proof against Gracie.
 
But as usual I am twisting in the wind, waiting for three contractors to get back to me. Unlike the seasons, some things never change.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

WHERE HAVE ALL THE NEIGHBORS GONE?




 
"HELLO, NEIGHBOR" by Harry Anderson


Gracie and I are finally able to go into our backyard after a month staying off the newly-seeded grass. It was a pain for both of us, having her tied up in the front yard to do her business. There was one advantage though, and that was seeing a lot more of my neighbors.

As I worked on my flowers or hung out with Gracie, many people stopped by to chat about flowers and dogs and stucco cottages. Sometimes they caught me from the back view with my butt sticking up in the air as I pulled weeds. Gracie's rope was long enough for her to pass through the arbor and go just onto the sidewalk, so she sometimes surprised walkers and - more to the point - dog walkers. Fortunately, all was peaceful.

Americans used to see a lot more of their neighbors, when house had front porches and people sat out on them. Now, everyone has retreated to their decks and backyards. But summer after summer, as Dan and I enjoyed long evening after long evening on our deck, we wondered, where are our backyard neighbors? No one was enjoying their yards!

 
 

"OVER THE WALL", Helen Allingham

We moved into this house in August 1982 with infant Kristen. Now, 32 years later,  I'm alone, and I still wonder where the neighbors are.

The way our house is situated, I can see five backyards well from my deck, plus two more mostly obscured by trees. I can see another if I walk to the back of the yard. Only Jim and Mary have been here longer than we have. Their teenage daughters babysat Kristen, and their youngest was pals with my nephew Nick, who lived with us when he was 5. Over the years their five kids grew up and moved away, and they have become grandparents. We are over-the-fence neighbors, Mary and Jim and I. Mary and I chat about kids and flowers, and Jim has cleared my sidewalks and driveways since Dan died and has generally been a vigilant, watchful guy looking out for possible trouble or waiting to see if I need help with anything.

 
"FRIENDLY NEIGHBORS", Henry J. Y. King


The neighbors on the corner used to spend their summer weekends at their lake cabin in Minnesota. When they sold that and started staying home, they build a tall privacy fence around the backyard.  Of the other neighbors, I have seen many come and go. Each house has had at least two owners, and one has had five different owners. Of them, most of them seemed to have been allergic to fresh air.

Back in 1982, Grace, one of my across-the-driveway neighbors, was an elderly lady who couldn't venture out. I've never seen Lynn, the new owner, use the large backyard except to walk the short path from the garage to the house. I know she likes flowers because of the red and yellow tulips she planted for spring, and the red and yellow day lilies for summer, but they are all in the front. Just think of how many tulips and lilies she could plant in the back!



 
"TIGER LILY GARDEN" Original oil signed Eschmann

On the north side of me, Neighbor Nancy hated bugs and only came outdoors to hang her clothes on the line. Not liking bugs didn't make her an oddity, but she was certainly the only one in the neighborhood who still hung her clothes outside to dry.

In the house directly behind me, I never saw or met one of the home's owners, a single woman with a lot of kids. Only Brady and Evan, her two youngest, would venture through the line of  pine trees and come into my yard to visit with me.

Most of my neighbors have been good, thank goodness. But when above-mentioned Nancy divorced Tim, she moved out and he stayed. A former good neighbor, he began having loud, wild parties that began after the bars closed at 1 a.m. As much as Dan and I liked Tim, we had to call the police on him several times so we could get some sleep.



(Not my photo - LOL - taken from the web)

When we first moved here, the lady who owned the house behind us had a yippy little white dog.  One day that nasty thing unexpectedly came tearing under the pine trees and into my backyard, where it promptly latched onto and bit a little boy I was babysitting. Of course, the dog was quarantined. The lady had the NERVE to come to my house and bawl me out about temporarily losing her precious little Pookie  - when I had witnessed her dog bite a child on MY property!!

I loved seeing the most recent homeowners in that house. A fairly-young couple, they had about eight kids - I never could keep the count straight - something like four kids of their own and four children they had adopted from Africa.

In summers, they would have parties and bonfires, and the kids would play on their trampoline, hammock, jungle gym and swing set. Happy kid noises and adult laughter filled the evenings.

Early this summer, it dawned on me - these neighbors haven't been around in a while. The house was so dark, the yard so silent and so sad. But their hot tub and lawn furniture and kids' equipment were still there - what in the world was going on?

 

 
Artist Unknown

Finally, on Friday I saw the mom (also named Kristen) working in her yard. Over the back fence, I asked, "Do you no longer live here?" She explained that she and Casey and the kids had been in Africa all summer. They had expected to there be a year or longer but had to come back because they could not get the kids enrolled in school. So at least they are here for now. Happy peals of laughter again spill across into my yard, the wood smoke wafts over too, and I don't feel so alone anymore.

Friday, August 1, 2014

LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS



Happy Lughnasadh/Lammas everyone.

Lughnasadh, August 1, was the first harvest celebration of the season for the ancient Celts. The Christian church, on the other hand, called it Lammas, or Lammastide. The Celts held a big celebration with lots of food and drink, no doubt in the great outdoors. Christians brought loaves of bread to church to be blessed, and the church was decorated with sheaves of wheat and corn (wheat) dollies. And Hobbits, whatever they are, love Lammas bread (except for Sam who got kind of sick of eating only Lammas bread).

In any event, I can't believe it is August 1 already. I still have so much yard work to do. Sunday, Marcus and Kelsey dug up a bunch of daylilies that I am moving to the back yard. I gave four - each a different color - to a friend but still have plenty left for myself.

However, they are sitting in pots for now, because I can't move them to the back unless I weed back there. Someday, I will have all the blank spaces filled with plants, but for now, I am on weed patrol. It seems like as soon as I get the front done, the back is all weedy again. I will pretty much need a scythe this weekend; it has gotten that bad.

 
 
I still also have purple prairie coneflowers, vinca, lamium, Siberian and regular iris and hydrangeas to plant. But before I can plant the hydrangeas, I first have to put my white arbor in its (hopefully) permanent resting spot. But first (!) I have to wait until the grass is fully grown in.
 
The lawn was hydro seeded a week ago yesterday and yes, the grass is growing. It can't grow quickly enough. Gracie, who is used to having the run of the backyard, has to go potty in the front yard, where I have her on a rope. I hate doing this, but I am not going to ruin my new lawn after spending all that money on it.
 
The one nice thing about having Gracie going out the front door is that I am spending time with her out there, and I am seeing more of my neighbors. I have gotten many compliments on my flowers, which of course thrills me no end.
 
I only have a couple of eyesore areas left, the one being the dog run, which Gracie basically demolished, dog house and wooden flooring both, and dug big holes in the ground.
 
And of course, there's the Kingdom of Weeds in the way back.
 
My garage is looking good now, being totally refurbished and only in want of the door, which has to be installed by another company. It is so nice to be able to store my garden tools and miscellaneous other stuff in there, instead of having them scattered around the yard.



One of these Lughnasadhs I swear I am finally going to rent the movie shown above. It stars Meryl Streep and is about five Irish sisters and the happenings at the Lughnasa (alternate spelling) celebration in their town.


 
 
Because I work all day, I have no time to dance in the sun in celebration of Lughnasadh. I could do it tomorrow, but not on my newly-seeded lawn. What to do - I must find a meadow somewhere, put some wildflowers in my hair and dance, dance, dance. Anyone want to join me?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

SUPERMOON TONIGHT

 
 



Supermoon by Elizabeth Warner

There'll be a Supermoon Rising tonight. A supermoon appears much larger than a normal moon. Here's the scoop on supermoons from MSN News:

"The full moon on Saturday will appear to be unusually big. In fact, it will be a "supermoon."
That's the nickname for full moons that happen when our celestial neighbor is relatively close to Earth. That distance varies because the moon follows an elliptical orbit. When it's close and full, it appears bigger and brighter than normal, although in fact the difference can be hard to detect.
If you see Saturday's moon close to the horizon it may seem huge, but that's just an illusion caused by its position in the sky."

Two other full moons this summer, on Aug. 10 and Sept. 9, are also supermoons.

Here's a video on the subject from Science at NASA (Thanks for the link, Leanne):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1KKpeW231Y

I hope I get to see the supermoon rising tonight. We promise to have clear skies, but the video warned that haze may obscure the view. We've had haze in Bismarck for days now, from forest fires burning in way northern Canada.

On the home front:

All the grass in the backyard is dead but the fill dirt hasn't been brought in yet so the hydro seeding hasn't been done. There's been a delay due to the wrong part being delivered for my contractor's tiller.

However, on the plus side, my other contractors are working on my garage at long, long last! They finished getting rid of the small amount of debris left over after my niece's fiancé and cousin cleaned out the garage this spring. They then proceeded to rip out as much of the rotted out stuff as they could. They tell me that the garage is in such bad condition that the only thing holding the walls up is the stucco! They have to work very slowly and carefully. I have been having visions of coming home to find the garage all collapsed. However, when I got home from work last evening they had 1/3 of the garage framed out (if that's what you call that procedure).

They are re-building the garage from the inside out when it would be easier to demo it and build a new one. However, they are committed to saving old stucco buildings from the 1920s-30s when possible, and, more importantly, the city building codes won't allow us to build a new garage in the same place as the old one. I would have to put the garage in my back yard, which is not going to happen. If some future owner wants to cut up the backyard and install a two-stall or more monstrosity, fine. I want my little cottage, plus garage and yard to look like they did when the house was built in 1929.

On the negative side, the garage is costing me $4,000 more than I had expected, so I am feeling extremely broke right now.

Most of the early summer's gardening work has been done, except for the usual watering, fertilizing and weeding. Of course, there are always plants to move around to a better place in the garden! The bare squares in the new checker board courtyard are almost completely filled in. I will try to get some pictures this weekend.

Friday, July 4, 2014

THINGS I HATE - SUMMER VERSION



 
 
Happy Fourth of July, everyone. It's a welcome day off for me. It was an extremely busy week with many people being on vacation. My department was only half staffed, meaning those few of us who were there had to work furiously to keep up.
 
Tonight I'm going to a BBQ at my sister's house in Lincoln, which is a bedroom community about five miles from Bismarck. Unlike Bismarck, Lincoln has no ban on the sale and purchase of fireworks, so it will be a cacophony of noise from all quarters. Mandan, our sister city across the river, also has no ban on fireworks. The amount of fireworks set off in that city prompted one of our local radio announcers to compare it to the Gulf War's "Shock and Awe".  As I sat on my deck last evening, I could hear that the barrage had started one night early.
 
You'll note that I called this post "I HATE - SUMMER VERSION" and that the first picture I posted is of fireworks. While I love the colors and shapes of fireworks, I do hate the artillery-like boom from the huge displays.
 
I can vividly remember my mom and aunt taking me to the fireworks display at the Divide County Fair in Crosby, ND. When the booming started, I ran. I can remember crouching down behind a car, my knees in the gravel and my fingers stuck firmly in my ears. I still can't get used to the sound.
 
 
Therefore, I'm glad I won't be in Mandan tonight for another evening of "Shock and Awe", or in Bismarck for the stupendous fireworks display at the Capitol.
 
Other things I hate in the summer:
 
 
 
Rabbits. The damn things are eating my flowers down to the dirt. I have discovered they have a penchant for petunias, annual dianthus, and lilies, which they start chewing the minute they emerged from the ground this spring. They have never been this bad before. Last winter I often saw rabbits in the yard and I thought, "Oh, poor bunnies, I hope you are surviving the winter okay." Now it's Poor Bunny, my ass. I want to get a gun like Elmer Fudd's and shoot them all.
 

I also have murderous thoughts about campanula rapunculoides. This is actually a gorgeous wildflower also known as creeping bell flower or purple bell flower. If it would only behave itself, I would gladly welcome it into my garden, but it spreads like wildfire and becomes a noxious weed. It has even gotten into my lawn. I did some research and found a herbicide that supposedly kills it and ordered a special fertilizer/weed killer from the Internet. It did nothing. Further research indicates that it is almost impossible to eradicate, because it spreads runners deep underground.

To make matters worse, I had been blaming the almost identical adenophora, or lady bells, as being the culprit. I learned that while campanula r.  is rampant, lady bells behave themselves like their namesakes and stay put where they are planted.



 
 
Earlier this spring I was enraged at the billions of elm tree seeds that wafted down upon everything in my yard. No matter how often I swept my deck or my niece swept the sidewalks, more fell. When the wind blows them into corners they look like drifts of light green snow. I don't know if I hate them more when they end up as a sodden clump of seeds or when they sprout in the ground and in all my potted plants.
 
I love my huge American elm that shades the deck, but over the years it has caused problems, not only with seeds, but also with sticky black juice from aphids or little green worms that suddenly descend on you from a gossamer string. At least the elm seeds are almost conquered for the year. On to the evil campanula and the wascally wabbits.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Midsummer's Day



 
 
Sheree and Kevin Wagner
 
It was a beautiful Midsummer Day here in Bismarck, capped off by a lovely evening wedding at The Post pioneer village south of Mandan. My best co-worker buddy and her long-time boyfriend were together nine years and engaged since Thanksgiving 2012. Not wanting to get married in a year with "13" in it, she chose June of 2014.
 
Believe me, she had planned this wedding thoroughly. There wasn't one detail she could have possibly missed. But there's always one thing you can't count on with North Dakota weddings like hers and mine - the weather. My own wedding day 40 years ago this month dawned windy, cloudy and cool, but cleared up and warmed up by 5:00 p.m.
 
It's days like these that make me glad that I live in North Dakota. The first feelings came to me as I crossed the Missouri from Bismarck to Mandan. Many boats were on the river, their occupants enjoying a fine evening on the water after a hot day. It made me wish I was on one of the speeding motorboats with spray in my face, or just tooling along on a pontoon, but no, I was on my way to a wedding.
 
Having driven mere blocks south of the Stage Stop Saloon corner in Mandan, then past the hill where I used to live, I was out in the countryside in mere minutes. The crops are all coming along nicely row up on row in the fields along the highway. Even virgin prairie was lush and green due to the recent rains, and the sweet clover was in bloom. There is nothing better than the scent of sweet clover wafting along the air on a summer's eve. The meadowlarks and bobolinks were singing their hearts out, and the wild roses were in bloom.
 
Behind the wedding arbor, the lowering sun sent shafts of light through a band of evergreens. A light breeze was just enough to waft any insects away. The bride, her maid of honor and her bridesmaids, which included her 12-year old daughter and 16-year-old stepdaughter, were all beautiful and perfectly simple with their wildflower bouquets. All the groomsmen, including Kevin's 19-year old son, were the picture of casual in their blue jeans, leather vests, and ivory western shirts.
 
We retired indoors for the reception, but another co-worker and I, the only other person I knew besides the bride and groom, left quite soon after the luncheon and toasts. I wanted to be outdoors again. I knew that most of the group would retire outside to the grounds again, and there was to be a bonfire and much partying into the night, but I don't drink and drive, so I headed home again in the still bright evening.
 
When I got to back to Bismarck I made a mad decision and stopped to buy a 4-pack of Seagram's Escapes Strawberry Daiquiris. I took my drink and sat outside on the deck. It was as peaceful in my backyard as it had been out on the prairie, but with different birdsong. Even though I was very tired, I was determined to stay out until it got dark. Since the sun set last night at 9:41 p.m., it was after 10:00 when I went in. I'd had a whopping two bottles of the flavored malt beverage. I poured myself into bed, thinking that was party enough for this gal on Midsummer's Day.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

STAYCATION


 
 
As of 5:00 Friday, I have been on vacation. It's a vacation of the very best kind - a staycation.  I have nine days in a row to work on garden projects. Yesterday got off to a great start with the placement of 25 pavers in my "Celtic Courtyard". Last year my niece's fiancé, Marcus, installed the white lattice screen, moved my fountain and laid the brown pavers so I could place my Lutyen's bench. The other four brown pavers were placed here and there in the courtyard, along with the round "Tudor Rose" stepping stones.

When the "torrential" rains came last fall, the mud splashed up everywhere, and I knew I needed to have way more pavers and way less dirt. I only "guesstimated" the amount of pavers I would need, so Marcus will be picking up nine more to complete the checkerboard. He moved the four brown pavers so the old ones are all together. I thought the new ones were the same color, but I think they will work. All of the Tudor rose circles will be placed next to the walkway, and I'll be squaring off the courtyard at the far right end.

The few plants that are coming up by the bench and the fountain are day lilies. Someday I will have all of the dirt areas filled up with plants. This is a shady area, canopied by my huge elm tree. To the left is a grapevine fence that is only starting to green up. It fills in very lushly by the middle of the summer.

I will be moving the white arbor on the right, since it has been in the "wrong place" since my deck was built last fall and the lattice screen installed. (The deck is just to the right of the walkway.) I will also have to relocate the Dropmore honeysuckle, which has never grown well in the shade anyway.

One never realizes what will show up in a photo. Had I known, I would have removed the ugly hanging Off dispenser and moved the hose!



Here is another view of the courtyard, which also shows part of my backyard. The plants are starting to come up in my Unicorn Garden, which I showed you last summer. (Fragile Mr. Unicorn spent the winter in my bedroom for safekeeping. He will go outside today.)

I'm afraid I have lost a few of the perennials. I never did mulch last fall, first having a painful hernia and then recovering from surgery for a month. At the very far right end of the yard you will see my French bistro table and two chairs placed inside my "Welcome to The Fairy Bower" arbor under the lilac. (Personalized Arbor Plaque ordered from Plow and Hearth.)

I have a guy coming in to hydro seed this lawn, so hopefully future photos will show a lush greensward instead of dirt!

 
 
That's not the only project that was accomplished yesterday. Marcus and his cousin, Dustin, installed my new cedar arbor over the front sidewalk. Dustin proved to be somewhat of a rose expert, and cut back and trained my beautiful William Baffin climbing rose over the arbor. If you look closely at the top of the picture, you will be able to distinguish the rose foliage from the foliage of the elms across the street. Later this summer, we will tighten the strings on the climbing canes.
 
My mailman will love this change. He will no longer have to hack his way through the rose thorns to walk up my sidewalk! Dustin also trimmed back all of my rose shrubs, which will be blooming later this month, as will the William Baffin. He also trimmed the climbing Henry Kelsey rose and trained it up the left side of the arbor. Henry has never performed as well as William but I always relent and give him yet another summer to produce well.
 
 
I chose the Henry Kelsey rose because of my niece, Kelsey, and I have to give her kudos for actually working the longest yesterday. Hours before the guys even showed up, she was weeding my flower beds on both sides of the driveway, in and among the rose bushes and the flower bed to the left of my front step. I think she weeded for about five hours straight! Now my peonies and irises (currently in bud) will not have to compete with weeds when they show off their glorious blooms.
 
My three peonies are all Sarah Bernhardts:
 
 
 
 
I have a lovely unnamed lavender "heirloom" iris that a friend gave me, which is the linchpin of the driveway flower bed. I also planted some new irises last fall, and they are all growing vigorously:



This is Mariposa Autumn
 
 



Here is Gay Parasol
 



This one is Dakota Skies. I had to have
an iris with Dakota in the name!
 
 

 
This is Jurassic Park

 

 
I am so happy to have time off that does not involve surgery, infusions, bone marrow biopsies, and so forth. I am also so happy to be blessed with such great garden helpers.
 


Sunday, May 11, 2014

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY


 
Happy Mother's Day everyone! I was having a pretty bad week at work last week, but all that changed Thursday when I came home from work and found a gorgeous hanging fuchsia basket waiting for me. For the second year, Kristen is carrying on a Mother's Day tradition started by Dan about 30 years ago. I have to bring it in at night because of low temperatures. It is still 10 days until average last frost.
 
I find myself making countdown lists of all sorts of things. On New Year's Day, I figured out that it was 104 days until spring. That's right, I chose a particular day (Tax Day) as my target date for the weather to be warm. We are a ways past that date this year but it is still quite cool.
 
As I mentioned in my previous post, I felt I had to make it past another milestone, that of the one-year anniversary of Dan's death.
 
Let's see, I mentioned the last frost countdown. It is two weeks until I take a one-week vacation. It is three weeks until I get paid so I can start buying plants. In 45 days I will turn 65 and will be eligible for Medicare. That is certainly a milestone, although I didn't sign up for Part B. In one year and 45 days I will be 66, a more significant milestone as I reach full retirement age. I won't be retiring but I will be able to work overtime and not have money taken away from me by Social Security.
 
My mom always scolded me for wishing my life away and she was right. I need to quit making countdowns and concentrate more on the "now".
 
I am slowly chipping away at all the work and projects that need to be done around here. I had already rounded up and boxed all of Dan's books. I gave away four boxes of paperbacks to the inmates at the state penitentiary. The organizer didn't want hardcovers .... hmmm, I wonder why?
 
Yesterday I started in on weeding out my books. I didn't get too much done, but I have eight full boxes of  (mostly Dan's) hardcovers waiting to be donated to the library. My main goal yesterday was to get all books in the house off the floor. That has been accomplished. I won't say they've all been put away yet, but they are OFF THE FLOOR!
 
Earlier this year I got rid of my 30-year old water bed, dresser, armoire and night stands. Since I have few clothes and many books, I decided I would get a couple of bookcases to sit side by side in the bedroom. I chose these from Target:

 
 
 
They really look good in my blue bedroom. They are well made and were easy to assemble. In fact, they looked so good I also got two shorter bookcases to use for bedside tables, and a cool glass-front case to match. By the end of the day I should have the rest of the books put away and both my hall closets cleaned.

My niece's boyfriend and his cousin got my horror of a garage cleaned out in preparation for having my garage re-built this year. Last week during Paint Up, Clean Up, Fix Up week my yard looked like Sanford and Son's junkyard with all the stuff waiting at the curb to be picked up. The city only picks up really heavy stuff two weeks out of the year, so in addition to old wire fencing, two rickety cabinets, broken tools, moldy seed and fertilizer, etc. etc. they took away an old refrigerator and freezer. What a weight off my shoulders.

 
 
I had electricians come in and fix three lights that didn't work (bedroom, entry and porch) and install the above fixtures - one in the dining room and one in the living room. I love them (I especially wanted an umber shade and love the warm tone) but can't decide if they're too big for my smallish rooms. Maybe they're just bigger than my other fixtures and I have to get used to them. I scoured the Internet for weeks to find ones I liked at an affordable price. These are my third choice. (My first choice was $1,000 each fixture and my second choice $500 each.)
 
Just yesterday I ran across very similar fixtures - a bit smaller at five lights each and even less expensive, so I am kicking myself. However, I had to quit stalling and make a choice and now I have to quit second guessing myself. I had hated the old fixtures for 30 years. The dining room light was a 60s brass atrocity that Dan had broken all the globes on, and the living room light was a ceiling fan/light that vibrated so badly that I thought it would spin loose and decapitate someone like an airplane propeller.
 
The electrical company has also given me an estimate to install a couple of outdoor outlets so I can run my fountain and some fairy lights this summer. That is, if I can light a fire under my contractors to first fix the garage. They are the same ones I used for my house roof and deck last year but it's so hard to get them to commit to a schedule.
 
And finally (for now), I have a man coming out Monday to give me a quote for hydro seeding my backyard. I am tired of Gracie dragging in mud. I am tired of a yard that is half dirt and half weeds. 


 
 
For about a week now, I have been seeing flashes of yellow when I look out my front windows or patio door. In fact, I usually see two flashes of yellow - pairs of goldfinches. We've always had goldfinches, but never so many. A few years ago a painted bunting was sighted near the western border of the state. The biologists figured a wind blew it in. Lord knows we've had enough wind here this winter and spring to have blown birds off course. They say it's an ill wind that blows no good so if it was indeed a wind that blew in these pretty birds, it was a very good wind.
 
Speaking of birds, a few minutes ago I watched two crows chasing a squirrel around the treetops. I've never seen this happen. No matter where he scurried they went after him. They went behind some other branches so I couldn't see what happened. I hope the poor fella got away!



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

VIRGINIA BLUEBELL WOODS



These photos are for everyone, but especially for my English and Scottish readers (including Second Cousin Shirl in Golspie, Scotland), who have posted pictures of their English Bluebell Woods.

Taken by my sister-in-law Dana, these are Virginia Bluebell Woods. The woods are in Virginia, near where Dana and her husband live, and the flowers are indeed Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica.

I am so jealous of Dana's woods, and also of the English Bluebell Woods. I can hardly imagine seeing whole carpets of flowers. This would never happen in North Dakota. The only wildflower carpets you see are tons of dandelions dotting green lawns.

I have managed to grow a plant or two of Virginia bluebells in my garden, and a few grew wild under a tree at the station master's house in the village where I grew up. Maybe I will some day see blue bell woods - either in America or in England/Scotland.

By the way, the dog is Duke, a Wheaten Terrier. He seems to be having a fine time.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

 
Above - Virginia Bluebell Woods
 
Below - English Bluebell Woods
 
 
 
I think the botanical name for English bluebells is hyacinthoides non-scripta. If I am mistaken, please let me know. 
 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Blessed Easter/Ostara

 
 



I'm sitting here writing an Easter post when I should be preparing for hosting Easter dinner. I've had to move the celebration up to this evening, nearly 24 hours earlier than I had planned, because my nephew Mike has to work on Easter. He's a manager at Subway and you might ask, aren't the Subways closed on Easter Sunday? Well, yes they are, unless they're located in a WAL-MART!!

I've boycotted Wal-Mart for years, ever since I read "Take This Job and Shove It" by former ND Senator Byron Dorgan. First Wal-Mart destroyed small-town Main Street USA and shipped jobs overseas, now they are ruining American holidays! I remember when I was a child Sundays were closed down tight as a drum, with nary a shop open. Now I don't mind running to a Lowe's or a garden store on a fine Sunday afternoon, but what's so important to purchase on a holiday that can't wait one more day? Give me a break.

Anyway, I'm in a panic situation. Although I had Good Friday off, I was a couch potato. It was nice to laze around, but now I have to do everything today - finish the rest of my grocery shopping, clean, cook and bake. Yes, I, the famous non-baker, am baking. My friend Lila from the Indigo Blue blog posted an easy pineapple cake recipe on her Facebook that even I can follow. (Mix one 20-oz can crushed pineapple with juice and one angel food cake mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes in a greased 9x13 pan.) For my niece's fiancé, the one person in my family who does not care for pineapple, I bought a cherry kuchen. This should satisfy the taste buds of a good German boy.

I'm switching up the menu a bit. I am cooking a small ham and a turkey breast, but I am not making the traditional mashed potatoes and gravy or baked corn. Instead, I am making my famous French Bistro Potatoes (sliced potatoes, Swiss cheese, heavy cream and garlic!).  My niece will make a salad. My sister, an RN,  has to work today, a grueling 12-hour shift, which is why I volunteered to host, although it is difficult to host special occasions without Dan in the kitchen.

I know I will get everything done - I always do. And when I wake up Easter Sunday morning I will be relieved to know the work is done and I can relax and enjoy the 70 degree temperatures. The one time it was over 70 degrees this spring, I was at work and a cold front blew through by the time I left for home.

I really, really miss Easters when Kristen was home. None of us liked hard-boiled eggs, so I - I mean the Easter Bunny - hid those wonderful candy eggs with the marshmallow-y inside and the hard-sugar coating. I think they might have been Brach's. I believe they have quit making them; I certainly can't find them in Bismarck.

Of course I - I mean the Easter Bunny - also brought Kristen a well-stocked Easter basket. The year our foreign exchange student Valentina  from Venezuela lived with us, the E.B. brought her one too, and she was delighted beyond measure!

My favorite Easter candy is Russell Stover Raspberry Whip Eggs. My sweet daughter sent me a box of them this week. In lieu of candy, which she no longer (or seldom) eats, I sent her an Olive Garden gift card. Who says you always have to be conventional, either in Easter food or Easter gifts?

As to Easter itself, I am ambiguous. I was raised as a Lutheran but I seem to have lost my religion along the way. Another blogging friend of mine, Mary from Moontides, calls herself a Christopagan. That seems to me to be a good description for myself. I try live my life by the teachings  of Jesus Christ, but also have pagan leanings, a nod to my Scottish, Irish, Welsh and English Celtic roots. (And though not Celtic, my Viking ancestors were certainly pagan.)

This is also the season of Ostara, the pagan celebration of spring and the goddess Eostre or Ostara. So in ending, I wish you a blessed Easter and/or Ostara.