Country Mornings

May 29th, 2008

 It’s so nice to see the flowers on a cool spring morning.  As the sun comes up it highlights all the plants, and the light dew just makes everything glisten.  The birds are singing, the air is fresh and it gives one a sense of being alive.  It’s a great time to stay busy as well, and we’ve been mulching the flower beds to keep the moisture in as we head to summer.  This area serves another purpose of giving a little privacy to our house and patio area.  The fields beyond are the neighbors property, and there’s a lot of activity over there.  But it’s nice to have a stretch of flowers that sort of invite you to come closer and stay a while.

Flower border along driveway  So this is the weather we’ve been waiting for…  cool mornings and the day warms up comfortably to 75-85 degrees (22-25 C).  It sure makes working outside a pleasant experience doesn’t it?  I’m sort of a cool weather person anyway, and really enjoy spring and fall temperatures.  By the time July or August rolls around, the hot and humid days are just so oppressive, and everything slows down.

We have many newer plants to get in the ground still, and there’s always lots of grass to cut.  In a couple weeks it will be time to cut hay and the tractors will be heading up and down the fields.  We only have a few acres of hayfields ourselves, and a local dairy farm cuts and bales it.  We’re happy to let him have it, and it keeps the field cut for us. But for the smaller fields I just cut the grass once a week or so myself.  Some folks in our area try to keep the country fields looking like a suburban lawn, close cropped and manicured.  More and more I think that’s a waste of money, fuel and time.  The grass looks just fine when cut once a week or so, and kept trimmed, and with the price of fuel these days there are better places to put the money.  But I guess if that’s what’s important to someone, then fine.  We all have areas that are important to us.

I enjoy cutting the grass for the most part, and spend about 7-10 hours on various grass cutting machines each week during the growing season.  Lots of trimming with the weed eater too.  Sometimes it’s a slow process especially when using an older tractor to cut the fields.  But it has nice big tires that don’t cut into the grass when the soil is soft, especially on slopes.  With the price of diesel fuel though, maybe a little more speed would help!  Those little zero turn mowers look pretty quick.  Maybe I’ll have to check one out and see if it does okay?

Cutting grass


Fox squirrel in the rain The other day it was pouring down rain but this little Fox squirrel didn’t seem to mind.  I thought it was just passing by, but yesterday it was foraging near the base of a tree when two little young Fox squirrels ran up beside another one.  They were pretty cute, chasing each other around the tree and staring at me.   When I was younger I used to go squirrel hunting in the forests of Missouri and Arkansas.  Ewww!  I know that may sound strange to some people, but for many people in the midwest and east it’s the same as fishing or even gardening. 

 Most folks don’t hunt the Fox squirrels as much; these prefer open tree areas and farm lands and are, well- a little tough to eat.  But the Gray squirrel lives in the Oak-Hickory forests and is a prize even today for many people.  They are quite wary in the forests, it’s not like hunting squirrels in the park.  I remember going with a friend to his grandmother’s house, and she cooked up a delicious batch of fried squirrel with biscuits and gravy and all kinds of other stuff.  It was amazing.  

Ghostly Sentinels and Daffadown Dillies

March 30th, 2008

It would be nice if the rain would pace itself over the next six months.   If you’re from the midwest you know we’re in that cycle of rain every few days that results in very saturated ground.  Which is good for the plants and water table… but not so good for the soil that erodes off the slopes.  What was protected by grass in some areas has now washed away this year, and the challenge will be to grow grass again before the summer heat (and lack of rain) begins again.  But the spring has a wonderful start!

There is beauty in all the rain and moisture.  After a night of rain, the gray morning reveals the trees standing as ghostly sentinels in the fog.

 Trees in the fog at Fox Haven

And a garden angel sleeps peacefully near some new blooming jonquils. I enjoy these smaller cousins of the larger daffodils.  What’s the difference?  Perhaps the old explanation that all jonquils are daffodils, but not all daffodils are jonquils.  If that makes any sense… meaning that they are both of the genus Narcissus, but the jonquils are a separate species of smaller flowers, usually very fragrant.  And of course daffodils are the many larger varities of yellow and white Narcissus that announce spring with fervor! 

Angel sleeping with jonquils

Do you have a different name for daffodils?  Whatever they are called, it’s interesting to read some possible history about the origination of the names:

“The name Daffodil is derived from an earlier “Affodell”, a variant of Asphodel (flowers). The reason for the introduction of the initial “d” is not known, although a probable source is an etymological merging from the Dutch article “de,” as in “De affodil.” From at least the sixteenth century “Daffadown Dilly” or “daffadown dilly” has appeared as a playful synonym of the name.”

As I was writing this the young boy awoke and sat with me looking at the flower pictures.  He remembered picking one of the first daffodils the other day, and told me what I should write… years from now, I hope the strength of his imagination will carry him well, and like the daffodils, to bloom every year and see life anew.

 “The first flowers of the spring ever to be picked in full bloom.”

Daffodils in spring


October Flowers

October 7th, 2007

     A beautiful warm weekend, and a chance to enjoy the flowers still in bloom.  The roses continue to bloom and seem to enjoy the cooler weather.  

Rose blooming in early October


Knockout Rose in early OctoberPink Rose in early October


We also have a small Persimmon tree near a fence line.  Actually several small ones, but only one likely to grow into tree size.  They are volunteers, but I’m not sure if they are the native Common Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) or another variety because the fruit looks more squat shaped.  Does anyone know for sure?  Last year there were more than a dozen Persimmons on the little thing, but only one grew this year.  The early spring freeze prevented most of the flowering trees and shrubs from bearing fruit, and the summer drought made it hard on the others.  We’ll pick this one in a few days and enjoy the juicy pulp!

Persimmon fruit in Missouri

 And we still have Petunias blooming in containers (and our Burt Dow boat!).  What great annuals to have around… just keep them watered and they bloom all year.

Petunias blooming in early October


May 17th, 2007

Is there any flower or plant that blooms so profusely and is so easy to grow than the Petunia?  Maybe, but I really appreciate their color and variety.  Every year I buy a few inexpensive sets and plant them in containers around the house.  They bloom right away and within a couple months are cascading over the pots bringing the outside of the house alive with color.  And they continue blooming into autumn… all they require is watering two or three times a week.  My kind of flower… simple, beautiful and some are even fragrant! 

A pink Petunia flower

Purple Petunia flowers

Our Burt Dow Boat

April 30th, 2007

It was hot today with the temperature exceeding 91 degrees F with blue skies.  It really felt like summer already, but I know that’s part of seasons of change.  The trees are leafing out vigorously, and the insects have arrived with abandon.  It was a day for planting container flowers around the house as well. 

I found a use for an old dingy our family has had for many years.  I think my father obtained the little boat from a neighboring family in the early 1970’s.  We never really used it for much, but I remember one time in the late 1970’s when a friend and I carried the boat several blocks to a local pond.  We floated around very proud of ourselves, and then carried it back.  It was fairly heavy for two teenagers, and we never did that again.  The dingy saw a little use on the pond here as well, but for many years has stood leaning in and out of the barn.  The wood has rotted and the little boat is falling apart. 

The little dingy filled with flowers sparse yet, but by summer there will be many blooms!

But the other day I remembered one of my favorite stories of my youth… “Burt Dow, Deepwater Man”.  The story was written by award-winning children’s author Robert McCloskey in 1963.  I loved the book so much that I even found an original copy on eBay a few years ago.  Burt Dow is a retired fisherman who lives with his sister.  The story is a charming narrative of going fishing and encountering whales at sea.  But outside their home, there is an old boat filled with flowers.  I always remembered that boat… so today we filled our own “Burt Dow Boat” with colorful petunias… they are small yet, but in a few months I imagine many colorful blooms cascading down the sides of the good old dingy.

The young one was excited to find new tadpoles that have emerged in the pond.  We set up a small tank in his room with a few tadpoles to watch them grow.  I don’t know the species of frog they will become, but we’ll watch them.  Many of them will become food for the fish and other creatures in the pond, but enough will survive to grow into adult frogs.

Tadpoles emerging in Spring


I couldn’t resist a picture of this beautiful Iris… they just bloomed today.

Iris blooming in Spring

More Flowers in Spring

April 26th, 2007

We’ve had gentle rain the past couple days- it has been nice for the plants and flowers.  The leaves are slowly coming on the trees.  I did put up the hummingbird feeders- and lo and behold, within five minutes the first little hummingbird was there!  I didn’t know they would back this early.  We also have the Barn Swallow’s back… they are one of my favorite birds.  Except that the nest is right in front of the garage, and when the young hatch the adults swoop and zoom at you when you walk around the driveway.  But they are fun to watch and have been coming for many years.   I’ve been able to grade the driveway and re-distribute the gravel without clouds of dust everywhere.  The flowers are really coming along everywhere now- here’s a couple I found yesterday.

An early Iris in bloom- the light lavender color is beautiful.

 A beautiful Iris in bloom in April

I found another wildflower near the woods-  this is called Spiderwort, genus Tradescantia.

A wildflower called Spiderwort

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Many Things

March 7th, 2007

Ah, the  many things we do.  From waking to helping a child get ready for school, the dishes, the animals, the cleaning, the organizing, the planning, the outdoor work, the kids again…  so often it seems it’s a cycle that never ends!    What do you do to keep your focus, and stay “in the game”? 

Sometimes I’m not so sure, yet if I’m tired or restless, or simply not focused…. I just begin.  One of the quotes I like is by Rev. Robert Schuller that says, “Beginning is half done!”  I think that’s true…  once we simply begin and start in with something, pretty soon we are moving ahead.  We may move on to other things, or notice something needs attention that we had not thought of previously.   Somehow the application of our energy and focus allows us to do what needs done, even if just a little at a time.  Nothing really magical, but it works! 

Purple Dutch Tulips

I think I suffer from too large an awareness of what “needs done” however… and sometimes that can seem overwhelming.  So again, I just start in with something and usually find that the little pieces of a project can organize themselves along the way, as long as I’m participating in the process.  And with progress, however small, we find success.  I wonder if it is only humans who have thoughts that speak of self-indulgence… lamenting our weaknesses, praising our strengths and success.  The dogs, cats, birds, fish… even the plants and flowers just… are.  They live, grow, explore and express the individuality of their “being” within the environment in which they exist, not asking for much beyond the basics of life.  But what a gift they are!  

I did see the Phoebe has arrived with the coming of Spring.  I chased a few geese from the pond this morning as the countless birds called to the rising sun.  I get to visit with a few kindergartner’s this morning and facilitate reading.  That is a humbling experience by the way, to see a young child struggling to learn to read, trying hard to do something they know so little about.   But once they begin, they find joy in the small victories of each word and sentence.  Maybe I should remember that… :)  Here’s some more “hydroponic tulips” to begin the day.

Hydroponic Tulips… Winter and Spring

January 12th, 2007

It may be January, but I’m already thinking of Spring.  Found a neat “hydroponic tulip jar” at a local big-box store… just what we needed to brighten up the room.  The Poinsettia (interesting plant!) will show its colors for many months, but becomes more of a remembrance of earlier holiday spirit .  The Tulips also bring memories… living in the northwest with palettes of color among homes and the earth; Seen from the air the fields are beautifully painted with bright colors through the efforts of tulip farmers.  The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is a wonderous sight (and recommended for a spring trip!).  The festival this year occurs for the entire month of April with “bloom dates according to mother nature.” A little later in the month is better if I remember correctly. The Tulips in the jar are getting ready to bloom- yes, forced to bring an early Spring to the household… but welcomed nonetheless.  What a great idea for hydroponic tulips… just add water every couple days and they grow like crazy.  Tried planting over 50 tulip bulbs outside a few years ago at another place… couldn’t wait for them to bloom. Each morning however, I walked around to see little holes where the bulbs used to be!  “Who is stealing my tulip bulbs,” I thought. Seems that rabbits love to dig up and eat the little suckers.  Now we enjoy the daffodils since they apparently don’t taste very good!  Guess they don’t have as many rabbits in the northwest.

The winter has been warmer this year, yet the firewood is stacked for the warmth the woodstove provides on colder days and nights.  How comforting to have the wood split and ready to warm the house!  Someone is probably thinking… “Yes, warmer winters… global warming… and you’re burning firewood!”  Ah well… a warm fire reaches deep within the soul… bringing some kind of innate satisfaction and comfort.  And I can feel good about the “EPA certified” woodstove with “non-catalytic reburning technology.”  Huh?  All I know is that there’s a roaring fire in the dang thing and you can hardly see any smoke coming out the chimney!  Apparently it reburns most of the pollutants and if that’s helping the environment, well I’m glad.  I think it’s more tangible to appreciate that we don’t have smoke pouring in and around the house so much! Of course then there’s the old stove in the barn, yet to be fired up, the tractor, the assorted small engines… evolution and technology are meeting, yet slowly.  But a little tinge of woodsmoke triggers something within as well, and when working outside lets one know there’s a warm place to come back to.  Mom remembers the saying “Wood warms you twice!” referring to the cutting/stacking and burning.  Well this year I took down an old 80′ Red Oak, and lost count of how many times it warmed me! but that’s another story… :)

Tulips, Poinsettia and Firewood

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