It’s June

It’s June, only 20 days away from the longest day of the year. The sun was still quite a way above the horizon at 7:30 pm when I took the picture above. In spite of this, last week we had a couple nights below freezing. The night it got down to 28 degrees, my new potato plants froze. They had just gotten above ground and were looking so healthy and strong. Everything else in the garden got covered with tarps and sheets and survived. It is light now at 5:15 am so maybe everything will grow fast and produce before the short summer is over.

I took several walks this week. It is scary how fast the trees went from bare to fully leafed out. It’s like they know they have to hurry. The wooded trails are SO BEAUTIFUL! My walks go slow because I am always stopping to take pictures, or identify bird calls. It all looks lovely to me and is like medicine for my soul.

Even things that are nearly spent can be lovely (and that should be comforting to those of us who are nearly spent…)
Birch trees are so unique. White trunks just aren’t the norm.
The streams and marshes are full of water, flowers, reflections.
Who could refuse a path like this?
Looking a fern in the eye is kind of amazing.
Black water reflections captivate my camera (and me).
Canadian mayflowers are even a little late here. A natural garden in the pine forest.
Such a contrast from my winter trail. And to think that all this was just waiting in the cold ground and appears in its season without any help from us.

Yesterday’s walk was past a beaver pond and a large marsh. I pushed through the bushes to get a view of the water and watched a family of ducks swimming. The cattails started rustling and moving and out of them came the largest raccoon I have ever seen. It had a grizzled white head and was prowling through the marsh, probably looking for nests with eggs. Later I saw a pretty box turtle digging a hole in the dirt for her eggs

It was a good walk. I am still counting steps – 13,000 yesterday and 10,000 today. The last two weeks I have been working on getting the garden going instead of walking, but even then it was easy to get 5,000 to 7,000 steps tilling, carrying mulch and fixing fence.

Suddenly, it is summer in this crazy, wild, northern place.

It’s a good thing it doesn’t have to be a very big hole.

February Goodness: Blessings

I am learning to recognize blessings, not actually counting them, like the old song describes, but realizing that all the small surprises in my day are really blessings. That was the common denominator of all the good things on this Wednesday in the first week of February.

A stunning sunrise that kept evolving so fast that I ran outside in the freezing temps at least three times to capture its stages. The brightest spot is no longer hidden behind a building like it has been for several months. The sun is moving! (I know, not really…)

Our family pod of five, gathered together to have a meal. And our extended family and friends on ZOOM who took the time to throw a virtual birthday party for our Ryan, my youngest daughter’s fiancée.

The catalog promising that spring is coming eventually for us, and even now for some happy gardeners. I have already planned, and ordered but that doesn’t keep me from reading it all again. Gardens are such hopeful things!

I’m especially grateful for these blessings on a day that also holds much tension. A dear friend battling cancer went into the hospital on an emergency basis. Blessing and trial, side by side, else how would we know that by contrast they sweeten each other. We are praying for this situation and appreciate all who join us in hoping for more time with our friend.

Spring Is Real

Here in Wisconsin, spring isn’t just a date on the calendar. It’s much more real than that. After being in various degrees of frozen for nearly six months, big changes have to happen and they have to happen fast because winter’s a comin’. I think spring happened today.

Mom and I were sitting on her patio this afternoon when my brother called her.

“What’s the weather like there today?“

“It’s been pretty stable, in the 40’s and 50’s, ever since it stopped being in the 20’s and 30’s .” (Last week)

“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to happen? It’s spring, right?”

“I guess it is. Shirley is sitting here with a T-shirt and no coat.”

That’s right. It was so warm today that I didn’t see anyone wearing a coat. Yesterday was a different story. I was out in the soon-to-be garden in my heaviest hoodie and a scarf when neighbors Bob and LuRae, also coated and capped, came up to gift me. He had bought too many lily bulbs and just didn’t have room to plant them anywhere. He wanted to give them to me. Last year he did the same thing with daffodil bulbs.

I said yes. I had a pot with nothing in it but dirt and lilies would be nice. He came over with a rather large box. When I inventoried what he had given me I found eight bags of 10, with large sprouted bulbs begging to be planted. I spent a couple hours putting them around the lampposts of the twelve condos in our development. That’s a lot of digging.

As much as I shovel snow in the winter, I dig at least as much dirt in the other months. The major project is the garden. It has to go in pretty quick or not everything will get ripe before summer is over. But not too quick because it might still freeze at night. I absolutely know that I could walk over to Walmart and spend far less for the same amount of food, but I tell myself that the food is better and I need the sunburn and sore back exercise. I mostly try not to think about the logic in gardening.

I’ve only been “up north” for one “garden year” so far and didn’t have time to start perennials, so last month I ordered asparagus plants from Gurney’s. I was about to order the world’s most expensive raspberry plants from them too, when a friend let me thin her patch for free! I probably won’t get any asparagus or raspberries to eat this year but it will be good for me to exercise patience. It’s all about the future…

This morning Mom and I did the most definitive spring thing. We went shopping for flowers. We actually traveled 39 miles to a fabulous greenhouse where we bought almost nothing because the prices were… pricey. We stopped at two other establishments on the way home just because flowers are SO BEAUTIFUL! I bought, and got them all planted this afternoon. I have big pots of petunias, coleus and herbs on the patio. I am stiff, sore and a bit dehydrated.

It’s spring and spring is real. Putting my feet up now, just sayin’…

Yes, It’s Time for This!

People, the perfect thing to do while social distancing is planning your spring garden! At least, it’s one of the many perfect things. I am always super excited when I get in garden mode.

It reminds me to be hopeful. I have to wait for things to grow so it’s a futuristic activity and there is no better way to think about the future than to imagine myself out in the sunshine, digging in the soft, moist dirt and making all those straight rows of soon to be green stuff. Think birds singing, soft breezes, green grass (but not in the garden), blue sky, leaves on the trees. All that beauty that God wants us to enjoy.

And that is really the point of enjoying gardening for me. I feel like I’m worshipping God when I see and experience how crazy it is that a little pinpoint of a seed that I can hardly see grows into a carrot, or a bean. All he uses is water, light and dirt and a very smart self-sustaining program. God figured that out and those plants have been carrying out his plan ever since! Sometimes I think I get so used to seeing vegetables and fruits in the store that I forget that they are such high tech design.

Our retail stores were still open today, so I went for a quick trip to L&M where seeds were 40% off. I’m always conflicted when I see all the different kinds of every vegetable there is – they all look so good. I picked ones I thought would have the best chance of making it to full size before we get freezing weather again. Now I’m just going to sit and look at them for a few days, because they’re pretty – and the ground is still frozen.

In a few days I’ll start the tomatoes and a few others in starter soil – I’m going to use the plastic containers that I save from getting grocery store spinach. They make good little greenhouses. And I have some south windows where the seeds can get nice and warm and start to grow. I can hardly wait!

God likes gardening too – he planted a big one once. And he knew I would like it. Thank you, God.

Before You Know It

Time goes so fast! The fun thing I’ve been looking forward to for months, the hike in the Grand Canyon, is only six days away. I know from experience that it will only be a short time and I will be looking back on it and wondering how it could be over already.

While believing (strongly) in living “in the moment”, I also love to plan ahead, and I enjoy remembering good things from the past. So to alleviate my disappointment on having one adventure end, I like to have one always cooking for the future. I’ve picked my next enjoyable, spring activity! I’m already excited about the summer garden.

I love gardening. Almost everything about it is fun for me. Even if nothing were to grow (this has never happened) I just enjoy being out in the dirt, spending time in the sun, watching bugs and birds, loving on my plants. I know plants are not people and they don’t have feelings (not actually sure of that, but…). However, they do respond to good, thoughtful care which makes them seem kind of like people.

And so, I like to think about what plants will be in my garden, what kind of soil will be prepared for them, how I will keep other plants (weeds) from competing with them, and all that kind of stuff. I like to buy seeds and starter plants. I like to watch the garden grow from its early stage to being full of greenery and fruitful. I like to keep the edges neat.  Experimenting is allowed and there is always something new to try.

My brother Dennis says hi.

This year there will be a new garden location. My brother has chosen a plot in his yard, close to a water source and has it all worked up. There were a lot of grass clumps in the topsoil so he is tilling it up every couple of days to dry them out and hopefully kill the roots. I can already imagine being out there laying out the rows, mulching, getting dirty.

I’ll enjoy the hike thoroughly and concentrate on it while I’m there, but thankfully, I am a good multi-tasker and will probably have a thought or two about the garden while I’m trying to fall asleep, on the hard ground, in my tent… just sayin’.   

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things O

Orchids

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You have to love these cute little faces. Seriously, look closely at them!

The first one for me was in high school, probably it was at the prom. It came in a clear plastic box and was so ornate, almost bizarre looking, that I could hardly believe it was a real flower. It was delicate green with dark burgundy stripes and it lasted for a whole week in the refrigerator before it started to decompose. It was an orchid.

One of the best things about life in Florida is that orchids will grow here, outside, unattended for the most part. Of course, they do better when cared for, but even I with my frequent lapses in attention to my plants, even I can keep orchids alive. April is a very good month for orchids. They bloom and stay beautiful for weeks.

Here are some pictures of my favorites. I get to see them every day, hanging in the pergola outside my dining room window.

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these deep purple ones are some of my favorites

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I bought this orchid having not seen it in bloom.  I waited for a whole year before coming out one morning and seeing this flower stalk – not at all what I expected.  Since then, it has bloomed every spring and looks like this

 

 

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My surprise orchid in full bloom.

A neighbor has an “orchid wall” and I use it as an example of what they can look like when they are carefully tended.

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I wonder if other people stand outside her house and stare like I do…? Creepy

Anyone else have a favorite flower this spring?

#atozchallenge: Pineapple

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I don’t do anything to deserve the many pretty pineapple plants (couldn’t resist the alliteration) growing in my yard.  They are such a forgiving plant.  I started with fresh pineapples from the store, once long ago, and have not bought very many since then.  The tops get cut off and if they are laid on the ground where they can touch soil, they will find a way to root themselves and survive.  They have a life cycle of about 18 months, so depending on when you plant, you can expect some to be coming ripe every 6 months. Right now I am seeing most of my next batch slightly past the flowering stage.  A few are big enough to be ready probably in June or July.  I do not water or weed, although I’m sure the harvest would be better if I did.

The taste of homegrown is exceptional – I rarely find pineapple in the stores that tastes as good.  As they begin to mature they turn yellow, little by little, and become fragrant.  This is when the critters in my yard start to gnaw on them.  I haven’t figured out how to protect the plants yet although I’ve tried a lot of things (wrapping them in cloth, putting cages over them, making sleeves out of plastic milk jugs…  nothing works).  I’m not even sure who the culprits are, but likely squirrels or rats.  Because I have so many plants, probably 3 or 4 dozen, I usually get enough for us to eat.  But I have to be diligent.  Nothing is more disgusting than watching a nice, big pineapple approach picking time and then on the day I go out to pick it, it is half eaten or lying on the ground picked clean.

This is what I’m getting when I eat my pineapples.  They are high in vitamin C, and B complex vitamins. They have some vitamin A as well.  They have a proteolytic enzyme, bromelain, which is a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, and anti-cancer substance.  They have a large dose of fruit pectin which is a soluble dietary fiber.  Round it out with good amounts of minerals – especially copper, manganese and potassium.

I just enjoy having my own mini-plantation of pineapples.

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McMaster Carr and other helpers

I am taking a break this noon while my pain killers take hold.  It is yard clean-up day week.  Let me introduce you to McMaster Carr who has helped me in my job.

Thank you McMaster Carr for this neat bundle of fire starting paper.
Thank you McMaster Carr for this neat bundle of fire starting paper.

McMaster Carr is a company that makes and sells virtually everything that other things are made from – every little tube, bolt, bushing, wheel, piece of metal, plastic, rubber or glass that you can think of.  Every year they send out this huge, six inch thick catalog, of which I have three.  I use them for various purposes, most having to do with how well they weight things down.  But today I discovered that they make excellent fire starters.  I have enough paper to start my recreational fires (I have to call them that – explain later) for the rest of my life and probably the first few years of eternity.  Fires are an important part of my clean up, or at least they are fun.

I started yesterday and quickly got overwhelmed with all that had to be trimmed and taken out of the way before I could even mow in the oneacrewoods.  Things got a little out of hand, you might say, over the summer.  But I did make a little bit of progress and  decided to adjust my attitude.  I’ll not be overwhelmed, I’ll just work at it real hard for a week and then it will be winter and most things will go dormant, I hope.  I can do this.

This is awful.
This is awful.

This is awful too.
This is awful too.

This is trying to get better, but it's still awful.
This is trying to get better, but it’s still awful.

I’ve pretty much stopped trying to grow food, unless you count the pineapples that I grow for the unnamed animal who eats most of them. And I’ve kind of stopped trying to grow anything ornamental, unless it volunteers.  I can keep completely busy just deciding what I will not allow to grow and removing it. Really, that’s all I do now is take things out and burn them.  Now you know why fires are so important.

God knew what he was doing when he put the first people in a garden.  There aren’t many things as satisfying as takiing something as beautiful as nature, and then organizing and cleaning it up a bit.  Nature can go a certain distance toward keeping herself beautiful and there are some fine examples of that in the oneacrewoods, but it’s often every plant for itself and that can get wicked.  Someone, me, has to be in charge and keep peace between them.  God called it “dressing and keeping” – good description.

Here is an example of a plant that arranges itself in such a lovely way...
Here is an example of a plant that arranges itself in such a lovely way…

My other helpers are various rusting implements, bought at garage sales and held together with duct tape, several tarps that I use to pull debris from one place to another, and my Toro mower (the one piece of equipment that I brag about here). Without this stuff, well, we don’t need to go to that dark place…

This year I’m going to take pictures after I’m done and hope I can see how much better the yard looks. I have to add that a couple weeks ago when I was outside on the driveway an oak tree threw a fairly large limb at me and barely missed. I’m just saying, I sometimes wonder if plants have a different perspective on my activities.  But, I’m not ready to call it war yet.

This is what I do to tree limbs that don't stay put, grrr!
This is what I do to tree limbs that don’t stay put, grrr!

Don’t We All Have a Favorite Machine?

Florida. Spring. Getting warm but the tropical rains haven’t started yet so everything outside gets pretty dry in between showers, in between days when we are allowed to irrigate.  The grass (and in my case, the weeds) know it’s growing season though and already mowing needs to be done about every five or six days.  Mowing is a dirty, dusty job but I do it because I am a farm girl at heart, and this is as close to the land as I get in my present situation.

Machine love....
Machine love….

I am also a fan of tractors (at length in this post  ) and this wonderful machine, which is as close to a tractor as Iget in my present situation is my favorite ride.  It almost always starts when I turn the key, it holds enough fuel to mow the oneacrewoods, it turns on a dime with very little effort, the seat is comfy and it has cup holders which I don’t use but they are a nice touch.  The zero turn concept is really cool once you get used to it – almost like the way you move your body.  I mow a mean swath, not to brag, just a fact.

My last mowing session, however, almost did me in. The air became so thick with leaf dust and dirt that I had to go in the house to clean my eyes out and get some fresh air.  I decided to don “the costume” which I usually skip. Masks of all kinds make me feel claustrophobic but this kind of mowing calls for extreme measures.  The fact that I can breathe and see outweighs the shame of looking like a panic stricken alien flying around in clouds of dust.

All this to say that if I didn’t love this machine so much I would  probably consider hiring someone to do this job for me, like maybe a real alien.

Me in my hazmat face gear.  Fighting panic....
Me in my hazmat face gear. Fighting panic….

Today’s Marvel, Sunday January 18, 2015

There are times when I feel so glued to the screen. When both of “my devices” are busy notifying, flashing messages and asking for my attention, it begins to feel like I can’t get enough.  I get almost obsessed with staying in touch.  Time to get outside and touch some real things.

Even though it’s Florida and we hardly ever get a freeze, I like to bring my orchids in for the winter. Every couple weeks I take them back out and spray them down, give them a good drink.  That’s what I did today. I was surprised how many of them have bloom stalks that will soon be flowers, in addition to those already blooming.  Taking care of my plants is part of the joy of having them – it is SO an antidote to computer paralysis.  They are a dose of fresh beauty right from the hand of God.

Here are my beauties, and the marvel of the day is at the end.  I think he lives there permanently.

just look at their cute faces...
just look at their cute faces…

these deep purple ones are some of my favorites
these deep purple ones are some of my favorites

Their thick healthy roots really anchor them
Their thick healthy roots really anchor them

...and my little marvel.
…and my little marvel.