Saturday, March 31, 2012

Morning Mist, Evening Hail

The weather never gets boring. The day started out with fog hanging around until mid-morning.

The sun finally peeped out from above the mist and it was a great day for garden chores, even though the weatherman had said rain. I got hot very quickly and changed from long sleeves to a cooler shirt. Here I am taking a short rest. Kris never misses an opportunity:

What we didn't expect was a severe hailstorm. Large hail. It sounded as if someone were firing guns at our rooftop. I have never been the recipient of hail this large. The pieces  were the size of a small ice cube. I have heard of hail the size of baseballs. I should think hail that large could cause serious injury if struck by it.

Compare the size of the hail to the nickle lying alongside.

This was the largest piece we found

We lost leaves from some trees, but nothing too serious and in the woods an old tree fell. Hit by wind, I imagine, or could the hail have caused that? The wind did not actually blow very hard but we got tons of rain.

A quick walk though the back to survey any damage to plants/flowers revealed none. However, there was one casualty:

I've had this gazing ball at least 15 years. Guess I'll be looking for a new one!

My dogs were alarmed at the sound of the hail hitting the roof, but they were safe and dry inside. I worried about Sox and wondered if she was frightened by the sound of hail on the barn's tin roof. I checked later and mother and babies were fine. We discovered today she doesn't like to leave the barn to come to the house to eat. So we have now placed her food, milk and water bowls just outside the box so she can be near her precious babies. She seems to be such a good little mother.

How was your weather today?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Let the Spring Planting Extravaganza Begin!

It's only the last day of March tomorrow and the frenzy of spring planting has begun. It's a full three weeks earlier than what's considered the first "frost free" date in my area, so we're all hoping and praying that we don't get an April surprise. The garden centers are abuzz with eager gardeners gathering up annuals, perennials, roses and even vegetable plants. So many luscious choices.

I am no exception, as I planted snapdragons, lambs ear, candytuft, lavender and larkspur last weekend. Today I stopped into The Enchanted Forest (don't you love that name for a nursery?) and was tempted by several items.

Flat-leaf parsley, curly parsley, dill, chives, German thyme, lemon thyme

I adore growing herbs and began my gardening journey with them in the 1970s. At one time or the other, I have tried them all -- everything I could find locally or mail order, including some rather exotic ones. I have more recently settled into the more familiar ones: basil, rosemary, oregano, summer and winter savory, and the ones mentioned in the picture above. I really like their colors, textures, growth habits and I mix them together in a cottage garden style. I also cook with them extensively. Chicken isn't complete without rosemary, oregano and tyme for tomato-based dishes, basil with fresh tomatoes, chopped chives on everything imaginable.

Lady Lavender
I also found 10 Lady Lavender and two Provence Lavender plants, after having planted two Provence last week. Lavender is one of those things I crave to grow and have had mixed results over the years. I have one plant that's three years old and I believe that may be a record. I cannot determine if it's the intensly hot summers or the wet winters that causes their early death. Hope reigns eternal, so each year I plant again.

White flowers are my favorites ts I got a few Vinca to brighten up the Night Garden.

White vinca. I really like the little pink eye.

I bought two pots of Lithodora, a plant I am not familiar with, but I really liked its looks. I also like what the label tells me: water once weekly, no fertlizer necessary, hardy to 10 degrees F., at least six hours of sun, grows 3-1/2 inches tall, 18-24 inches wide. It looks somewhat similar to Lobelia, which I adore. Both have tiny, cascading blue flowers. I will use Lithodora in boxes outside the kitchen windows, mixed with something pale pink, white and silver. I now wish I had bought more, but there's always next time.....
Lithodora, with a pot of lavender in the background. Peeking out from behind are spring onions I will plant in the potager tomorrow.

This is a Wire Vine that my sweet sister bought for me. It is one of her favorites. It is nice, don't you think? Lovely in pots.

Wire Vine

I am addicted to plants and am sure there will be several more trips to the nursery, but this certainly looks like enough to keep me busy this weekend!

These pictures were made after dark using the iPhone with flash. I rather like the effect.

What are your favorite plants? Have you started your spring gardening yet?

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

And Then There Were Six

I did a recount of Sox's kittens tonight and got a better look inside that flat box. She has six kittens! They knot up together and it's very difficult to see inside, but I counted six little heads! Four are gray like her, one is brownish in color and then there's the black one. More charcoal gray, really. They are so sweet! Can't wait to get my hands on them. I don't have much experience with cats having kittens. Does anyone know how long before they open their eyes? Before they can stand?

Tonight's photograph is a pathway we walk down each day with the dogs -- behind the house and leading into the fields. We give the dogs their run several times each day, at least in nice weather. I love this, and all pathways -- something you travel along and are surprised at what may be around the next turn. Of course, we know what's next along this pathway because we've traveled it a zillion times. know what I mean. Other pathways, entering the unknown can be exciting, and revealing.

I love the sun setting just in the right spot. The trees on the right are cedar, and the foliage on the left is wild honeysuckle growing on an old rusted fence that my daddy built years and years ago. Speaking of honeysuckle, it will be blooming in another month or so (maybe earlier, since it's an "early" spring). It smells heavenly! One of the very best fragrant plants. The scent intensifies after dark and you can smell it a great distance away. There also is privet hedge bushes mixed in with the honeysuckle.

Tomorrow's Friday! Yeah! Casual Friday and I'll be in my jeans in the office!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kitten Happiness, Rabbit Sadness

We have at least five kittens! I had to lure mother kitty out of the box with a bowl of milk and shine a flashlight inside to see them. Way too dark to get a picture. Maybe in a few days. Four of them look like her, gray striped, but one is black. Can't wait to see them better.

Since I can't show you pictures of the kittens today, here's one of Sox, the new mother. This was taken about 2 weeks ago.

Sox is a new mother. This was taken two weeks ago. She's a small cat.

I am mad at my dog Kris. He found a rabbit's nest in the backyard and killed four and ate one. Yuk. I didn't know rabbits made nests in the ground, but this is twice this year it's happened. One would think rabbits wouldn't make nests to raise babies if dogs are around. I know this is what dogs do -- just their nature, but it's still so sad. Ruined my evening. Val was pretty much a bystander and she never picked up one of the rabbits. I don't want to be near Kris tonight!

The rabbit nest in a flower bed

Kris, after the incident, still looking around for more trouble
I hope I have kitten pictures to share with you in a few days!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Night Skies and Newborn Kittens

The past two afternoons and evenings have been busy ones. Since the weather is so nice, I've spent my time tidying up the yard. So many chores! Weeding, refreshing the flower beds with mulch, potting up a few things---endless but enjoyable chores. Tonight, as well as the past two, have been spent on the deck with cameras, to capture the last night of the conjunction of the moon, Jupiter and Venus. The people who know about these things say it won't happen again for 450 years.

I am amazed at the high quality of photographs you can get without a telescope. So I'm posting two pictures from tonight. It was a bit hazy but I think that gives a nice, if different effect.

Sox the cat had her kitties last night. I knew as soon as I saw her this morning that she was a new mother. This afternoon I went searching for her nest and found the kittens in a large box in the barn.  I cannot tell how many babies there are. I saw two but didn't want to disturb her and the little ones  to find out for fear she would go moving them if I touched the kittens. One was dead, at the edge of the box and no way to tell if it was born that way and she moved it aside, or if it crawled there and couldn't find its way back. Poor little creature.

I will investigate further to find out how many kittens there are. Perhaps if she isn't with the kittens sometime I can shine a light into the box and see the babies. I will eventually have pictures here.

Busy days ahead, but rain is predicted the next three days so maybe I'll get caught up with my blogging, reading and other activities while indoors.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Night Sky Show

About a month ago, Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon aligned beautifully for evening sky watchers around the world. Tonight it happened again! These three heavenly bodies formed a bright celestial triangle in the western sky at sunset. If you missed it, there will be a repeat show tomorrow night. Try to go out before it turns completely dark. 

The following photos were taken after sunset, but turned out OK nevertheless.

This is the better picture of the moon, but the planet at the top (in the photo below) is barely visible in this photo

Another good moon shot; color different from the one above

This is probably the better picture because you get a better view of both planets

Here are the stats on the camera with which the photos, by my husband on our back deck:

Canon EOS Rebel T2i, with a Canon 70-200mm F-4 Zoom Lens. 3200 ISO, 8-tenths of a second exposure time.

We you able to see this Sunday night?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Starting the Day with a Good Breakfast

Saturdays are perfect for leisurely breakfast, a little something extra and you know what that means: more work. But it’s well worth the time spent preparing things you eat just once a week at breakfast. Lots of calories? Well yes, but you don't eat much the remainder of the day. This is stick with you food!

 Today, it was link sausage in maple syrup, poached eggs with cheese and garlic chives, grits, croissants with butter and blackcurrant jam and fresh oranges with mint. And of course, plenty of steaming black coffee to wash it all down.

Is anything more refreshing than fresh orange adorned with mint, picked just moments ago from the garden?

I have owned this set of Francisian Desert Rose china for many years. The pieces of this pattern they manufacture now looks like a bad imitation of the original. I rarely use this china but cannot part with it.

This napkin is from a set made by my mother, probably in the 1940s or 1950s, from flour sacking. Younger people probably don't know that flour, 5-lb, 10-lb. bags, were packaged not in paper but in fabric bags back then. Many little girl dresses were made from flour sacks in those days when times were hard. I love this print.

I added cheddar cheese to the grits, which made them "run." Ordinarily, the grits hold their shape better but the cheese certainly "kicks it up a notch." I find the flavor of pork sausage links to be greatly enhanced by adding maple syrup toward the end. Just let it cook down until it becomes thick and clings to the sausage. That little bouquet is my first lilac bloom, which I picked early this morning. The other flowers are the heavenly scented Korean Spice Viburnum. The placemats are linen, bought in Ireland, usually saved for special occasions, but I'm learning to make ordinary days special. Enjoy while we can. Who that we pass things down to are going to love them as we do?

I shot this picture several times, with and without flash, and still got the reflection spot but I think you can fill it in if you decide to try this chocolate tea. When I make it again I will increase the chocolate syrup to about 3 teaspoons.

And for desert, as if any were needed, I decided to try this recipe on the Lipton Tea box. Sounded interesting. So I made myself a cup -- I got a no thanks from my husband on this one -- and it is an interesting taste. I grated fresh nutmeg and anything is good with that! I may increase the amount of chocolate syrup the next time I make it, to say 3 teaspoons. How can you go wrong with tea, chocolate and these three very delicious spices.

Bon Apetit!

Friday, March 23, 2012

When Darkness Turns to Sunshine

Sometimes a day begins dark and gloomy

And then the rain comes

And you feel unhappy because things aren't going so well.

 But eventually things turn around in your favor and before you know it, the sun is shining.

It's time to return home from the office after a long, hard week. The weekend's ahead of you, yipee! and it's your wedding anniversary!

And then your husband presents you with

An iPAD, an iPAD, an iPAD!!! YES!

Wow, I'm a happy girl. If I thought I was in love with my iPhone, he tells me, then I'll be over the moon with this new toy. More to come!

Wishing you a great weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gifts from the Sea

Whenever I need a lift, I find that I often reach for my old copy of “Gifts from the Sea,” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. It was written in the early 1950s while she was on vacation on Florida's Captiva Island. She presents essays about shells she picks up on the beach and uses for inspiration. She shares meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (née Anne Spencer Morrow, 1906 – 2001) was an American author, aviator, and the spouse of fellow aviator Charles Lindbergh. She was an acclaimed author whose books and articles spanned the genres of poetry to non-fiction, including the role of women in the 20th Century.

I first read the book in the 1970s and have picked it up again and again over the years.
Here are some Lindbergh quotes that I particularly like (not all of them from the book mentioned above):

After all, I don't see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.

America, which has the most glorious present still existing in the world today, hardly stops to enjoy it, in her insatiable appetite for the future.
Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day.
By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class.
Don't wish me happiness - I don't expect to be happy it's gotten beyond that, somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor - I will need them all.
For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.
For sleep, one needs endless depths of blackness to sink into; daylight is too shallow, it will not cover one.
Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.
Grief can't be shared. Everyone carries it alone. His own burden in his own way.

I believe that what woman resents is not so much giving herself in pieces as giving herself purposelessly.

When I cannot write a poem, I bake biscuits and feel just as pleased.

Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day- like writing a poem or saying a prayer.
I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.

 Thanks, Mrs. Lindbergh, I needed that today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Dawn Rose Killed by Witches Broom

This was my beautiful New Dawn rose.

 It was 16 years old, but last year we had to cut it down. Why? Because it fell victim to Rose Rosetta Disease, also known as "Witches Broom" Disease, for which there is no cure. The best you can do, once a rose has it,  is cut out the diseased canes and hope that takes care of the problem. I did this for two or three years previous, knowing the bush was infected, and held out hope that would do trick. Unfortunately, it did not.
I had already lost several other rose bushes to this disease. Very heartbreaking, because I wanted to grow roses more than I wanted to grow anything, except maybe lavender.
So I was pretty sad. This New Dawn rose was the most beautiful plant in my entire yard -- my pride and joy. Each May it burst into bloom, the delicate pink blossoms emitting a slight, not heavy, vanilla fragrance. In bud, it was perfect. The sheer size of the plant was pretty amazing and I had visitors stop by just to see it.

The rose is coming back from the root this spring, and I check it every few days to see if the new canes look normal. I cannot tell just yet. I am very hopeful.
I find that some people haven’t heard of Rose Rosetta Disease. It’s said to come from wild rose bushes, and in past years I gathered roots from those that grow along the roadsides and introduced them onto our property. I feel certain that’s why it came to my roses.

Symptoms of the disease on my New Dawn included reddish-purple distorted leaves, blackening of the canes and shoots that did not produce a flower. If your rose gets it (and I hope it doesn’t), you’ll know it. It will look like this:

and this:

and this:

If you want to read more about Rose Rosetta Disease, you can go to Virginia Cooperative Extension. I have used their images above to illustrate the disease.

Do you grow roses? What varieties are your favorites? Are you familiar with this disease (I hope your roses have never been infected!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thoughts to Inspire

A few thoughts on the First Day of Spring:
Mock Orange

Life is what we are alive to
It is not length, but breadth.
To be alive only to appetite,
pleasure, pride, money-making,
and not to goodness, kindness,
purity, love, history, poetry,
music, flowers, stars, God
and eternal hope is to be all but dead.
   ---Martha D. Babcock

The poor man is not he
who is without a cent,
but he who is without a dream.
---Harry Kemp

So long as enthusiasm lasts,
so long is youth still with us.
---David Starr Jordan

Growing old is no more than
a bad habit, which a busy man
has no time to form.
---Andre Maurois

Reverance for life -- from ants to men.

New Dawn Rose

Lord, I do fear Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year.
God's World
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Trees and Eight Dog Paws

This tree is not one you want to plant! I don’t know its botanical name, just a tree that was touted as fast growing and would provide shade in five years. We planted two of them to provide quick shade on the south side of the house.
Emerging leaves on fast-growing poplar

It did. But with its fast growth came numerous problems. First, the roots. They grow on top of the ground. Because of the impossibility to run the mower over these protruding roots, several areas around the trees had to be converted to unplanned “natural areas.” Another problems is that shoots emerge from the roots, so it’s a constant chore of clipping off these wayward children..

One thing I’ve learned: a fast growing tree is a shallow-rooted tree. And a fast growing tree also is short lived. How many years will it last? Maybe another 30-40, so I think it will outlive me (compare to an oak tree, which lives 100 plus years). The next person who lives in this house may have to find an alternate source of shade.

We lost one large limb on one of the trees, but do not believe that was due to wind, but instead to disease. That was three years ago, and we haven’t seen any further sign of disease, so maybe we’re safe on that count.
The poplar tree has a fat trunk

Another final disadvantage of having this tree is the absolute mess it creates each spring. First comes long worm-like things that fall everywhere. Then, new leaves emerge encased in a pod – a brownish yellow, sticky shell that falls as the leaf opens. These fall onto the deck and you know what that means: Dirty shoe soles and dirty dog paws. For the past week I have cleaned dog paws and messed up the soles of shoes with this sticky mess. I can manage the human angle by changing shoes at the door and watching where I step outside. Not so the doggies! I have spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning eight paws, trimming hair from around their pads, for a full week.
Kris, thinking about having to get his paws cleaned
As you can see from the picture below, these trees are perilously close to the glass conservatory and I just hope winds do not ever bring them down, especially in the direction of the house.
The second poplar is at the right side
Long stringy things and yellow sticky shells

"Oh please! I hate it when you mess with my feet."


Allright, one dog down, one to go. Where's Val? Oh no, I think she ran away! 

Valerie, making a quick get-away!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flowering Crabapple Tree as Seen by Instagram

I have been experimenting with my iPhone camera using the Instagram App. You might say I have become a bit "obsessed" with seeing the different effects you can achieve. I wanted to share some of that with you today -- basically the same "shot" but with a different finish applied. I don't even know if that's the correct terminology, that is., "finish applied." All I know is you can preview and choose between 18 different looks. I guess I missed one! See what you think. Which one do you like best? Maybe it's not about which one you like best; I think it's a matter of what effect you're trying to achieve. #16 is amazing, no? You can make it autumn with a press of your finger! (Click on each picture to enlarge, but you already knew that, I'm sure.)








(I love black and white photos!)






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