Sunday, February 25, 2007

A snowman for the season

The snow was finally the right consistency for rolling snowballs, so here is a snowman already beginning to melt. It was close to 50 degrees today, so it won't be much longer and the grass and ground will be visible.

I was able to get out and around today without having to wear mucking boots, although with the mud rising, the boots aren't put away for good.

This is a view of the back of the house and hillside taken from the south lane on the property. You can see from the sleds the kids use it a lot. You may also be able to see a swing hanging from that giant old Walnut tree in the center.
Here is the entrance to the area I call The Wilds. It is on a hillside, is very rocky, and very weedy. I have been attempting to clear out small areas and replant them. I hope to some day have it completely redone.
This path is actually right behind the house leading into the hillside. I have lined it with fallen trees and branches, used bark from felled trees to line the path, planted some Hosta, ferns, and Columbine along it. There is also a small bench that looks out over the creek.

I hoped you enjoyed the tour today. Sorry, still no flowers!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign...

Besides winter sowing, I have been busy making up some garden signs for here and there about the property. I have been using pieces of scrap wood found here and there, some from the wood pile. I printed out the alphabet in some of my favorite fonts and then practiced writing those fonts out on another piece of paper until I was adequately proficient at it. After that, using a pencil I mark out lines on the board for spacing and then write out my message. Then I go back and trace the pencil lines using a fine tipped paint brush and exterior enamel. Then again, go back with a black sharpie to outline and then again with the fine tipped paint brush and black paint to go over the sharpie outline. It seems redundant to use the sharpie and then trace over it with black paint, but the sharpie will either fade away in the weather (It would be awesome if they made an exterior use sharpie, wouldn't it?), or if a clear coat applied, will wash it away. If I just use the paint without the sharpie outline, I tend to make my painted outlines out of whack and it doesn't look as nice.

My husband actually got a laugh out of the Garden of Weedin sign. It applies to well here on our large expanse of property. The Private Property sign I decided to make because the plastic store bought signs we put along the state park line fell off with the wind. We put them up just to let hikers know the boundaries of the park. I feel people will be respectful and that I don't need to say No Trespassing.

I still have to make the sign posts too. I like painting the posts brightly and have used finials for post toppers and paint them too. Unfortunately, something has been chewing on one of my favorite signs to the woodland path that I just put out in November. I can't imagine what, a squirrel? A raccoon? A skunk? A deer, groundhog? Whatever it was, it must've been mighty hungry to chew on some painted wood.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The facts of life...

A few nights ago Chris and I heard a large bang at the front window and found that a little sparrow had run smack dab into it and was on the ground trying to recover. There were feathers stuck to the window. It was still alive, looking very stunned. Chris said it was going to die for sure. We both stood at the window for awhile watching and waiting for it to fly away. I decided to go out into the drizzle and take a closer look.

I put my gloves on and it allowed me to pick it up and keep it sheltered in my hands. Its breathing seemed to be labored and its eyes kept closing. It hung in there though. I held it for 15 minutes or so and it appeared to be recovering, moving more and acting more awake. I didn't want to stand out in the rain for much longer and it was starting to get dark. I took it around to the back of the house to a more sheltered location. We have a small wood pile out the back door. I rearranged some of the pieces so I could set the little bird down in it and cover it, but leave an opening for it to get out and fly away. I checked on it throughout the evening and it stayed right there, eyes still open and still breathing. I didn't expect it to really leave until morning, since it was dark and birds don't really go flying around a lot after dark.

The next morning I went out and to my delight, it was gone! I looked around at the bird feeders, hoping by some chance to see it giving me a thumbs ups, but of course, there were too many birds to be able to see it.

A few hours later I went out to fill a few of the feeders. My supply of birdseed it next to the wood pile by the house in a red rubber maid container. As I bent down to open it, I saw them, the feathers of a sparrow, all over the ground, not 2 foot away from the spot where I had put the bird. I was sad but hopeful that somehow this wasn't the same bird.

We have several stray "wild" cats around. We live next to a state park where there are many cats running around. 2 or 3 of them are frequently at our back door, teasing our indoor cat River. I am sure one them got the little bird.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Over the winter hump...

Here is my Amaryllis Hermitage in all of its glory. The first main flower stalk ended up shorter than last year much to my delight. No worry of it flopping over. There is another flower stalk growing that could very well end up taller than the first. Last year the two stalks bloomed at the same time, quite spectacular. I am happy with the staggered blooms though, as it is prolonging the color.

Looking past the Amaryllis you can see out my front window at all of the snow piled up around my Japanese Maple. We got at least a foot of snow. The boys have been busy building tunnels and slides, one of the projects looks like a rat maze.

After having the coldest February since 1978 (remember the blizzard of '78?), today my temperature on the east side of the house is 44 degrees. On Saturday they are calling for 52 degrees and thunderstorms! The snow will be gone and my spring bulbs will begin the second half of their push upwards.

I have been busy lately, still winter sowing, I am near 50 containers now, with plenty more seeds to start. I have been trying my best to draw out the gardens on graph paper, but doing so from pictures rather than going out and measuring like I should be. My drawings look vaguely like Picasso sketches instead of an architectural rendering with the proportions out of whack. I tried using BBC's garden planner, but the plant selection is extremely small and the tree selection ridiculous.

I have been looking through all of my gardening books and magazines, trying to sort through them all. I made a stack of books that I will be giving to fellow gardeners or donating. These books have to go. My gardening bookcase was getting overly full and I have to always keep room for new books. It has been quite nice to go through them all. Great to look at all of the wonderful ideas that people have had over the years and the beauty of their projects.

Here is a big fat robin I saw in a local park's parking lot a week ago. There were several of them playing around together. I often wonder about birds in the winter. Are they using nests from last summer? Do they build winter nests? I have seen some birds flying out of our purple martin house, so I know it is getting used. As for the martin house, it has not been lowered to the ground and cleaned out for who knows how long. We have been planning to do so before this spring, but what to do about the birds currently using it? I would hate to take it down and clean out the home that they are using for protection right now, but I do want it ready for the Martins that use it.

You can see from this picture just exactly how much work this martin house needs. Sometime in its life it was hit by something large and left in this awkward eastward leaning position. It is buried in concrete, so putting it back into position won't be easy.

That view of the back of the house was taken from the north side of the barn. I have a large planting area over here, with all of my Clematis growing on different things. The back of the house is quite boring, no deck and just a small patio out the back door, big enough for the grill and a chair. Last spring I dug up some pavers and moved them over that way so we would have a place to put the patio table and chairs without the legs sinking into the ground. As it turns out, the area is so boring that we never use it, we don't even out out there.

Sighhhh... another project...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Daylight savings time is March 11 -or- Punxsutawny Phil hero of the day

If you haven't heard, the government made changes to the daylight savings time August 8, 2005. These changes will go into effect this year. Instead of springing forward the first weekend of April, beginning this year, we will change our clocks forward on March 11. In the fall, we won't change the clocks back until November 4. Daylight savings

I am sure by now you have also heard that Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this year. Quite convenient! early spring

Of course, as a gardener and one who squeeks through winter every year, I am very pleased with both of these events. It is going to be so nice to be able to have an extra hour of day light for several weeks. Seems like we practically sleep winter away here. Being summer outdoor kinda people, I sure miss all my outdoor projects and really look forward to getting back to them with more time to spare. It will be nice to be able to go empty the compost bucket without having to carry a flashlight. The boys will be happy to be able to stay outside longer each evening. We will have time to talk longer walks without worrying about the boogyman in the dark shadows. I'll have more time to work on those pre-spring hardscape projects (steps, paths, new flower beds, etc., etc., etc.!).

By the way, although it was 1 1/2 years ago that President Bush signed this bill into law, many companies are complaining that this could cause wide spread y2k like problems because they aren't ready. So if you are worried about clocks and technology break down, remember, this isn't the first time that daylight savings has been changed and we also made it through the big y2k scare without a scratch.