Back to the Garden

Spring has come to the Midwest abnormally early this year, which resulted in my husband and I looking out at our back yard last week and saying, “do we live in the jungle?” A few weeks of above average 80 degree weather and some rain and our little yard was beginning to resemble the Amazon, so after running a 5k on Saturday morning, my husband went out and tackled the grass. It took two rounds with the mower and the first time he had to prop it up on its wheels because the grass was too tall for the blade. Needless to say, it was annoying but our front and back yard look much better now.

Sunday I spent about three hours outdoors weeding and pruning and checking to see what had and had not survived the winter. There were only a few causalities and overall, everything appears to be in good shape. I am writing this blog post on my back porch because we figured it was time to bring up the patio furniture. Do you know when I brought up the patio furniture last year? May.

This fall I am planting massive amounts of daffodils but for now, I’ve got a few doubles.

Last spring/summer it got so hot so fast that our dogwood didn’t bloom.

Remnants from the fall.

Peonies are budded.

My clematis is chock full of buds. It’s going to be beautiful this year.

My hydrangea lived through the winter is growing. Success!

This spring is the first time I have ever ordered flowers through a nursery but I received a gift certificate as a wedding gift, so last Friday I put in my order. My plants should be here in a few weeks and I can’t wait to plant them. I picked a lot of hardy and colorful plants because I like lots of color but nothing that has to be pampered too much. Here’s what I bought:

Rhododendron

Butterfly Bush.

Red Carpet Phlox.

Sunshine Gaillardia Mix

Red Penstemon
Hollyhocks

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Holiday Greetings from 22 N. Bosart

We’re heading back east today to visit family for the holidays, so I leave you with a photo montage from our home this Christmas. My next blog post will most likely come to you from Erie or Pittsburgh. Stay tuned & save travels to all!

My friend from work made me a snowflake on a particularly gloomy day last week. She rocks.

Zombies love Christmas too. See whose name is on the ornament?

Paperwhites from our wedding.

Fir boughs from our Christmas tree.

This year I kept the outside decorations simple.

Candles and evergreens.

This would look better with some snow…

We did colored lights this year. Again, snow is needed.

From Shabby to Shabby Chic

I come from a line of painters, fixer upers & crafters. I enjoy a good do it yourself project as much as the next person, but I have my limits. For example, I don’t mind painting a bookcase or even a room but I draw the line at knocking out walls or ripping up floors. I like to think that my attitude is the healthy medium between my father, who likes do rip up and demolish (he is an engineer) and my mother, who likes to paint and decorate. When we bought our house, I was specific that I wanted something “old” with “character” but not something we were going to have to spend every weekend working on. I think our house is the perfect balance.

So back to the painted furniture. A few years ago (two maybe?) we helped two good friends of ours move from one apartment to another. As is the case with moves, when you are faced with moving furniture you start to do some serious reevaluation. The “awesome deal” that you got on that “wood” entertainment center at Big Lots seems less impressive when faced with actually lifting the damn thing. Therefore, after we had moved said friends into their shiny new apartment we found ourselves with a new/old dresser and bookcase. I looked at these two pieces of furniture and saw potential for painting and refinishing. The bookcase underwent it’s makeover fairly quickly. This was mostly because, if you know us, you know we have about 1 million books, so it was more necessity than anything else. It is sitting proudly in our dining room doing its job:

This color is called Barn Red from The Mark Twain Collection. Seems appropriate.

The other piece of furniture, a dresser, stayed down in our basement for about a year. I would go down and look at it sometimes but I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with it and so it sat. And sat. And sat. After the wedding, I took on the job of cleaning my closets and discovered that I would need some more storage space. That’s all the motivation I needed. Over the next few days I researched painting techniques and made several trips to Ace Hardware. This is is the finished product:

 
Not too shabby!

I painted the entire piece with Krylon spray paint (glossy white) and then I bought some glaze at Lowes. The glaze was heavily tinted with black, so it makes it look worn and old. I think it turned out remarkably well considering I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s amazing what one can accomplish when properly motivated.

Back to the garden…

It seems to be a tradition at the end of the spring semester (since we’ve moved into our house) for me to celebrate by going to work out my garden. This year I got a head start when RJ finally agreed to help me spread mulch throughout our flower beds. I also put in a few solid days of weeding before grades were due this week, but I think that was more like therapy. Sometimes after you’ve read several sub par papers, you just want to yank something out of the ground…

At any rate, the semester is over. I am glad. Graduation has come and gone and after one final meeting this afternoon, I will officially be on break for about two weeks before beginning my summer teaching schedule (more on that in a later post).

Yesterday I woke up feeling ambitious and spent the better part of four hours outdoors accomplishing the following tasks: 1) planting sunflower and zinnia seeds in a very large bed in our backyard. I planted a lot of seeds this year including sweet peas, lavender, bachelors buttons, and nasturtiums. If even half of the sunflowers grow, that back area is going to look awesome. Here’s hoping. It’s not a complete gamble. I planted just a few back there last summer as a test and they did pretty well.

2) Bringing up our patio furniture and assembling it. While this may not sound like a particularly arduous task, there are few things you have to take into consideration. It was 86 degrees yesterday by 11:oo am. The table, umbrella and chairs were down in the basement, so I had to lug them up the narrow, slick, muddy steps. The table was in pieces and we all know how good I am with spatial relations, so the fact that it only took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to put the legs on is a major accomplishment. But perhaps the biggest obstacle came when I discovered that Nimbus, our cat, had used the umbrella as a litter box. To say it was gross, well, that doesn’t even begin to describe it. At any rate, I had to disassemble the umbrella, wash it, and then put it back together. Good times.

And finally, 3) Sweeping off our back porch. Again, this doesn’t sound particularly complicated, but when you have a gigantic tree (I think it’s an oak) shedding seed pods (we used to call them helicopters when we were kids) at an alarming rate, well, let’s just say I don’t know why I bothered to sweep.

The reward? That came in two parts but both were equally gratifying. The first part came when RJ arrived home from work (yes, he started his new job this week. Hooray!) and said, “Wow.” The second part came when I came out this morning to sit on my back porch, with my tea and type this blog post. The pictures above are some of the flowers to bloom this year.

Waiting for the birds…

A few weeks ago I hung a bird feeder up that my mother gave me for Christmas. It’s in the shape of a little white house with Plexiglas sides, so when you pour the black sunflower seeds inside, it looks like a little black and white cottage is hanging off our garage.

Anyway.

I waited patiently for days for the birds to arrive. I peeked out the windows at every chance. I was even quieter exiting my back door in the morning (careful not to let the screen door slam too loudly) just in case a small bird was enjoying his/her breakfast. But after several days, no birds. Upon trolling the Internet and pestering my resident avian expert (my mother) I was relieved to learn that it can take up to two months for birds to discover a feeder.

Therefore you can imagine my elation when R pointed out that there were sunflower seed shells peppering the snow beneath the feeder. Shells must mean birds, right? Wrong. I was somewhat dismayed to find several large squirrels had discovered my feeder and were gorging themselves on the seeds intended for my birds.

Admittedly, squirrels are annoying. At my parents house, my mother unwillingly feeds Fox squirrels that are bigger than most cats I’ve known. They are loud. They are fat. They are gluttons. I swear at them. I stomp my feet. I yell and I clap. They chatter and swish their squirrel tails, which I think is a the equivalent of giving the finger.

The squirrels resiliency/stupidity/ courage was truly proven earlier last week when they were confronted with a beast whose brain capacity probably rivals theirs. Yes, they came up against our dog. In fact, one of them did not survive the encounter.

It is important to note that even before the squirrels started dining regularly at my feeder, they had a antagonistic relationship with our dog. He barks at them. He attempts to chase them and he even jumps up against the fence in hopes of knocking one off. He’s not messing around. This pasts summer he managed to catch one and only dropped it when I yelled and startled, the stunned squirrel dropped from his mouth. The squirrel was easy to identify over the passing weeks because he was missing a large patch of fur from his back.

Apparently, squirrels do not have a good social network because they continue to frequent our yard, which brings us to the most recent event. Because we like to give the squirrels a fighting chance, we try to scare them off before letting Kweli (our dog) outdoors. However, Kwe is fast and agile (despite being hit by a car as a puppy) and he uses our back porch as a launch pad. All of these things combined made for squirrel carnage as R opened the door, Kweli took off, and the squirrel made a fateful mistake. Instead of making for the fence like his buddy, he scrambled back up the garage and tried to hang onto the metal hook the bird feeder is attached to. He slipped. He fell. Kwe pounced. It was over in a matter of seconds.

Some people may say, “Oh! The poor squirrel!” or “What are you doing to do?” while peering at my panting, hairy dog who is looking very pleased with himself. What am I going to do? Nothing. As you may or may not have noticed, squirrels are in abundance. More to the point, dogs kill things. Wait, scratch that. Animals kill things. My Labrador used to dig moles right out of the ground and mangle woodchucks. My childhood cat used our front doorstep to display a diverse array of noses, ears, tails, and feet (you can’t eat those parts). I’m not squeamish and if you don’t think your dog might do the same if given the opportunity, put it in a fenced yard with a squirrel sometime.

Needless to say, there are still plenty of squirrels in our yard. Also, because I am an animal lover, I do try to warn them before sending Kwe out to patrol the perimeter.

So, did the birds ever come, you ask?

Yes, they have finally discovered the feeder and when I looked out the window today, they were perched on the feeder feasting and the squirrels were cleaning up the seeds from below.

*I’m thinking of poems…

Some of the birds visiting today:

New Year, New Space

Finally, a place to work…


You may be able to tell by the slant of the walls and the overall odd shape of the space, that this not your typical “office.” Yes. It is a closet. Our guest room closet to be exact, which is way too big to be a closet, so it has become my office.

I’ve written two poems up here so far and this is my first blog post, so let’s hope the productivity continues.

Zombies, rings, 4th of July, and fireworks in a fir tree…

On Friday July 2, 2010 I pulled this ring (see below)…


out of this zombie…
RJ and I are engaged. I am very happy. I think the zombie is too.
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My parents visited this weekend and like all good parents, they did not arrive empty handed. They gifted us their original dining room set, which means now every room in our house has the appropriate furniture in it. To celebrate, see pictures below of our house with actual furniture. Hooray!

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My garden is blooming in full force.

End of the Semester Therapy

I should have spent today and yesterday prepping for a conference I’m attending tomorrow in Chicago. This is what I did instead:



This is our new patio furniture. I love it. Now I can sit outside with my morning tea or a book or we can eat meals outdoors or…

Here are some more shots from my garden of flowers and shrubs that opened this week. I also discovered a lilly while I was weeding today…