Have machete — will garden

Apache Plume (left) & Mountain Mahogany. Blue = compost tumblers.

About seven years ago we spent a bunch of money on landscaping design and installation. We’re very happy with the native shrubs in our backyard, but are questioning the placement of some of those shrubs. Case in point: the two Apache Plumes planted right next to a Mountain Mahogany (which was planted next to an existing volunteer Cotoneaster).

I’m headed out right now to prune and de-crowd this area of the yard. All the while I’m gonna be fighting the urge to call that landscaper and ask him WTF.

Abandonment issues

I went outside with my camera to find something interesting to post and came across a whole lot of stuff stashed on the patio below our deck. This is just a sampling of what’s there. A long-dead garden hose. Zebu’s bike that he can’t ride for another 3-4 months when he’ll be fully recovered from ACL/meniscus surgery. A broken piece of flagstone. Two sawhorses.

Is there a better place for all that stuff? Probably. But in our defense, those piles of pine needles and leaves found the way there all on their own.  And I’m holding onto a slim hope the wind will somehow launch them into the neighbors’ yard.

However, the hose is probably too heavy to make it over the fence.

Please excuse my jungle hyperbole

I spent much of today in my backyard culling plants from my severely crowded flower beds so that I could give them away. (I got in touch with a woman who back in May responded to my “Free Perennials” ad on Craigslist and who happily came this afternoon to retrieve more of the green bounty).

I dug up so many plants. Daylilies. Yarrow. Iris. Valerian. Lamb’s Ear. Plus other plants that got caught in the cull-crossfire (asters, vinca, mallow, etc.).

I admit my beds didn’t look quite as dense as this Pixabay photo, but the claustrophobic feel is definitely spot-on. Fortunately, there’s now a bit more breathing room in my backyard. And unfortunately,  there’s still a long way to go . . .

Today I’m earning my fortune

As I revise my middle-grade novel, plugging holes and solving plot problems, I’m keeping this sentiment in mind:

Luck is not chance, it’s toil;
fortune’s expensive smile is earned.
~ Emily Dickinson

Honey bees don’t need a pithy quote; they made the connection between luck and toil a looong time ago.

Painted Lady invasion

Yesterday, as Zippy and I walked Emma around our neighborhood, we noted a larger-than-typical number of butterflies. We wondered if we were in a migration path. Sure enough, when we got home and looked in the backyard, we discovered this:

Rather than orange and black like the monarch butterfly, the Painted Lady is orange and brown. Migrations are also happening elsewhere. It was awe-inspiring to be in their lovely company as they soaked up the sun and flowery nutrition from the rabbit brush.Another generous gift from Mother Earth.

 

 

Finding my focus

That title is a little play on words.

Why? Because the closer, larger sunflowers should be the focus of the photo.
But instead of being the sharpest images, they’re the most blurred.
Anyone looking at this photo must search for my focus,
which is something I find myself doing more and more.

So, welcome to the club.

Solar Eclipse or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Shadows

Zippy got up at 2:45 this morning to drive north to Torrington, Wyoming, so he could experience the total solar eclipse. If I could’ve been teleported back home, rather than sitting in gridlocked traffic after witnessing the eclipse, I would’ve gone with him.

I chose to stay home. When I spoke with Zippy after he arrived in the little town of Torrington, I felt pangs of regret for missing out on what he was experiencing. Why didn’t I go with him? Why didn’t I have those special glasses?

But it was too late. Peak eclipse around here was at 11:47, so I busied myself building a pinhole projector. Then while I waited, I played around with a colander.

As the peak moment approached, I watched in my pinhole projector.

NASA-approved viewing apparatus

I was momentarily confused when the sun spot appeared to be getting larger rather than smaller. Was it possible I wasn’t clear on the whole eclipse concept??? Then I realized that my progressive eyeglass lenses were distorting the image and if I held the projector farther from my eye, I could see the diminishing sun. So then I t ried photographing that projector image.

As you can see, I was nowhere near aiming my camera phone at the correct angle. The lighting was really throwing me off and I couldn’t see what I was doing. But don’t get me wrong, I loved the eclipse lighting! Rather than being the usual mid-day harsh lighting, it was subdued and trippy. I had so much fun looking at my plants in the yard. It was like being on a pyschadelic trip.

 

My absolute favorite things to look at were the crescent-shaped shadows from the maple tree. 

My brother called me about 20 minutes before peak eclipse to verify I had special glasses. When I told him Zippy had taken our only pair, my brother urged me to jump in the car and drive to his house. I opted to stay put, and I’m so glad I did. While I couldn’t look directly at the sun to see what millions of people saw today, I thoroughly enjoyed my backyard eclipse experience. The sky was off-limits to me, so I focused on all the cool details down below.

Drama in the backyard

I was working here at my desk, next to an open window, when I became aware of frenetic activity in the yard below. A split second later, another fact penetrated my brain fog: squeaking/screaming.

I jumped up and looked outside. Emma had a squirrel in her mouth. More shrieking (this time, from me).

Fast forward to Emma inside with me while Zebu went outside to check on the condition of the squirrel. He found it, alive, but motionless. It then took off running for the fence. Zebu came back inside to give the shocked animal some space. As we watched from the window, the squirrel tried climbing the six-feet-tall wooden fence. The bundle of fur made it halfway and then dropped to the ground. We agonized for the squirrel.

And then Zebu’s brain kicked in.

“That’s not a squirrel. It doesn’t have a tail.” Pause. “That’s a prairie dog!”

We were SO happy! The “squirrel” wasn’t failing to climb the fence because it was injured, it was failing because it wasn’t a fence-climbing creature!

Zebu leaned a timber against the fence for the prairie dog to use as a ramp. Didn’t work. He then opened the gate that lets out onto the wild hillside behind our house. Unfortunately, the prairie dog ran past the open gate, multiple times, and tried climbing the fence at the other end of the yard.

By then, Zippy was home. He and Zebu tried “herding” the frantic prairie dog to the gate. It was pretty stressful for everyone. Obviously, it was most stressful for the poor prairie dog.

He hunkered down and froze in front of Zebu. Right after I caught this shot, I was enlisted to help with the herding. By the time I put on shoes and got outside, the prairie dog made one more sprint.

This time, he went out the gate!

The three of us celebrated the liberation and apparent good health of our visitor, and wished him a safe return to his burrow (wherever that might be). Some days (and today is most definitely one of those days), it’s important to embrace the roles we play in setting things right on our little patch of the planet.

 

Tiny House Dreams

I live in a house with an upstairs and a downstairs.
There’s stuff in every room of the house.
Some of that stuff I use each and every day.
Some of that stuff hasn’t seen daylight in years.

I live in a house surrounded by a large yard.
There are trees and shrubs and perennial flowers in every part of the yard.
In some places, the flowers are growing out of control (day lilies, I’m looking at you).
In most every part of the yard, weeds are growing out of control.

I try to stay on top of the clutter inside the house.
I attempt to keep the weeds at bay.
But it’s a losing battle and I often feel a sense of overwhelm.
Such as today.

I’m dreaming of a tiny house and one pot of geraniums.

Wind River Bungalow

Wind River Bungalow

Friday Five: The Iris Edition

Just took a little tour of my front and back gardens. Last year I lost almost all iris blooms to a snowstorm so am thrilled at this year’s turnout. There are several stands of iris not yet in bloom, but these beauties are currently going all out:

Burgandy Iris

Brown Iris

Purple Iris

Cream Iris

This is one of my pure white iris planted next to several deep, deep purple iris, and I’m looking forward to that dramatic display:

White Iris closed

Wishing everyone a beautiful, blooming weekend!

What I Saw While Running to Nowhere

When I woke up this morning it was cold and wet, the streets covered in an icy, slushy mess. My plan had been to run outside, but the moisture plus 40 degree temperature convinced me to have a “boring” run on the treadmill.

HA! It was anything but boring. And no, I didn’t fall overboard or go flying off the back.

My treadmill looks out onto my backyard that is planted with native shrubs and covered in mulch. There are bird feeders and bath, squirrel nut munch, and an ear of corn that yesterday I harvested from the volunteer corn stalk growing against the house. In the 35 minutes I was on the treadmill, going nowhere fast(ish), I saw:

  • a flock of European Starlings swooping up and away from the wild plum bush growing behind the fence, only to return and line up on the fence in front of me
  • oodles of House Finches exploring the leaves and mulch
  • a Goldfinch moving from sunflower to sunflower, in search of seeds
  • a Black-billed Magpie alighting on the fence and allowing me two whole seconds to admire its gorgeous plumage
  • Mourning Doves and Eurasian-collared Doves, wings spread wide as they descended in the yard
  • a whole slew of Dark-eyed Juncos acting like bullies on a playground
  • a male Northern Flicker that popped up from behind the fence with his dapper ‘tude
  • a squirrel and a Western Scrub Jay working to extract kernels from the corn cob (although not at the same time)

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have seen a fraction of this activity on the street, so I wanted to document this treadmill workout for later in the season when I’m longing to be outside. I need to remember that, sometimes, running in place is where it’s at.

View from my treadmill.

View from my treadmill.