Sunday, May 9, 2021

Cats and Clematis

I loaded these photos Wednesday evening thinking I would include an essay.
My photo program is particularly balky lately, the photos seeming to land in odd files and taking an annoying amount of time to locate and sort.
So, few words, but hoping you'll enjoy our felines and the flowers.

Robert, 'speaking' to me from the west retaining wall.

Edward [who is spending more time outside as he has taken to stalking Clancy when in the house.]

Willis can be counted on to appear with offers of assistance for any outdoor task.

'No, I don't want to smile for the camera!'


A gathering of cats waiting to offer companionship.
Edward, Shelby, Willis, Nellie.

Duchess of Edinburgh.


Samaritan Jo has managed to twine around the Duchess.  I didn't intend that to happen, but too late to unravel the vines.

Newly planted Jackmani.

Duchess of Edinburgh--very bouffant blooms.

Edita. [Chosen in memory of my late friend, Edie Robie]

Samaritan Jo.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Green Darkness

We were up early on Tuesday morning. Thunder had been rumbling since around 4 a.m. rain fell in windy gusts. The cats fidgeted, shafts of lightning bored through the bedroom curtains. Sleep was impossible.
Inside the rooms felt dim even with lights on; outside the sky was dark, the landscape had a brooding aura--dripping trees along the lane and at the edges of the ravines seemed to have moved closer to the house. The last blossoms of the dogwoods lay plastered on wet grass.

Between bursts of rain I ventured outside. It was a wellies kind of day. The cats followed me out, stepping daintily through the sodden grass, returning to the porch to shake wet paws with distaste.

The first foxgloves to blossom. 

Lady's Mantle [alchemilla] the only two plants from last season's sowing. 
Weeds abound in all my plantings, a frustration, as I'm restricted from hands and knees gardening.
Gardens weeded and mulched in late October produced flourishing mats of ground cover undesirables, dandelions have seeded themselves, buttercup invades in tough-rooted mats.

Centranthus ruber, a sturdy clump from seed two years ago, with a colony of new starts surrounding it.

Blackberry lilies, seed saved from lilies planted in 2020, seed purchased from Select Seeds.
I am fascinated by these. I had seed grown plants to set out by mid-summer. The lilies are small, attractive, but not commanding in the way of daylilies. The ripe seed pods resemble a large blackberry. To date, 17 of my collected seeds have germinated; I am hopeful there will be garden space for them when they are ready to move to permanent quarters.

The pale yellow iris were removed from an over-grown planting along a stone wall that needed to be demolished at Howard and Dawn's homestead.  I found the purple iris growing near a power pole at the western end of our property near the site of the burned house.  I had a stunning collection of iris at the Amish farm, but wasn't able to move them. These yellow ones are rather insignificant on their own, but interspersed with darker varieties would provide contrast. I have a bucketful of them sitting in the greenhouse waiting to be interred in some likely spot.

Strawberry crops are ripening locally in spite of several wet mostly dark days. The hay in the east meadow wants cutting. In the garden Jim's planting of beets has emerged, the tomato plants have settled in and should have their first blast of blight deterrent--as soon as there is dry weather. 

I have worked in the greenhouse in cautious increments of time, transplanting the tiny seedlings meant to be the nucleus of a wildflower garden. Another project on hold until I can convince J. that a raised bed alongside the front door brick landing would be a positive enhancement.
Oh! the things I would do--if I could do!


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Running Out of April

Clematis Candida, an heirloom variety moved from our first Kentucky property. This plant intrigues me at every season, from tiny flower buds through the display of blooms and then the fluffy seed heads.
I take more photos of this than any plant in my gardens.
This photo was taken last week, the flowers are now past their prime, the edges turning brown.

Duchess of Edinburgh is slower to bloom.

One last blossom on 'Jane' after frost caught her in full bloom late in March.

We woke to soggy wet snow on April 20th--the sun came out mid-morning and the snow melted quietly into the green grass.

After the snow.
Already the leaves of the Knock-Out roses have been attacked by sawfly larvae. 

Mayapple lines the edges of the south ravine. I clambered clumsily about in the rain trying for a decent photo. The flowers lurk under the shelter of the large leaves; sliding about on a muddy slope didn't seem a wise move just now.

Dogwood blossoms blown to the ground by rain and wind.
The season of dogwood and redbud bloom is fleeting--redbuds are already receding into anonymity, only a faint rusty tinge remaining to define their place. Dogwoods sheltered by larger trees still have the look of floating white petticoats; those nearer the edges of hedgerows or fields are bedraggled.

J. planted my new clematis, one on each side of the trellis. 
I used some slender fence poles to guide them, tying them in with soft garden string.
I bought pots of thyme to plant around the edges, both English and variegated lemon scented varieties. 

Violas, self-sown clumps of nigella and salvia officinalis spilling over the edge of a raised bed.

More self-sown violas, these in the raised bed near the front porch.

I planted several large pots to nasturtiums last spring; as blossoms went to seed I let some of them fall into the soil, providing a second flowering in autumn. The pots lived in the greenhouse over the winter and the fallen seeds germinated there.  J. has moved this pot to the front walk--two others, slower starters, are still in the greenhouse.

Yesterday I moved rosemarys to the east porch. Today I clipped off lank trailing growth.

Shelby-the-kitten has decided that the railings of the east porch are her personal gym.

The railings are inside screening.
Last year we cut a slit in the screen to reach through and hang the hummingbird feeders.
Our other cats are aware of the hummers, but not particularly interested.
Shelby watches them avidly, balancing on the railing on her hind legs, swatting at the screen with her front paws. This doesn't bode well for the screen, the hummingbirds or for Shelby, so we think she can only be on the porch when a human is there to restrain her birding efforts.

We think that Shelby will never be a large cat. She is long-legged and slender with dainty paws and a long tail.

J. has been working in the veg garden, setting out tomato and pepper plants. The beets and Swiss chard have emerged. Today he sowed carrots and butternut squash, several hills of cucumbers.  I'm remembering the mid-May frosts of last year which severely damaged tomato and cucumber plants, but J. is optimistic that May weather this year will be favorable to his efforts.

Hands and knees gardening, whacking about with a hoe, turfing up weeds and sod with my trusty garden fork, are not possible for me this year. [I've been warned that pain in my left leg from the DVT will likely be ongoing for quite some time.] 
I'm trying to be careful, to balance being 'on my feet' with resting--not an easy proposition for someone who never learned to tackle work 'in moderation.'

I've worked in the greenhouse for short bursts of time, transplanting the tiny starts of New England aster, yellow coneflower, blue sage, lemon catnip--originally intended for the planned extension of the garden at the west end of the house.  I don't see that happening this year. I also planned for a raised bed and extension of the patio bricks near the front door--to balance the planter created last year.

J. is balking a bit--he has plenty of things to do--but I've pointed out that the brave little plants in the greenhouse need a place to thrive. If nothing else, extending the paved area would allow for some large containers. I'm not overly fond of nursery 'bedding plants'--perhaps because I worked for a number of season decades ago as a 'transplanter' in a big retail greenhouse. Too many petunias and large gaudy marigolds! 
My interest for many years has been growing perennials from seed. I enjoy collecting seeds to start more plants of my favorites, or transplanting the 'babies' that volunteer around 'mother' plants. 
Seeds collected last autumn from 'blackberry Lilies [grown from purchased seed] have produced 13 new plants thus far. By mid-summer they will be sturdy enough to set out--thus a space must be provided. 

Next on my agenda: finding a way to weed without compromising my recovery!


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Spring Progress; Journal Post, 13 April, 2021

A clump of violas established when seeds fell from a pot of them that held up all winter under frost and snow.

'Jane' magnolias were in full bloom when several nights of frost hit late in March.

My favorite clematis was in tight bud at the time of the cold nights. I feared the blooms would be damaged but the first three have opened this week.
This is the heirloom variety 'Candida' a root taken from an old vine at our first Kentucky property and planted at the Amish farm. When we sold the farm in autumn, 2018, I dug up part of the clematis and wintered it in a huge pot.
I've had other clematis varieties, and three new ones to be set out; this is my cherished favorite.

Fresh growth of a decorative oregano and a bushy thyme spilling out of the raised bed by the front steps. The thyme grew from a seed that fell into a potted plant set along the cement walk at our Amish farm.

This is a dry and difficult corner between the house wall and the front porch. I've tried several plants there that didn't flourish. Roots of vinca contributed by Gina have settled happily and established a colony that may have to be restrained.

Foxglove babies that were lifted from the west wall garden and potted up in late February.
Howard moved them to the front walk where they are growing on. In one pot a poppy seedling has popped up.
Other small containers of seedlings were placed in a black plastic flat to harden off. The wind blew all day Sunday and late in the afternoon I looked out to see that the flat had been blown down the lawn and the little pots of seedlings scattered, I was able to scoop up and salvage several containers but two were completely overturned and the tiny plants lost.

Jim acquired another Massey Ferguson tractor yesterday and the cultivator was part of the deal.
He is liking this tiller better than the other one he owns, so this may be a 'keeper.'

The veg garden was plowed in November and enlarged from its original space.
It seems that gardens must be reimagined every season. We're thinking smaller, more frequent sowings of things we enjoy fresh.

I was summoned to admire the depth and texture of the freshly tilled plot.
Each season shows improvement as stones are removed and sod broken down.

Willis feels duty bound to plod through the soil and offer his opinion.

Jim went to Wal Mart to replace his broken wrist watch. This bouquet of miniature carnations came home with him.  They are worthy of a more formal arrangement, but pretty even as they fell into the vase. I think they must spend the night in the sunroom to be safe from Shelby the Kitten,

I've been side-lined from my usual projects since the last weekend in March.
The short version of the story is that a blood clot [DVT] landed me in the ER and I was admitted to hospital and remained there for 48 hours tethered to an IV drip of heperin.
I was discharged home on medication and remanded to days in Jim's big recliner with my leg boosted on cushions.
Beyond the windows the redbud and dogwood flowered, leaves filled out on trees along the lane; emerging perennials poked through drifts of old leaves--and the weeds I'd been battling rampaged without restraint.
Jim has been competently at the helm, family and good friends have supplied good food, prayers and kindly encouragement.
I am now allowed to move about with frequent returns to my chair.
I am not allowed to crawl about on my knees weeding the garden!  All other tasks are to be undertaken in MODERATION!
At long last I may be ready to concede that moderation is a healthier place than determination to plow through in spite of fatigue.

The hummingbirds have returned, clematis are blooming, wild violets lurk in the grass. I don't yet know how I'll manage weeds or whether I'll have the stamina to create the new garden under the bedroom window.
I do know I'm blessed to be here, recovering, and with much to enjoy.


Friday, March 19, 2021

A Project Too Long in the Doing! Done!

It seemed an interesting project at the time--to replicate the quilt my g-grandmother fashioned from worn bits of aprons, shirts, house dresses. 
I had rescued some of the blocks from her quilt, hand-stitched them to muslin backing so that they could be framed as wall art.
In a rush of enthusiasm I collected a number of shirts from charity shops at less than a dollar apiece. 

Between more sophisticated projects I salvaged usable chunks of fabric from each shirt and paired likely colors to construct triangle/squares using the grid method which though tedious [trimming to size] results in very accurately pieced units.

 I put away the project, took it out several times over a decade of moving, refurbishing houses, finally settling into the present house built from the ground up.
I considered scrapping the half-completed quilt blocks but reminded myself that I'd put in enough time I should finish.

During January and February I've pottered downstairs, slowly sorting fabric, books, notions, arranging things in the workspace Jim and Howard set up with ample cupboards and a large L-shaped counter.

Inevitably, the neglected 'shirt-tail' quilt blocks resurfaced.
I finished trimming units to size, stitched until I had 40 finished blocks which I sashed into larger units of four, using 36 of the blocks.

I've felt I should try the method termed 'quilt as you go'--but didn't want to risk spoiling a 'good' quilt top in such an experiment.
I read various instructions, watched a few you tube tutorials, coming up with a plan that was a hybrid of several methods.

If you are a quilt-maker who has felt inspired to finish a quilt in this manner--don't--unless you are prepared for aching shoulders, a kink in your neck, hours of shoving unwieldy wads of fabric through your sewing machine!
However one goes about this process there comes that point where the wodge of fabric, batting and backing is not cooperative.

Way too much 'help' with my photo op--and I should have paid more attention to lighting in the room.

It is done. The overall look of the quilt is cheerful, homespun, vintage.
I can imagine this quilt in the setting of a summer cottage, spread over a bed in a simple room; it would serve well to soften a porch chair, a warm wrap for an early morning mug of tea or coffee--a blanket to accompany a book late in the evening.
The backing doesn't please me; there are some tucks here and there.  I experimented with several ways of finishing the back seams after the units were put together in rows. Not up to my standards, although sturdy enough.

A look at the quilt back.

This earlier photo of the work in progress gives a better sense of the colors.
Its a cheerful thing, if a bit gaudy.
I doubt I will use this method again on anything larger than a cushion.

Gina has asked to adopt the quilt and it will go to her house tomorrow.