Counting On Nature

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in tune once more.” ~ John Burroughs

It had been a day of constantly wiping a runny nose, rocking and comforting my 15 month grand daughter who was feeling miserable and irritable from her first cold. I bundled her up in a warm blanket and we stepped out the front door and onto the porch. “Let’s go see what’s happening outside.”

The rain from earlier in the day had let up, clouds were still heavy and low. A hint of woodsmoke filled the air and mixed with the fresh chill that November air brings. Quails were calling to each other in the brush beyond the creek bed. A squirrel scampered up an oak, chirping as he moved jerkily. Baby girl calmed and quieted, looked around. I wiped away her tears. Bright red Toyon berries hung low and glistened from the recent soaking. Autumn leaves that were still clinging on trees and shrubs danced in the gentle breeze, as a new brilliant layer of leaves carpeted the ground. Off the porch I stepped with this sweet one cradled in my arms. “Let’s go for a walk around the yard, love.”

We moved slowly just taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the late afternoon. Listening, looking, soaking up all the gifts that this November day offered. Mother Nature enveloping us and working her peace and magic.

It was no more than ten minutes that we were outdoors but our spirits were  lifted and our moods were refreshed, just as I knew they would be. Soothed and healed once again, all courtesy of nature.

 

November Greetings

November arrived a few days ago, just as we were finishing our autumn chores. We’ve harvested the vegetable garden, added new compost to beds, planted bulbs and seeds, harvested additional seeds to plant in the spring, and cleaned up each garden bed. Mr. Hollyhocks and I are a good team, working together on many projects side by side, but there are also certain chores I take care of while he prefers others. A perfect example is the irrigation in the garden beds.  I honestly have no knowledge of re-routing irrigation lines — I just show him what is needed and he takes care of it.

Many of our weekends in September and October were spent removing plants from one garden bed or another and tucking them into areas where their needs will be better met. Never have we lived and gardened in one area as long as this particular spot has been home. And never have we had to remove all of the plantings from certain beds because their environment no longer is in full sun, as was the case so long ago when the beds were first planted. We’ll see how successful we were with that endeavor next spring. I’m hopeful though that everything will be able to put down roots and get comfy in their new surroundings. Hopeful. I think that word defines all gardeners, don’t you?

With autumn chores behind us, I now want to rest a bit more and take in every bit of this fleeting autumn beauty before the rain and winds blow these colorful jewels off the trees and shrubs. I don’t want to miss a thing. Happy November!

 

 

Dear Summer

Dear Summer,

Why the rush? You’re moving way too quickly. I’m noticing the earlier sunsets each evening and realizing that children in my neighborhood will be heading back to school in a couple weeks. How can it be that in a few days we’ll be turning the calendar to August? Already!

Time is fleeting and I find myself taking morning and evening walks in the gardens to take in all that this glorious season gifts us with. On my visits with my plants (c’mon I know you do that too!) I notice which ones need a little more water, what needs deadheading, and what’s been munched on by deer or insects. It’s definitely a busy season of yard work, but I want to focus on all there is to celebrate as I watch blooms open and vegetables ripen.

Each day and week holds the anticipation and promise of new blooms, new miracles. One week the buds are tight.Don’t blink; things change quickly!I’m still waiting for the fragrant, white Moon Flower vine to bloom (must remember to add fertilizer in my watering can this week), and also am being patient for the blue smokey blooms of Caryopeteris. The rest of the summer bloomers has already opened.

Soon I’ll be harvesting seeds for next year, and digging and dividing perennials to give to friends or move to other areas on our property. With the healthy amount of rain we received last winter the perennials really spread out. It’ll be a busy September in the garden with all the autumn chores ahead, but for now, well, I’m gratefully admiring the garden show, filling up vases with abundant blooms, and going out to pick herbs and veggies for our summer meals. I don’t want to miss a thing!“In summer, the song sings itself.” ~William Carlos Williams

A Weed or a Treasure?

“It’s a weed”, I would have told you. The Albizia tree (also known as Silk Tree or Mimosa) that was here when we moved in 25 years ago is a messy weed tree. It looks beautiful all in bloom, but don’t let that fool you!

Pretty, pink puffs dry up, turn to fluff and drop. Once the fluff/seed heads drop, the wind carries them everywhere and then we get ferny baby silk trees coming up in every garden bed. Last night I pulled up this monster hiding within an azalea shrub. Who knows how long it had been there!Year after year, our Albizia tree persevered despite our best attempts to remove it from the landscape early on.

But then, some years ago, when my sister told me that Albizias were our mother’s favorite tree, I began to notice the especially heavenly fragrance of the blossoms perfuming the air during June and July. I started appreciating the shade that the tree in our yard provides, and I noticed something interesting in the bark of the tree that has happened naturally over the years. What do you see?Yep, definitely a heart!

My mother passed away many years ago when I was just twenty. Could that heart in the bark be a message from her? Maybe not, but I’m going with it! I’m also pulling out seedlings everywhere and cleaning up the messy blossoms starting to drop. I love that tree now, and I don’t mind the annual clean up that goes on for months. I do it for Mom. Some things are worth the trouble. Tell me, is there a ground cover or vine or tree that most people would consider a weed but that you’ve grown fond of? What are your reasons for keeping it around?

 

 

 

 

The Giving Tree

We’ve lived in our home for twenty five years. Our boys grew up here, exploring and playing on every bit of the property, and climbing every tree. Tree forts were built, rope swings were hung, a hammock was strung between two, and a zip-line was swung on in between another two. Now, our grandchildren are frequent visitors and they are the ones exploring.

This past winter we had to have four beloved trees taken down from one area of the yard. Each of the trees were either severely damaged from storms or were diseased. We were sad to see them go and worried about how the yard would look with a new lawn area where the trees once stood, and how the shade gardens would do when they suddenly received sun.

Imagine our surprise when the trees were cut down and we saw the shape of this oak tree stump! We knew at once that it would have a special place in the yard once our project was complete.After the trees were removed, the four stumps had to be grinded, roots were dug out of the ground, and a mini retaining wall was built. Then came adding amendments to the soil, and installing a lawn. With each new step of the process we began to feel more comfortable about the project. It didn’t take long before we began to love all of the sunlight we now have in front of the house, as well as our new views. So far, the garden beds planted with shade loving plants are all doing well.

Have a look at our finished project. We couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. A million thanks to that oak tree that provided a shady place for our boys to explore and play for so many years, and now is the perfect little table for us or a sweet spot for a little one (or two) to rest after an afternoon of running, playing, and adventuring.

The Story of our Lives

As I’ve been putting away the Christmas decorations over the last few days I’ve come  to realize how perfectly our decorated tree tells the story of our family each year.

If I remember correctly we bought ornaments for our very first Christmas tree at Payless. Yep, it was a rainy Sunday in 1982. When my husband got off from work we went together and picked out just a few ornaments and a tree. This is one from that first year so long ago.By the next Christmas we were blessed with our first baby.And three years later, another precious baby boy joined our family.A good amount of our ornaments are family photos in mini frames and hung with ribbon.Throughout the years ornaments have been bought that represent a move to a new home, careers, interests, and now, grand babies. We’ve saved the child-made treasures from way back when, along with the ones the children would get to choose each year to commemorate a new sport or hobby they were interested in. They don’t all go up on the tree each year, but we look through them all, carefully unwrapping each and every treasure, smiling and feeling overcome with nostalgia.

A friend made this felted heart for me a few years ago,and a sweet daughter in law made this one.Gently tucked into luggage, special keepsakes are collected from our travels. This celtic cross came from a trip to Ireland.And this streetlamp with the hanging baskets of flowers was brought home from Victoria.Each one tells a story.Each one, a memory of our blessings. Each one, a snippet from our lives. My cup runneth over.

I wish you hope, health, peace and mad love in 2017. Happy New Year!

“Here’s to the end of this chapter. To all the late nights, early mornings, learnings gained and experiences shared, Here’s to love. Here’s to loss. Here’s to honoring, letting go, and transcending. Here’s to growth. Here’s to expanding. Here’s to a life with other heartbeats that would stop their world to celebrate your magic. Here’s to you, and your blank canvas. Here’s to filling it with nothing less than vibrant aliveness.”

~Nancy Alder

 

Sunflower Cottage

“…But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye. For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall, you’ll find the tool and potting sheds which are the heart of all…”~Rudyard Kiplingimg_1827Here it is!img_1472Remember a few weeks ago I promised a post about my new garden shed? Welcome to Sunflower Cottage!

Wanting the paint and the style to match our home, but also wanting a bright pop of color for the door, I really don’t think it could have turned out any more perfectly.

Last fall I began looking in books, magazines and on pinterest for ideas for potting sheds. It was a bit overwhelming, but when our friend who built the structure for us started asking questions about how it would be used and what was most important to me, why then it all came together easily. Inside is a roomy potting bench, lots of shelving, and a pole to hang baskets and dry herbs from, and with the light from the two windows (three counting the window in the door) and a water source right outside the shed, I didn’t feel a need to have electricity or plumbing installed.

Here’s a bit of a peek inside.img_1526 img_1410I’m still organizing and finding the best places for everything, but I’m already so happy to be working in this charming and cozy little storybook cottage, just as I knew I would! A gardener’s dream come true, for certain!

Savoring the Last Days of Summer

It’s almost time to give summer a long kiss goodbye and welcome the jewels of autumn. With comfortable warm daytime temperatures and cool nights and mornings, my gardens seem to be putting out a last beautiful blast of blossoms. Here’s how things looked today.

Japanese Anemone
img_6096Foxgloveimg_0941Zinniasimg_0828Lamium
img_1011Fuchsia
img_1009 Calibrachoaimg_1008Roses
img_1007img_1006Impatiensimg_0953Sweet Autumn Clematis
img_1020Black- eyed Susansimg_1019Sedum, Autumn Joyimg_1016Salvia, Black Knightimg_1021Perovskiaimg_1014Lorapetalum
img_1027Sunflowersimg_1023I’m still harvesting tomatoes from my vegetable garden daily, but in another month I’ll be pulling them out. They’re the last of my summer vegetables that are still producing.img_1025 And then there’s this! Vibrant Virginia Creeper already adding so much gorgeous autumn color to a fence.img_1018And this beauty I found in the  lawn the other day. Yep, you can bet I’m savoring every bit of this late season beauty.img_0934What’s blooming in your garden during these last days of summer?

And now, off to take my husband’s hand and set off for an evening walk to admire that incredible harvest moon!img_1040

Catching My Eye

I can feel it. Can you? That subtle shift away from summer and into fall. Cooler morning and evening temperatures, less daylight, acorns spotted on my walks, birds feasting on the faded sunflower’s seeds, and yes, just a hint of color in some of the leaves. Here’s what’s catching my eye right now in late August:

This maple leaf gave me reason to pause yesterday evening as I was out watering. Just a hint of what’s to come!IMG_0811And this Chinese Pistache caught my eye in a parking lot last week! Won’t be long now until the trees are all aglow with gold, rust and crimson hues.IMG_0775I’ve cut back many of the summer perennials that put on such a gorgeous show for us all summer. Still blooming are the Black Eyed Susans,IMG_0627Bee Balm,
IMG_0695Colorful and carefree Zinnias,IMG_0367and a few Hollyhocks!IMG_0359Last September, I went to the outdoor wedding of a friend and fell in love with Sweet Autumn Clematis which was rambling along a split railed fence. A few days later I ran out and bought one for our yard. Just look at it now, happily climbing up the pergola! It’s a new favorite of mine.IMG_0810My brother brought me this rock all the way from Colorado. I’m loving the way it  nestles in the roots of this oak tree near our porch. It’s bigger than my hand!IMG_0799A double heart within an olive tree’s bark. Such a delightful find recently!IMG_0542

Tell me, what’s catching your eyes during these glorious last days of summer?

“In summer the song sings itself.” ~ William Carlos Williams

Taking Care of Myself

Lately I find myself having to walk away from the news,  turning off the TV. Newspapers pile up on the counter for a few days until I’m brave enough to sort through them. I have all but checked out of some social media sites because of the mean spirited political climate. Don’t get me wrong. I am interested in and want to be informed of what’s going on in the world, and I want to do my part to make the world a better place. But for the time being, in light of the violence, chaos, the constant turmoil and heartache in our world, I now need to take it all in small doses.

I firmly believe that despite the evil we know that exists, it is still an incredibly beautiful world filled with good hearted, thoughtful, kind souls everywhere. There is beauty beyond measure to behold. We don’t need to judge; we don’t need to agree on anything at all to be kind to one another. Let’s extend more compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and love. Let’s work on finding the best in everyone.

As for me, I’m taking care of myself: I plan to keep going on early morning walks with this sweet girl,IMG_0083I’ll keep hiking and  seeking solace in nature,IMG_8265I’ll spend all the time I can with these grand loves, IMG_0524IMG_0020IMG_0450I’ll keep writing, reading, listening to music, baking and trying new recipes, looking for good news, visiting with the wonderful friends and family members I’ve been blessed with, I’ll have morning coffee under the pergola. IMG_0488I’ll keep my eyes open for hearts,IMG_9247and I’ll be in the garden.IMG_0354IMG_0361IMG_0358IMG_0356IMG_0366IMG_0465IMG_0492IMG_0194I’ll be counting my blessings and praying for our world.

Peace to all.IMG_6973

“When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.” ~Minnie Almoner