Sunday, August 10, 2014

Our Newest Baby

Our best mare, Boone, had a late baby this year and he is adorable! Usually baby horses are born in the spring but we have the thrill of an August baby. His daddy is Cats a Kwackin, a son of High Brow Cat, a money earner performance horse. This is a special little guy!
Just two days old, still a little wobbly,
but starting to buck and play
The newborn baby horse tail is
so cute and fuzzy
He's never far from Mom
You can see how tiny he is next to the mares
and the feeder
He is friendly and curious. He'll walk to
you in the pasture.
Since Buddy joined the family three years ago, we haven't had many wild turkeys come into our yard. We used to have many that would walk across our lawn and would visit the chickens in the Dot House. Some would seek the shade of the lawn under our trees during the hot days of summer. Buddy is such a good watchdog that no wild creature has much chance here so they stay away. When considering most wild life around here, I'm happy for his protection. But I do miss the wild turkeys. Much to my dismay last week, I was in the kitchen and looked out the window to see a hen turkey and her two babies cross the back lawn. Then all the guineas arrived on their round about the house. Where was Buddy? Well, he missed this one, thank heavens!

The hen and chicks crossing the back yard
the turkeys are almost to the safety of the
brush; the guineas showed up too
view of garden, Dot House and cottage from
the horse pasture
This year I planted four o'clocks. It is an old fashioned flower that Mother always planted in her flower garden. I loved them as a child because the flowers opened late in the day hence the name, four o'clocks. The blossoms are in vivid hues that are particularly lovely on cloudy or foggy days.

four o'clocks just beginning to open late in
the day
I hope you are enjoying your summer. Fresh peaches are in, time for jam and pies for the freezer! Tomatoes are just beginning to ripen here. I'm sure I'll be slammed with ripe tomatoes soon but now I am longing for them as they seem to be taking their time changing to red.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Friendship Gardens

I have many beautiful plants around my yard that are meaningful to me because each time I look at them I think of my friend who shared them with me. There are so many things to love about gardening and sharing plants is one of the best because they help build Friendship Gardens.

My lovely friend, Connie, who generously welcomed and introduced me to the local community gave me Autumn Joy sedums and iris the first year we were on our little ranch. The sedums have matured and add so much softness and interest around our little cottage. They really shine in the fall and their reddish dry flower heads are spectacular in the winter snow. The iris were magnificent this year and we were delighted that the yellow ones have multiplied.

Iris blooms are short lived but are velvety and feminine and a delight to
the eye in the spring.

The sedums have a soft rose
flower head. The birds feed off
them in the fall and winter.
Below are the sedum in summer
forming the beautiful flower

JoAnn, a Master Gardener friend, gave me the hosta plants that she was thinning out of her garden. They took well and are blooming now with lovely lavender flowers. They reside in the deep shade at the front of the house and seem to get stronger every  year. (See below)

JoAnn also gave me Aptenia Confifolia or Baby Sun Rose Red which is an easy growing succulent plant that spills over outdoor pots so beautifully. I take cuttings and keep it going inside during the winter where I will occasionally get some tiny red flowers to cheer the room. I've shared it with my sister, Sandi and several friends in the area. {Aptenia cordifolia, commonly called heartleaf ice plant or baby sun rose, is a succulent, creeping, short-lived, mat-forming perennial that is native to the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is invasive in California}

I was looking at bulbs at Home Depot one year when another customer approached me and told me that if I'd like lilies-of-the-valley, she had many that she dug out of her garden and would be happy to give them to me. That started my bed of lilies-of-the-valley. I adore them for their heartiness and sweet scent and because Mother planted them on the north side of our farm house. There they proliferated into a large bed between the house and the sidewalk and it was a favorite place to play. With an open window in the spring, the sweet scent wafted into the kitchen. Then this spring while visiting friends Pat and Chuck in Lincoln, they offered me lilies-of-the-valley they dug out of a bed they were renewing. Now I have Pat and Chuck in my garden too.

A special friend, Sue Tuttle, from high school who has become a part of my life again, recently shared a cedar and a holly tree from her garden in Kansas for the windbreak in our yard. I will always think of her when I tend them. Below is the picture of the holly and cedar before planting in the yard where they are now living happily.

And my sister, Bonnie,of North Carolina shared several plants with me but the Pasque Flower is the only one that has thrived here. The others tried but couldn't survive the dry bitter winter. The Pasque flower flourished on my kitchen counter all winter but is now blooming in the flower bed at the front of our cottage. It is South Dakota's state flower so it can handle the harsh prairie weather.

My sister-in-law, Carolyn, gifted me with a beautiful plant during our last visit. She said it was indestructible but more importantly, it is beautiful. She wasn't sure its name - do you know? It is also a succulent of some sort.

I hope you share from your garden with friends and family and accept their offerings. It is a wonderful gardening tradition, one that should be tended.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Building the Not So Big House

Some of you have mentioned that you've missed my regular posting. Point taken. I've been remiss because of a special project I have been working on and I will share a little about it today.

I have had the opportunity of a lifetime knock on my door. Our friend and neighbor, Dick P, decided to build his new home on his beautiful land near us. We were delighted that he would be a close neighbor and I couldn't wait to watch the house being built.

This is one view of our neighbors land overlooking
oak and cedar forests sheltering local wildlife,
such as deer, turkeys, quail, coyotes, bobcats,
raccoons, ducks, and an occasional elk.
Much to my surprise, he asked me to help him design his kitchen. That led to the laundry room, then the whole house. Together we created a design that fit his lifestyle and interests at only 1460 sf on the first floor and a finished basement of 1,000 sf. It is the perfect The Not So Big House.

If you are interested in architecture, building, or design, check out my favorite architect, Sarah Suzanka and her book series, The Not So Big House.

We broke ground in late May after the ground thawed. It was an exciting day.

The beginnings of the new house in late May

We spent the winter months finalizing the layout design and once that was done we began picking out the flooring, colors, fixtures, windows, doors etc. So as it turned out, we were way ahead of the game. It has been amazing to be involved in the process from the idea phase to the actual building.

Within days the forms were set for the foundation
Pouring the cement
With forms removed, it begins to look like a house

Finishing the garage floor

After the foundation was finished and set, we had several days of rain so everything on construction stalled until things dried. In June the framing begins...

The house is taking shape
Right, electrician Gene is installing the temporary
power for building. On the left is Dick the owner.

View from kitchen window. Did I mention
how beautiful his land is?
Rafters and joists going on.
View from back; right bottom window is bedroom &
left bottom window is family room; right top window
is master suite, middle is kitchen and 4 windows on
left are in living room
close to being enclosed
Enclosed and ready for shingles
In one day the shingles are on
This is the view from his living room - it's
a WOW!

The schedule is full for the coming weeks with lots to do. It seems to be moving fast now that the house is enclosed and we don't have to be concerned with rain setbacks anymore. So, as you can see, I've been busy with a very special project. I'll post again when we get more done.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Remembrance, Reflection and Reunion

On June 28th, Mark and I participated in the Memorial Celebration of Life of our dear friend, Gary Schroeder. He was Mark's childhood friend and we double dated with Gary and Judy in high school. We lost track of each other for several years and then one day while we lived in Burbank, CA. I got an amazing phone call and it was Judy! They too lived in California and luckily we renewed our friendship and enjoyed many fun times together before we retired to Nebraska.

It was a shock when Gary was diagnosed with lung cancer and a deep loss when he died on December 31, 2013. Gary was a lovely man, one of the 'good guys', a great friend, husband and father. At the Memorial, friends and family told wonderful stories that exemplified his character and personality.

He didn't know before he died that he would have been a grandfather, but a grand baby is on its way to the delight of Judy and his family and friends.

We had an emotional day remembering Gary as the person we knew, and the life he lived and the profound realization that we had him no more. We also thought of Judy and the new life she would need to create for herself; and their grandchild who would never know him personally, and his children who would miss his wit, wisdom and love.

All of us face this but it doesn't seem real until it happens to us or people we love. These occasions are significant in that they remind us of our own mortality and how precious our lives are so we get a chance to reassess and reboot, if necessary.

The Memorial was held in our home town in South Dakota so many old friends and classmates were there which provided the joy of the day. I was reacquainted with friends from high school that were 18 or 19 the last time we saw each other- that is 45+ years! Boy, is that a reality check. I don't know about you, but I feel like 'myself' inside and if asked an age, it would be 20 something. So when meeting with high school friends after that time apart, the reality of 'real age' hits hard!

(L to R)Judy McKay Schroeder, me, Linda McFarland Engel, Quindrid Albert Godden, Sue Miller Tuttle
The delight for me was that the faces were still the same but just a little more lived in. The twinkle of the eye, the wit,humor and laugh, the voice, the mannerisms and expressions were still distinctly there. It was great fun to catch up on each others lives and the people we've all become. I had such warm wonderful feelings as we left town and I thought about reconnecting with these lovely women and hoping there would be more visits in the future.

Old college friends; Me, Judy and Carol in front of the Campanile
on campus of SDSU
From our hometown, Mark and I travelled to Brookings, SD where we reunited with two of my dear college friends, Carol Nielsen Lovegren and Judy Schladweiler Rearick. Mark and I had visited Judy about 16 years ago but I hadn't seen Carol for 44 or 45 years!! We toured the campus of South Dakota State University and reminisced about what we could still remember. There were major memory gaps for all of us.

(Front) Craig & Judy Rearick (Back) Russ & Carol
Lovegren, Mark and me
We get so busy when we are young and building our lives and distance makes reunions more difficult. When that happens, getting together at this time of life means alot.

And finally a special shout out to my sister-in-law, Marilyn, who is recovering from triple bypass heart surgery. We love you and are so happy you are on the road to recovery.

Mark and Marilyn a couple days before surgery
Grandma Carolyn making granddaughter, Ava,
smile while great aunt, Marilyn, and great uncle,
Mark, look on
It has been a great summer so far. I hope you are enjoying yours.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hodgepodge of Spring 2014

We've had a very cool spring. We didn't have much snow this winter but our last snow storm blanketed us with wet snow which was very welcome.
The birds came in to eat since everything else was covered in snow.

Then we were teased with some fresh warm spring days followed by lots of cool days. It was still the right conditions to awaken the plants in the earth so they pushed through...

Daffodils nodding in the wind were gorgeous both outside and in!

This spicebush puts out a wonderful scent so I planted it near our bedroom window. The berries will taste like Allspice. I know the fragrance was heavenly and comforting. I planted these bushes last spring and I'm delighted they took hold and flowered this year. This link explains how one can use the berries, bark and leaves for all sorts of bodily remedies. It was called fever bush by the Native Americans and they used it for breaking fevers and removing toxins from the body. Fascinating. I think I'll try making a tea from it when it matures.

This little bush is also very fragrant.It is a Crandall Clove Currant (Ribes Odoratum Crandall) which is an old American variety. It too fruits which are similar to black currants but larger and with a more mild flavor. It too is outside our bedroom window so we'll have sweet smells to lull us to sleep for years to come.

A single snowdrop bloomed this spring. There were many plants that came up but only one blossomed. I will investigate why.

My absolute favorite flower, the garden floozies, peonies! They have grown significantly since this picture and I'll be sending one soon of them in full bloom. Eight of them survived and are strong. Can't wait.

We inherited two very old, very large standard lilacs in the yard which are sublime. This little bush is a French lilac given to me by a wonderful fellow Master Gardener. It's fragrance is sweeter and different somehow - just lovely. It was loaded with blossoms this year.
As you can see in the right corner, Buddy has been following me around the yard with his newest tug-of-war rope. His other two have disappeared and I've searched the yard. I'm not sure if he took them to his friends house (our nearest neighbor with two dogs that he visits every morning) or he lost them somewhere. Anyway, he isn't subtle, he just plain wants to play 'rope'!

This rope is more difficult to find in the grass but he's happy to be able to play 'rope' again. He drags it all over the ranch.

Apple blossoms on a cool cloudy day. The promise spring holds in such visions.

Delectable asparagus. Can't get enough of it. I've been making lunch sandwiches with fresh bread, sliced turkey with a fresh-out-of-the-ground asparagus tucked into the folded over turkey, along with a little mayo and fresh lettuce. OMG! It is simple but fabulous. Who would have thought raw asparagus could be delicious. Oh yes. and mixed into Orzo with a little lemon and Parmesan and salt/pepper... heaven on earth.

They turn green when cooked and taste the same as green asparagus.

And of course my bed (tank!) of garlic so I don't have to buy it from China. I LOVE garlic so this is looking mighty fine around now. I dry some and freeze alot to take us through the winter.

The plum thicket in full bloom and survived the snow. Since the blossoms didn't freeze this year, I'm hoping to get a great crop of plums for jam this year. Wild plum jam is my very favorite flavor so this is looking good for me. The thicket is also home to cardinals and wild turkeys.

And then there are the spring they are...for now...some still coming...

This year the Orioles are in our yard in force. I have been trying for five years to draw them in. Last year we had some with the jam and 1/2 oranges but this year along with the jam, I put out orange suet block and peanut butter in a pb holder. Wow, we have so many that it is mesmerizing to watch them. They are so beautiful and to mix them with the red cardinals, black and red woodpeckers, yellow finches, pink house finches and bluebirds - OMG - it is amazing. Nature in all its glory.

You can see the peanut butter feeder here. Several birds use it but the Orioles are the champions of hooking onto the feeder and indulging.

And lastly, I just have to share this video. Our friends have a wood duck house in their backyard which is on a lake. Mike has rigged up a camera in the house to watch as the eggs are laid and the ducklings emerge. After a short time they climb the 'ladder' inside the house to the opening and then they fledged...what a sight. Audrey took the video of them jumping like little kamikaze. I saw them in the house Friday but missed the big event when they left the nest yesterday. Mike sent a video and I just have to share it. Enjoy! It's not something you would see everyday...unless you have a wood duck house and live on a lake.

Make the most of your spring wherever you are.