Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jolly Halloween

I'm flying off on my broomstick tomorrow morning for another brief visit to my sister's house near Nashville, Tennessee. I wish, like Samantha Stevens of "Bewitched" fame, I could just wiggle my nose and get this load of laundry and sink full of dishes done so I could tat or read this evening. Alas. No such magic is at my disposal. And boy, did I date myself there! I'm off to do my chores, and I won't be back until November 1. Happy Halloween! Artwork: Vintage Postcard.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Maple Leaves

When my son (now a senior in college) was about 2 years old he always referred to Sixlets candy as "maple leaves." I never knew why, but assumed maybe it was the colors: brown, yellow, orange, red, green--the color of autumn leaves. One afternoon, though, he was watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on television, and he excitedly called out, "Look, Mommy! Maple leaves!" He meant "make believe," the segment of the show where Mister Rogers played make believe with the train. Ah ha! Maples leaves meant make believe. What connection either had to colorful candy coated chocolate, I never have determined. However, I like the idea of eating "maple leaves" or "make believes." So Sixlets make me happy.
I happened upon a bag of Sixlets that my husband bought from a store bin of Halloween candy. He hides them, but my 15-year-old daughter can tell when I'm in search mode and she will say as I pass her, "On top of the fridge" or "On the dresser." I don't even have to ask! Consequently, I've been sneaking a few fun size packets of "maple leaves" every evening. Bad for the waistline. Good for the spirit.
And speaking of Halloween, it's always this time of year when my husband brings apple cider home from the store, too. (I'd be THIN if it weren't for him!) The same mind-reading daughter, when she was little, used to call it "apple spider." I like that. Maple leaves and apple spider. How time flies! Sixlets Photo by JulenaJo

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fairy Tales

I've heard people say that real life is not a fairy tale. I beg to disagree. I've read the brothers Grimm, and Disney has taken generous liberties with those stories, sugar coating them and making them pretty. In the original versions horrible things happen sometimes. There are wicked witches, capricious kings, mischievous elves, and hungry wolves waiting to prey upon the just and unjust alike. Very much like real life, don't you think?
And what on earth can you say when you meet someone whose tale has just taken a nasty plot twist? Very little. You want to walk the other way, because you don't know what's on the next page for your own life, and it's terrifying to contemplate. Bravely, you push on and offer platitudes. Later, you realize that absolutely nothing you said could possibly comfort the one whose life has been turned upside down. You're kicking yourself. But wait. It's not about YOU, it's about the other person.
I wish I had the answers, but I don't. Time heals. I know that. I also know that, given time, new stories--happier stories--can and will be written. It just. Takes. Time. Hansel & Grethel photo by JulenaJo.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Autumn Joy

This is Autumn Joy, another sedum in my garden. Autumn Joy is a gardening cliche. Perhaps the most commonly planted sedum in Midwestern landscapes, she is often planted alongside Stella D'Oro daylilies and Knock Out roses. The Three Stooges--the Larry, Curly and Moe of horticulture! I balked at adding them to my garden because I wanted to be special. To stand out from the rest. To be unique.
It didn't take long before I caved. First came Autumn Joy, a gift from a friend who was dividing her perennials. I took it to be kind, I thought. But now look what I'm doing. Shamelessly promoting it in my blog. Autumn Joy became a gardening cliche because it WORKS. From the tender, succulent growth in spring and summer, to the fizzy pink umbels that drive bees to distraction in late summer, to the lovely brown caps in fall and winter, Autumn Joy delivers.
Later I added Knock Out roses to the mix. I know I'll be writing about Knock Out roses in a future post. They will revolutionize rose gardening with their imperviousness to disease and nonstop blooming. I can spot a Knock Out rose a mile away--it's just that singular.
I haven't succombed to the "charms" of Stella D'Oro daylily yet, but I have added two others: an unnamed double orange from my godmother's garden and Pardon Me, a gorgeous redhead who blooms for quite a long time in late summer. I put the word charms in quotes because I really dislike the cheesy yellow of Stella. I feel like apologizing because she makes up for it by blooming so prolifically. It's my own failing somehow, that I cannot love that particular shade of yellow. I'm sorry, Stella, but you're one cliche that won't be found in my Midwestern garden any time soon. Autumn Joy photo by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tatting: A Prayer Answered

As if in answer to my prayer for something creative to do, a friend sent me a new tatting pattern to try out before she publishes it. I was quite happy to oblige her, so as soon as I got home from work I pulled out my thread and Clover shuttle to begin work on what will be a bit of lace edging.
Tatting is an old-fashioned technique for the creation of lace. I remember watching my grandmother tat when I was quite young, and I was fascinated by the delicate lace she produced. To me it looked as though the lace came from out of thin air, and she was the magician, waving a magic shuttle around. Now I know it was a bobbin wound full of thread hidden in the shuttle and her magic waving was a kind of weaving, tying a myriad of tiny knots into intricate patterns.
I recall asking her to teach me and being told I was too young. Eventually, Grandma's eyesight grew dim and she quit tatting. I never had the chance to learn from her, and fifteen years ago she passed away, taking the lost art with her.
When our Library hired a young lady of 19 whose grandmother apparently had more patience than mine and who learned to tat at that grandmother's knee when she was little, I was thrilled. In addition to her Library-related tasks, the young lady was asked to begin teaching tatting classes at the Library on a regular basis. I took the first session she taught, and last year I tatted Christmas gifts for everyone. It's easy to learn, you can readily take your handiwork with you wherever you go, and with minimal material investment you can make beautiful bookmarks, doilies, edgings, etc. Let the creativity begin! Tatting photo by JulenaJo.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Darkness Descends

Tonight I got off work at 7 PM, and it was nearly dark outside. That, to me, is the worst thing about winter: lack of light. Natural sunlight is magical. It elevates the mood and provides Vitamin D, necessary for the prevention of rickets. Who wants rickets? We need Vitamin D, and while milk is fortified with it and other foods contain it naturally, as little as 10 minutes of exposure to sunlight a day can provide a person with all the Vitamin D her or she requires.
For me, shorter days lead to SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. I crave carbs, experience feelings of sadness, and have difficulty focusing. Like a bear, I wish I could hibernate and wake up come spring.
Last year I kept the symptoms to a minimum by learning to tat. I went crazy tatting all kinds of things. It was therapy. Now that the garden is basically done, except for a few winter chores, I hope to pick up my tatting shuttle again. And paintbrush, too. Creativity is the cure for the blues when winter darkness descends. "Dusk" photo by JulenaJo.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Frost is on the...Sedum

I woke to find we'd had a light freeze during the night. Most everything left in the garden remained unfazed, and I was struck by how amazing the Dragon's Blood sedum looked edged in rime (see above). I haven't noticed frost any morning prior to this. One year I remember a killing frost on the night of September 25. To my mind that was early, but October 19 is rather late. I was up late enough to know it was the wee hours of this morning when the world took on its lace of frost. It's sunny and clear again today. Champagne skies: crisp, intoxicating, beautiful. Dragon's Blood sedum photo by JulenaJo.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Garden Fanfare

"Fanfare" is the name of this blanket flower. Appropriate, don't you think? The tubular petals look like little golden trumpets, and they continue to feed butterflies and honeybees late in the season, so they are a welcome addition to the summer and autumn garden. The spiky center of the flower turns to a puffball of downy seed after the flowers are spent, and although they are not supposed to reproduce true from seed, the seedlings I've seen have been much like their parent.
I've spent the past few days planting bulbs of Dutch Master daffodil, Purple Sensation allium, and purple-blue muscari that I picked up at Kmart. Every year I want to plant bulbs, and this year I finally did so. I'm already looking forward to seeing them come spring. I don't really have a plan for my garden. I just want to see some color at the end of a long, dreary winter--and the sooner the better. I suppose there are earlier blooming spring flowers that I could order from a catalog, but who can decide what to order when everything is so beautifully described? I'll settle for what turns up at the discount stores. 'Fanfare' photo by JulenaJo.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Creepy Coyote

Every evening just before bed I take our two dogs out for a final potty break. A little over a week ago I did so and heard a coyote barking in the cornfield between our house and our neighbor's house. It could not have been very far away--maybe 1/8 mile--maybe less. My dogs barked and were at alert, but were not frenzied. My heart pounded in fear, though. I quickly called Roxy, our small, black, yorkie-lhasa apso mix, to my side. She came all too slowly to suit me.
I haven't heard the coyote since, but I have noticed that our other dog, Boo (part white German shepherd), has been restless at night, barking at nothing (that I can see or hear), going from window to window, nosing the night air for all it whispers to her.
Last night I saw the coyote, though, and it was too close for comfort. I drove home after picking my daughter up from a soccer match and there he was, standing just at the end of our driveway, half-hidden by some tall grass. His gaze was intent upon our open garage door. Was he after our cat, who had probably just returned home after an evening of hunting mice in the recently harvested fields? Or had someone let Roxy out? I prayed not.
I backed the car and fixed the headlights on the clump of tall grass. The coyote had flattened himself into the clump, but my daughter called out, "I see his ears!" Suddenly, he made a break for it, loping down the road. I pursued, hoping to scare him off, and he ran, but not very far, before leaping off road and into a field of unharvested corn--the same field where I'd heard him barking before. His nonchalant pace left me no doubt that he wasn't serious about leaving the area any time soon.
Later that evening, when I took the dogs out, I kept Roxy on her leash. She played and dallied and I wanted her to hurry. It gives me the creeps being outside at night when I know there is probably a coyote hidden in the corn and staring at me, trying to decide if he should take my little Roxy for a midnight snack. Coyote photo by Christopher Bruno.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Extending Autumn

A trip to Tennessee in mid-October extends the loveliness of the autumn season for me. I snapped the photo of this gorgeous orange fritillary sipping on a butterfly bush at my sister's house near Nashville. Here in Ohio my butterfly bush has already dwindled to nothing, so I was delighted with the fragrance and the clouds of butterflies attracted to it down south. Although Ohio and Tennessee both have been experiencing warmer than usual October weather, the Tennessee gardens are still full of roses and bloom. My sister's garden even had a reblooming azalea. Although I wasn't attracted to the fiery, orangey red color of the flower, it's a wonderful breakthrough. For my part, I'm thinking of planting some reblooming irises. I've seen yellow irises blooming now in Ohio gardens. I'm not sure if other colors are available, but irises blooming in October are as welcome as they are in May. Great Spangled Fritillary photo by JulenaJo.

Friday, October 10, 2008

End-of-Season Musings

Every evening I try to take a brief walk in the garden before dinner. The days are still warm--70s and low 80s--but our nights cool quickly when the sun sets. Much of the garden is spent. I've been making mental notes about what still looks good. Nasturtiums look fantastic now, so I've decided to edge some of the flower bed with them next year--maybe around the roses and to cover the yellowing foliage of spring daffodils and tulips (assuming I get any of those planted this fall). Above is pictured Empress of India, a small nasturtium with a startling, deep, burnt-orange bloom that looks like velvet against the flat, cool, blue-green leaves. Everyone comments on her.
I've been taking note of other area gardens. Those who have dahlias and celosia have lots of color now. I will think about incorporating them in next year's flower bed. In my garden there remain a few snapdragons, alyssum, blanket flower, and roses. A few rose hips can be found, as I have not been deadheading the roses. I am leaving them for the birds. This signals to the rose bush to slow down and get ready for a winter nap.
I'm ready for a nap, too. The stress of last week has left me tired. As the good weather is expected to continue for the next several days, I can put off end-of-season garden chores until I'm feeling more up to it. Nasturtium photo by JulenaJo.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goodbye Justin

There are times in everyone's life when we walk by faith. All gardeners, whether they are religious or not, do so. They kiss goodbye to this year's garden, and before it's even gone, they are planning for next spring. They KNOW it will come, eventually, and they know the garden, put to bed in winter, will rise again in spring.
I have my little notebook, haphazardly kept, it's true, but there are jottings of things to try next year, as well as notations of what looked especially good this year. I'll dream with it all winter, and next spring something beautiful will rise from the soil.
As I begin saying goodbye to this year's garden, I find myself in the painful situation of also having to say goodbye to a friend, Justin, who died this past weekend. He belonged to our card club, hence the photo above, but we saw him at sports events and around town, too. He was an active member of our community. Only 30 years old, with a beautiful family of three young children and a loving wife, he found life unbearable and ended it. He leaves us with so many questions and pain. In my faith, however, I do believe he will rise again, into an Eternal Spring. Justin, you walked this earthly garden with us. Goodbye, our friend! We will meet with you again one day in Heaven's garden paradise. As a gardener, I KNOW it. "Blues" photo by JulenaJo.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bye, bye 'Flutterbye.'

Bye, bye 'Flutterbye.' (Pictured above.) And goodbye to everyone else in the garden, too. Temperatures remain warm during the day, but cool dramatically at night. The shorter days are signaling summer's end to the growing things in the yard and garden. Wyatt, my daughter's quarter horse, is starting to look a little rough and fuzzy, too. Winter is coming soon, even if it doesn't feel like it most days. I'm trying to mentally ready myself for it. "Flutterbye" photo by JulenaJo.