Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oh, Happy May!

Happy May Day!

Let me share one of the most wonderful and miraculous things about spring: new life.

This little fellow was born a bit over a week ago on a Sunday evening at the farm where my daughter works and boards her horse. We were responsible for watching over mama over that weekend as the owners had to be out of town for a family wedding. Mama was one restless and uncomfortable gal. We were so nervous for her!

I think she waited for her people to get home, though, because they weren't there very long on Sunday night before little "Jeff" made his appearance. We received a phone call, and my daughter and I were there within half an hour of his birth. We stayed for about two hours. I could not tear myself away before he learned two things: legs and milk.

Never have I seen anything so miraculous before, nor so incredibly cute. He staggered around the barn on rubbery legs, completely unable to control where he went. After the first half hour or so, he began to suck whenever his muzzle encountered Mama, nuzzling her belly, legs, and flanks. It was blindly, instinctively, knowing there was something wonderful near, but not quite knowing how to attain it. Mama watched proudly and protectively. She didn't seem to mind if he stumbled near a human, but let him get too close to another horse (even though they were all locked in their stalls and could only watch through barred openings) and the surprised onlooker was given a show of heels. Finally, he found nourishment, and at that moment everyone breathed a sigh of relief--even mama, I think! And I felt silly, but there were tears of joy in my eyes.

That was then. Now, of course, he has complete mastery of his knobby-kneed legs. He bucks and twists and cavorts just for the thrill of it. "Look at me!" "Watch this!" "See what I can do!" Then he prances over to gaze at visitors, and his shy, innocent eyes are fringed with the most incredibly long eyelashes. It takes my breath away just to look at him.

Oh, Happy May!

"Jeff" photos by Gourdo.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Framing a Dream

This is the beginning of a gourd man's vision. Old timbers. Nails. Sweat.

Gourdhenge: It must be sturdy enough to withstand high winds, lashing rainstorms, and the unbelievable weight of many gourds. It must be tall enough so that long-handled dipper gourds can stretch to lengths of over six feet.

We aren't talking about any old gourds here. We're talking prize winners.

Gourdhenge and Prizewinners photos by JulenaJo.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Musings, Mystery, and Gourdhenge

Today, at last, we had warm weather. I saw the thermometer on the bank sign in town read 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A brisk breeze kept things comfortable. Tomorrow is supposed to be similar, I think. About time!

I managed to get into the yard a bit after work to assess the pruning I did last weekend and to see what is new. Although I am pleased to see the fragrant pink viburnum blossoms are opening (Viburnum carlesii 'Juddii') and the grape hyacinth, wild violets, and 'Thunderchild' crabapple, too, I was disappointed to see the forsythia won't have any more flowers. The plant bloomed at the very bottom, but nowhere else. It looks as though there will be no blooms on the Cleveland pear or on the dogwood, either. What gives? It's a mystery.

I wonder if it was the colder than usual spring? I noticed it didn't seem to affect weeds any. I'll have a bumper crop of dandelions and thistle to tangle with this year.

Gourdo took advantage of the good weather this afternoon to harvest old timbers from a fallen barn next door. (With the owner's permission, of course.) He's happily sawing and pounding out nails tonight, planning a "Gourdhenge." Gourdhenge is his term of endearment for a huge, rough timber arbor covered in gourd vines. He created one several years go, and has always longed for another. Gourd vines grow so rambunctiously it won't be long before the monstrosity is covered in a tangle of green. A galaxy of nightblooming blossoms will cover the arbor and, eventually, gourds of all sizes and shapes will garland the structure. It's really something to see--even if gourds aren't your cup of tea. Above you see little Roxy, bravely sitting in the gourd patch of two years ago. Ok. Not so bravely. You'd never catch me sitting out there like that. Those gourds'll getcha if you sit still too long. I'll stick with roses. Gourd photo by Gourdo.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pruning Day

"I think I killed my rose bush."
This was an unsolicited comment from a woman in the Kmart nursery section. We were standing, side-by-side, perusing the selection of roses for sale.
"What did you do to it?" I asked.
"I pruned it," she said.
"Well, I don't think you killed it by pruning it," I assured her. Then I asked her what kind of rose it was. She had no idea; it was there when she bought the house.
After a brief discussion, I deduced that perhaps her rose was a hybrid tea that had died down to its rootstock. I suggested the possibility to her and her bewildered look spoke volumes. She had no idea there were things like hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses, much less grafted, budded and own-root roses. I tried to explain about grafting and I sensed it was all too much.
"Could you help me pick out another rose to replace it?" she asked.
I could and did. All she wanted was a rose that bloomed a lot and didn't need any care. Well, to my mind that ruled out all but the Knock Outs and perhaps a 'Nearly Wild.' She left very happy with a Double Pink Knock Out and a jug of systemic "2-in-1" rose food, another suggestion of mine. It is a granular fertilizer that also keeps aphids and thrips at bay. They even have "3-in-1" now, that keeps black spot and other rose diseases under control. You never have to spray!
After I sold her on the product I added, "It's a great product, but you can't eat your roses if you use it!" Another bewildered look.
Sometimes I can't help myself.

There are a number of good books and web sites that cover pruning roses. I have read them and am still somewhat bewildered myself! It all seems like too much work. Basically, what I do is let roses go until spring. On a nice day in March, I go out and shorten any really long stems by about one third, trying to cut above an outward facing "eye." At this time of year, it's hard to tell for sure, so I don't worry too much about it.
Then, once leaves break out, I get more serious. I cut out any branches that show no signs of life and I ruthlessly thin out the bush, eliminating crossing branches, any that are too low or misshapen or that grow to the inside of the shrub. I aim for an up and out look. I then shorten the branches another third or so, and here I am more careful to cut 45 degrees down and inside and just above a bit of new growth that is pointed in the direction I want the rose to grow--generally out and up.
The three new roses that I planted last year all get just a light trimming of the dead ends with a hedge clippers. No worry about individual branches and growth direction. I just want any and all healthy growth this year.
All that being said, if a rose dies, it wasn't meant to be. My best advice is to buy healthy and hardy roses and let nature run its course. And a little "3-in-1" doesn't hurt, either. Pruning Photos by JulenaJo.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Bounty

Our Easter weekend was spent in Hocking Hills--a good 3-hour drive southeast of us. Everything is a good two weeks ahead of us there, and it's never more apparent than in the early spring. Most obvious was the Bradford pear trees which made a stunning show everywhere. They aren't blooming here yet. My kids commented that we should have them in our yard, too, but beautiful as they are, I won't. I do have a Cleveland pear, however. It's supposed to be less prone to breakage. We will see!
But that wasn't the best part of our weekend. Read on...

The rain on Good Friday, followed by sunshine on Saturday and Sunday prompted wild morel mushrooms to pop from the forest floor. My three kids range from 16 to nearly 22--far too old for Easter egg hunts. They hunted morels instead, and what an exciting hunt it was! There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to where morels decide to make an appearance. The only thing is, if you find one, you will undoubtedly find others nearby. Finding the first one is the hardest. You scour the leaf litter for a wrinkled grayish brown nugget, feeling that it's hopeless. Then suddenly, there one is, just before you! My sister-in-law said she thinks they pop up behind her when she's walking along. "I don't see any at all, then I turn to walk back and there they are, right where I passed only a moment before."

Our bounty was washed, patted dry, sliced in half, then dredged lightly in seasoned flour. After sauteeing in butter they were enjoyed by one and all. Yummy!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Sermon--Fool for Christ

Roses for Easter. Of course. Now, allow me a moment of preachiness. Pass this post by if you aren't interested in Good News. I won't be offended.

May your holiday fill you with the "peace of God, which passes all understanding." (Phil. 4:7.) That is my new/old catchphrase, having recently read a small book by Joyce Meyer, called "Peace: Cast All Your Cares Upon Him." It came to my attention at the Library at a time when I needed it, as I've been worrying about family and the dire economy. Who isn't these days? It's had me in knots.

However, maybe, just maybe, wringing hands and wailing will accomplish nothing. Maybe we can "wait upon the Lord" (Is. 40:31.) with an attitude of happiness instead. Would that be foolish? I don't think so, but if it is, I don't care. I choose happiness. I choose Christ.

Yes, Christians are fools. Fools for Christ. (1 Cor. 4:10.) I know it sounds crazy to believe in Jesus and His divinity. While we can easily believe that He was brutalized and put to death, we sometimes have trouble with the idea of Him being raised in glory. And yet, in spite of the spin the media puts on Christianity, even today Christian churches everywhere will be filled with joyous followers. What kept the first disciples, who faced ridicule at the least and brutal death at the most, true to their story? What keeps us going today? It's an age-old question. It's one you won't see the media touching.

Christians are happy fools. We know there is One who has power over death. Once you wrap your heart and mind around that fact, it is totally liberating. Yes, we can be happy, no matter what. Wow. How amazing is that?

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kaleidoscopic Colorplay

Kaleidoscopic colorplay is what I seek in my garden, and few plants deliver this as beautifully as Flutterbye, above. Red buds open to fragrant, single yellow roses that turn orangey red as they age. All colors can be found in a single spray. I love the hot colors and the cheerful countenance of this reblooming rose. A vigorous shrub, Flutterbye will attain a height and width of 6 to 8 feet, and can be trained as a climber. Flutterbye is hardy in my zone 5 garden and shows resistance to black spot, mildew and rust. Flutterbye Rose photo by JulenaJo.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Easy Edging

Shown above is a trio of tatted edgings that I've recently been working on. Busywork, really. The upper left bit was supposed to be a tatted heart, but I completed one half and realized I'd made a mistake and had to abort the project. I may use the resultant 3 inches or so on a card or collage. Tatbits are too pretty and precious to waste.

The light orange edging, composed of split rings, I started simply because a friend gave me a ball of pretty thread and I wanted to practice split rings. It's delicate and would be a lovely collar trim.

It's the center edging that most intrigues me. It's one of the simplest edgings I've ever done, and it is also one of the most attractive. To me it looks like an Arts & Crafts motif of leaves. In fact, my 19-year-old daughter, who teasingly refers to tatting as "twiddling," made the comment that she would like a necklace made of this lace. Maybe I'll work it up in color and present it to her on her birthday. It's all rings, so I'm using up several bobbins and Clover shuttles worth of white thread remnants. I want to free up those shuttles and bobbins for other projects. A bonus is I can carry the single shuttle required for this edging in a small plastic bag with me to pull out whenever I have a few minutes to work on it. The pattern couldn't be simpler, a repeat of four rings performed thusly:

Ring A: 4 ds, p, 4 ds, p, 8 ds, rw.
Ring B: 4 ds, p, 4 ds.
*Ring C: 4 ds, p, 4 ds, p, 8 ds, rw.
Ring D: 4 ds, join to last picot of previous ring A, 4 ds.
Ring A: as above.
Ring B: 4 ds, join to last picot of previous ring C, 4 ds.
Repeat from * for desired length.

Tatted Edgings photo by JulenaJo.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fickle is Typical

It's hard to believe that in a few short weeks the ornamental peach tree in the front yard will look like this. Pleasant weather over the last week or so teased leaf buds out along the branches, but so far they remain tightly closed. The dismal forecast for next week: cloudy, windy, and possibility of snow. I hope the hidden blossoms aren't lost to the cold.
This spring seems atypical to me. However, I'm not sure there even is such a thing as typical April weather--unless fickle can be considered typical.The hyacinths and daffodils seem shorter and later than usual, but at least they're making an appearance. The forsythia is blooming at the bottom of the shrub, where the branches are protected by grass, but the buds on the upper branches remain tightly closed so I don't see color unless I'm standing right next to it, looking down. Any day now all of these first flowers should open. It will be interesting to see what they do in the cold. Will the flowers be unfazed by snow showers? How do such fragile-looking blossoms withstand the cold? I wish roses could bloom in the snow. But each flower blooms in its season, and I appreciate them all the more for the wait. Peach Tree photo by JulenaJo.