Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Home, Sweet Home

For weeks I've been hearing a male house wren singing all around the yard. I assumed he was trying to convince his wife to take up housekeeping in one of the bluebird houses on our property. Yesterday, though, I saw him fly to this old can that someone left to rust over a metal fencepost. Soon his wife appeared, too. Both of them took turns entering it, bringing food to their babies.

When I drew near to photograph the can I noticed twigs hanging down. Here it is: Home, Sweet Home.

For me, this is cause for celebration. I don't know why the little wren is so dear to me. It is drab and brown, and it is very small. You'd never notice a wren at all if it weren't for its song, a persistent, cheerful trill that is the very sound of summer. You can hear it and see photos of the wren here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_wren/id.

Perhaps one reason I so enjoy having the wrens nesting in our yard is because when I was a child my grandparents used to hang wren houses in their trees, and my grandmother, whose name I've taken as my online name, was always so happy if a wren took up residence in one of them. She and I would sit on her porch and watch the wren family all summer.

Grandpa built the wren houses, carefully making sure that the opening was exactly the size of a quarter. Anything larger and the horrible "spotsie"--what my grandmother called the non-native and invasive House Sparrow--would take over the house.

"Spotsies" have been my own enemy here, as they've ruthlessly driven out the native and desirable Eastern Bluebirds from my next boxes. The story of broken eggs and killed adult and baby bluebirds is heartbreaking fodder for an entry some other day.

At any rate, the cute little wren houses were always painted white with green roofs. Grandma dictated where they should hang--it was important that we could easily observe the house from the comfort of her porch. And we spent many pleasant hours watching those birds, from the hopeful attempts of Mr. Wren to lure his spouse to a chosen site to the clumsy first flight of newly fledged babies. One of the cutest things about wrens, I think, is how Mr. Wren, during his initial courtship, will earnestly begin to build a nest in a box. When he finally convinces Mrs. Wren to move in, she scolds angrily and tosses his pitiful attempt at setting up housekeeping out the front door! Then she begins anew to build a nest, this time to her satisfaction. Honestly, how can one not anthropomorphize that kind of behavior?

The coffee can abode is well out of sight from my patio, so I won't be able to watch it, but I still enjoy the summer song of my little wrens. I'm happy to have them in my garden. Wren Nest photo by JulenaJo.

Note: See how brown the grass is in the above photo? While we are not technically in a drought, we have had a very dry summer and it's taking a toll on many of my trees and plants.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thank you, Sunflower!

"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow." Helen Keller.

The above quote by Helen Keller seems perfectly suited to both my frame of mind as well as the sunflowers harvested recently from my new cutting garden. I planted a variety of them and they are beginning to bloom now, just in time for the busy month of August at the Farmer's Market.

Colorful zinnias, snapdragons, and cosmos are also coming into bloom. All of these flowers can be directly sown into the garden in early spring, are not bothered by insects, and produce reliably even when the weather is less than cooperative, making them an ideal choice for growing in a cutting garden. And who can resist the charm of a bouquet that includes sunflowers? Not me!

Sunflowers appeal to me on many levels. Their cheerful, open faces delight--no mysteries or secrets are hidden there. Bees and birds feast on them. And their habit of following the sun intrigues me. That is why the inspirational quote by Helen Keller springs to mind as I admire my garden of sunflowers.

As I cut the sunflowers for my bouquet I was reminded to keep my face turned to the sunshine. I needed a gentle reminder of this lesson today, and isn't it serendipitous how a few minutes in the garden provided it? Thank you, Sunflower! Sunflower photos by JulenaJo.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Garden Update

The blog has taken back seat to other pursuits recently, including the actual work in the garden, as well as tatting and trying to come up with things for the Farmer's Market. I am not particularly pleased with this year's flower bed. Weeds, especially thistle, are winning the war I wage against them. Lack of rain is taking a toll, stressing everything--except the thistles--in spite of frequent watering with a hose. The lawn is riddled with bald patches and is more weeds than grass. Today I squashed the first Japanese beetle, munching away on my Rose of Sharon. The Rose of Sharon opened its first blossom today, too, coincidentally.

Gourdo is concerned about the lack of rainfall, especially now that the gourd vines are starting to scramble up the sides of Gourdhenge. We've seen a few gourd blossoms unfurl each evening, attracting night-flying moths, which pollinate the creamy white flowers. No sign of baby gourds yet, though, much to Gourdo's consternation.

Another concern of Gourdo's and mine is the yellowing of our pin oak trees. They look chlorotic and we fear their eventual demise. I haven't taken a soil sample in to the county extension office for testing, but that's what various garden web sites recommend, as the wrong amendment to the soil could make the matter worse.

We've had many years of relatively easy gardening: now we're up against some challenges. I'll let you know how it goes! Garden 2009 photos by JulenaJo.