Build it and they will come…

 

As I mentioned previously, a few years back when a hive of honey bees from somewhere in the area split, we thought the mobile half was just pausing in our yard while scouts were finding a good place to start building. The bee guy we had called to collect them told us no, that they had started to settle in, and glancing at our yard, abundant in flowers he stated “…and I can see why.”

While bees are always plentiful in our gardens, we have not been graced with another swarm. If we didn’t live in a subdivision, I might be persuaded to have or to host a hive or so, on our property. I think with the way many yards, most subdivisions and planned communities and many public parks and other such areas are set up there may not be the diversity of plant life that the bees and such like or need to survive; this is not something I know for certain, but it is something I think and wonder about. I can understand that many favor a more manicured and pristine setting and that they might prefer not to deal with the extra yard work that comes from a more diverse selection of foliage producing life. For me the benefits of that extra effort, for both myself and the little bit of nature I serve, far outweigh any inconveniences.

There is never a shortage of pollinators in our yard, and when I take the time to pay attention the diversity never ceases to amaze.

 

I am slowly trying to catalog the varied assortment of plant life we have accumulated… I’m uncertain where to even begin researching what these two are exactly and I don’t know when or if I will find (or make) the time to categorize the vast insect and arachnid populations we support here.

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Wild Spaghetti

I need to plant more garlic this fall.

The little bit I have going here will not store for long…

At our house we consume it too quickly.

The little bit of basil and oregano in the pot with it were from seeds I scattered there after collecting them from last years plants I had let bolt. I will definitely do that again as well.

Hmmm… if I can get the timing right, this may become a great house warming gift idea!? or Christmas… in either case I will pinch back the basil to bush it out and pretty them up when and if I do create pots to gift.

I think the pot and plants itself would be a fine gift, but the possibilities of things to put with it could make it really fun (pasta, fresh or pre-packaged, canned tomatoes, wooden spoons, a colander…

any, all of the above, or other!)

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Collected Inspiration

Before I really grasped the concept that I too might be able to create works of art with sticks and string, I collected many sweaters that I found beautiful & inspiring. I have always thought of both Knitting and Crochet as Art forms where simple string or yarn is turned into a beautiful, often complex looking objects that, in most cases, are also useful ones. I thought that the talented people who were able to accomplish these feats were ones to look up to and maybe try to emulate. Originally I thought that it would take me much longer than it actually has to learn the skills necessary to accomplish the endeavors I had wished to achieve.

 

  One of the sweaters I have collected through the years, one of the few that still remain. I love the color and texture of the leaves, it is usually such elements that attract my interest and attention.

I have always been fascinated by the way colors play together. The ability to manipulate stitches to create shapes and texture had also appealed to me as well. In the not so distant past, I had mistakenly thought cables and other complex looking stitches were years out of my reach; yet, after knitting for only a short time I discovered that cabling is just a series of knit and purl stitches, some of which were knit out of order. It was motivating to learn that since I could knit and I could purl, I already had the foundation for making some of those gorgeous textured sweaters that I found so appealing.

 

Aran and color knitting are often my ‘sparkly’ in the sweater world.

I still possess some of the sweaters I have acquired over the years in their original form, others have been reinvented into other objects or just plain worn out. Usually an old sweater will become a bag, a pillow cover or other such object. It may also be used in place of a thin batting in a small project that needs such, just as long as the sweater available is of a similar consistency as batting. In any case, coming up with new uses for old things can often times be fun and entertaining, especially when such excursions meet with success!

 

Another sweater I have taken care to hold onto. Color and texture again caught my attention…

and yes, the autumn theme may have also played a part!

While I am now more likely to create my own, I will continue to purchase and collect sweaters for my wardrobe as the muse dictates.

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Cruel Pink

The Nights are getting cooler, the birds and other critters are feasting like crazy in preparation for the winter months.

 

We do what we can to help bird, beast and human kind.

Granted, we may not always be able to do much,

Especially of late, with the necessity to pinch pennies…

But every little kindness matters,

To someone or something…

This makes me think of a story:

The Starfish Story

Original Story by: Loren Eisley

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?

You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said “I made a difference for that one.”

I need to look for such good things and I need to hope there are others who also see the need to help even when things look hopeless.

I need to know (if even just through a simple story) that there are people who do not go out of their way to hurt another creature (bird, beast or human) even when they feel they have the ‘right’ to, when they feel they have been hurt or slighted in some way by that other.

I hope those that live in kindness and that try to make positive things happen in the world around them prosper in their lives with joy and happiness.

While I can reason in my head as to why some people feel the need for violence against animals due to fear or frustration; be it in large acts or small, possibly as ‘retaliation’ to any injustice done to them, real or not…I can not truly understand how a person can feel right inside after damaging another living being, especially when that creature is just doing its best to survive; behaving exactly as their ancestors have always done.

I don’t know for certain what befell Pink, maybe she buried a peanut in the wrong lawn, ate from the wrong bird feeder or was trying to gather fluff or something from the wrong patio to warm her nest for winter. Not that she would know our standards of right from wrong.

 

From the pictures I was able to take, animal rescue in my area thinks that maybe someone trapped her and spray-painted her pink. We’re not certain about her tail, but without the fur to cover it she is going to have a very rough cold winter. Hopefully they can catch her and in the least, help remove her paint job.

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Teach

Though I no longer remember where I read it, or who originally said it… a vague recollection of a saying I once saw; something similar to the following (but embellished by me), has stuck within my memories:

Give a person a pair of hand-knit socks

and they will have warm toes

either until those socks wear out, or until one is lost.

On the other hand

Teach a person to knit…

They (as well as many of their friends, family, neighbors and others) will likely have warm fingers, heads and toes, etc… indefinitely.

These beauties have been a very fun knit. The pattern has been an easy one to follow, producing some of the best fitting socks I have made yet. The gently sloping lacework looks elegant and is easier to create than it may seem. I do plan on knitting this pattern again…many times!

The pattern is called Candi Wrappers, designed by Cristi H. Brockway. Anyone interested in the pattern can follow the links through my project page, though I think you need to belong to Ravelry. Ravelry is a knit and crochet community, free for anyone to join; you just need to go to their front page and create an account.

I plan to start the next pair tonight… with some of my knitting buddies.

In fact, it looks like I have a few of those friends waiting on me now …Passing the time hunting grasshoppers!

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Patience is a Virtue

The weather is supposed to be so much cooler here today, even without a breeze. I can’t express how much I have been looking forward to the temperature dropping! A wind would be nice to blow all the smoke out of the air, but I do not wish for that with the havoc it would cause on the fire lines.

Despite it being a nicer environment, temperature wise, to be out of doors it is awful on the lungs and can bring on nasty headaches…

So…I practice being patient.

While the yard fairies taunt me…

I have found the best way to be patient

is to find something else to do that takes your mind off of the current obsession.

I am in the middle of a sock KAL. Knitting usually does the trick.

I am actually further along on these than pictured; I just don’t have updated photos right now.

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Back to Normal

With the puppy gone from the yard for nearly two weeks now…

Our other inhabitants are getting back to business as usual.

Some are still a bit disturbed that a dog was not only here, but that we liked having it here too!

   

Not that the birds minded all that much,

I think Mr. & Mrs. H were smart enough to note that when the dog had left, the cats would again take up residence.

   

So, the second batch of baby birds has come and gone…this inseparable pair were a more careful lot.

We hope they return next year!

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Benefactor of Birds

Sunflower – Helianthus annuus (common)

I started planting sunflowers because of the clay soil we started with. Sunflower roots can help break up and loosen heavy, compacted soils and with their help; along with compost and the materials I mulch with, I have made headway towards enriching the soils in our yard.

The state flower of Kansas is the bright & cheerful Sunflower. I’ve never personally seen a farm dedicated to them, but I do know that over the years they have become an important agricultural commodity. Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamins B1, A, D, F and they make a wonderful vegetable oil for cooking. I hear sprouts (especially from black sunflower seeds, the most delicious & nutritious ones) mix nicely with greens for tasty and nutritious salads. Sunflowers are an American plant, native to much of the Central US and southward to Central America, some Native Americans would make the seeds into a meal which was used for making gruel, cakes and drinks.

On average, depending on the variety, sunflowers range in size from 1½-10’ (sometimes up to 15’!) in height with an average 1-2’ spread. Also depending on variety, you may have plants with either single or multi-flowered heads. The color range available in sunflowers is enormous, a bright, happy yellow being the most common. A light lemon yellow or creamy yellow to near white are fun to come across. There are also orange, red (I really like the chestnut red, bronze & mahogany!) & bi-color, some with red & yellow tips…if that weren’t enough there are various shades of each of those.

They may seem like simple enough flowers, but up close the detail can sometimes amaze.

Most sunflowers are good for cut flowers, especially if you use a heavy or weighted vase… to keep it from toppling over, for the flower heads can be hefty at times! The wild ancestors which had flowers 2-3” wide, has become widely adapted and bred for much larger flower heads; sometimes around a foot across, those plants with the larger flowers need a richer, moist soil than many smaller varieties do. Flower heads typically consist of a circle of short yellow rays surrounding a brown central cushion of seeds; there are double flower varieties as well, such as my favorite furry, pompon like teddy bear which tops out around 1½’ H!

They are warm season annuals in all zones, though I hear there are some perennial varieties (Helianthus – maximilianii, multiflorus, salicifolius, orgyalis & tuberosus) I don’t believe I have any of those…unless of course my bird friends planted them for me… it has been known to happen!

Some sunflowers are touted as being nonallergenic, I think depends on whether or not the variety in question is pollen bearing or not. Because much of what I plant is for the birds and to draw in the bees and butterflies I don’t go looking for plants that might not provide for what they need.

                               

If you are interested in adding them to your habitat… sow the large, easy to handle seeds in full sun during March; but be aware that slugs and snails will readily attack young plants cutting them off at ground level, you can protect them with slug bait or (my preference) a barrier of sharp grit (diatomaceous earth). Sunflowers grow rapidly and are difficult to transplant, (but not impossible) they will survive in average to poor soil; though, as I mentioned earlier, enriched soil produces the biggest flower heads. They are drought resistant with little need for extra feeding but you should keep the plants watered in long dry spells for best results.

Thin out weaker gangly stalks in April when they are about 6” tall, before they become the tough, widely adapted, coarse, hairy, sturdy plants that sometimes need staking. They can be a windbreak and screen when planted in a group, and as such, tend to support each other… otherwise you may need to start supplying support for some plants in May. They will flower with bold blooms through summer and fall, about June through September…maybe sometimes into October.

If planting in a container use multipurpose compost mixed with slow release fertilizer. I have heard that they are a soil improver; though I also hear they are thought to produce leaf substances to inhibit growth in some other species, possibly as a defense mechanism, inhibits nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil. In any case, don’t plant them near pole beans, potatoes or grass; they are disliked by the pole bean & potato and they themselves dislike both grass and potato.

On the other hand they are liked by melons, cucumbers (for wind break and shade) and corn (protective to each other with reduced insects on each); as well as the bees (for pollen and nectar) and the birds who feed on the seeds from late summer thru winter. When you are growing plants for production purposes, for best results, always dig in plenty of compost to keep them from starving each other.

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New Beginnings

New Beginnings.

They are around us every day.

Some are more obvious than others.

My husband and I were asked yesterday for words of wisdom for friends, newly married.

Since like us, they enjoy gardening…

We said:

To sow the seeds of long lived happiness…

Plant kisses daily…

Even when the weather is bad.

We think it is good advice… whether you garden or not!

 

As I am collecting seeds I think of all the possible new plants that will come from them, all the color, flavor and scent, sustenance for the body and soul.

We harvest our gardens bounty, listening to the chirps of the newly hatched sparrows and watching the hyperactive flapping of the young finches excited over the food their parents are helping them find. The course of processing the fare from the garden turns each individual thing into something new and different. The tomatoes I pick today can accent a salad, become a sauce or a soup or mix with the peppers and onions for a tasty salsa. Oh the possibilities.

Maybe I will make some dough and sauce today, for pizza tomorrow. The dough will rest nicely in the refrigerator overnight and sauces always seem better to me if the flavors have a chance to mingle.

Pizza Sauce:

8 oz. tomato sauce

8 oz. tomatoes (with as much of their juices reserved as possible) cut up/rough dice.

½ C chopped onion

1 Tbsp. dried basil (*freshly dried out of the garden has the best flavor)

1 tsp. sugar (if even that much)

1 tsp. dried oregano (*see above note)

2 cloves minced garlic (or more! – to suit your taste)

¼ tsp. pepper (though I prefer more!)

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until onion is tender.

It’s that easy.

You can let it simmer longer or cool the mix and place it in the fridge for flavors to infuse more. I also like to add fresh basil, either whole leaf or minced when constructing the pizza. Fresh sliced or sun-dried tomatoes are nice as well. No matter what your tastes, add your flavors and enjoy!

 

Puppy sitting update:

We are tearing our little bear apart, missing mommy and daddy. I think the poor dog thinks they are never coming home.

We don’t appear to be an unhappy dog, but we are definitely out of sorts, very needy and more vocal.

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A quick little ditty about our yard.

I am not a poet or an English major. I enjoy life, especially when it includes animals. I try to express my happiness and joy of being alive in a number of different mediums, some of them silly, some not.

A collection of plants and wildlife,

Our yard contains variety;

Jupiter beard, aster, pyracantha,

Calendula, tarragon and sweet-pea.

 ☼

Squirrels are up in the crabapple,

And doves are on the ground;

 Robins and finches play in the water,

When the rain-bird makes its sound.

 ☼

Growing season starts with the crocus,

Flowers and colors change through the year;

I knit out in the garden at times,

And then neighbors’ cats snuggle near.

 ☼

Poppies, peppers, borage & dill run around the soaker hoses,

Sunflowers tower over tomatoes sparkling with morning dew;

Onion and garlic huddle amid the roses,

And then the dog comes crashing through.

Hollyhock, lily and black-eye Susan,

All dance with her wagging tail;

A carpet of cinquefoil to lie upon,

For puppy dreams to set sail.

 ☼

Lilac and herbs of every kind,

With boxwood and southern wood and rue;

With the scent of basil and eau-de-puppy,

Rosemary, sage and lavender too.

The End.

Thank you very much.

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