Experimenting with Nature

(Iris leaves, Calendula, Rose Campion)

(Iris leaves, Calendula, Rose Campion)

Once upon a time I really struggled with my relationships with plant life.  I had friends that would venture over and water my house plants for me.  I think they felt sorry for the poor things that had been given to me by other friends.  Rumor had it that I had a really black thumb…
I still have the same thumbs.

(Rose Campion, Lithodora, Dusty Miller, Lavender and a few I can't remember)

(Rose Campion, Lithodora, Dusty Miller, Lavender and a few I can’t remember)

While I have always appreciated plants; enjoying the look and feel of having plants around, I hadn’t been as attentive to their needs as one must be to make them happy and help them to thrive.  That has since changed.  I am not a plant whisperer, or a master gardener.  I do enjoy working in our yard, watching little seeds become seedlings  and then, over time develop into (hopefully) a full-grown and healthy plant.  I don’t always succeed.  In fact, more often than not I don’t.   Our yard might say otherwise but maybe I really do have a black thumb.  If so, I have found that if you have patience, and throw enough seeds at the problem you can camouflage that malady pretty well!

(Black Eye Susan, Snow-in-Summer, Cinquefoil, Thyme, I believe the big leaves are Morning Glory-the real stuff, not bindweed, I don't remember what the yellow flowers top left are)

(Black Eye Susan, Snow-in-Summer, Cinquefoil, Thyme, I believe the big leaves are Morning Glory-the real stuff, not bindweed, I don’t remember what the yellow flowers top left are)

I tend to avoid using pesticides and other chemicals in our yard.  Some of our inhabitants may not look as pretty or pristine as some people prefer, but there don’t seem to be any complaints from the birds, bees or other (wild or domestic) visitors who frequent this place.  There haven’t been too many losses due to bad bugs, if any,  at least I can’t think of any off the top of my head.  My good bugs who otherwise would be harmed as well by such measures seem to take care of that problem for me.

 

Hollyhock

Hollyhock

Also, and here is where some of that patience comes in, I try to let the plants tell me where they want to be.  I transplant a lot.  I see it as creating art with the yard as our canvas.  For paint I have the trees (living and in log form), bushes, vegetables, rocks, flowers, herbs, bricks, pots and other planters, and whatever other bric-a-brac suits my fancy at the moment.  Some parts of the canvas still await inspiration.

(California and various other Poppy, Feverfew, Virginia Creeper and a Dove)

(California and various other Poppy, Feverfew, Virginia Creeper and a Dove)

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Flavor

2014-05-27 08.11.35  Variety is the Spice of Life   2014-05-29 08.07.12

Our yard is not your typical yard.

On the whole one might see a chaotic riot of color, without rhyme or reason, but if you were to look closely, there are little vignettes her and there, to be seen from different vantage points, these arrangements may give you a taste of the design.

If you look even closer,

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You might notice little details, shifts in shape, color, texture…

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Details that highlight some of the beauty found in our wide, wonderful, world.

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Beauty that can often-times be fleeting…

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If one doesn’t take the time to look, to appreciate, to savor the beauty around us.

Everybody’s tastes are different, your life experiences and background will shape you differently than the next person, even if you come from the same family.

Or even a similar one.

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You’re not always going to see it, or appreciate it, but if you don’t at least try to look for it- the beauty of this world might just pass you by, or fade from your view.

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And that would be a shame.

I hope for you to always notice, and maybe savor, the beauty that can be found in the details.

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Scented Memories

A gentle breeze carrying the scents of what might be Sweet Woodruff and the last of the seasons lilac…heavenly.

Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.

- Helen Keller -

 

Basil and roses, tarragon, sage, tomato, lavender, lilac, onion and garlic and oregano. Lemon balm, lilies, rosemary and a variety of mints, everywhere I turn in my yard there is something to touch or brush against that creates, or has in the past created scented memories. Gardening is tactile and if you allow it, meditative. Growing things, whatever the reason (food, beauty, helping to sustain life-cycles on or of the planet, etc…) is a lovely thing, often times made more pleasant by a gentle scent on the breeze…prayer in action.

Sweet Cicely

Sweet Cicely, for those like me who like the scent of black licorice!

There is nothing I like better than to work with my husband out in our yard, puttering around in the garden or on various other projects or hobbies that are perpetually in motion in our little paradise in progress, our Hobbit Hole. It makes no matter to me if we are joking around, or in serious conversation, I enjoy our time together in the warmth of the sun with the bees gently humming in the background punctuated now and again by songs and chirps from the many birds whom also frequent or live in our yard. We do seem to sustain a fair number… and a large variety of bees and other bugs here, though I’d still love to draw in an even larger quantity and assortment of butterflies!

yard

I might have said it before, but I will say again… our yard is a work in progress, I see it as creativity in motion. We are attempting an English style garden with a mix of native and water-wise plants, as well as a number of more traditional vegetation choices. Patience is key, we see what plants like to be where, let them establish and in the mean time, fill in the spaces between with the seed of other flowers or herbs like thyme, rose campion, Sweet William, four ‘o clocks, Alyssum, Hollyhock, poppy… amid our lovely blooming chaos there is always something to do, and happily so!

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Heating Up

I am excited about dinner tonight, we’re marinading some pork chops in a wine from a local winery.  Potter wines has a recipe for “Chipotle Wine Center Cut Chops” that my husband and I have looked forward to making… and today is the day.  Not long ago we went to a tasting of Potter wines, both those available for sale and those which will be shortly.  We  liked what we found.  The pepper wines do have a heat to them combined with what we consider to be excellent flavor.  We’ve enjoyed them for sipping, I’ll have to let you know how the cooking goes.

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Meanwhile, out in the yard, the first tenants and babies have vacated the larger red house, the little white house has a nesting pair, not sure about the little red house since I never have a good vantage point to witness any activity. The larger red house is actively on the market again, with many interested parties poking their beaks in to check out the digs!

Speaking of new digs, one of my neighbors had a swarm of bees from a hive that had split in their back yard today.  I found the number for the guys who had collected the ones in our yard a while back. They were quick to respond and we got to watch the process, which is fascinating I must say.

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Lemonaid from Lemons

…or in this case, lots of peanuty desserts from a purchase mistake concerning peanut butter. (Punctuated by pictures from our yard!)

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My husband and I adore peanut butter, and always like to have some on hand for tasty little protein laden snacks as needed. I have no trouble admitting his palate is more refined than my own.

He is particular as to taste and consistency while I am not so much… creamy or crunchy, doesn’t matter terribly to me. Though we do present a united front concerning the temperature at which it needs to be served, as in chilled peanut butter is much less appetizing to us in its unaltered, straight out of the jar form. The taste of the fresh, natural peanut butters can’t be beat, but the necessity of mixing, often before each use (which can be messy and in many cases wasteful), as well as the essential refrigeration once opened, make it an item we don’t purchase…

at least not deliberately.

For those of you familiar with stores where you can buy in bulk, let me just say… oops.

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Now, two jars of peanut butter that neither of us wish to partake of isn’t going to break the bank, but neither of us is big on waste either. What to do? What to do?

Peanut butter cookies was the first venture, they were good. Thank you Betty Crocker (doubled with the addition of an extra egg and 2 tsp. vanilla). Sorry, no pictures…my food photos generally don’t do the dishes any favors!

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(Potatoes in the bag)

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I then made the peanut butter bar recipe found in the book, ‘Don’t Panic-Dinner’s in the Freezer.‘ My husband likes them and describes them as rich, I find them addictive and am very glad they can be stored in the freezer…out of sight, out of mind!

With those desserts made and a few smoothies mixed up as well (I like them made with banana and Ovaltine), we have nearly made it through one of the jars! Now, unless I get lost in the yard, (I do like to work out there whenever I am able) I’m going to start pawing through some of my other cookbooks and magazines to hopefully help me work through the rest of the peanut butter… Wish me luck!

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Time marches on.

Time flies when you’re having fun, actually it moves pretty quickly even when you’re not.

A lot has changed for my husband and myself in the last year or so. Some friends have moved on to other neighborhoods, but new ones drop in to visit now and then.

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We continue to make progress in our lives, I especially like how our yard shapes up as the years go by…

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Though, it is a slow slog and we have much, much more to accomplish, I have little vignettes of pleasure here and there.

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The yard is a constant source of enjoyment, and there is usually something on my needles.

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But, I think today I’m going to play in the kitchen. . .

Peanut butter cookies are sounding really nice today!

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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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