Saturday, May 31, 2014

POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl freed

A while back, I donated a dollar to Rolling Thunder outside of Walmart.  They gave me a black bracelet to remind me of our POWs, especially Bowe Bergdahl who was our only known living POW.

Just recently my sister had been given a bracelet, too, and when she told me about it, I paused again to pray for Bowe. I was thrilled to read this headline just a few minutes ago:
Good news, and I pray Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has a complete physical and emotional recovery from his time in captivity.

Prepping a garden bed with hand tools

Years ago, I read an article about John Jeavons in a Garden Design magazine.  I was captivated by the wording of the hook:  "Small is bountiful and politics is dirty in the world John Jeavons wants all of us to dig." 
I bought the fifth edition of his book How to Grow More Vegetables.  (I think there is an eighth edition by now.)  I found a lot of useful information in his book, and I liked his approach.  I adapted some of the methods to my own style and approach.  If you are using hand tools, you don't have to leave row space for tractors or mules, so you can optimize the space used.
Here are some pics of the bed (approx. 4' x 13') Caleb and I just prepped.

Last fall it looked like this.
This spring, after the kale had bolted and the cilantro had gone to seed, and after various and sundry weeds had grown, it looked like this.
It really didn't take too much time for me to hand pull the weeds and for Caleb to break it up with a spading fork.
I added a little compost.  (Wish I had more.)
I chopped up the dirt clods with a hoe as I incorporated the compost.  She's ready to go.
(If you're wondering about the item on the right--I left the cilantro for the seeds.  I kind of tied the splayed bundle of stalks together with a piece of pantyhose.  I staked it with a metal rod that was designed to hold a Japanese beetle trap.  An old CD is dangling from it.  The light reflecting from the CD was supposed to scare the rabbits out of the carrots last fall.)
All is not sweetness and light, though.  I broke my spading fork!  After Caleb was done, I went around the perimeter a little with the fork.  Then I decided to go for the root of a cow itch vine (trumpet creeper) in the path by the bed.  The soil was very dry and hard outside the area that had been in cultivation.  I always instruct Caleb to be easy on the tools.  (That's what John Jeavons said!).  Wouldn't you know the person doing the preaching about being easy on the tools is the one who broke the tine of the fork!  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Buds bursting out all over!

Do you watch for the first bloom of the season?  There is a citizen science project that depends on observations such as that.  Project BudBurst records data logged by citizens all across the nation.  Scientists can then use the data to "learn more about the responsiveness of plant species to changes in climate..." 
Here are some flowers in my neighborhood that had their first blooms this week.
(Click on any image to enlarge.)

My 'Black Eyed Stella' daylily
My horsemint
My black-eyed Susan opened just today

A seedling crepe myrtle in my neighbor's yard
My crinum lily
The buds on my butterfly weed will be bursting soon.
Some things that are already in full bloom or finishing up: 

There are more, too, but I'll save some for another day.
Hope you take time to stop and smell the flowers!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

More "Yellow Bird"

There's something about a yellow bird.
When my son took piano lessons, we encountered the popular Haitian folksong "Yellow Bird."  I thought it was a very catchy tune.  I've talked him into playing it for me on the guitar.  This is a guitar someone gave him.  I think Caleb only needed to get nylon strings and maybe pegs to make it playable. 
Turn the sound way up; it is not a loud recording.
"Yellow Bird" is a good whistling song, and I find myself occasionally whistling it, especially when I'm outside.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A brandy press?

Years ago, when my son was small, I did a rural paper route.  One place we went by had an old barn with an open area that housed a large wheel-like contraption.  I always wondered what that was.  One summer after some strong thunderstorms, we saw that the barn had collapsed, probably from a downdraft.
Just recently, I discovered an interactive website from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources which shows historic sites all across the state.  Lo and behold, there is a site where I remember that barn standing.  It is listed as a brandy press. 
Another structure I've wondered about is listed as [housing] a cotton gin. 
If you happen to be interested in NC historical sites, you might find this web site interesting.

This is the barn that currently stands on the site listed as Freeman Cotton Gin.

Do you enjoy learning about historical sites?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

When powdered fertilizer goes soupy

Although I use some organic practices in my gardening, I also, on occasion, use non-organic practices.  One such non-organic practice is the use of a water soluble chemical fertilizer.  I have a container of blue powdered fertilizer that had become soupy even though I had been careful to keep it dry.  For example, I made sure not to wet the measuring scoop when I mixed fertilizer.  I emailed the JR Peters company, and a representative responded (very promptly) and assured me that the fertilizer was still effective, that it had probably absorbed moisture from the air.  That was good to know.  Don't throw away something that is still effective! 
One thing I use the water soluble fertilizer on is the container plantings at my church.  I mixed in a little slow release fertilizer at planting, and I fertilize with a half-strength solution about every week.
I had fun trying to choose color combos for the planters. 
For the black planters I used coleus (a variety that is a little more sun tolerant), begonia, and licorice plant.
For the stone colored planters (which are in full sun), I used purple fountain grass, zinnia, and sweet potato vine.
I love to look at different combinations that people choose for container gardening.  Keep them fed and watered, and don't throw away the soupy fertilizer.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday thoughts: I Corinthians 11

A pastor whom I met online sent me some study materials for I Corinthians 11.  As I've begun to read them, I find that folks much more educated than I am describe this passage as hard to understand, or I find that very educated people disagree on the interpretations.  In some ways it's reassuring to know I'm not the only one who has grappled with the meaning of this passage. 
Often I hear people toss around the phrase, "the man is the head of the home."  Sometimes I wonder if they picked that up from a secular government form or from scripture.  I've heard people use the term variously to imply that a woman shouldn't try to make hard decisions on her own; that in a conflict of wills, the man's will is always served, or that a man should be the spiritual leader in the home.  The problem I have when I encounter this is that there seems to be no way for me to engage in a dialogue on this without getting much deeper than most conversations warrant.
The average person that I'm around probably doesn't want to get into a conversation about whether there is a hierarchy in the Trinity, nor do they care to discuss the possible meanings of the Greek word kephalÄ“.
Here is an article by Gilbert Bilezikian in which he discusses "headship."  (By the way, I love the way he uses the words "glib" and "carelessly.")
These are my Sunday thoughts and some things to chew on.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Stored energy in plants

My neighbor and I had three large pines cut last December.  I dragged the limbs into my yard and burned them a few at the time.  My neighbor had cut a few of the limbs in two for me to make them smaller for handling.  He noted how heavy the limbs were with moisture.  Some of the limbs I stockpiled in order to let the dried needles fall into an area which I mulch with pine straw.  As late as March I noticed that some of the branches that were covered and damp still had green needles, while most of the exposed limbs had dried brown needles.  I used one of the larger limbs (maybe about 5" in diameter) to border a natural area.  I noticed that the pine needles on that branch were still green.  These needles were on little twigs that came directly out of the branch.  I believe that is called adventitious bud foliage.  I kept watching that foliage.  Gradually it was dawning on me as to how remarkably long the foliage was staying green on that cut branch.  Then I noticed new growth was actually appearing on the tips.  Just today, over five and a half months after being cut, the foliage is still green.  Remarkable.
Here are some pics I took today.
Some of the pine needles are dry and brown as you would expect.
But this limb has green foliage and new growth.

It's amazing to me how much energy was stored in that branch.


Friday, May 23, 2014

A different perspective

When you have a problem, do you ever turn it over and look at from the other side?
This is the "other side" of the tree frog.  Sometimes at night, I hear a little "thwack" as the suction cup feet of the tree frog hit my window.  It's good sometimes to get a different perspective.
I got a chuckle the other night when I snapped this shot.  Two frogs were on the window.  As soon as I pointed the camera, one frog crawled behind the muntin as if hiding from the camera.  I don't know if he was hiding from the light or after a bug, but it almost looked as if he were camera shy.
The bright yellow on the legs is only visible when the frog leaps (or when you look at it through a window) and supposedly provides a flash of color that will startle a predator.
Are you good at seeing things from a different perspective?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

There's something about a yellow bird

Most of the birds that I see in my yard are year-round residents (the species, if not the individuals), but there is a bird I see only in summer.  That's the summer tanager.
When I hear the distinctive staccato notes in spring I look to see the "redbird" or his mate.  Then I know the good ole summertime is on its way! The male is red, and the female is a yellowish color.  Sometimes my folks just referred to the female summer tanager as "the yellow bird."
I usually hear the bird before I see it.  Peterson's guide refers to the note as "pik-i-tuk-i-tuk."  I would describe it as Twit! (ch)TOO! tu-i-tu.  What I have just recently learned is that it also has a robin-like song.  I probably thought I was hearing a robin whenever I heard the song.
When I was a kid (in the days before the internet--yep, I lived way back then), we treasured books.  Once an acquaintance of ours gave our family an assortment of books.  Included in the lot was a green hardcover entitled Birds in the Garden.  What a pleasure it was for me to look at the illustrations in that book!  Here is the page from that book which shows the scarlet tanager, a bird very similar to the summer tanager.  (The difference is that the scarlet tanager has a jet black wing whereas the summer tanager just has a slightly dark wing.)
The illustration is by Walter Alois Weber and is dated 1930.
As a kid, my siblings and I seemed most impressed by birds that would venture to come close to us.  I think I actually fantasized about taming one enough to eat out of my hand, though I never accomplished that.  The chipping sparrows and the female summer tanager were brave enough to come near our doorway to get bread crumbs.  The "yellow bird" was quite bold, and if memory serves me correctly, we once actually coaxed her all the way through the kitchen door. 
That seemed to be a simpler time--the door open to the outdoor air, a yellow bird venturing up wooden steps and onto the boards of a bare pine floor much to the delight of some barefoot country kids.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014


The wrens have been attempting to nest in the grill on the deck.  One year, we didn't use the grill at all because they had already built a nest and had eggs in it.  I am trying to preempt that this year, and I removed an incomplete nest from the grill a few days ago.  When I looked into the grill yesterday, I saw a gray tree frog, which rather startled me.  There was also an active wasp nest and a mud dauber's nest.
Today a little five-lined skink managed to find its way into the living room.
The cold winter which killed my rosemary and set back my fig didn't seem to make a dent in the tick population, and I've picked up quite a few doing yard work.
I've seen a couple of little brown snakes in the yard, and my son recently saw a copperhead at a friend's pond.
Here's a pic I took once of a brown snake.

Here's the copperhead my son saw.

How's the critter population where you are this spring?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sights overhead

When I'm outside, I like to look at the sky.  At night I enjoy looking at the stars and planets or looking for meteors.  I'm continually learning. 
Just recently I learned that the constellation that always reminds me of Daddy's bee smoker is actually part of Leo.


I laugh at myself when I remember seeing a rocket fuel dump and thinking it was a comet.

Last fall, my son and I went to a nearby field and watched the launch of the moon probe LADEE.

Day or night, I enjoy seeing the moon.  I've also seen Venus during the day.  That was amazing.
I like the many ways clouds look.  A few months ago, I saw some rare iridescent clouds.  Here is one shot I took of those iridescent clouds.
I also like to watch jets, planes, and helicopters as they fly overhead.  When I hear one, I look up to see if I can spot it.  We live, as the crow flies, probably less than 25 miles from a major airport, so I often see the jets fly overhead.  (We're not close enough for it to be a nuisance, just close enough to maybe see the evening sun reflecting on them high overhead and wonder where they're off to.)
I found this website which shows the plane paths quite fascinating.
Yes, we're pretty close to one of those paths.
Have you looked up lately?

Monday, May 19, 2014

An heirloom rose

What's more romantic than a rose?  A rose with a story. 
I have a very fragrant old fashioned white rose which I assume is a musk rose.  It's from a rooted cutting Mom gave me, and here's the rose's story.
When my maternal grandfather was a little fellow of about four years old, his mother came home from a neighbor's house with a little sprig of a rose bush.  (Grandpa was born in 1907.)  With care, she planted it in the yard with strict instruction, "Don't y'all bother my little rose, now."  Grandpa said he could remember his mother smiling about that little rose. The rose flourished, and the beauty and fragrance has been appreciated for many years.  Mom successfully made cuttings and shared them.  It's a delight to have a connection with Grandpa and Greatgrandma's memory with this rose.
This year I put a few wood ashes around my rose bush to raise the pH a little since I have been mulching with pine straw.  I add compost once or twice a year as well.  Here is what my rose looked like nine days ago.
(Incidentally, Grandpa was born on May 19; this is a good day for this post.)
I used a rose from this bush to make a boutonniere for my son Saturday night (prom).  It did not hold up well, but it was pretty while it lasted.
(rose with nandina buds and Leyland cypress sprig)

If I haven't recalled the details exactly, I'd be appreciative of corrections from any family members who may remember the story.  Thanks.

Take time to smell the roses!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday thoughts: Jacob

The text for the sermon at our church this morning was taken from the story of Jacob.  To me, the story of Jacob is interesting from the very beginning.  Isaac entreated God on behalf of Rebekah because she was barren.  Then when the twin boys were conceived and struggled within her womb, Rebekah, herself, inquired of the Lord what was going on.  I like reading that Rebekah inquired directly and God answered her directly!

Genesis 25:23
And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

Rebekah knew before they were born that the elder would serve the younger.  This is alluded to in Romans 9.  Jacob was chosen before he had done good or evil. This shows that God chooses us; we cannot earn God's favor by works.  I wonder if Isaac had knowledge of God's word to Rebekah.  Did he know that God had chosen Jacob and still try to pronounce the blessing over Esau that his brother would serve him, or was Isaac unaware of God's decree?  (The scripture doesn't say.)  In any case, Jacob lived up to the meaning of his name and supplanted Esau.  According to Strong's Jacob means "heal holder" or "supplanter."  (I'm not sure "deceiver" is a fair rendering of "supplanter," though supplanting is sometimes achieved through deceit as it was in the case of the blessing.)

Genesis 27:36

And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?
A word here about the birthright and the blessing--Esau had nothing to do with losing out on the blessing Isaac pronounced over his sons, but he was complicit in the earlier incident of giving up his birthright.  In fact, the writer of Hebrews uses this example of giving up a birthright for bread and lentils as the way a profane or sexually immoral person gives up what is eternal for something temporal.
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

In the incident where Jacob wrestles with the angel, Jacob is given the name Israel.  In one commentary I read, which I cannot find now, the implication is that Jacob will no longer be called only Jacob (since scripture continues to use both Jacob and Israel), but is also given the name Israel.
The incident of Jacob's wrestling has always been a bit of a puzzle to me, to be frank, and the explanations of it have not seemed quite to do the strangeness of it justice. 
I do remember singing the song which has the lines, "As Jacob in the days of old, I wrestled with the Lord, and, instant, with a courage bold, I stood upon His word.  I would not be denied..."  Again, that description of "wrestling with the Lord" doesn't seem to me to do justice to the promises we have under the new covenant (though I very much like the resolve to stand on His word).
Just mulling some things over.

What are your thoughts on Jacob?



Saturday, May 17, 2014

Something new: gardenia hips

Last year, for the first time ever, I noticed red hips on my gardenia.  After one of the hips remained through the winter, I picked it.

I opened up the capsule and separated the ball of greasy seeds. 
I may plant them for sport to see what happens. 

The gardenia is fairly easy to propagate by cuttings, and I've given successfully rooted cuttings to some of my neighbors.

Have you encountered anything "new to you" lately?

And the rain descended, and the floods came

A couple of weeks ago, we got a lot of rain in just a little time.  Our house is at the bottom of the slope, so all the water runs downhill to our house.
As you can see in the left of the picture, the water is almost to the rim of the stainless steel water bowl.  The bowl is about 3 inches deep.  (I still fill the water bowl for the birds or in case the neighbor's dog happens by.  It has turned out to be a wonderful bath for the brown thrashers that nest in the forsythia each year.)

The gray treefrogs must love all this water.  They set up a chorus around the back deck loud enough to raise the dead.  If they get half a chance, they lay eggs in the rain barrel and buckets.  If I don't get around to dumping the eggs before they hatch, I usually leave the tadpoles alone.  Last night I was going to empty the rain barrel to get rid of the mosquito wigglers.  I scooped off the frog eggs and then used the garden hose to siphon the water.  Lo and behold, there was one full-sized tadpole.  Maybe it had overwintered?  Since I was draining out all his rain barrel water, I chased him with a pitcher, finally caught him, and transferred him to a bucket.
Even when I leave the tadpoles alone, I only see a few mature into frogs.  Here is one little fellow I took a pic of last fall.  You might notice he's no longer in length than the worms that fall off the sycamore tree and drown in the rain bucket.

Speaking of frogs, here is a link to a fun site which lets you listen to various frog sounds.  I like the dreamy trill of the American toad.  (I've heard about enough of those gray treefrogs for a while!)
I'm not sure what that says about the excitement level of my life when the major event of a Friday evening is finding a tadpole in the rain barrel.  But I sure rocked that tadpole's world!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday smiles

Here are some things that made me smile this week.

I won a Mother's Day door prize at church.  First time I had ever won, first time Adam had ever drawn the names.  Way to go Adam!  (He makes me smile, too.)
Pretty bag; the color makes me smile.


I put the fancy schmancy luggage tag that my sister made for me on my fiddle case. (Even if my son can play it, and I can't, at least everyone will know it's mine.) Is this a Vera Bradley fabric? It makes me smile.

Tuesday evening, as I sat on the porch swing in the twilight enjoying the luminous white peonies in the fading light, I saw my first lightning bugs of the season.  That made me smile.

Wednesday I had the opportunity to meet a young friend for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. Tia is a delightful young lady I've known since she was a little girl.  That made me smile.

I finally got the 3 Wave petunias that my son gave me for Mother's Day planted.  (Lots of bed prep--digging out bermuda grass, pulling out honeysuckle and poison ivy.)  Finally planted.  That made me smile.

The front that pushed through yesterday left us with delightful weather today, and that makes me smile.

Hope you've had some smiles this week.

Color combos in the landscape

Here are some shots of my Japanese maple ("Bloodgood") along with the white spireas and bluish-lavender irises.  Red, white, and blue!  These were taken a couple of weeks ago. 

Here is what it looks like now that the spirea blooms have dropped.  The pink (Robin Hill?) azaleas and the pink Royal Bonica rose look nice with the maple.
The maple was one of the few landscape plants here when we moved in 20 years ago.  The other plants are ones we (mostly me with the help of a toddler at the time) set out.
(Yes, there is poison ivy between the azalea and rose!)

Do you have favorite color combos in the landscape?