Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Change of Gears

November is almost over already, today is Thanksgiving Day.   Boy, it sure whizzed on by and sadly, I didn't accomplish much.  I was almost done working on cutting the garden back for the winter way back last week when our weather was a weirdly balmy 60 degrees out.  Of course, this being Wisconsin and November, the heat wave didn't last long.   Since then, we've been down below freezing most nights.  There's been ice on the rain barrels and our daytime high temps have been in the 30's.  The sun has been shining a bit though, which feels great, even through winter coats. 
Summer is gone and I've been feeling like the angel lately, pouty and sad.
I have an issue with the changing seasons.  Well, to be honest, I have to admit I have issues with change in general.  Change is, as they say, Inevitable and inevitably, it leaves me feeling a bit depressed.   We have four distinct seasons here and the change in the weather isn't what gets to me; it's the change in work.  I don't mind putting the garden to rest until March or April so much, but I miss having an excuse to be outdoors for hours and hours on end.  I love landscaping and making big changes in the garden; maybe the end result isn't always fantastic, but the process is fun.  Go get a tractor, a chainsaw and the wrecker-- we're ready to toss some rocks around. 

Unfortunately, housework doesn't fill that niche of creativity at all.  No matter how many episodes of 'This Old House' we watch, I just can't bring myself to tear things apart indoors like we do outdoors.   Our house needs remodeling badly, but we lack the funds and the ambition and most of all, definite plans for what we'd like to do with it.  All I know is I want a mudroom and a bigger kitchen instead of a muddy house and a teeny kitchen.  Ripping up a house is not the same as the garden, obviously.   Life without a kitchen, no matter how teensy, is not something I care to live with just yet.  In due time, we hope, but not this year, or next.

We added a few more courses to good ol' Aaargh this fall.

We have to finish one mess before we make another one.   True, we cannot mortar on the stone building aka 'Aaargh'  since the nighttime temps are so low now, but we don't feel like ripping walls and the roof off the house this time of year, either.  Best to leave sleeping remodeling projects lie for awhile longer.  Yes, my vinyl floor is 37 years old and breaking off in hunks all over the place, but I guess, look at the bright side, by the time we're ready to remodel, most of the ugly old flooring will be already gone and we'll have less work to do. See. as my Optimistic Carl says, 'There's always a bright side.'

Though I may be feeling downhearted about the end of summer, until there's a foot of snow on the ground and the rocks are frozen down tight, there's still time to indulge myself with yard work. This week's challenge was to finally plant the last of the trees we bought earlier this year.  I don't know why we put it off for so long, I guess the warm fall weather lulled us into a false sense of security.  But I'm happy to report as of tonight two 'Tina' Sargent crabapples, two 'Yellow Ribbon' arborvitae and some clearance perennials are now in the ground. 

Carl and I worked tonight until after dark to plant and water them all in.  It was truly a relief to have it out of the way.  I also finished up my outdoor decorating, too.

Time for winter arrangements

I went through a bunch of spray paint that we had left over from repainting the railings this summer just to add some color to the urns.  Being under the drip line by the garage, they hold up quite well until spring.

A look back at July:

Frank the Urn is decked out in yellow cedar and assorted spruce clippings from around the garden.  The twigs were spray painted white to look like birch along with the dried hydrangeas.  This urn probably won't hold up as well since it's subject to strong west winds.

  Frank looked completely different in July:

The two cast iron urns by the back porch have more cedar and my little angel statues, one blond, one dark haired.  My mom painted the statues to match our sons, Joel and David.

The driveway entrance urns are also full of cedar branches and Carl's stainless 'pussywillow twigs'.

And a flashback to July:

The bases that normally hold the flower pots in summer make a good stand for the winter decorations, too.  They are cast iron and weigh over 100 pounds a piece, in their former life they were rollers for making pipe in an industrial setting.

Things looked much different in July.

My three horses have a good perch for the winter.  I used a lot of cedar this year.

The garage urn in July:

Lots of cedar.  Don't worry, you can't tell which trees I butchered.  

Ernie the Urn is not to be outdone, he's sporting our Pipe Ball and white twigs, too.  (And cedar.)

Still a far cry from what he looked like in July:

Same view, July:

Though I may be feeling a bit down in the dumps, the truth of the matter is I have so much to be thankful for.  I have a loving family and a warm house, I truly lack for nothing.  The change of seasons is a blessing in disguise, it will soon be time to concentrate on stained glass again.  (And skiing.)

I hope everyone has a Wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Friday, November 6, 2015


Our October weather was glorious and so far November has been as well, up until last night.  A cold front blew through and our temperature has dropped from the upper 60's to the 40's.   Oh, well, we all knew it had to come to an end sometime.  I've been working on clearing out all the dead vegetation and tying up the loose ends.   Since it's raining at the moment, I'm going to tie up some loose ends about what went on around here this summer.

Every year we try to build something new to keep things interesting.  Lately we've been focusing much more on structures than garden additions because, truth be told, there's far too much garden here as it is.  By the time I'm done weeding this place, it's time to start over at the beginning again.

 Carl keeps telling people we're going to downsize by fifty percent though even he has a hard time figuring out which bed to eliminate.  Downsizing isn't all that easy either; where do you go with all the plants you want to save?  We do have some plans to change the rock formation  on the back side of the Pachyberm, though.  More rock equals less weeds, that's my idea of downsizing.

Down in the Quarry and yes, there's weeds.

  For most gardeners, spring is the most intense time of year, and for us, that's definitely the case. Starting in April there's my annual seeds to plant and propagation antics, and once it warms up, there are lawns to mow here, at Mom's and the Back Eight.  The first of June is annual planting time for me which takes up at least two weeks.  Once the flowers are in the ground, it's time to weed.  And weed.  Usually by July we have been through the gardens at least twice and the weeds are under control for a few minutes.  That's when our thoughts inevitably turn to junk.

Yes, junk abounds around here, sad to say, almost more than the weeds.  Carl had ideas of what he wanted to create from all the stuff he's collected over the last fifty-something years.  Grand ideas, but unfortunately, there is never enough time in the day.  Though he doesn't often say it out loud, he has been admitting that he won't live long enough to build everything he wanted to.  I'd be thrilled if he would downsize his junk collection by fifty percent, but it would be as hard for him to part with the junk as it is for me to part with the garden areas.  Hmmmm....seems we're stuck, doesn't it?

Back in July, I was out in the Back Eight surveying some of the scrap iron we have waiting for inspiration.  Probably more than ten years ago, a friend of ours asked Carl if he had any use for some  iron stampings in an oak design.  They were originally railings on her father's house, but were removed at some point.  We loaded them up on our trailer and they were put with the pile of 'someday' projects.

Someday came and it was time to create something before the poor stampings rusted away into nothingness.  Carl (who really doesn't need any more work to do) semi-reluctantly loaded the railings on to the car trailer and hauled them up to the front yard.

There he sat, contemplating what he could make out of a few hunks of old railings.

Carl, The Thinker, wondering what he got himself into

My idea was to make a small structure for the garden just off the house.  We had the cast iron planter there (another Carl Original) but the garden was a little blah.

Time for a change?
I was picturing something like a small archway or a little gazebo-y thing; Carl sighed and said, ok, I'll take to the shop and see what I can come up with.

In a little under ten hours, he was done with the, uh, um, Thing.  We didn't know what to call it.  And do we paint the Thing?  Or leave it half white, half rusty?  Carl took the high pressure washer and blasted off the flaking paint chips. 

Blasting off!
 Once he had most of the paint off, the debate went on, do we paint it, or leave it rust?  I told Carl that even though I know very little about the science fiction show, 'Dr. Who', I couldn't get over how much the Thing reminded me of the police call box that Dr. Who uses for time travel AKA, a TARDIS which is an acronym for 'Time and Relative Dimension in Space'.
A Police Call Box cleverly disguising a TARDIS.

I liked the thought of having a place to go in the garden when I'm sick of weeding that might magically transport me away from my troubles, something like a Time and Relative Dimension in Garden?  TARDIG? 

And that was what led me to pick a very TARDIS-y color of paint.  Carl was not sure of my selection at all (and neither am I) but it's only paint and paint can be changed.

Our very own TARDIG.
So, to review, we went from this:

To this:

I will say one thing for the TARDIG, it really stands out. 

Good or bad?  Time will tell.

I will admit, the Thing is different.  And Blue.

But heck, they make a lot of different colors of spray paint.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Last Hurrah of 2015

The furnace has been running more and more steadily tonight which means the temperature outside is dropping.  The weathermen have been warning us Wisconsinites that the party is over, the temperatures will be dipping down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit for the next two nights.

I spent the day in a rather bleak mood, half-heartedly wandering around the garden and sighing a lot.  I know what my problem is; I don't like change.  Last weekend our temperatures were in the balmy 80's; today we struggled in the lower 50's.  I liked last weekend a whole bunch more.

Speaking of last weekend, we had the last wedding of the year here for photography on October 9.  The weather was glorious and the wedding party was in high spirits. 

Partying it up on Quarry Hill
The mosquitoes were biting but that didn't dim the enthusiasm of this crowd.

Best wishes to the couple!

I thought this was a very cute idea.
(Thankfully there were no surprise visits from any raccoons this time.)
Adorable, isn't she?

Bridal party photobombing the couple
Looking back on last Friday; was it really a week already?  Sigh.  There I go again, sighing.

Carl's pipe ball makes a great bouquet holder for weddings.
 So here we are, a week later and the flowers are going to freeze tonight.  I should have gone out and dug up plants and hauled things in that I want to save, but instead I grabbed the camera and took one last look.
Fantastic marigolds from seed, called 'Alumia'  I will be planting these beauties again.

'Alumia Vanilla Cream' is a new marigold for me, and I highly recommend it.  I kept them deadheaded and they rewarded me with a continuous display of flowers.  (They are covered up tonight with rugs, I want to see if they can bloom right up until the snow flies.)

Very tired rudbeckia, one of the 'Cappucino' seed series.

The first time I planted nasturtiums some thirty years ago, they were attacked by some sort of caterpillar which completely destroyed the plants.  I wasn't very experienced with gardening and thought, "Well, if that's what happens to nasturtiums in the garden, I'm never planting them again."  This nonsensical idea of mine went on for a good twenty-five years before I tried them one more time.  Now I could kick myself for being silly.  They are truly fantastic bedding plants, trailing happily wherever they are planted.

And of course, the Bubblegums, still popping blooms out at a breakneck pace.  Petunias are known for their cold hardiness, I would be surprised if the frost knocks them down entirely.  I debated covering them all, but then I came to my senses.

Dwarf spruce, 'Mucronata'
Thing One and Thing Two, not much left here but miscanthus and some very tired hostas.

Marigold 'Inca Orange'
I've been planting the 'Inca' series of marigolds for decades now; they are daylight neutral, meaning they don't decline in flower production when the days grow shorter.

Yes, I know marigolds are common, but I will always have them in my gardens.

I bet she could use a coat tonight.

Heading out to the Quarry and beyond:

The miscanthus really lights up this time of year.

Melampodium 'Melanie'

The little melampodium 'Melanie' plants came up from seed this summer.  Another stellar annual.

I hauled  the Dragonwing begonias and King Tut grasses in these pots to the garage.  Not ready to part with them yet.
Echinacea 'Pink Double Delight'
  Ok, if I keep yakking about all the stuff I'm going to miss, this post will go on forever.  It's getting late, so here's a bunch more random shots.

'Tidal Wave' petunias crawling up and down the hill.
Ok, let's see what's happening in the Quarry:

I turned the Girls loose on the gardens again, there's not much they can destroy now and they love looking for bugs.  The slugs don't stand a chance with this crew.

Shocking red, Celosia 'Fresh Look' is always a beacon.

Carl was working on cutting stone for Castle Aaargh while I moped around in the gardens with my camera.  When he put his tools away for the night he was a bit surprised that I hadn't hauled anything into the garage yet.  I told him I just couldn't commit to digging anything out, but I had no excuse for why I hadn't hauled anything in other than procrastination.  Just before dark we went out and tackled that job together.   

All of the driveway pots are stuffed behind, on top of and around our cars.  There's supposed to be a few good days left next week, so I'll drag the flowers out to the very last minute.

Tomorrow morning we'll have to unbury the cars before we can go anywhere.  But it's worth it to have flowers for a little longer, right?

I don't want to feel blue just yet.

Last of the 'Blue Butterfly' delphiniums
 All too soon, the scenery will change from this:

To this:

I need a little more time to adjust.   Balmy days are gone, but I can still remember them fondly.

Ok, let's get a shovel and start digging those cannas out...........