Sunday, July 31, 2011

Weeds Can Wait, There's Tractors Out There!

We're out there just giving it all we've got to get the garden in shape for the Red Hat group coming here on Monday.  The weeds are just frolicking around the garden, romping and cavorting. Our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to capture the weeds and extricate them from the ground.  Kinda sad to break up their party, but somebody has to do it.

The weather has been hot and muggy and the sweat flows freely, causing us to take mini-breaks in the house, gulping down water and seeking relief in dreaming what our life would be like if we didn't have a garden to tend.  We spent all that fun time exploring other people's gardens earlier in the month, which is something we could do a whole lot more of if we downsized.  But the pesky downsizing is taking a lot of time, too.

Since all work and no play makes Carl and Karen dull people to blog about, I thought I'd let you in on a little secret.  We've been goofing off again.  Look where we went after dark on Tuesday night (yes on a work night....but I made sure to get Carl home before 10:30PM).  

Uh-huh, that's right, Carl and I went to the Fair on Tuesday night!  Oh, this brings back so many memories.  As a kid, we lived for the Outagamie County Fair, it was the highlight of the summer.  My friend Val and I would save up our money and beg one of our mothers for a ride to town.  Then we'd spend a joyous afternoon riding all the rides and having the time of our life.  We didn't eat at the fair, heck no, it was all about the rides. We'd start out small, like the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Scrambler and the Ferris Wheel, and then we'd work our way up to the last ride of them all, The Zipper.

No, that's not the Zipper, but it looks scary enough, doesn't it?  We saved the scariest one for last because if you rode the Zipper first, all the rest of the rides felt like the Merry-go-Round.  (I took these pictures with my cellphone, so Pardon the Blurriness if you would.)
Look at all those people dangling up there.  Years ago, that would have been me. 

NOT Carl, however!  Carl is not into rides in any way, shape or form.  He detests anything he cannot control and continually points out all the rickety looking welds and missing bolts and things he sees as safety issues. I twisted his arm into riding on the Ferris Wheel once in our 38 years together and he literally turned green.  I was seriously scared for him, he didn't look well and nearly crushed my hand as we went round and round, up and down. That was the last time he tried an amusement park ride.   He doesn't mind if I go on the rides alone, though.  He'll stay down on the ground, ready to pick up the pieces as they fall, lol.
The rides sure are pretty at night, and we had such a good time, strolling hand and hand down the midway.  We were way outnumbered by young people, but I felt just as young as any of them, it was just so much fun.  There was a tractor pull going on, too, but we were late for it and didn't feel like spending full admission to see only half of the show, so we just looked at the tractors that were lining up and listened to the roar of the souped-up engines from outside the gate.  It was ok that we didn't go, we both forgot our earplugs.  Dang those tractors are noisy.  I do love a good tractor pull though.  Maybe we'll get going earlier next year. 

For those of you not besotted with tractors, a Tractor Pull is a contest where they take a farm tractor (but nowadays they're modified to have a whole lot more horsepower, heck you couldn't work land with these crazy machines, you'd fly out of the field, lol) and they hook up to a machine called an 'Eliminator' which has a large counter-weight that moves forward as it goes down the track.  As the weight moves closer to the tractor the load increases and the tractor works harder and harder and finally grinds to a stop.  The tractor to pull the longest distance wins.  Sound thrilling?  Ok, so it's not everyone's idea of fun.  It helps if you like tractors, ok, make that love tractors.  And I do.  What follows is a video I found online of a similar tractor pull to the one on Tuesday night at another county fair:

It was better when back in my childhood some of our neighboring farmers would take their regular farm tractors to town and pull a stoneboat (basically a metal sled-like thing) across the ground and there would be men lined up to step on the boat as it was moving down the track to increase the weight the tractor had to pull.  When it was your very own neighbor's tractor you saw working so hard to pull the load, then it was really exciting.  We never took our tractors to town since my dad didn't care to try pulling with our old, littler ones.  It was just a good time to see the neighbors compete.  I'd sit next to Dad in the grandstand and we'd both hold our breath as each man solemnly stepped on to the stone boat as it came his turn.  The tractor driver would rev up his engine slowly but steadily, increasing the RPM's at a rate that wouldn't make the tires spin, but yet give him enough power to pull the rapidly increasing weight.   The tractor would be working harder and harder and the engine would go right down to almost a stall before the boat stopped.  There would be a man with a flag running backward in front of the tractor and he'd wave frantically when there was no more forward progress to tell the farmer to throttle down the engine--that's it, you're done!   Then the men would run out and take the measurements of the pull, and the announcer would relay the distance to the crowd.  Cheers or boos would ensue.  Sometimes tractors simply stalled when the going got tough, or worse, threw a rod.  It was always a guaranteed good time. 

The Farmall tractor in this video is just like the one I grew up driving......and also just like one Joel bought two years ago:
Antique Tractor Pull

 I'd give up a day of weeding in the garden to go to the event shown below---a Tractor Square Dance!  I've never been to one of these, but just watching it on YouTube was fascinating enough, the skill it takes to drive these tractors without crashing into each other is absolutely amazing!  I don't think this has ever been done around here.  Like I said, I'd give up a day of weeding to watch this:

Ok, so enough of the goofing around, we have weeds to pull.  But tomorrow is another Big Deal......the Symco Thresheree and there will be a huge tractor parade and and and............well......guess where I'm going?? 

Something tells me we may have Mad Hatters running around in a weedy garden come Monday.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Photographer: Ann

 Our good friend Ann has been helping us in the gardens for years now.  We owe her a great debt of gratitude. Not too many people would be thrilled to weed and deadhead hostas, rake and haul load after load after LOAD of white pine needles for mulching the flower beds and tote heavy rocks around for nothing.  (And still be our friend!)

This summer, Ann's work schedule hasn't allowed her to be around here as much as last year, but when she has some spare time, she is always willing to lend a hand.  She says working here beats paying for a gym membership. Carl loves to joke that she can have a free workout any time she wants, we will never raise our rates.

Last weekend, Ann was here and so the camera was passed to her hands.  Here is Ann's photo session:
The trumpet vine is still tooting all over the place and making the hummingbirds very happy.
This is why guest photographers have been so much fun, everyone sees the garden in a different way.  I don't think I've ever looked at the trellis from this angle before. 
It was a very hot and muggy day; the coneflowers look really neat against the overcast sky.

The little flowerbed out front.  The tall grass in the middle is 'Northwind'....that is the sturdiest grass I own and very well-behaved.  The red celosias aren't doing much yet, very strange year we've been having.
This bed is a mish-mash of flowers but I'm really liking the 'Double-Click' cosmos this year in amongst the coneflowers and rudbeckias.
Ann captured a photo of David and Screech Kitty...not sure why Dave is holding a tool....maybe Screech needed an attitude adjustment?
'Baby Blue Eye' spruce and 'Magnum' coneflower
Lavatera......going through these photos I was trying to figure out where Ann found this's a volunteer seedling from last year that popped up on it's own.  I think I should plant them again.
My fencepost pots were doing really well last weekend; 'were' being the operative word here, I forgot to water them for two days.....ooooops!  I cut them back and we'll have to see if they make a comeback or not.  
Arizona Sun gaillardia...great performer, keep it deadheaded and it will keep blooming.
'Gold Standard' and 'August Moon' hostas........and yes, they all need deadheading....more on that to come....
OT their fragrance
They really are that tall, too, towers of flowers.
The Woodland Bed with Milton the Rock in the middle.  (Yes, we've named our biggest rocks, too.)
As we stroll through the garden with Ann, I should tell you we've all been hard at work weeding and deadheading.  The humidity has been just oppressive and the only things enjoying the weather besides the plants, are the mosquitoes.  I have a group of Red Hat Ladies coming to see the gardens on Monday (the temps are supposed to be near 90....oh dear, I think they will be wilted Red Hatters) and I don't want them to see a weed patch when they come.
'Forever & Ever' hydrangea--hey, does anyone know?  Am I supposed to deadhead this type of hydrangea or not?  I'm assuming yes until I hear from you.
This is stand of 'George Peabody' cedars and the 'Golden Raindrops' apple tree planted right behind the Stone House-to-be.  Again, an interesting view, one I've never thought of photographing.  See, I highly recommend turning your friends and family loose in your garden with a camera, it's amazing what they see!
Some of the flowers are just starting to bloom well on the East Quarry Hill. 
While the rudbeckias are still going strong on the main hill.
Now here's something I've never taken a picture of before,'s Carl's 'heron' creation made out of old light fixtures and conduit and what-have-you.  
From the Hill...and I use the word 'hill' lightly,'s just as high as we could make it with the old tractor and loader and shoveling by hand.  In other words, Not Very high.
St. John's Wort in the foreground with a tamarack tree on the right, a pair of 'Fat Albert' blue spruce on the left and Blue Butterfly delphinium, coneflowers and a threadleaf coreopsis in the background.
Look!  Ann found a doggie (Pudding) in the weeds.  This bed was weeded less than three weeks ago, unbelievable growth rate with heat and humidity pushing them along.   I told you we have been weeding!  By the way, these weeds are gone now.  You can come and see for yourself, they're history.  I tossed them in the chicken's pen.  Chickens love to eat weeds, did you know that?  Well, not all of the weeds, but they do love to scratch and peck at the leaves and other such parts.  Pudding just likes to walk through them, lol.
Here's a neat contrast of 'Sorbaria Sorbifolia' blooms open and in bud.  The shrub grows much like a sumac, so yup, you're right, it runs around the garden, especially in our sandy soil, but I keep it in check by pulling the runners......still not a plant for those of you who love tidy, well-behaved plants.  The flowers are very fragrant.
Over by the escarpment, more hostas to deadhead......I got these done on Tuesday night.
Down in the Formal Garden here, and we've still not completed the rock work down there.  Ann worked with Carl rebuilding the new wall for the first fifty feet.  Just another sixty feet to go.  Just.
I still have a lot of flowers to remove from the border in front of the wall yet, it's been a slow process.  Once the weedy-looking stuff is gone and the grass is seeded in, this garden should look much better.
The trees sure have grown down in this garden since we built the dome in 2004.  Seven years later, the trees are so much taller.
Twin pillars of flowers...poor planning on my part to have the plant stand so close to the lilies.  The lilies are stealing the show!
'Robina' OT lily
My attempt at a Japanese-look...oh, stop laughing.  I tried.  And the silly begonias don't want to cooperate by spreading out and forming a carpet.  

Here's a before and after picture, courtesy of Ann:  She asked what she could work on while she was visiting and I said the hostas need deadheading, so off she went.  See what I mean, what a wonderful friend!!

She took the before picture:

And the After picture:
This border of hostas is much longer than the photo shows, there are literally hundreds of hostas planted along the 25' stretch, behind and in front of a low stone wall.  She had more than one wheelbarrow of blooms to her credit, too.  (I wonder if she's going to be available this weekend?  There's a whole lot more that need the same treatment.  Ann?  Yoo hoo, Ann??!)
Ann also stealthily stalked Carl and I while we were digging daylilies...I thought I heard something in the shrubbery.  And there's Dave behind us coming around with his camera.  His Guest Photographer spot will be coming up next week.  For some reason, the pictures he took earlier this week didn't turn out.  

Every time I take pictures, I usually have one shot that turns out pretty well.  I think this picture that Ann took is just phenomenal, what a great way to end Ann's Guest Photography session.
I'm linking up with Tootsie's Fertilizer Friday
Check out other blooming beauties from around the world with Tootsie.
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  

And Ann, THANK YOU!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Guest Photographers: Joel

We finally got back to work around here.  I don't remember a year when we have done so much traveling around to visit other gardens as we have this year, and I have to say, it was fun!  However, when the gardener's away, the weeds will play so it's high time to get out the kneepads and the trowel and get to work. 

Joel was home on Sunday for awhile, so I asked him to take some pictures of the yard for me.  I like to have guest photographers because it's always interesting to see what catches their eye.  So, with no further ado, here's Joel's take on the garden:
Coleus (not sure of the name, but it's a nice one, with a sort of draping growth habit)
Waterlilies are still going strong.
It was very humid on Sunday with hazy conditions
Portulaca in planter
Double Pink Profusion Zinnas and Inca Marigolds
'Annabelle' hydrangea and old well pump.
'Chocolate' eupatorium, yellow barberry and 'Gold Drop' hostas on the Quarry staircase
Heirloom daylily 'Kwanso'?
The lilies are really going strong this week
What lily is this?  How often I take the lowly hosta blooms for granted.  They are beautiful in their own right.
I suppose since they bloom in such abundance and because deadheading them is such a chore, I just don't appreciate them as I should.
The bees and hummingbirds appreciate them, though.
After I looked at this picture, I was overwhelmed by how many hosta flowers I have to deadhead, lol.  And this is only a portion of the crop. 

I had moved so many daylilies this spring from the Formal Garden to parts unknown so it's nice to see many of them popping up in their new homes.  I think this one is 'El Desperado'.
Not sure of the name, so 'Pretty' will have to do.

OT Lilies
Standing in this part of the garden right now is I wish Lily Season lasted longer. 
Good ol' Aermotor and Rudbeckia galore
The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) is on this week in Oshkosh...we see lots of planes lately.  Our own private airshow!
More rudbeckia.  All of these have self-seeded this year.  (And no, I'm not complaining.)  Powdery mildew can be a problem with them, though, but thankfully, there are many new seedlings coming up at the same time some need to be pulled out, so they put on a long-lasting show.
Ernie Urn made a good recovery from the storm last week, his 'hair' is almost completely grown back, lol.
New to me this year is this rudbeckia 'Denver Daisy'.  Love the dark black centers.
And last, but not least, is this double-petaled lily, the last of the buds to bloom at the top of the plant. 

My thanks to Joel for being our guest photographer while I was out pulling weeds. 

Up next will be Ann and then Dave's photo shoots. 

Now where was I in this weed patch?