Friday, March 30, 2012

Me, a Groupie?

After all these years I'm finally going to admit to something silly.  I realized yesterday afternoon that I am a bonafide groupie.  Of whom (or is it who?) you may ask.  Ok, when it comes to gardening, my Gardener Extraordinaire Idol would be Adrian Bloom of Bressingham Blooms fame whose garden, 'Foggy Bottom' has always and ever been an inspiration.  I adore his gardening style even though he doesn't use (any?) rocks in his landscaping.  Mr. Bloom lets his plants speak for themselves without the need for stone in the garden.  He doesn't have a rock obsession.

But there's been another idol in my life since the first of the year that has nothing to do with gardening. 

I came to this realization yesterday when I was out by the road tidying up the flowerbed by the mailbox.  I spotted a 'Karl Foerster' grass I hadn't cut back yet.  Since I'd been cutting grasses back all afternoon, my hands were tired of hacking through the stalks with my Felco.  A quick check of my pockets revealed I had a book of matches on me.   Since it wasn't too windy, I got lazy and tried to light the clump on fire.  At first it didn't catch very well, so I decided to check the mailbox before making another attempt.

 (In case you've never burned grasses in the spring, some ornamental grasses, calamagrostis especially, burn VERY aggressively and very quickly, so NEVER burn them near a building or any other trees or plants you don't want destroyed.)

The grass started to burn and then sputtered out.  I was out of matches, so I opened the mailbox and found a package stuffed inside.  At first I wasn't sure it was mine since our sons still have stuff they mail-order for sent to our house.  But then I saw my name on the address label and I remembered--I had put in an advance order for Leslie's latest workout quite some time ago and here it was!

 I went after that envelope with my Felco pruners like a duck on a June Bug; I had to see the newest addition to my stable of workout DVD's.  There she was, on the cover, looking radiant and beautiful.  She's only four years younger than I am, so why, oh why don't I look like her?  Well, part of my problem is I haven't been doing her workouts for the last 25 years like she has.  Just goes to prove, exercise does a body good.  I've only been following in her "Walk, Walk, Walk"-steps for three months, so maybe there's hope for me?  (But in 25 years, (IF I'm lucky) I will be almost 80.....drat, I started too late!)

While I was reading all about what new moves and miles I was going to have access to with this DVD, the grass I'd tried to light on fire suddenly decided to catch with a mighty flare-up and I had to put Leslie safely back in the mailbox and tend to the blaze.  As soon as the grass was burned down and I made sure it was out, I trotted to the house to take a look at the new DVD.  Yes, that's right, in the middle of the day when I should have been continuing on with my gardening, there I was, perched on my exercise ball in front of the TV listening to Leslie's introduction.

Carl was home by this time and came in from the Formal Garden to see what I was doing. 

"Didn't you exercise already today?" he asked. 

Well, yes, I had, so that was why I was only watching and not walking already.   Hey, I don't want to overdo the exercise, I might waste away.  (Ha, ha...)  This is a really neat DVD with a separate walk for Monday through Friday with strength training and stretches and an option to create your own walk by selecting the miles and other workout routines you would like to do.  Very cool.
50 years old this year, can you believe it??  She motivates me!

This morning I did Friday's walk which is five miles with a stretching floor routine at the end. There are a few new moves in this video, too.  I liked it a lot, but there was just one teeny thing I missed.  Usually Leslie walks with people of all ages and body types.  This time the walkers were all young--- as in not yet 30, heck, maybe not even 20, and they are all very, very fit.  I know that's what everyone should aim for, but I did feel like a geriatric ol' granny flapping around my living room.  I cringed thinking how much I'd stick out on this video if they suddenly plopped me into the group.  There wouldn't be any place to hide, they're all way too thin.  Oh well, I kept up fairly well and was, as usual, drenched in sweat at the end of the hour.  Funny how the time has flown, I don't feel very old, but then I see those young girls working out and I have to face the truth.

I'm as old as dirt. 

Last weekend, a local band that used to play rock and roll in the 70's was playing in our small town.  I had heard from a few high school friends who were headed out to dance so I decided to go, too.

Normally, I'm too chicken to do this sort of thing.  

   The band looked as I expected for three guys who are probably nearer to 60 than to 50 and they played well.  Trouble is, I never heard them play back in the 70's because for some reason or other, Carl and I just didn't go to bars back in the day unless there was a wedding or something.   I invited Ann to come along with me.  Carl opted to stay home and solder on the Laburnum lamp.  He would have hated it anyway.  He did offer to lend both of us earplugs before we left and we should have taken him up on it. What the band lacked in youth, they made up for in decibels.  See, I AM old.......does it have to be THAT loud?

Ann and I went to the dance and it was fun; we danced a few songs and then went on home by 11PM.  I've come to the grateful realization that I am not a rock 'n roll groupie.  I had no urge to climb over the railing separating us from the band and accost them as they tried to play.  There was one lady my age who was extremely enthusiastic about them, though.   She was either trying to get over the railing or was practicing a ballet move, I'm not sure which.  After a struggle, she managed to get her leg off the railing and remained on the dance floor.

See, that's how I look when I'm exercising, not a real pretty sight.  That's why it's a good thing I can Walk At Home. 

I don't want to scare my chickens.
   Some things cannot be Un-seen. 

And I'm a groupie of Leslie's, I'll admit it.  She has nothing to fear from me, though, I won't stalk her.  I'll just keep walk, walk, walking as long as I can.  (It's easier now, I've 'misplaced' 21 pounds so far.  I just hope it doesn't find me again!) 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Still Weirded Out

Oh, I'll be ok...I'm just feeling a bit like I fell down a rabbit hole (Alice in Wonderland has nothing on me) by this very early spring and nearly non-existent past winter.

Carl and I have been running in circles already, fretting about all the stuff that needs doing.  But then we catch our breath just a little and remember it's only March and not May.  There might just be enough time to get some pressing stuff done in time for this coming gardening season's activities.

Two weekends ago, Joel was home and helped us put up the greenhouse. Since I'm always complainin' there's so much work to do, why don't we leave it up all the time?  Well, because it's not the most attractive structure in the entire world, that's why and because it's in the driveway for all to see.  We used to put it behind the garage, but that was in the days before my wash-lines were moved to the same spot.  (I know how silly that sounds--- wash-lines?? but hey, I have no dryer, once again, by choice, so cut me some slack, ha.)  The greenhouse is typically in place from mid-March until the first week in June and then it is all packed up and put back in the shed. 

We do have 98 acres here and I suppose we could find a spot for the structure to sit permanently, but then there would be the need for running hoses and electricity all over creation, so, for now, we'll just settle for a nomadic greenhouse. My flower seeds arrived on Monday, so I'll write about my adventures in the greenhouse soon.

This past weekend Carl and I were on our own.  Carl has gone back to work on the stone walls down in the Formal Garden since the frost is out of the ground now and it's rather dry down there.  I went and fetched the tractor from my mother's shed and hauled up rocks for him on pallets from the Back Eight until he took over because he 'knew what rocks he wanted'.   He's very picky, but I'm not complaining.  (Much.)

In the picture below, here we are in the Formal Garden--on either side of the six crab apple trees  planted down there are two calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' grass clumps.  You can just see them starting to green up.  I adore good ol' Karl Foerster for his well-behaved presence in the garden.  There's a total of 24 clumps this size down in this garden, all from one original plant purchased years ago and it's time to split them again. 

We were running around wondering where we could use them to their best advantage but haven't thought of anything just yet so maybe they will be spending another year in their current home.  We were on a garden tour years ago and the gardeners used a row of ornamental grasses in the middle of their lawn (much like our River Bed of annuals) and it was stunning.  If we're going to do something with them, it would be best to move and divide the clumps now before they grow a lot more.  We never thought we'd have to worry about March being too late in the season, though!

One thing that surprised both of us was the fact we lost some trees this past winter.  Of all things, four Dwarf Alberta Spruces and so far, two Mugho Pines....both of which are hardy to at least -25 or more. 

We were completely stumped by why we lost these two trees which are over ten years old.  There is no wind in this area and they have never winter-burned due to the sheltered location.   Just beyond these two dead trees are three more healthy specimens and then we have six more of them down by the dome itself which were planted about fifteen years ago...

I know Dwarf Alberta Spruces are not everyone's cup of tea due to their being so common and their problems with red spider mites and tendency to winter burn, but they were cheap when we planted them and they do make a statement when they're having a good year.  It's just a shame to lose them after growing them from a 6" tall tree.  These by the dome are over 6' tall now.

In this picture, you can see that the Dwarf Alberta Spruce survived the winter just fine, but the Mugho Pines are dead and dying. 

I had some dwarf Albertas planted at my mother's house and hers have died also.  Every needle is brown.  I wonder if it's because of the warm winter we had.  Is it possible the trees never really went dormant and then when the ground did freeze, they died due to lack of moisture?  I guess it's just one of those mysteries we'll never know the answer to.  It's just weird to lose trees rated to Zone 3 and below when we had such a mild winter.

Another casualty to the shrub list was this poor Bird's Nest Spruce.  There is a teeny, tiny bit of green left right in the middle, but I don't have high hopes for this poor shrub, either.  Strange, isn't it?  Who would think a winter could be too warm?

 Some of the newer shrubs we planted last summer have come through with flying colors.  I cannot for the life of me remember the name of this has yellow and green leaves, but it was one I had my doubts about.  When I think of it, I'll let you know (ah, advancing age!).....but I was amazed to see it had pulled through.  At least, as long as we don't go way below zero again after it has completely leafed out!

We have some weddings coming again this summer with a ceremony being planned here, so we have to get the Formal Garden done for certain.

Despite the warm winter, the floor in the Dome has heaved up again with the frost, so we have to fix it.  Carl was staring at the job on Sunday when I snapped this picture.  He was not amused.  We'll have to pull up all the pavers and re-level the floor out again.  It's not a difficult job, really, just time-consuming and one more thing on the List. 

Over the winter, I let the sedums and grasses stand for Winter Interest, but now winter is done and gone and the sedums are growing like crazy, so I finally got my act together on Sunday and cleaned out the Escarpment Bed.  Carl went out and brought up some pine needle mulch from the Back Eight, so we have one bed done.  (In March?  I'm telling you, this is bizarre.)

Ann stopped in on Sunday to see if she could lend us a hand or two.  As always, of course we found something for her to do.  Actually, she suggested it......would it be alright with us if she skimmed the Quarry Pond? 

Would it be alright???  Ah, yes, it would be Fantastic!!  The pond was in need of drastic help.

Soon Ann was seated in a kayak and using one of our canoes as a 'bucket, she was scooping up the winter's debris of floating leaves and other gunk.  This job took her a few hours; we're so Fortunate to have her help.

When Ann was done, we had a sparkly pond surface. 

We ended the night with a bonfire of all the debris I had collected during the day.
The temperature dropped very quickly on Sunday night; we were working in our shirtsleeves all day but by early evening, out came the winter coats.   The dried ornamental grasses burn rapidly and make a good fire starter for damp campfire wood.

I'm still amazed at how many flowers are open in March.  This is truly a record.  I almost hate to see them so soon since it means they'll be gone before I know it.

I guess all we can do is enjoy what we have, right?

Carpe Diem.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rocks on the Move

 Ouch, we're both feeling some forgotten muscles again tonight.  The madness begins again, it's gardening season once more. 

This past week's weather was very, very warm for us here in Wisconsin.  Records were broken with temperatures in the 80's.  Being outside gardening in short sleeves and finding ourselves sweating in March was unbelievable.  This turn of events makes me nervous, I still fear we're going to pay for it somehow or other.  Luckily we've had no severe weather at all.  In fact, we could use some rain.

Daffodils are opening up all over the place and Willie the Willow is almost completely leafed out.  I have leaves unfurling on my rose bushes and the wild cherry trees are blooming in the woods.  Today I noted some of our hostas are sending up their shoots, too.  This is way too early and could be disastrous if we go back to our normal temperatures.  

This week we decided to get the twenty+ tons of rocks off of the lane where I'd had them dumped in the beginning of March.  For the last three days Carl and I plodded away at hoisting the stones we could handle by hand on pallets.  The bigger rocks we loaded right onto the forklift teeth of the 574 and hauled to the back yard.  We're still not sure where they're all going yet, but we have a few plans in the making.  Joel and Allison stopped in tonight and with their help we were able to get the last of the rocks moved.  The lane is very muddy, but we only got stuck once.  (That's the beauty of owning more than one tractor, there's two more in the shed and if they all get stuck, well, then we have neighbors we can call.) 

The big rock in the near middle of the above picture was the last one we moved at dusk tonight.  Carl and I wandered all over the garden trying to find THE perfect spot for it.  A rock this size can only be dragged by our equipment; none of our tractors are big enough to actually lift it.  We guesstimate this rock to be over three tons.  There were places in the yard it would look just great in, but we couldn't get to them without ruining the garden by driving the tractor in first.  So we had to settle for what turned out to be a fairly good site in the hosta garden in the end.

The way we move really big rocks is either with our old hand-cranked wrecker or with the other tool in our arsenal, a flashy, red Pontiac Grand Prix car hood.   Luckily for us, with me driving the 574 and Carl shouting out directions, the big rock obeyed and tipped over neatly onto the car hood.  This has to be one of the best behaved big rocks we've ever handled.

 It was getting dark when I took this picture hence the blurriness, but there's Allison, Carl and Joel watching the big rock slide off down the lane.  Joel was just ready to make a sharp left-hand turn here.

And, unfortunately, that's when the big rock decided it didn't want to ride along on the car hood anymore.

It tipped over and the chains slipped off.  

Aww.  Phooey.

Carl to the rescue with the chains.  He is so good at rock-rigging, but then, he's had a lot of practice over the years around here.

By this time, it was really getting dark so we gave up on the car hood and just let the rock drag on the lawn behind the tractor. 
Bye-bye hood!

Slowly but surely we rounded the corner.....

 Joel managed to get over far enough so there was room to unhook the rock and still get the tractor out of the area without knocking over the stone walls on the other side.  The metal stakes you can see beyond the rock are hostas, so we have to be careful not to bury anything.

Carl unhooked the chains and then Joel was able to tip the rock back upright again.  I think this was the easiest rock of this size that we've ever moved.  The whole process only took about 30 minutes.  That's a record for us.

Joel was able to turn the tractor around without a problem and then pushed it back into the hosta bed a little more from the other direction.  We'll be making minor adjustments to placement in the time to come, but for now, it's good right where it is. 

There we have it, the first big job of the season accomplished. 

See, this adds to my workout; yup, I'm still walking with Leslie every morning and weight-training with the rocks the rest of the day.  

And it's only March.

 Oh, boy..............pass the horse liniment.

(Our heartfelt thanks to Allison and Joel for all their help!!)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Middle of March Already?

I just do not know where the time goes.  In trying to turn over a new leaf in this life of mine, I've been attempting to reform myself from a Night Owl to a non-feathered person who goes to bed at a respectable time.  Unfortunately, going to bed early cuts into my time for writing and also for reading the blogs of all my fellow gardeners which I love to follow.  I know an earlier bedtime is better for my health, but sheesh, I sure miss everyone!
The only flowers in our garden, and yes, they are over the septic tank, lol.

I try to get up with the chickens every morning, but I know they are up long before I get the coop door open.
Ebony is enjoying the warm March weather.

The mornings are completely taken up with my exercising.  Yes, I'm still 'walk, walk, walking' with Leslie every day for an hour. The pounds are coming off, very slowly to be sure, and though I doubt I will become a skinny-mini anytime soon, I do feel better.  I have one of those fancy-shmancy pedometers that keeps track of mileage and so far since the first of January I've walked 489 miles, which kinda surprised me until I realized it averages out to about seven miles a day.  489 miles sounds much more impressive than it really is.

I've been working on stretching on a daily basis too, and found a book called 'Pain Free' by Pete Egoscue.  The Egoscue method is not a new trend, it's been around for quite some time, but it is new to me.  I have a tendency to walk with my feet everted (like a duck) which causes foot and knee pain and my posture isn't too great either.  We gardeners all know how physically demanding gardening is, so these exercises are helping me to become more flexible and strengthen muscles which had long ago gone missing.
Estella knows the pain won't just go away.  You can run, but you can't hide from sore muscles.

The only problem with stretching exercises is the amount of time it takes-- over an hour, but I have to look at this from the standpoint of how it will help in the long run instead of fretting over things I coulda shoulda woulda be doing while I'm stretching instead.  I've never been to one of the Egoscue clinics, but for around $10, I bought the book that illustrates the 'E-cises' recommended for every ache and pain in the human body. I've been doing them for about a month now, and though I'm not completely 'pain-free' I'm doing a lot better than I was.  The first exercise I tried for foot pain was amazing, and so simple.  I didn't think it would help, but it surely did. So, now you know what's been taking up so much of my time.

So, enough about that......oh, last week was my birthday and just looky here at what showed up coincidentally!

This dump truck full of (you guessed it) ROCKS arrived earlier this month.  Oh, be still my heart.  Our excavator friend was digging a basement about 40 miles away and hit a bunch of big rocks and called me to find out if we wanted them.  Duh!  Of course we did.  For the cost of the hauling, we are the proud owners of yet more rocks.

 I know.  We're nuts.

Since the lane was still snow-covered and slushy, we decided to have the rocks dumped on the end of our second driveway. 
This big granite rock was the first one out of the truck.  When Carl came home I had him pose in front of it. 
That's my shoe for comparison.  Yes, that's right, I was standing around in stocking feet taking these pictures.  (Note to self: the ground is squishy in the Spring.  Ewwww....)

This warm weather is so bizarre for us here in Wisconsin.  I'm very uneasy.  I know I should be celebrating the warmth and yes, it's nice, but I don't trust it.  Bulbs are popping up, trees are budding out but I'm afraid it's too soon.  We could still have snow for another month yet, in abundance, and some very cold weather.  I sure hope I'm wrong, but Winter doesn't usually give up without a fight up here.  I hope the plants keep that in mind too.  We've had years where the daffodils and even some early tulips were all up and blooming only to have a heavy, wet snow plop on them and flatten everything out, not to mention what an intense cold snap can do to tender green leaves.  Maybe this year will be the exception....maybe not.  Last year in April we were treated to over a foot of snow on the 17th and it lasted for almost two weeks on the ground.  Talk about a late spring!  This coming week we are expecting temperatures in the upper 70's.  The pessimist in me says we'll pay for it.  Let's hope I'm wrong.

Carl had a burst of Spring Fever tonight and since Joel was here to help, they set to moving the rocks around and putting them on pallets.  Eventually we have to get the lane clear so we can drive back there to work on the yard, though right now, it's a muddy mess.
The 574 was put to work hauling rocks up to the house.  We don't know where else to put them until the yard is dry enough to drive on, so we're making piles all over the place.

Carl and Joel worked on the rocks until dark tonight.  It's a lot bigger pile than we thought.  We're not sure where we're going to use these new additions, but I'm sure some idea will materialize.  In particular, the big granite rock is just begging to be placed somewhere special.

We could get back to work on Castle Aaargh as long as the weather is cooperating, but we have to keep in mind the possibility of frost and fresh mortar.  Maybe we're too cautious, but we'd rather be safe than sorry.  I finally ordered all of my annual seeds this week, so pretty soon they will be arriving in my mailbox.  I usually don't plant anything until the first of April, which I know sounds late, but I've found it works out well enough.  We're thinking about setting up the greenhouse this weekend and then I could be getting the flats filled with potting mix. Putting up the greenhouse is a big job and will take the better part of a day to do.  Despite the work involved, I like to take it down when it's not in use.

 The crocus in the River Bed have formed a close knit colony.  I should plant more crocus.  I say that every year, but do I remember to in the fall?  No.  Maybe this year.

Something else sprouted up in the River Bed.

What is it?  And is that a chicken impaled on it??

No chickens were harmed by the Alien Allium-replica.  Carl welded this stainless steel allium sculpture for me for Valentine's Day this year.  It looks really neat with raindrops clinging to it and encrusted with frost or snow.  He has plans to make a few more of these in his spare time.

And speaking of spare time, NO the laburnum stained glass shade is still not done yet.  We got sidetracked with all the warm weather and rocks arriving and this, that and the next thing.  Carl has it nearly all on the form though and hopes to solder this weekend.
Here he's putting the top row of glass on the form.

Joel set up the time lapse camera for this process and when we have it ready, I'll post it.  It's fun watching the pieces all appear on the form as if by magic.

So, there you have it, this is what's been going on around here.  Over the next few days I hope to get around to see what's going on with everyone else and play catch up.

I need to utilize all my time.  (Oh, boy, it's much for early to bed.)

Maybe if I got a personal trainer, exercise wouldn't take me so long?

(And yes, alas, I still have more in common with the Walrus than the cute little trainer.)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Almost there

I'm back!  Thank you all for the good wishes on my cold.  I'm happy to say the worst is definitely over and I'm almost back to what constitutes normal for me.  

I hope everyone held on through the violent weather of the last few days.  We were so lucky to only have snow; my heart goes out to those who have lost so much in the recent tornadoes and severe weather.

We're still hard at work on the Laburnum shade in the stained glass studio down in the basement.  This pattern is 1,986 pieces of teeny, tiny glass.   I tried to mix up the colors of the laburnum clusters a little to suggest shadows and depth, but I'm not sure I've got it right.  When it comes to color on these shades, I'm the only one to blame since the color scheme is my sole domain and responsibility.  Carl and Joel both say they're color-blind.  I might be, too, for all I know.  Oh, well, fake it til you make it, right? 
Unlit Laburnum on plexiglass waiting to see if it looks OK.

We're all done cutting and grinding and foiling each piece.  Now it comes down to whether the shading is right or not.  This is the worst part for me; I second-guess myself constantly.  For awhile this afternoon I was ready to dump one entire repeat (660 pieces) because I wasn't sure it was working.  Now I've calmed down a bit after Carl and I moved some darker and lighter flower clusters here and there in the design.  There's still some recutting to do, but I think we're getting closer to putting it on the mold.

 So much depends on the placement of light bulbs and the color temperature of the light source.  Daylight bulbs will light up one spectrum of the glass, and cool white yet another. 
 Here's just a bunch of random pictures of the shade, here and there while holding a lightbulb under the piece of plexiglass the pattern is mounted on.
 I'm not sure if the darker clusters are TOO dark or not.

The background glass is royal blue fading out to purples.  I hope it shows up well when the shade is soldered.
I emailed these pictures to Joel in a panic, I wanted to know what he thought about the difference in the shading.  He thought it looked good enough to go, his exact words were, "Get it on the form and let's start soldering."

One thing I've learned since we started making stained glass lamps is this, They Always Look Different Off the Form.  The problem with that fact is once they're off the form, they are soldered together.  Oh, you can still change pieces out if you really have a problem with the way they look, but it's a whole lot more work, involving breaking the glass and a sweat all at the same time.  Best case scenario is to do it right the first time before the glass is put on the form.
I'm off to obsess over this pattern some more.  This is the only shade we've worked on this winter, and we're looking forward to seeing it finished.

Stay of these days (hopefully) I'll be posting pictures of the completed project.