Welcome reader to my blog - a mixture of this and that. Now that we are living in a retirement community in downtown Columbia, MD my personal gardening activities are somewhat curtailed. I still enjoy visiting gardens, reading, watching wildlife on my walks, traveling, and occasional food commentary. Please leave a comment if you feel inspired to do so. I read every one of them.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Book Finished

I don't get to do much reading for pleasure doing the school year so when brief stints of vacation roll around I try to pick up a book. I had heard about Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Relin from my former pastor. She gave an inspiring sermon based upon the book and then started the Pennies for Peace campaign among the congregation. I had put the book on my list to read but hadn't gotten to finding a copy. Before Christmas I was speaking with a friend and she had just finished the book and offered it to me to read. I finished it yesterday. It's an amazing story of dedication and selflessness in this world of materialism. If you haven't read it, I hope you will.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Suet Feeder

Several weeks ago I bought a suet feeder which I hung off a birdfeeder. I filled it with a suet block that contained red pepper to discourage the raccoons and squirrels. Within two days the suet feeder was gone. Totally gone. No evidence that it had ever been there except for a few links of chain.

Last weekend I bought a new one when I went to Wildlife Authority, my local source for bird seed. More about them in a bit. They had one left that was a cage within a cage. The outside cage allows the birds to get into the inside cage filled with suet. The bottom allows the woodpeckers to cling to it and get to the suet. To discourage any marauders I bought a long hook and then hung it from a high tree branch. If the squirrels comedown to it they won't get into it because of the caging. It's too high for the raccoons.

When Emily comes later this week for Christmas I hope she'll get a picture for me of the red bellied woodpecker clinging to the bottom eating suet.

As to my favorite bird store, I'm afraid they may be going under in these tough times. They had everything on sale for 20% off except seed and looked to be liquidating all of their existing stock, with no new stock replacing it. I got the last suet feeder of its kind when I went last weekend. I hope they can hang on.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fox Sightings and Other Visitors

Last Wednesday I was seated at this laptop when movement caught my eye. I looked up and saw a lovely red fox walk through my backyard along the edge of the glen. It stopped under my new suet feeder and sniffed up at it. It won't get any closer than that (but that's the subject of another blog) and then veered off over the edge of the glen.

About ten minutes later the same thing happened again, but this time the fox was moving faster as though it was chasing the first fox.

Yesterday morning I looked out the bedroom window at the backyard and there was the fox again trotting along the edge of the glen from west to east. I called for Dan to come see and as we watched the fox veered to its left and came up on the deck, lifted its leg and marked the upright beam with its urine! It continued on the deck and Dan speculated it was going to do the same thing to the other beams, but we lost sight of it as it continued east our sight obstructed by the rest of the house.

The other visitors have been the regulars: birds and deer. The latter I just chased away from my English laurel bushes. They were having a fine breakfast out there. I didn't think they liked to eat those kinds of leaves. I haven't seen any evidence of them eating there before. But why am I surprised? They eat anything that's green.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tree Trimmed

The house is decorated and ready for Christmas.

Each year the mantle has a new variation.


One year Emily or Sarah received these Father Christmases to paint. I've added some more to them. I suppose whoever's they are will want them back some day?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Egg Ornaments


In 1991 every time I used an egg I would blow out the insides rather than crack it open. I gathered at least 6 dozen eggs this way. Sarah and Emily were 5 and 10 then and they undertook the project of painting the eggs as ornaments with me before Christmas. Our tree that year was covered with egg ornaments.

Since that time I don't always put these ornaments on the tree but do like to display them on a smaller one. This year I purchased a better looking small fake tree. Here is my egg tree this year with a close up on some of the ornaments.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Untrimmed Tree

We have enjoyed cutting Christmas trees over the years. Last year we found this place in Carroll County that had a wide assortment of trees. They discounted trees when trees were the last ones in the parcel and they wanted them cut so they could plant new in the spring. Dan and I went back there on Saturday. We found a tree that stands at least 10 feet tall that was marked $29. Others of that height were $92. We think ours was marked down because it had a yellow hue next to the other trees. For us, it fit the price, was the right size and shape. Here at home its looks green.

Here is is untrimmed.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

First Snow


It snowed last night for the first time this December. We were to go out to a party last night but we called with regrets. Our driveway is extremely steep and though we'd have gotten down we wouldn't have gotten back up safely. Fortunately the drive faces south and the sun is just now warming the dark pavement and melting the snow for us.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Bench part 2


Emily sent a picture of the bench in its new location in their home.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Apple Pie




I decided to take a page from my daughter's blog Greens and Jeans and post pictures of the apple pies I made.

Two of them I took to a dinner gathering of some people from church. They were a hit. One gentleman even asked that I make them for the church auction in the spring. The third pie is for dinner this afternoon.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What's with these deer?

Yesterday was "put away the garden for the winter day" at our house. For me that meant taking down the variety of angels and chicken wire fencing and other garden art. In doing so I noticed the plants that the deer have been nibbling on, many of which are on their "don't eat" list: columbine, iris, and garlic! I couldn't believe that they nipped off the slender shoots of the garlic cloves I planted last month. Garlic is included in the liquid fence and deer out sprays I've used. I know it was the deer and not the ground hog because their hoof prints were all through the bed.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Birds Return

This morning at breakfast I noticed the juncos or snowbirds have returned. They've found my birdfeeders and are busy eating all the sunflower scraps dropped on the ground. Later in the winter they will master flying to the feeders and eating there, too.

The red bellied woodpecker has also reappeared. Haven't seen it all summer.

Other birds stopping by are the chickadees and titmice (which think they own the feeders), nuthatches, goldfinches (now greenish) and mourning doves.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Surprise in the Backyard

Several weeks ago I mentioned to Dan that since we had taken down the one dead pine tree, he may want to consider taking down the other one. He said he would if he had to gas up his chain saw for any reason. Well, the wind took care of the tree for us.

I arrived home today and was looking at the pond to see how full all the rain had filled it. Glancing beyond the pond I realized that the landscape had changed. The tree had fallen.
With the ground saturated and the tree being dead, I imagine a strong gust took it down. The two birdhouses that had hung from the tree were easily within reach and saved. I'll have to find new spots to hang those next spring.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bluebirds

Glanced out the window and there was a bluebird perched at the hole of the wren house. I hadn't seen one around here in a long time. Then another flew onto the branch above. Then a third one and a fourth one. They were all males. What did I owe this visit to? Now they're gone!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blooms in the Garden



The first frost is not far away and this plant which I never can remember the name of has decided to finally give off its best blooms.









The lavender is blooming too. Doesn't it look nice against the red leaves of the blueberry bush?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October 11th

Took a walk to the mailbox by way of the glen. I hadn't been down there in a long while. A stick accompanied me so I could take out the cob webs, but it also served to flick the sticks in the pathway to the side. You know the time of year is fall because even though there are many green leaves, there are more and more yellow leaves among the towering tulip poplar trees.

It was this time of year (September 99) that we purchased this property. I remember walking the property with Dan and he was recovering from a nasty bite that he got in Glacier Park. He probably shouldn't have been hiking through the woods with his infection, but that was never anything that would stop him. Emily would have been just delivered to college earlier in the month. The stateliness of the poplars in the glen then were awe inspiring. They still are. Sorry I don't have a picture to include. I'll have to take one tomorrow.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Goldfish

All of a sudden my goldfish population has increased. There are small 1 inch fish in there that are black, or gold and white, or just all gold. The larger ones must have had offspring. We have had lots of rain so the water has been clear. That is until I waded in there to remove and clean the filter on the pump. This picture is the best I could do to show how many I now have.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fox Sighting

On my walk down my driveway this morning I saw a fox ahead of me. He saw me so headed up the bank. He changed his mind and headed down the drive ahead of me and around the bend. When I came around the bend he was waiting farther ahead on the look out for me. He then took off into the woods.

This evening I happened to look out my study window and there was a fox, same one? I don't know. I managed to get these pictures. We couldn't figure out what there was to eat in the gravel. In the grass he seemed to be catching crickets or grasshoppers.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mystery Plant


Three weeks ago we started noticing a plant blooming in the wetlands away from the driveway. I used my binoculars to look at it to see what it was. We first thought it was a butterfly bush, but realized the leaves and blossoms were wrong for that. Finally my husband waded into the tall grass and briars to spray bittersweet, briars and mile a minute and picked a stalk of the plant.

Does anyone know what it is? Is it an aster?

Birds are back.

During the summer I took down the birdfeeders because the deer were making them a regular stop. As a consequence I didn't see any chickadees or titmice all summer. The woodpeckers flew through occasionally as did some goldfinch. When I put back up the feeders I wondered how long before the birds found them again. They must have been keeping watch because they were back the very next day. So how do they know? Do they communicate that with each other and between species?

This is the nest of the wren who built it in my hanging plant. It's like a little cave.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Projects


I've been struggling with where to move hostas. They just didn't do well where I had them for the last three summers.

Here's where they've been. You can see the holes where I moved some out earlier.







Here's another picture showing them moved out.


Here's where I moved them to. It doesn't look like much now, but I think the hostas will be happier on the edge of the woods.












My hanging baskets are now in full sun with the sun's position in the sky moving to the south every day. Being back at work means I don't get to water them daily as I had to all summer. I was going to compost the whole thing, but the geraniums looked to healthy. So I trimmed off the verbena and the other plant whose name I don't know and left the geranium. It can stand to have a dry pot.


This is the other hanging basket already trimmed. It looks happier already.














Caught this moth on the water hyacinth. Here are the goldfish that live in this pond.

















My final project of the day was to dig up a hydrangea that never has bloomed - too much pruning by the deer. I didn't have the heart to
throw it away so I moved it to a new location near a stone wall and planted this volunteer butterfly bush in it's place. I know the butterfly bush should be happier since it was growing in the rocks along my driveway. It doesn't look very happy in this picture but eventually it will be attracting butterflies from far and wide as it grows overlooking the pond.















Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eyes in the Compost Bin

I took the pail of kitchen scraps to the compost bin tonight, opened the lid, and there were two eyes staring at me. It was a mouse in my compost. I didn't know that he was part of the composting chain. He must be attracted by the seeds of the cantaloupe or squash or watermelon.

We are low on rain here and hoping for some tonight.

The deer have discovered they like to eat impatiens. I had some full plants that are now only stalks. They also decided to eat the leaves of the purple cone flower despite it being enclosed in chicken wire. I guess their necks are longer than I thought and they reached in there to nibble.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Waking to Chomps

The radio was softly playing at 5:50 this morning to gently wake me up. But what was that other sound? Not coming from the radio, but from outside. Chomping sounds.

I jumped out of bed and looked out my window into my perennial bed. Arghh! The doe and her two fawn were there having their morning feast. I clapped since they couldn't see me in the dawn light. They bounded off. I haven't gone out to assess what damage they've done. I can only guess. Time for more liquid fence.

When I came to the other end of the house I realized the sound of the fountain in the pond wasn't audible. I bet the fawn was in there again and knocked it over. I'll have to put on my boots this morning to right it. It can wait until I finish my tea and my walk for the newspaper.

Is there hope for a garden in deer territory? This is the end of my third summer here in these woods and I still feel like I'm losing the battle to the deer. I wonder if my plants will ever get to the size where a little bit of nibbling won't matter.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Late August Blooms


I was watering this evening and spied a lovely bright goldfinch. First it perched on an old stem of a day lily near my pond. Then it flew to the Russian sage and perched there. I hoped it would stick around until I got the camera, but it was gone. I took these pictures instead.

Here is a crepe myrtle that I got from the Arbor Day Foundation as a twig. Originally it was planted with the other 10 trees I received two years ago. Only three survived and when this one bloomed last year I knew what it was. I moved it this spring to this location and look forward to it growing much taller.

The butterfly bushes are loaded with new blooms. There were no butterflies on these this evening, but Sarah saw some today. One in particular caught her eye because it was so tiny.

This year I opted not to dehead the spent blooms. The bushes are so big. For awhile I was regretting my decision because they seemed to be covered only with spent blooms. Now they are back to being full and fragrant with new flowers.




Here are some black-eyed susans that the groundhog did not find. These came from my old house in Columbia. I returned there once we moved into this house and dug up some lily of the valley that had come from Dan's grandfather's home many years before. In digging up those I got a clump of these too. They make a great combination because they bloom at different seasons.
















Finally, here is a blossom on one of my two hydrangeas. The first time this bloomed it was pink. Now it's blue. Must be from some fertilizer I gave it who knows when. It's on the backside of the bush so the deer can't see it to eat it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nature Preserve

I am living in a nature preserve. This morning on my walk to and from the mailbox to get the morning newspaper I flushed a total of ten deer, two of which were fawns and at least four of which were bucks with good antlers growing. Later as we drove out the doe and her two fawns were again by the roadside. The Prius is so quiet that they don't run when we come. They can't smell us in the car, so it's a "who blinks first" game to see who will turn away first.

I haven't sprayed my garden with liquid fence for awhile. I'll have to see tomorrow afternoon what they have been eating there and elsewhere in the yard.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

School

I'm back at school for another year. I'd much rather be in my garden or on my porch reading a book. There's a flowering plant in my wetlands that I want to examine more closely, photograph and post here. I won't have time for any of that until the weekend now that school has started again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Books Started

I found myself starting a lot of books this week, but for one reason or another put them down unfinished.

"Dreaming Water" by Gail Tsukiyama - loaned to me by a friend. I read the first chapter and found it extremely sad. Not an emotion I wanted to dwell upon as I face my youngest daughter's departure for China in less than a month.

"Scarlett" by Alexandra Ripley - I picked this up at a book sale in Springfield, VT this summer. It's one I thought I'd wanted to read for a long time. I read the first two chapters and found that Scarlett was complaining and whining the whole time. Not what I remember about Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" for which this is supposed to be the sequel.

"Dreams from My Father" by Barack Obama - I bought this in Chester, VT this spring thinking I wanted to know more about the person I plan to vote for. After reading four chapters I have information on his childhood background and don't want to know about the flaws of his youth. It's going back on my bookshelf.


"Where Angels Fear to Tread" by E. M. Forster - I purchased four novels in one volume. They included "Room with a View" (the movie I've seen), "Howard's End" (which I've read). I thought I hadn't read "Where Angels..." but as I got into it I realized I had and I was thinking why had I read it before? I really don't like it. That leaves me one novel in the volume "The Longest Journey" which I don't think I'll try just yet.

"This I Believe" - based on the NPR series. I started this last night. Maybe I'll finish it, maybe I won't.

The Bounty of a CSA

I belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) called Breezy Willow Farm.

Usually I only get half of the produce because I split it with a friend. She's out of town so I've been getting all of it. Here's a picture of the tomatoes I got. Aren't the pear shaped ones darling? I also got corn, peaches, cantaloupe, peppers, cucumbers, squash, eggs, bread, and all the basil I wanted to cut.

If you are interested in supporting local food production, I encourage you to check out what CSAs are available in your area.
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