Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lucky That Way

I don't think I've ever posted twice in one day on this blog but I just had to this time.  I can't contain myself.  I found out today that I won tickets to The Antiques Roadshow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Technically, Allen won tickets, but I am going or he will suffer the consequences for the rest of his life!!  There are a few tickets available that you can buy, but they are horribly expensive.  Or, you can put your name in the drawing and if you win you get 2 tickets for free.  I registered myself of course, and then also Allen, for better odds.  They do not notify you if you win but you can go to the Antiques Roadshow website after a certain date and check to see if you won.  I checked for myself first and was crushed that I had not been picked.  I've tried for years to go to this thing.  So, I checked for Allen and sure enough, he won.
I've already picked out what we'll be taking.  A couple of the pieces are ceramics, as you might expect.  Each ticket holder gets to bring 2 items and no more.  The show I applied for is in Birmingham thankfully, so it won't be too far.  In the past I've applied as far away as Washington DC, so it was really cool to get picked for the show here.  Yaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy!!!!  I'm SO excited!!!!!  Can you tell?????
 I am SO excited!!!!!!!  And I've got to meet that Yankee jeweler guy.  You know, the one with the dark hair and that great New York accent.  Be neat to meet the Keno brothers too.  I am SO excited!!!!!!  I may not sleep much tonight!!!!  Eeeeekkkk!!!!!

April Storms

 I had a few people contact me about the storms last night so I thought I'd do a quick post to let ya'll (who might be interested) know we are fine.  It got interesting about 11:00 last night as we had one storm showing rotation heading just about right for us and a larger storm just south.  They both passed just on either side of where I am, leaving us in the clear.  There was some damage outside of town but it seemed to be mostly trees; I don't think there were any houses or buildings damaged.  It was enough however, to take our power out for about 8 hours though.  It's obviously back on now and I'm grateful for that.  Thank you for ya'll's concern and looks like we get to go though it all again this afternoon.  Yay.
Edit:  I just found out there were some houses damaged in the area but no one was killed.  Thank goodness.

One of my favorite gardening hacks is to wait until right before a rain to plant or transplant anything.  I hate hauling water for that, so I let the storms water them in for me.  My tea plants have not done so well where I first planted them, so I moved 2 down to an area I hope will be better for them.  It's shady and stays more moist, which I think is what they were lacking.  It's not wet and boggy though so I don't think they'll be too wet.  If you are wondering about the pink tape, that is to keep Allen from mowing down or pulling up anything before it gets big enough he knows what it is. I learned this long go when men were anywhere around.

I finally got a decent photo of this iris.  It's just a lone specimen in a clump of day lilies.  I have no recollection of planting this, especially where it is.  I'm okay with it though.  Maybe it will make more.

Of course, Zuzu was right with me the whole time.  When she sees the shovel come out she snaps into action.  Actually, that chicken never slows down and no matter how I try to sneak around and plant something she knows somehow and here she comes running.  I don't mind though.
This is one of my flower areas that I've been really trying to develop lately.  Lots of iris, trillium, hosts and lilies on the edge where they can get some sun.  I think it's coming along nicely.  This is down near one of the wet weather steams and I'd like to get it so naturalized with lilies and such that it does not need to be mowed or anything.

Many of the fruits are starting to come on now such as the blueberries.  They made it through the storms fine also.  Looks like we'll have a bumper crop this year.  Strawberries too.

And maybe even cherries!!  I know this is a crappy picture so forgive me.  It was getting kinda dark from the approaching storms and so the exposures were not the best.  I'll be so excited though, to get some cherries if these stay on.  I've got to get another one of these trees.

The spring garden is progressing nicely.  I noticed yesterday that the broccoli is starting to form heads.  Behind that and the cabbage etc. is garlic and the snow peas.  They are beginning to inch their way up the trellis I made for them.  The potatoes are doing good too.
I've been harvesting various lettuces and asparagus already.  Man is that stuff good!  Had some last night for supper in fact.  I really need to add to that bed also.  I can't adequately get my asparagus fix with the amount of plants I have now.
I have planted a few tomatoes and peppers but decided to hold off on the bulk of the tomato plants.  They were predicting the possibility of large hail with these storms and I figured another day or two not planted won't matter, rather than risk them being beat to pieces.

I hope you all have made it through the storms fine if you live in any of the areas affected.  April is the worst month in Alabama, I think, for tornadoes but we only have a little more to go. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pleasant Valley Sunday

 I had intended on having more photos from my walk with Chigger this morning but when we got back to the house and dowloaded them I saw that my camera had apparently been acting up and lots of them were out of focus.  Oh, for a good SLR camera once again.  Maybe one day.  I have always loved the blood red azaleas, which are kinda hard to find around here, but I did manage to procure a few last year.  And, I was a tad skeptical if they were actually going to be deep, deep red, as the tag said, but they did not disappoint.

 We are about to get hit with some very strong storms now, so I'm not going back out to try to get more photos.  These few with have to do.

For the last few years I have been diligently clearing the poison oak, privet and other manner of weeds away from this stand of ferns and they are very appreciative.  Their grouping has gotten so large this year, in fact,  I may have to start transplanting some of them elsewhere because they are spilling out onto my pathways now.

I hope you all are having a nice Sunday and have made it through the storms okay, if they have passed your way.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Haven't Got Time For The Pain

So, I wanted to show that I have actually been working on the house again.  It's not a huge amount, yet, but I have slowly been getting back into it.  My spirit is very willing and my flesh just needs to be beat back into some shape for working.  I've completed a bit more on the tile fireplace surround; installing the run below the hearth and continuing on up the wall and wrapping around the sides.  Until just very recently we were still occasionally running the fireplace so I didn't want to disconnect it.  Hopefully, the cold is now over and I'll be pulling the unit out of the way soon so I can bring the mosaic part on up and grout all that.  It's kinda slow going but I'm getting there and pleased with how it's coming out so far.

I've had so much enthusiasm lately, in fact, that I finally tackled this horrible ol' corner in the basement.  Well, it looks fine now but as long as I've been here I have always just crammed junk in this corner to get it out of my sight and it was a horrible mess.  Junky crap in the floor and everything.  So...I got all those towels and rags together and washed and sorted them and installed some new shelves to keep it all neat.  I use the towels for my messy clay work and just general messy garden/ yard stuff etc.  I freed up another shelf on the metal ones to the right; although you can't tell on the forth one down.  I had saved a bunch of old defective or ugly pottery but it is now all bashed up waiting to be reborn as a mosaic.  Heck, I even mopped the floor in that corner and hung up our fishing poles and such.  I'll probably install one more shelf there to hold some of the supplies that are now residing on my pottery shelves.  I want to get those clear so I have plenty of room for making pots.

I know this blog has possibly changed a little in the past year and I haven't written a lot like I used to.  Not as many funny stories and such.  I guess it didn't occur to me how much it may be different until the other day though.  We all went to my Mom's for Easter and a few days later Mama called me to see how I was feeling.  A storm front had just gone through here on Easter morning and that day I was still struggling with one of the migraines I often get during such weather..  Mama told me that one of my nieces asked her afterwards what was wrong with me lately.  All the times they had seen me for the past 6 months or so she said, "Annie doesn't joke around and laugh like she used to."
Of course, I'm not apologizing for feeling bad but I just wanted to say I'm aware this blog hasn't been what it was.  But I AM trying.  I'm also fully aware that some people don't like it when others talk about health problems or flat out don't believe the person, especially if it's a rare disease or problem.  "Oh, they're just doing that for attention".  Yeah well, if I wanted attention I'd go around with my boobs hanging out.  They're still in real good shape!  Hey, this is a real blog and I talk about real problems; always have and ya'll have always encouraged me to.  If I can help even one other person feel not so alone then that's what's worth it to me, not whether everybody likes it or not.  But, if you will hold on with me a little longer I think I'll have more to show ya'll, like I used to.  Maybe even some funny stories again.

I don't know how many of you deal with pain, but it's a hard thing to take every day.  I marvel at people who say they've never had a headache, or rarely.  If I could go just one week without a headache, or my feet not hurting, I think I'd pee on myself in excitement.  I'm trying some new stuff though and finding some relief, which I tell you all about after I've experimented some more.

So, enough of that sentimental crap!  Looky what I saw this week!  I believe this is a red-breasted grosbeak!  You can correct me if I'm wrong.  And yeah, I know the photo is not so good but I haven't managed to get that great new camera yet, so that's yet another thing ya'll will have to endure here.  Plus, I was standing on a tall ladder stuck to the side of the house as I cleaned some of the windows, so it was a little difficult to maneuver to take the photo.  This is the first time I've ever seen a grosbeak, so I had to look him up in my field guide.  He's a Yankee bird, I guess taking a rest stop before heading back up north to their breeding grounds.  I saw him for 2 or 3 days but did not see him today so he may have headed on.

And in other news, my 2 Partridge Rocks have let their hormones run wild with the beautiful spring weather and insist on trying to hatch golf balls or other fake nest eggs.  We are letting one of them hatch some real pheasant eggs for Allen but just couldn't spare the nest space for two, so Ms. Etta here gets to stay in the broody-breaking pen until she gets over it.  Which should be only 2 or 3 days.  In the meantime, she is very unhappy with me and puffs up like that any time I come around.  I guess I'm not very popular on several fronts right now! lol!  At least Chigger and Allen still love me. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Strange Ways

As I alluded to in yesterday's post, our society seems to have divided up into 2 different camps on the environmental front.  If you listen to our media anyway, who uses nothing but extreme examples and knee-jerk reaction headlines to pit us against one another.  On one side, you're some hippy wannabe named StarFlower running around your yurt in dreds and a tinfoil cap, scrounging mushrooms out of the woods and riding your bike on your only occasional forays into civilization.  On the other side, you're some bloated Bubba running around your 5,000 square foot McMansion buying everything cheap, plastic bauble you can find, scarfing feedlot meat at every turn and throwing it all out the window next week as you drive down the road in your gas-guzzling tank.  Reality for the vast majority is somewhere in the middle, maybe leaning slightly to one side or the other.
I used 2 extreme examples yesterday, that do exist, but they are few and, in their sanctimonious clouds, they are not going to change.  I like to believe that the majority of people want a clean environment, not only for themselves but for their children, and are willing to do some work towards that end or change some of their ways when presented with real facts.  Especially if it saves them some bucks!  Money talks you know.  It's a fact also that a lot of environmental damage comes from industry and those businesses have to adhere to certain regulations to contain the damage they can cause.  But I submit that society itself, especially with it's rampant use of disposable products and the like, are responsible for a great deal of environmental loss.  It only takes a good look at Chernobyl, DDT, the Gulf Oil Spill and The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, amongst many other examples, to back up both of these claims.  Earth has it's own cycles that we have absolutely no understanding of, despite our arrogance that we do, but Mankind does a horrible amount of damage on it's own.
If you look at the incredible amount of energy and products that are produced and used by the millions of people in this country alone, we have to know that what we do in our own lives can drastically affect our environment when all put together...good or bad.  So, here's my list of a few things that we can all do (there's many more!) to some extent to help our earth breathe a little easier.  And maybe our pocketbooks too!

1.  Buy local food, or better yet, grow as much as you can yourself.  I realize not everyone can do the garden thing but a great many can buy from local farmers.  If all Americans would eat just one local meal a week it would save 1.1 million barrels of oil for that week.
2.  Choose Energy Star appliances when it's time to replace or get new ones.  I bought all Energy Star appliances when I started furnishing this house, and they are pretty good, but they have even better ones now.
3.  Carpool or bike if possible and if not that, at least combine all your trips to town.  When I go to Birmingham to deliver pottery it's usually an all-day thing.  In addition to the pottery, I drop off recycling, make a run by my favorite grocery store (or 2) and sometimes the hardware store or whatever if I need materials for the house.
4.  Add solar elements to your house if at all possible and this can be as simple as solar powered battery or phone chargers, solar security lights, etc.  Yes, big solar is expensive but the prices are getting better and some stuff you can do yourself.  One big goal for me this year is to get the solar hot water going here.
5.  Stop using disposable containers, bags, or practically anything disposable.  Some people seem to think this is akin to asking them to pull gold nuggets out of their butt but it's not that hard.  (The disposable stuff, not the nuggets).  Buy some good glass storage or tupperware and use it!  Keep cloth grocery bags in your car!  Get a stainless steel water bottle!  It's easy!
6.  Recycle!!  Everything!  Many grocery stores even offer recycling for those pesky things like styrofoam and #5 plastics.  If we happen to get any I just rinse them and put them away in a little dedicated bin until the next time I'm going to that store.  Don't believe recycling helps that much?  Go here.
7.  Use natural cleaners that you make yourself.  Now, this saves a ton of money and you can find recipes everywhere.  Just Google 'natural cleaner recipes'.  And yes, they do work. 
8.  Compost!  Many items in our regular trash can be turned into great dirt!
9.  Wash laundry in cold or warm water instead of hot.  Clothes and color will last longer too.
10.  Open your curtains and blinds and use natural light whenever possible!  That's one thing I love about my house; we really don't have to turn on any lights until dark.
11.  Turn your computer and other electronics completely off at night.  I also recently found out that laptops use 80% less energy than desktops.  I had no idea!  I've got to look into switching!
12.  Pay bills online.  Not only does this save paper and stamps but it helps me greatly in avoiding late fees.
13.  Stop unwanted junk mail and catalogs.
14.  Hang laundry out to dry instead of using a dryer.  I know not everyone can do this but if you can it's a huge energy saver.  And yes, I know some people don't like the stiff clothes.  A little secret of mine; I do fluff them in the dryer, especially towels, for about 5 minutes to soften them (yeah, go ahead and throw the tomatoes!) and adding a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle also really helps.  Just put it in where you would normally add the fabric softener and no, it doesn't make your clothes smell like pickles.
15.  Unplug appliances, chargers etc. that are not being used.  Turn off lights when you leave a room.

So, there is a partial list that I'm sure most of you already know about but maybe we all need reminding sometimes.  There are lots of other things you can do too but these are some of the easiest or most noticeable.  Any of you have any other great energy/ resource saving tips?

Oh, the photo of the bread has nothing really to do with the post but I finally made an edible homemade yeast bread the other day and was super excited about it!  I used to could easily do such years ago but had apparently fallen severely out of practice! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Love Your Mother

No, I did not forget today was the 44th (I think) annual Earth Day!  I got up a little late this morning and have been trying to catch up all day since, so I put off posting until this evening.  I generally write better later in the day anyway.  I was a little disappointed to see that there were not very many bloggers, that I came across, that posted anything about Earth Day but that's okay.  It still gets more press than it did way back when I was younger.
Thankfully, more people nowadays care more about our environment, or claim to, but that doesn't always mean that they actually DO anything to help matters.  I have a couple of acquaintances on Facebook that are constantly going on about global warming but when you ask them, 'well, what are you doing to help matters?'  Wooo, it gets real damn quiet.  Because well, they don't actually do anything.  Apparently, there are many people that somehow believe that if they can convince enough other people to believe the way they do, everything will spontaneously and gloriously change and the perfect harmonious world will pop into existence through the power of thought alone.  And then you still have the people that I think just try to see how much they can muck up and waste just to spite because being "green" is sort of an in thing and they 'don't like anyone telling them what to do'..  I can't help but laugh at these people going around in their fake Hummers and gargantuan trucks to prove their point, all the while spending half or more of their hard-earned pay on gas alone, not to mention payments etc.  They're making a statement alright but it isn't what they think it is. 
So, unfortunately, environmentalism has now become just another political contention for many.  A way to beat others over the head with their supposed intellectual superiority.  "If you don't believe in my flavor of climate change you're an idiot and I'm better than you."  I know that it sometimes looks hopeless.  Now days, for every "green" choice Americans, Europeans and Aussies make there seems to be 2 or 3 in China, or other up and coming industrial nations, gobbling up our environmental savings and more.  A lot of people would think, what's the use?.  How can you win against such overwhelming odds? As hokey as it is, I'm always reminded of the story of the Boy and the Starfish.  It's a sappy, almost surely fictional tale but it does capture one reality; that one person can make a difference.  One person can help right where they are but also because that person can influence someone else and on it goes.  Every bottle I recycle is one less in the dumps and by watching me other people may be inclined to join in.  When one person will stand up and say, "I'm going to do this because it's the right thing to do", it's amazing how much that alone can help other people to do the same.
We are awash in trash in this country and show no signs of slowing down.  Approximately 55% of 220 million tons of waste generated each year in the United States ends up in one of the over 3,500 landfills.  On average, most people produce a little over 4 lbs. of trash in ONE day.  One Day!!  For our children and their children's sake we have to do better than this.  Fortunately, more and more towns are initiating recycling facilities or programs.  Even my little town has recycling dumpsters at the library and it's real easy to take other stuff into Birmingham.
Every day there are more and more "green" options available to us, such as Energy Star appliances, solar energy of all kinds, even down to solar charges for your phone and batteries.  More people are able to work at home due to computer linking.  Farmer's markets abound if you can't grow your own or you want to add to what you already grow.  Many cities are allowing gardens and chickens now.  I know not everyone can do everything but everyone can do something.  It's often just a case of wanting to and getting it out of people's minds that it some huge inconvenience to live more lightly.  In many cases it's very freeing and can save you a lot of money, and supposedly, everybody likes to save money.

I know, to many of my readers, I'm preaching to the choir on this subject but it's one I wanted to write about anyway.  I have a list I wanted to share also, on various ways we can live cleaner and greener, but this post has gotten longer than I anticipated so I'll share that next time.  I hope you all had a nice Earth Day and are getting those gardens planted!!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Rise And Shine

Happy Easter to all my readers that celebrate!  And to those that don't I wish you a happy, warm spring day!  The weather here is absolutely gorgeous, as you can see, and I hope that you are enjoying some nice sun also. (I took the photo above this morning.)  We always go to my Mama's house for lunch on Easter so we'll be heading off in a while.  Any special plans for you today?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Come Together

The Spring garden is doing well.  The broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are finally taking off.  As you might can see in the photo,I do sometimes mulch with pine straw.  This would freak some people out I know but you work with what you've got and I've never noticed it being detrimental to the plants.  I do have a layer of old leaves down on the ground first and then the straw over it.  The pine straw is free, abundant and it does not seed anything.  Anyway, way in the back you can see the garlic and sugar snap peas coming up well.
The potatoes are also doing great but they got a little burnt by a cold snap night before last.  They should bounce back fine though.

I never got the strawberry bed redone like I wanted but they are doing good anyway.   I think I did mange to finally run those damn moles and voles out though and I can still add some soil to this bed in places until I can redo it later.  From the looks of the blooms we should have a fairly decent strawberry harvest this year.

All of my fruits are in the border areas of the main garden and in between the fruit bushes I have filled in with herbs.  It seems to work well and I like the way it looks.  All the herbs are doing great so far.  Very full and lush this spring.  This is the oregano.  It's planted amongst the blueberries.

I took an old bucket that was missing it's bottom to use as a planter for keeping the thyme contained.  I recently harvested a good bit of this and it has really flushed out well since.  It was getting pretty straggly and the haircut has helped it regain it's fullness.

I was very excited to see the sugar peas doing so well, as I've never grown them before.  I need to get a trellis up pronto for them though.  And mulch them also. 

The azaleas are blooming for the first time! and putting on lots of new growth.  Now, they love the pine mulch but I can't actually use pine straw around them because they are out where the chickens can get to them and mulch like that does nothing but just beg for the chickens to come tear it up!  However, I discovered I can mulch around the azaleas with pinecones.  The chickens won't bother those, especially if you use those hard, green pine cones, because they stick their little feets.  Sissys!  Haha!

The dogwoods are really pretty this year too but I just have not been able to get a decent photo of them.  Since we have cleared a few trees back, many of the dogwoods will get a lot more sun now and I think that will help them fill out in the coming years.  They should be really pretty then.  And, I planted azaleas under a number of them so it'll be a 1-2 whammy of color!
I finally feel that parts of the landscape and gardens are really coming together this year.  The garden scaping is not done but the garden itself is doing really well.  The perennial plants are settling in and with the annuals it's just a matter of pulling the old and putting in new as the seasons change.  The soil is vastly improved over what it was originally, although it still needs improvement.  The cherry, plum and apple trees are getting some size on them and I may get a tad of fruit this year but I do still need to add several more.
The harsh winter did kill a few things this year though.  I think it may have got one or more of our new fig trees and it killed my dwarf gardenia.  Of course, that's not a food shrub but it was pretty.  My rosemary shrub died also and the lavender, so those will need replacing.  Two of my tea plants kicked off too, but I don't think that was necessarily due to the cold.

There are even more of the native, dwarf irises this year and they are coming closer to the house.  I love these things but don't dare try to transplant them.  I tried a few times before and they never make it, so I think it's best just to let them do their own thing.  They grow in clumps along some of my hiking trails so I am just content to see them there.

The gorgeous, warm weather we've been having has really got me fired up about things and I've been working on several projects.  I've even done a little more tile work on the fireplace surround but it's not really enough to show yet.  I still hurt a good bit at times and have some rough days but I'm better and I'm trying not to let the pain knock me down again.  I'm also trying to work myself into a real schedule of pottery during the week and house building on the weekends or in the evenings.  Of course, there are exceptions to things and some schedules but I do better if I have a set time for everything.

I hope you all are getting some spring work in although I think I heard some of the northern areas got more snow this week!  Eeek!  I am so glad I live down South!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Treasure Hunt

 Ever since I moved to this property and learned of foraging the wilds for food I have dreamed of a particular delicacy.  One that I wasn't even sure existed in this area.  I had heard rumors.  Seen photos, but yet the reality eluded me.  I hiked many a mile over my land searching and searching only to come home empty-handed.  I had come up empty so many times in fact, the idea had almost left me as something I would probably never experience.  Until today.  My normal morning walk with Chigger yielded far more this morning because I stumbled upon these.......

The holy grail of mushrooms.  True, delicious morels.  Culinary delights I had only ever heard of. 

I was stunned by how easily I happened upon these. They are truly hard to spot at first but once you see them they seem to just pop out everywhere.

  I was rather surprised that there were this large.

And yes, I checked them closely to make sure that they were true morels.  Hollow on the inside!!

It wasn't a huge haul but to find any at all was an incredible rush.  I can see now why people get so excited over these things.  I soaked them for about an hour in salty water to clean them and then drained them and covered with a damp paper towel until we were ready to cook them.

I had never had these before, and neither had Allen, so we figured we would saute half in butter and then fry the other half in a batter mix.  We also decided such a serendipitous event called for a real celebration so I took off to a decent grocery store to get us some extra goodies.

And a wondrous time was had by all!!  A wonderful feast to celebrate this beautiful spring and my first hunt!  We gorged ourselves on steak, potatoes, morels and wine!!  The morels were exquisite either way.  I think I liked them a little better battered and fried but it's hard to say.  I go hunting again tomorrow so maybe we will have the opportunity to do a little more taste testing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Going With the Flow Again

Right after my recent "water" post we had some very heavy storms come through our area that dumped a tremendous amount of rain on us.   This isn't all that unusual actually, we normally get heavy rains once a year, but if I remember correctly, they usually come in January or February.  But, it's probably not that far out of the normal realm for them to come in  March or April either.  I've shown ya'll the photos in previous years of the large amounts of resulting water that flow through my valley, so this isn't really anything new.  What I did want to mention though, is what I've been working on over the years to accommodate these yearly occurrences.  I think if you are going to buy land, even if it's not really rural or undeveloped, it's always a good idea to observe the place in times of heavy rains, if possible, before you make your purchase.  Not that it may deter you from buying the place, though it might; but it will just give you a good idea of what to expect in the future.  Now, I had been around this land before I actually started building the house and I did take into consideration the proximity to the creek, the water dynamics of a valley etc. but I really didn't get a good idea of things until I started clearing land.  Trees, forest undergrowth and all that greatly reduce the speed and volume of flowing water and when you clear that...well, it can become ferocious in some cases.

So, basically, I kinda let the water do what it wanted to at first, just to get an idea of where it naturally wanted to flow.  Sort of like letting footpaths form before you pour your sidewalks.  You want the under structure to actually be in the right spot when it becomes permanent.  We tried to locate all the culverts in naturally low lying swales and I further enhanced these swales by digging the stream beds out even more.
In the photo above, this culvert has become just a little clogged but it didn't take much to undo it and that sped the drainage up immensely. 

This is the other side of that same culvert.  Some strategically placed boulders help prevent erosion and protect the tops of the culverts from machinery and I also planted very hardy iris and such that don't mind having their feet wet or even standing in water at times.  These are very tough plants too that can stand up to the flow of water and also help with erosion control.  I plan on transferring a good many more to both sides of this area, so it's still a work in progress.  I would also like to eventually line these stream beds with some nice heavy gravel because for most of the year they are dry and that would like nice.

 The same stream as it dumps off down the hill and flows to the creek.

 The creek got quite high, out of it's banks and even crossed the driveway in a couple of spots but had receded by the time we were really out and about.  There's always lots of clean up to do after flooding like this.  Various things wash down the creek and get stuck the trees and all.  Sometimes we find some cool stuff and other times...well, not so cool, just trash.  It also washed every single bit of my mulch away that I had placed around my creekside plantings, so I get to redo all of that.

 Ya'll know I like to build most anything and I especially enjoy building with stone, like all these walls.  They serve a lot more than just for beauty's sake though.  All these stone walls act as terraces and help to break up that flow of water.  One reason I added this stone wall and got rid of the logs was that I could build the stone higher, and it just looked better.  With the logs the water was still washing too much soil in this area but by bringing this wall up about 6 inches or so it has helped the washing tremendously.

You can vaguely see how the water flows towards this area.  My garden is just across the drive from this bed also and, as it is on sloping land (like everything else around here), this planting bed helps break that flow before it hits my garden.  I used to have a bit of trouble with ruts washing in the garden but no more!  With this and the addition of small retaining walls at the lower end of the garden, we have an almost level gardening area now.  And it looks nice!

The most unexpected and worse trouble I had was from the flow down one of the valleys right towards the house.  If the rest of the house was built that would block this flow, but it's not and I had to do something else.  Some of ya'll may remember that I used to get free equipment usage from my old construction company and that was absolutely a Godsend.  At one point when I had a Bobcat I used it to build this dam that you see Chigger sitting on.  You can tell it's new because the redness of the dirt still shows.  I don't know that I would have ever been able to do this by hand with a wheelbarrow.  As it was with the Bobcat, it took me most of a day but it helped tremendously.  90% of the water is now diverted out across the yard.

We lined the dam with stone and broken concrete to avoid erosion here. 

I also get many people asking me about whether or not I collect rainwater; you know, every good tree-hugger collects water!  Well, no I don't.  Not yet anyway.  See, the way I look at it, my whole plumbing system is essentially a rain water collection system.  I just let mine collect in the ground rather than big barrels.  Yes, I do have to pump it to the house but that doesn't actually take much and after we finish using it, it is returned to the ground.  Honestly, when I was trying to get this house blacked in and livable, collecting rainwater just wasn't that high a priority because I knew I would need a more reliable way to water the house.  However, now that things are further along, I have thought about and will probably at some point put in a collection system for the chicken coop and garden area.  I am in no way opposed to such a thing and it would be nice to have water there without having to use a little power.

All of this is just a system that you tweak as you go along, seeing what works better in some cases or not at all in others.  It's a very organic way of building to me, where you let the land point out what to do next and then use your imagination to make your own.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Keep On Growing

I think the plants are convinced Spring is finally here to stay and everything has just been bursting at the seams bloom-wise.   Maybe it's just my intense relief at finally experiencing warm weather but it seems to me that all the blooming things are just very prolific this year.  The trees and everything are overwhelmed with blossoms. 

The dwarf cherry tree I planted a couple years ago has really taken off this past season, gaining quite a bit in height and fullness.  The other one I had died so I need to get another.  Supposedly these are self-pollinating but they say it does do better if you have two.

The first salad greens are ready to harvest!!  I'm not sure what this most prolific one is you see there but I need to thin those to give the other greens a chance.  Yum!!!  So excited to have fresh greens again.

And can you believe it?  I actually got some green onions to start from seed this year!!  I have had the worst time in the past with growing these things but hit it lucky this year.  I sowed the seeds early enough that they went through a freeze before they sprouted and have made sure to keep them watered good.  Maybe that was the key.

And the asparagus is on it's way!!!  There's not a lot up yet but it's there!!  Can't wait for the first good batch of that too.  This is it's third year so I should be able to cut a fair amount this season.

I continue to work on the driveway flower bed, setting stones and filling in behind.  I'm also working on moving the very low growing stuff out to the new front edge.  The old log that used to form the front edge is still there, just buried now.  Hopefully it will rot and enrich the soil.   Everything is going gangbusters and is getting big enough at this point I don't have to worry about the chickens scratching stuff up.

I used to know what this shrub was called but have forgotten by now.  It's real pretty though.  I'd like to have another but when I bought this one it was the only one I had ever seen.  Maybe I can divide this one or take a cutting from it.
Edit!!!  One of my readers informed me that this is a Kerria Japonica or Japanese Rose and I had also accidentally found it in one of my gardening books late last night.  So, there you go.  There are a few different varieties but I think this is just the common one.  I still like it though.

This is a close up of the ornamental crabapple and can you see what I was trying to photograph??  Honey bees!!!!  There was quite a number of them working this tree this morning before the rain came in.  I was so happy to see so many of them.  Funny thing though, there was not a one of them on the cherry tree.

The trilliums are also abundant this spring.  I wish I had a couple other varieties, like the kind with white or red flower blooms,  but I guess beggars can't be choosers.  These are native and free, never have to plant a one, so I shouldn't complain.

The rain did not come in today until about 1:00 so Zuzu and I took advantage of that and got 5 more azalea bushes planted around the house.  I'm embarrassed to say that these were some azaleas that I had bought on clearance ($1.47 each) last fall and I am just now getting around to planting all of them.  They are hardy though.  They all made it through a very cold winter with me only sometimes remembering to protect them from the cold.  I think I had bought maybe 15.  It was such a good price I couldn't pass it up.  I have to plant them fairly close to the house though because the deer love them.  I did manage to get about half off them planted back in the fall and they are blooming well this spring.
Here you can see my gardening buddy Zuzu inspecting the hole for the plant.  She's very thorough.  No grub or worm goes undetected around her.  She actually does kinda help me out because, with her there often in the hole, I have to go kinda slow and therefore I don't get carried away and strain my back or anything.  We just take our time.  And I swear, just like Chigger knows the word "walk", all I have to say is "dig Zuzu!" and here she comes running!  She knows what 'dig' means.

I hope you all are getting some of this nice spring weather too!  Any planting going on in your parts?