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Archive for March, 2009

It is Monday, which means it is a day off from massage.   I have already had two days off, which is really one more than our finances really like.   But we are managing to make ends meet.

So, here is what my “To Do” list looks like now that I have been working all day.

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It started out much neater, really.    

That first item is “Laundry”.  I don’t know why I even bother to put it on the list, I do so much of it.  I only had two loads today.  None of it was massage laundry because I got that all finished Saturday morning.   I hung it outside since it was a very breezy day today, with plenty of sunshine coming through the clouds that are blowing in from the storm system to our west.   I had to really pin it down and even so the fitted sheet acted so much like a sail it unpinned itself from the clothesline.   Fortunately, the grass was dry and it didn’t get dirty while it was flying around the yard.

The second item says “Uncover babies.”  That refers to my lettuce, beet and mesclun seedlings out in the vegetable garden.   We went through a snow shower yesterday.  The snow predicted Saturday night did in fact materialize, and we awoke Sunday morning to the whole place covered with about 3/4 inch of snow.   It got down into the high 20s during the night, but I guess all the snow protected everything from the chill.  

Thank goodness!  My heart sank when I saw all the snow.  I was just sure that I was going to lose a lot of stuff.   Instead, we are just inundated with blooms and sprouts around here.   The plums seemed to have made it through the little cold snap, all my apple trees waited to bud out until afterwards, and the bleeding hearts are laughing it off.   They’ll be joining the bloom parade in just a few days.

Just look at how beautiful the Hosta Dell is right now!

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In the Rose/Day lily border along the North fence, there are a couple of clumps of daffodils I planted at least five years ago.   The variety has literary pretensions, it is called “Barrett Browning.”

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If one turns around from admiring that flower bed, one is presented with the Sand Cherry, which I bought at an auction a couple of years ago.    I almost killed it last spring by leaving it in the pot way too long.   The ants colonized it and all the formic acid and the very dry conditions it was subjected to stressed it very badly.   I’m lucky I didn’t get reported to the ASPCP.   Anyway, it seems to have recovered.  

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I am thoroughly enjoying the border of minature daffodils and species tulips I put around the new Rose Garden.   I tried very hard to create a planting that would give me several weeks of beauty.  It appears that my choices were good, and the little bulbs are actually performing as advertised, so I am enjoying a wave of bloom that is proceeding around the roses.   The rose bushes are sprouting out very happily too.     

The next photo was taken right at the opening of the path.   The group will appear first, followed by a portrait.   This variety is Tulipa sylvestris.

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If you walk along the path between the Rose Garden and the Rain Garden, you pass Narcissus canaliculatus, which will appear in a further post because the picture I got of it today was very out of focus.   Right after that the Tulipa polychroma are going to seed, and then you come to the little grouping of a daffodil varietal called “Kedron” (it was featured toward the end of  this post), which I interplanted with Tulipa kolpakowskiana.  

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In the far right upper corner of the above picture you can make out a daffodil called “W. P. Milner” blooming.   The catalog informs me that this is an heirloom that has been planted since 1869.   I don’t know, I just think that is cool.  Here’s a close-up of it.

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I have begun the “Battle of Japanese Honeysuckle”.  I have engaged the enemy and managed to subdue one outbreak that is new, near the plum thicket.   I have pulled out a few dozen feet of vine from the main infestation and I am planning on just taking it one day at a time and see if I can’t beat the incursion back.    I may not have actually mentioned this plague in the blog before, but trust me.   It has been much on my mind.   

I spent some time today beating back the weeds that have been volunteering along the Western Boundary Fence.   The clematises I planted out there last year are sprouting and looking quite fine.   I have been spreading little lily seeds along that fence for a couple of seasons.   Today I discovered some tiny lily seedlings.   I suspect they may be from the big orienpet lily I have out on the root cellar mound.  I hope so, they are stunning and very fragrant.

I only got about halfway along that fence weeded today.   I just can’t over-work my hands any more.   I have to have something left for massage tomorrow.   At least I only have three clients tomorrow.   I can ease back into my work week.

Well, if you look at the list closely, you will see that there are a few things that are not crossed off, namely and to wit the cleaning of my massage room.   That definitely needs to be done, I have not really dusted in there for a couple of weeks and it doesn’t take long for the crystals to need shining up.   So I’d best get to it.

Stop in again some time.  There’ll be more to see for sure.

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Okay, so it is probably time to take down my party decorations.  

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The Pi started falling yesterday.   Guess the Law of Gravity finally asserted itself.

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Well, PhotoHunter has sure opened my eyes to a new side of the blogosphere.   While surfing around looking at the great photos posted this week, I happened across Rambling Woods.   The blogger there has begun a new meme called Nature Notes.   

The challenge this week is stated there:  “I am going to challenge myself and hopefully you to take a look at nature. What is going on in your area? Is it spring in your part of the world or are you heading into cold weather. Take a little walk….. look at something you might never had paid attention to..a flower…a plant..an animal…What changes are taking place?..Is your garden starting to come to life again?..Step outside and close your eyes. What do you hear? …take a deep breath…What do you smell?”

Well, I have spent almost the entire morning engaged in that exact activity.   So here is my contribution to “Nature Notes.” 

It was grey and cold and damp this morning when I woke up.   The cloud cover was so heavy it almost felt like the sun never actually got all the way up.    After breakfast, the rain the weatherman has promised us all week arrived and it began to pour.   The Rain Garden filled up most of the way, and I opened the window in the back bedroom, removed the screen and took some pictures of the area while the rain continued to fall.

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Notice how the creeping jenny in between the flagstones at the top of the photo has greened up.  It is convinced that spring is here, and even if the snow the weather people think is going to fall tonight actually manifests, it won’t substantially slow this plant down.

Later on, during a break in the rain, I went out to the vegetable garden to strew dried leaves from last fall over my baby lettuces, mesclun and beets.   The hope is that this coverlet will protect them from the predicted freeze tonight.   I don’t have the means to protect the plum trees and their infant fruits, they will just have to fend for themselves.  Hopefully, the weatherman will be wrong and the temperature won’t drop below freezing.   (Fingers, eyes, and toes crossed)

I proceeded to walk around the place, and observed that you could not really walk the labyrinth today, it would be more likely to be a success if you realized you were going to wade it.

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Since I had my wellies on, I waded through and found this absolutely magical image at the rock with the Tiny Tarn.  It is reflecting the elms on the edge of the property.

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As if that wasn’t enough, all unawares I tilted up one of the daffodil faces to get a full on view of the blossom and, holding an awkward position, shot a macro view straight into the petals.   It was not until I got inside and downloaded the images on the computer that I discovered I had captured this tiny moth, hiding deep in the blossom, trying to stay warm and dry.

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I proceeded around to the front of the house and peeked over the fence there at the Stroll Garden.

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You can see here that the water in the Rain Garden has already drained away, unlike the labyrinth.  Soon it will be time to start mowing the lawn again, but we can put it off for a few days still.

Right near that gate is a redbud, and it is in full bloom right now.   I became captivated by the rain drops hanging off the blossoms, and took many shots of them.   This is by far the best one.   If you look closely at the drops, you can see the refracted image of the house and gardens upside down in the drops.

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Then it started raining again, so I went back inside with a little jonquilla daffodil I picked out of the Rose Garden that I wanted to make a portrait of.   This is one of the many bulbs I bought from McClure and Zimmerman last fall.  Its varietal name is Kedron.

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The Citrine Dragon consented to sit for his portrait after I spent a lot of time trying to get a perfect image of the little jonquil.   Sometimes you just get lucky when the energy of the magical being suddenly shows up in a static medium like photography.

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Now, don’t forget to go visit the other people who are out enjoying their environment and trying to document the changes that are occurring in this most wonderful and changeable season.

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PhotoHunt

I had so much fun with  last week, I thought I’d participate again.   

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Now, you all realize that the best part of PhotoHunt is visiting all the other spots and seeing what other people are doing for the theme, right?    So get over there!

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One stem of almost all daffodils now blooming at The Havens, picked less than half an hour ago.

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Newbies

I have two goals today.   One is to keep my word count under 250, which may be impossible.   The other is to introduce you to a few of the newcomers in my daffodil collection.   (Note:  Evidence of obsession follows)

The first one is a jonquilla type Narcissus called Waterperry.   I acquired the bulbs last fall using the money Jim gave me for our anniversary.   She just opened in the Rose Garden yesterday.

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She smells good too.   Right around the corner from her in the same border is Tulipa turkestanica.  These are species tulips, originally collected from Asia Minor and carted back to Europe and bred and cross-bred until we now have the stunning variety of tulips now available.   Not very showy, but extremely cute.   

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Now those truly would make a proper fairy cap!  Down in the Hosta Dell is a variety of daffodil called Chromacolor.   I’ve had this bulb for three years now, and the clump is finally coming into its own.

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Last is a little darling I have in the Front Door garden.   I do not know his name, he showed up in a naturalizing collection.   That trumpet, yellow now, will age to a lovely pink.  You can just see the blush of pink starting to show at the base of trumpet. 

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Ha!   I succeeded in both my goals!  (Word count:  234.)

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Now, I don’t want you to think that I have mis-titled my post, but frequent readers will remember that we received lemons in the “mail” the other day.   We have been investigating what to do with such manna from heaven.   I peeled and chopped one up to use in my thermos of tea on the river yesterday, and that was lovely.   

What is even more lovely is this pan of lemon curd that Jim produced the other day.

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What that was destined for was the angel food cake he also made.   After it cooled, he sliced it into four layers and put the lemon curd in between, thus changing a fairly “dietetic” cake into a luscious dietary disaster.    So, we are eating it despite the calorie count.   We are way too obsessed with our body types any way, right?

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So, in a bid to get out of the same county where that cake (temporarily) resides (that would be before it takes up residence on my hips), we headed off to Dallas County to go floating yesterday.   It was a marginal day for floating, actually.   Morning temperatures were in the mid-forties, which is definitely too cold.    But the weatherman promised that it was going to warm up as the day progressed, and we chose to believe him.  As it turned out, he was right and the day ended in the low 70s.   Those of us who got wet were very happy about that!

Anyway, we decided to float beginning near lunch time, and the consensus of the group was that we really needed to float the 8 miles from Steelman’s access down to the takeout at Jay and Jeri’s place.    

So, that is what we did.   I foolishly put my over-confidence into Earl’s face (Earl is the River God) by starting out the float without any dry clothes to change into.   Needless to say, my pride was dampened — nay, you might even say soaked — for I dumped my canoe within 100 yards of putting in.   We hadn’t even got out of sight of the bridge at Steelman’s.   

I saw some trash over in a clump of branches, and as is my usual habit, I paddled over to retrieve it.   But my boat lifted its side on a submerged branch, the wind caught the increased sail of the bottom, I leaned just a little wrong to try to move the boat off the branch, and Bingo!   There I was, dumped into waist deep water, soaked from head to toe.

Fortunately, my camera was securely ensconsed in a ziplock bag in my float bag, so it suffered no harm.   My friends provided me with dry clothes, we dumped the water out of my canoe and proceeded on our merry way.  Of course, it was made much merrier by the fact that my friends were able to give me grief about my early and complete dump.   I opined that I was willing to be the sacrifice for the whole group, but Earl was not satisfied with just me.  Our companion, Mable, also got a good soaking when she was focused on her fishing activities and drifted into a submerged log, with the same results.    

The only one who didn’t dump was, not surprisingly, Jeri.   

The colorful ball in this photo was the object that I was trying to retrieve from the river.   Whatever Schaelyn is, I do not intend to vote for it.

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There was definitely some sort of theme to the trash yesterday.   

This little snake was out on the gravel bar where we were drying me out.   He was definitely cold and lethargic.   I figure he heard the weather report too, and was just out there waiting for the sun to come out.   Anyway, I doubt he has been out of his egg more than a week or two.

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This is how the river presented itself yesterday.   Even though there was wind out there, most of the day it stayed up on the bluffs and ridges.   Only towards the end of the day, after we were starting to get tired, did it come down into the river bottom itself.   Of course, then it was a head wind and we were obliged to paddle into it down some of the long pools if we wanted to make any headway at all.   Sometimes you would find yourself up against the bank all of a sudden when the wind sneakily came from your quarter.   But it was still a great float day.

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Next week there will be a couple of long pools that MUST be floated along so that the photographer can get the image of the dozens of redbuds leaning over and admiring their reflections in the water.    It was just a little too early for that this week, the preliminary dressing up has just begun.

There were several spots on the river where you could see the high water mark from the rain storms earlier in the week.

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That mark is about five feet above the water level.  Some of the fields are still draining.

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Now, when we stopped for lunch, I was able to capture this image of a little cricket frog on the gravel bar.

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He’s quite small, as you can see from comparing him to the seedling next to him.    Jim looked at my photos and said, “What did you do, annoy reptiles and amphibians all the way down the river?”

That pretty much sums it up.

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These turtles wanted to stay on their branch.   Even they thought the water was just a trifle chilly.

At our third (or fourth, or fifth — who knows?) gravel bar stop, I noticed this little frog jumping about.   He finally landed in the river and I managed to get this shot of him as he also contemplated the temperature of the water.

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I really wanted a better picture of this little guy, and after I wasted several microvolts of camera battery getting blurred images of him under the water, he finally decided it was just too cold there, and clambered out on the piece of wood.

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Bear in mind this little guy is about the size of my thumbnail.    I truly appreciated him posing so nicely for me, and to prove it I picked up all the trash I saw on the banks.

We didn’t just annoy reptiles and amphibians, we also annoyed birds.   We saw numerous wood ducks, which I didn’t even try to photograph.   Generally, you see them as they explode out of a drift of branches at the river edge and fly away from you down the river.    Hopeless.    We also saw several pileated woodpeckers, as well as chickadees.   There were a pair of kingfishers battling for territory in the last big pool above the takeout.    Mostly what we observed of that battle royale were flashing views of aerial chases and lots of angry vocalization.

The best duck picture was of this pair of escaped domesticated mallards.   They were very different from the truly wild ducks in that they approached us.   I believe they were miffed that we didn’t have any duck food with us.

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The food we had we weren’t going to waste on any ducks.   Lunch was spectacular.   There was tuna salad, rye crackers, aged cheddar, thinly sliced salami, dried apricots, herbed goat cheese, and marinated artichoke hearts.  “Don’t get a slice of salami, smear it with any of this goat cheese and then put a couple of artichoke hearts on it and fold it over.   Don’t do that,” Jeri told us after she had done this exact thing.   Of course, we all had to do that several times.   The salami adds just that touch of saltiness, the marinated artichokes are juicy and . . .  Well, kids, don’t try this at home!  You have been warned and I am not responsible for the consequences.

Of course the piece de resistance of our float day was when we went by the heron rookery.   That was the main reason we wanted to do the long float, to see how they are faring.   About 5 years ago a tornado went through the rookery right in the middle of the chick season.   The herons had just begun to fledge their babies, and the tornado just destroyed the whole area, tearing out the big sycamores they used for nesting and flinging them into piles and windrows.   There were dead birds everywhere, it was so sad.   The following year the remnants of the flock found a stand of sycamores several miles upriver to use, and they had four or five nests there.   But this long pool and gravel bar is a perfect spot, and as soon as the young sycamores there started to get big, the flock started moving back to the original location.   Last year they had 7 nests.   This year I counted 10.   (The upriver location is still being used, by the way.)

This is a group in the largest tree, there are about three other nests in this tree alone.  They don’t seem to be sitting on eggs yet, just establishing territory and winding up for the arrival of the girls.

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There are two herons in that picture, by the way.   I captured this next image just as this one was settling down onto the branch.   

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The herons were not the only birds thinking about nesting.   I caught this pair of vultures enjoying the hole in the bluff.   Mostly we were seeing these birds soaring and enjoying the thermals and wind eddies, but even vultures have romantic interludes. 

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We emerged from the river a little damp but mostly unscathed, happy and relaxed.   What we found waiting for us was a pot of delectable meatballs in marinara sauce, pasta to put them on and a fabulous spinach salad with toasted pecans and blue cheese crumbles.   

Hope your weekend was as good as ours was!

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