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The snowdrops are out today.   They have been out for at least 10 days.

A week ago Sunday (I think), we had a fine sunny day and they decided it was an optimum time to bloom.  Within two days, it got very cold, temperatures down in the teens.   They tucked their heads down and held on.

Then it warmed up a bit last Wednesday and Thursday.  They perked up.

The next day, the bottom dropped out of the temperatures again.  But it didn’t get so cold that we couldn’t achieve freezing rain.   Last Saturday, Sunday and part of Monday these flowers were coated with about a quarter of an inch of ice.   Nevertheless, they persisted.

Monday the ice started melting, and it continued to gradually warm up all week. Yesterday it got into the sixties, and today we reached a high of 78 degrees.   And so the snowdrops are merry.

They are joined in the party by a flock of early crocuses that popped up all over the lawn this afternoon.   There were two or three blooms yesterday, but today there are dozens.

It is sprinkling this evening.   And rumor has it that it is supposed to get cold again forthwith.

This weather is giving me whiplash.

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I have been doing art journals for quite a while now.  I stumbled into the whole idea about ten years ago, got excited and then lost interest.   Then I started haunting YouTube and discovered the joy of mixed media.

There were tons of videos out there demonstrating techniques and products.  The variety of media that was available was mind boggling.   I had never heard of ink sprays…  or Pitt pens…  or alcohol inks…  or glitter glues…

It did not bother me that there were folks out there demonstrating products that they had for sale.  The information that I was getting about how to use different mediums was valuable to me.   I was inspired to buy products, too, which I am sure made the vendors happy.

One of my favorite sources for products for my art journaling activities is Joggles.  It seems like they carry just about anything your little heart could desire.   A big plus is that if you have questions about any of their products they are quick to answer and are friendly and knowledgeable.   The only problem is that they have become very popular, and quite often when they introduce and new product it sells out PDQ and if you are behind the eight ball you wind up having to wait…  So much for instant gratification!

At any rate, I recently was inspired to create a mini accordion book.  Several months ago I purchased a couple of these, and they have been rattling around in my desk drawer ever since, waiting for inspiration to strike.

This is how the little book looked right after I put the accordion folds into the long strip of water color paper.

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(Sorry for the mess on my desk.   It isn’t going to get any better, so I hope it isn’t too distracting.)

I had an idea for a theme, so I went into my stash of collage images that I have collected from various magazines and catalogs, and found some images I wanted to use, and started thinking about how to arrange them on the book.  I printed out my quotation on my computer as well.

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Next, I used Tim Holtz’s “Wrinkle Free Technique”  to put some background color on the pages.  I used the Distress Oxide inks in the picture to put color on.

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I think it looks really cool.   Here is a close up of one of the pages.  I got really crazy with my star stamp and gold ink as well as the ink splashing.

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Next I used the new Joggles 6×6 stencils to put another layer on.  The first one I used was Leaf Fronds.  I used Cosmic Shimmer gilding polish in Pearl.  Just wow.

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Next layer was Silver Hessian Gilding polish through Elegant Scroll.   I wasn’t that crazy about the results of this, but I have learned that the happy accidents that happen during art journaling are not disasters, and I moved on.

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Next layer was accomplished by putting several different Prima art alchemy opal magic paints through the Ziggy Zag stencil.

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Okay, you can’t really see it in that photo, I know.   But oh my, how much I love these iridescent paints.   I love them so much I have every color combination available, and the way they change color as you turn the page enchants me.  This one is violet gold.

Now the fun begins.   I decided that the paper I printed my saying on was way too white, so I sprayed it with Lindy’s Starburst Spray in Bells of Ireland green.   Had to be REALLY careful there, as the printer ink is water soluble.   After spraying, I set it aside to dry very carefully.  As I was attaching the sentiment, I learned that you must not lick your fingers to make the little pieces of paper easier to pick up, or there WILL be smudging.

I cut hearts out of painty paper I made last year, as well as from alcohol ink experiments.   I also chose random bits from my stash for other embellishments, and took out some of my butterfly embellishments (made in November).

I spent a while arranging my words and images.  The orange sun in the one below was part of my stash.  I was playing with alcohol inks one day, putting them through stencils after watching an inspirational video by Barb at Joggles.  I could not bear to throw away this result, and it has been rattling around in my embellishment stash for quite some time.   Hah!   Serendipity at work.  It was perfect for my quote.

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After due consideration. I attached my images to the prepared pages.   I used scor tape, a very powerful double sided tape that comes in several very useful widths, to attach the words, because I did not want to risk getting any wet medium close to them, knowing that there would be horrible smearing if they accidentally got wet at this stage.  The images were attached using quick drying tacky glue.

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I purposely took a wide shot of this stage so you can see all the little backing pieces of the scor tape as well as the creative chaos on the desk.   You should see what the floor looked like…

Then I used Marabu fashion liner, stickles and Pitt pens to add some details throughout the book.

So, after all that, I folded up the little book and put a canvas back on it.  Decorated the front pages, attached a ribbon to tie it closed.   And now,  the finished book.

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Here are a couple of close ups of my favorite page, showing the violet gold color change.

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I made this book to give away, but I just don’t know if I can let it go.  It is really pretty…

 

Weather phenomenon

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We had a pretty interesting Saturday and Sunday here at the Havens.  We were in the middle of the “winter weather advisory” that was in effect all over the MidWest region.  It was a nasty couple of days…  I really don’t like freezing rain very much!

We chose not to drive much of anywhere.   Even though we only got about a quarter of an inch of ice accumulation here, it was an equal opportunity coverage.   It wasn’t just that it was a freezing drizzle, it also incorporated some freezing mist as well, which meant that even under the carport the truck got a little dusting of ice.  Walking out onto the back porch was treacherous because of that little glaze.

But this morning we got a reward.  The sun came out!  It is all supposed to melt by this afternoon as the temperature rises.

This morning there was a short lived period of ice crystals falling out of the sky, and the sun was in just the right spot to make an ice crystal rainbow.   Sorry that the background of this is so urban and cluttered, but I had no real choice about where to point the camera in order to capture the faint glow of color as the breeze swirled the floating ice crystals around in the sun’s rays.

A sun dog came down from the heavens and explored our street.

A good subtitle for this post could be NIMBY:  spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe).  I have written a previous NIMBY post on the showy evening primrose.   At least the primrose is actually a native here.   Spotted knapweed is a plant that was introduced to the North American continent sometime in the late 1800s.  The surmise that it came in on ballast or by contaminating some seed.

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That is a photo of a spotted knapweed plant in late spring.   Below is a shot of it in the original location on the property.

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It is that bushy thing to the left of my whiskey barrel.   Here is a decent close up of what the flowers look like.

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I came across knapweed while I was on a road trip.   Specifically, I was driving to Georgia in order to visit my son and daughter in law so that I could be there when my grandson was delivered.   I am always on the lookout for interesting plants, and on one of my rest stops I noticed a flowering plant that seemed to be very happy living by the pasture fence with no water and no cultivation.   It certainly looked like some sort of aster (which it is), and I decided to see if I could find some viable seeds on it.   I collected a few and put them in my purse for future reference.

After the child was born, I returned home and stashed the seeds in my “for future reference” file.   The following spring, I planted a few in a pot and stuck it by the whiskey barrels where I could keep an eye on it.   I was rather pleased when it came up, and over the course of the season it bloomed nicely.  I noticed that my pollinators approved of it, and I was very happy that it was the sort of plant that started blooming in early summer and kept at it until late fall.

Take a close look at the photo above.   Do you see the little seedlings growing in the gravel near the mother plant?   That should have been my first clue that perhaps I did not want to loose this on the world at large.   There were literally hundreds of seedlings around the mother plant.

At that point, I did a desultory identification of my mystery plant.  I thought it was a bushy aster, most likely.

Fast forward a couple of years.   Jim and I have spent over $2000 having the east line cleared in preparation for the new prairie.   We swallowed our distaste and treated the whole area with weed killer, because when you are establishing a prairie the best way to get rid of the competitor plants is to spray with glyphosphate.   I truly hate that substance, but it was a one time treatment and the result was a substrate where my baby prairie plants would not have to compete with weed species.

Then I seeded.   And I transplanted babies in from my Petite Prairie and from the prairie plant nursery by the sauna.   And I planted shrubs.   And the nascent prairie looked like this:

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It really seemed awfully bare to me, and so I thought I would plant something to give me some color while I waited for the two year maturation process of the seed mix.  Guess what I chose?

You are absolutely right.   I chose my aster.  After all, I had several viable seedlings near the original place.   It no longer needed a pot there, it was just growing there next to the pergola.

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There are a few plants of the aster visible against the fence.   The following year, noticed that it had reseeded itself.

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Yes, that is a seedling just in front of the hazelnut shrub.   So far, so good.

We watched the little prairie start to grow and thrive, rejoicing.

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It really started to look lovely, at all seasons.   Just like I had planned.   But do you notice that big clump of grey shrubby stuff back in the left hand corner of the picture?

That is the “aster”.   And the following spring, this was what I saw everywhere where I had planted a mother plant.

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Do you see all that green?   Almost universally, that is the “aster” I had planted in my new prairie.  At that point, I realized that I needed to exercise some control over this phenomenon.   Unfortunately, when I was looking at that and thinking “I really need to weed this back.  My prairie plants are doing well I and I am not sure I need so much of this” I was suffering extreme pain in my right hip.  So extreme that I could not bend down, or kneel, or sit on the ground for any length of time.

Shortly after the above picture was taken, I had my right hip joint totally replaced.   And all summer long, I watched those patches of green grow, and bloom and make seeds, and I could do nothing to stop it.  When my hip finally healed enough that I could get in there, the damage was done.  And while I was waiting for the surgery to heal, I did an extensive search and learned that I had planted spotted knapweed, an invasive exotic.  If you search it, you will find extensive warnings against this plant.  It crowds out forage grasses, it…  is an abomination.

Everywhere where you see those green plants, there are thousands of seedlings.   I have been struggling for months to get them out of there.   I dealt with a forest of this plant, the flowering stalks were as tall as I was.   It seems like every flower gets pollinated and makes 50 seeds or so, and every seed that hits the ground sprouts and grows.

The grow into the middle of clumps of grass.  They suffocate other plants nearby just by the very fact that there are so many of them.  The little seedlings look a lot like members of the echinacea and rudbeckia families.  When you are pulling the mature plants, if you don’t get at least 90% of the root stock, the plant will come up again.

I could go on, but I won’t.   The sad lesson I learned here is to NEVER plant something that you are not absolutely sure you have identified correctly.

I am sorry to say that the problem is so severe that I am seriously contemplating doing another glyphosphate treatment and starting over.   I am not that far along yet in the decision making process.  It depends on how I do next spring when I start addressing the carpet of knapweed seedlings that covers five 100 sq. ft. patches (guess how many mother plants I put in three years ago?) of my prairie.

Wish me luck.

 

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The picture above is a shot of the newest addition to The Havens garden installations.  It was taken early this spring.  Here are a couple of more close in shots taken later in the season.

In all of these shots there is a fairly bushy shrub sort of in the background.  That shrub no longer exists.  We saved it to help preserve the flyway when we were developing the garden.  But it is an invasive exotic, notably bush honeysuckle, and once the native shrubs I planted got bigger and the fence on the property line was built, we eradicated it.  Now I am trying to eradicate it elsewhere on the property.  I would say I am about 50% complete with that chore.

I have talked about the east property line before on this blog.   You can find that post here.  I suppose I should have updated that story, but I just never got around to it.  The denouement was that the nasty neighbor up and sold the property to the Dollar General corporation.   While that sale was imminent, the property line in question was surveyed and, ironically enough, the actual property line was about ten feet closer to West Elm Street than the fence line that was causing our lovely neighbor such angst in the previous post.   Ha ha.  The joke was on him.  During all that legal bull shit, it turned out that HE had been encroaching on our property for over 20 years by parking his trailers on it.

I have to admit that I have always had a love/hate relationship with that property line.  It was really just a twenty foot wide strip of trees and brush.  I loved it because it made a very good visual barrier between our place and the street, and it was a wonderful haven for all sorts of birds and other wild life.  I hated it because it was so very untidy, it collected trash, and the trumpet creeper vine that lived there was trying to take over the orchard and vineyard.  Consequently, I rarely took any pictures of it, but you can see it in the background of this picture, doing its wild and wooly thing.

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Once we learned that the sale had gone through, we hired a brush clearing service and had the whole area cleared.  They chipped up all those shrubs and trees, and piled them in great big piles.

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To the right is the lot where Dollar General was going to build.  To the left, behind the piles, you can see the trumpet creeper vine, which we chose to leave behind for a season so the birds would have some place to hang out while the new garden got established.

Eventually, Dollar General finished constructing their building, and put in an absolutely gorgeous privacy fence.  After spending a couple of afternoons trying to spread out the piles of mulch, we hired a guy with a mini excavator to do it for us.  He did in a couple of hours what would have taken us days of hard labor to accomplish.

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Bear in mind that the fence is 300 feet long.  My new prairie sort of undulates along the fence, ranging from 15 to 30 feet wide.  If you look carefully at the shot above, you will see the aforementioned bush honeysuckle back there, just coming into leaf.  Behind it is a sprawling mulberry tree.  That tree is roughly 50 feet south of our north property line.  A long time ago, I planted a row of forsythia bushes between the mulberry and the north line.  That row of forsythias is now about 15 feet wide and much taller than I am.

When we had the  new prairie cleared, we left that line of bushes alone, as well as the plum thicket that is back in that corner.   In the process of developing the new garden, I have pretty much abandoned all hope of taming that section.  In addition to the plums and forsythias, there is honeysuckle, winterberry, currants, a honey locust, and a few other indeterminate trees back there.   The old fence is tangled in amongst them (which is partly why it did not get cleared), garnished with black berries and poison ivy.

We mow under the plum thicket, but I pretty much leave the rest of that area alone.  The brown thrasher and several other birds think that is a very wise decision.  This summer the thrasher raised two clutches of babies back there.

It has taken me two years and several hundred dollars to get the prairie garden started.   We initially seeded it with a mesic prairie mixture of grasses and forbs.  I have also collected hundreds of seeds from the Petite Prairie and sown them.  I have acquired shrubs that you find in native prairies and planted them.   I have also purchased plants from the native plant sales, and planted them.  It is coming along pretty well.

But there is a fly in my ointment, unfortunately.  I shall elaborate on that fly in the next post.   But the following picture might give you a clue as to the nature of my dilemma.

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Whipsawed

“Whipsaw:  n 1. A narrow two person crosscut saw. v 1. To cut with a whipsaw, 2. To defeat in two ways at once” 

It was a lovely day today at The Havens.  Last week, after several days of pretty cold temperatures (sub zero at night), it snowed.  Then it warmed up enough to melt the thin layer of snow on the ground.  This was followed by some days around freezing accompanied by gusty winds.  Finally it warmed up and the wind blew like a wind tunnel testing a jet airplane.

This morning it dawned clear and cool and totally calm.  It would have been ideal to burn off the labyrinth right then, but we had a date at the kid’s house for home made waffles.   So we went over there (a matter of walking half a block) at the appointed time and thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast with the family.  It is really lovely to have our grandkids so close.  AND their parents…  I must not leave them out!

After our repast, we came home, got busy, and burned off the tall grass that had accumulated in the labyrinth over the last summer.  It was a perfect day for burning, and still hadn’t gotten so warm that tending the fire was onerous.  There have been times when it was sort of like an introduction to Hades, what with a warm day and a brisk breeze.  Today it was just damp enough that the grass burned well but not like an inferno.  No wind to speak of, so the flames crept their way through the paths and rocks desultorily.  We had to use the flame thrower a few times to encourage them to do a complete job.

There are lots of rags and tags of grass tops, as well as things like the stems of goldenrod, little white asters, and primroses spread in the paths.   They really need to be raked up but I decided to do something else instead.  If I leave them long enough they will blow away or compost in place, maybe.

After unhooking and draining the hoses we had deployed for fire safety reasons, we rolled them and coiled them back up on their supports.  Winter is not over yet and we have had enough of frozen pipes.

Speaking of frozen pipes, the contractor man has been here since Wednesday repairing the utility bathroom.  We picked out new floor tile for it, auditioning a style that we are considering using for the Great Bathroom Remodel, which is scheduled for a future date yet to be determined.   We LOVE the tile and lucky for us it was on sale so we bought the necessary quantity and have stashed it in the sauna dressing room.  The bathroom should become functional early next week.

Of course, there has been a daily (except for Thursday) pilgrimage to Springfield to visit the Ailing Mother.  She came through her popliteal bypass alive (barely).  There were a few rough days, and once the hospital figured out that she really needed a blood transfusion, she rallied enough to be moved to a rehabilitation hospital.  Since then she has walked as much as 70 feet during physical therapy and can get up out of her wheel chair and move to the bed “unassisted” (meaning two people stand nearby at the ready to make sure that she does not lose her balance and fall during the painstaking process).  But her appetite has returned, and her mind is once again active.  She has been working on her tatting project.  Aside from the open incision around the bypass site, she is looking fairly good.  There is still a lot of ground to cover, but we are no longer in fear of her life.

And my sister was released from the hospital today, after fighting infection from the cat bite she got while she was neutropenic from her latest chemotherapy for her leukemia.  Thank God for small favors.

With both people that were in so much danger moving towards safety, maybe I can actually get some sleep tonight.

Anyway, back to today.   Instead of raking the labyrinth, I cleared the old dry tops out of the asparagus bed.   While I was engaged in that chore, I noticed that the bees were out foraging.   Then I started wondering if they still had enough honey to keep them going through the rest of the winter.  (Despite the lovely day today, winter is FAR from over.) Presently my curiosity grew so much that I went into the house and prevailed on Jim to make a wellness check on the colony.  He suited up and opened the hive and we determined that they have LOTS of honey to eat, they seem very healthy and active.   Without disturbing them much more than that, he put the hive back together and we watched them continue about their bee business.

This activity made me wonder what on earth they could be finding to forage this time of year?  It didn’t take me long to remember that yesterday while I was walking Ruby I noticed that the witch hazel out at Bennet Spring was blooming.  I have a few witch hazel trees here at the Havens, so it wasn’t much of a leap to wonder if perhaps our bees had found them.

I went to look, and lo and behold!

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The bees have indeed discovered that there is a source of pollen out there for them.  While I was playing bee paparazzi, I saw a couple of tachnid wasps out there too. They declined to be photographed, so I can’t prove it.

Then I went out and weeded the strawberry, blueberry and raspberry cage.   It was very healing to dig out all that henbit and chickweed.  The whole cage looks great!  While I was working, I could hear the hum of the hive on the other side of the fence.

Maybe I will have some time to work on my art journal this evening.  That would be very good.

 

hospitals are …

Well, I have been driving back and forth to Springfield this week to Mercy Hospital because my mother had a bad occlusion in the veins of her left leg, so bad that she was in danger of losing her foot.

First the surgeon tried a stent, but that opening of the veins didn’t even last all night.  So this morning they did a bypass using a vein from a cadaver.  Surgery took over 4 hours, she took over an hour in recovery.

My sister and I saw her in the ICU where she is incarcerated for the night.  She looks pretty good for someone who is 90 and just had a major surgery.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, my older sister was also in the hospital.  She is in the process of getting over an episode of leukemia.  She had extensive chemo last July and has had several rounds of consolidation chemo.  This pretty much wipes out the immune system as well as the platelets.  This last round went well, she went home and her cat got pissed off with her and bit her badly.   She has been on IV antibiotics for several days to keep the ensuing infection from becoming systemic.

So while my mother was trying to keep her foot here in Missouri, my older sister was trying to keep her life.

I’m ready to not have anyone in any hospitals for a while.

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