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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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“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.

 

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We are getting some badly needed rain.  It has been threatening all morning, flashing and muttering under its breath, teasing us with brief sprinkles.

The radar shows that all of this activity is moving along to the south, which is odd because most of the lightning and clouds I am looking at are to the north of me.  At any rate, I am glad it is raining.   We need for the ground to be nicely wet and more rain promised in order to distribute the beneficial nematodes that are reputed to dine on Japanese beetle grubs.  With a good rain under our belt, and more promised, we can order the supplier to ship them.  With any luck, the weather will cooperate and keep the ground nice and wet after they are applied.

I am happy that there is a storm, Impy is NOT.   I don’t know what horrible trauma happened to him in his kittenhood, but he is terrified of thunder and slinks off full speed ahead for the nearest closet as soon as the first distant rumble occurs.  This morning has been just terrible for him.  With the sporadic nature of this storm, there have been periods of calm in between the heavenly percussion performance long enough for him to stick his whiskers out.   Inevitably, as soon as he is bold enough to exit his sanctuary, a random clap of thunder will send him scurrying back under cover.

We have hypothesized that Impy can understand the weatherman and has listened to all the instructions regarding what to do to be safe in a stormy situation.   If you don’t have a shelter to move into, you should stay in an interior room (preferably with no windows) and put a pillow over your head.  When you hear thunder, you should keep yourself as close to the ground as possible while you move to shelter to minimize the danger of being struck by lightning.   And for God’s sake, don’t go stand under a tree.

Our local YMCA is so careful about lightning danger that they clear the pool if there is any within a few miles of us.   Consequently, this morning our water aerobics class was only 15 minutes long.

I have been surfing the interwebs excessively, so I finally decided I ought to get something worthwhile done instead of endlessly posting on facebook.  I made the bed, and cleaned the catboxes.   I did the dishes, and I am contemplating the idea of vacuuming.   I am pretty sure I can spend enough time on my blog that I simply won’t have time to do that chore before I have to leave for my mammogram.

While I was washing the dishes the storm finally blew into our area and produced a measurable amount of rain.   I was musing as I scrubbed my pots about how one would depict the skies opening up as a response to a prompt of “Open” on an the Art Journal Adventure.   The view out my window captivated me as I worked and pondered.  The finches are busy at  the feeder, they don’t care it is raining and neither do the squirrels, who use their tails as easily as an umbrella as they do a sunshade or blanket.

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The rain will be good for the garden too.  The peas are about an inch tall, and the lettuce that we tended all winter is going gangbusters.   I heartily endorse the use of cold frames in this climate.   We ate beautiful lettuce all winter.

So as I allowed this train of thought to pass through the station of my mind, a huge ground strike flashed down just to the northeast.

I was standing at the window, scrubbing a metal pot with my hands in running water, and I recalled the wisdom that says you can get a pretty bad shock if lightning strikes near your water line when you have your hands in running water.   Suddenly I thought “If that bolt had struck the house and electrocuted me where I stood, I suppose my last thought would have been ‘Impy was right’.”

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I’m sure that is not the longest title ever put on an ariticle, but I’m sure it is right up there.  We have been working very hard getting the yard in shape.   It won’t be long now before we will have to mow the lawns.  The peas are up and looking very nice.

There is a LOT of work to do around here.   Yesterday I worked on the East Prairie; cleaned out the last of the branches of last year’s tiny white asters.   Do not be fooled by that name, the flowers are tiny but the plants can be absolutely rampant.   They got about 5 feet tall last summer, since they had no competition except for the poke weed and some wild lettuce named fireweed (for some arcane reason).

Let me just say that in my head, fireweed is that amazing magenta flower that grows all over the Alaska Interior, not this 6 foot tall Ozarks giant that has insignificant flowers that the pollinators adore.

Anyway, I got that cleaned up and then we went out to dinner, which was scrumptious.   After we got home it was a dead calm so we burned the little brush pile out in the savanna.  That has been there about a year and a half, ever since I beat a path through the forsythia thicket so I could work on removing elm sprouts.

Today I cleaned up the garden area around the sauna.  Now that has turned into quite the place.  My job, now that all the forbs have gotten established, is to keep the honeysuckle and the elm trees from moving in.  It blooms all summer with plants I collected seeds from while walking the dog.   When I first planted this garden, I put some beautiful day lilies in there, but now that it has turned into a micro prairie, the day lilies have a lot of competition.  They bloom, but it is a struggle.  The little birds love this garden.

After I got that done, I decided to have a beer and see if I could see any birds at the pond.  I was rewarded by a gold finch, who came down to the waterfall for a drink.

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He didn’t stay very long.   I waited for a while, and Jim came to join me.   We sat for a while, and all of a sudden a junco dropped by.   This little bird knew darn well we were there, and did not come down to drink.  It took a while for me to capture him looking in our direction.  It is not safe for little birds, you know, and he was trying to look in all directions at once.

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Then I went off for mosquito dunks, and on my way back to the pond I sort of wandered around looking at the yard.

There are about five million violet seedlings in my path, something for future reference.  They are invisible in this shot, which is all about the grape hyacinths and the dragon’s teeth.

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Other than that, I think it is looking pretty special.   I wandered past the Green Man on my way to the pond.   I can actually see him this time of year.  The bittersweet vine really fills in.  Right now it is barely sprouting.

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Right behind him is the pond.   While I was getting this shot, there were a grackle and a robin in the pond taking a bath.  By the time I got around the corner, the grackle was done and had vacated the area.

The robin was very wet.

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He sat there for several minutes as I stood frozen on the opposite side of the pond from him.  After a while, he decided that he was not sufficiently bathed, and so he hopped back into the pool.

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Well.  That’s better.

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He is even more wet.

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But , apparently, not wet enough.   Back in he went for another splash.

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We have a pretty good sized pile of prunings from the yard, so if the wind calms down at sunset we shall have an Equinoctical bonfire.  That will be nice.

Happy Spring!

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We had our roof replaced and the house sided last month.  Looks pretty good now, like a brand new house outside.   Too bad the inside does not match…  I definitely need new floor treatments.

However, during the course of the work, the siding guys simply had to walk next to the house, which involved walking in the garden on the north side.  This garden mostly consists of hostas, with a few hellebores and bleeding hearts thrown in.   It started out as a real shade garden with several varieties of shade lovers in it, but over the years the less hardy plants died out.

Truth to tell, some of the original plantings, which I established with great forethought, turned out to be unwise choices.   One of those, notably, was the lily of the valley, which was summarily evicted after I discovered it busily strangling the hostas nearest to it.   The violets that I was so sure would look very nice along the house turned out to be a noxious weed and empire builders.   I have been trying to eradicate them for some time, and if I live long enough I may eventually succeed.

But I digress.   I decided that the north border needed to be revamped.  To that end, I removed all the rocks I had placed next to the house, leveled out the area and edged it with some pound-in edging.   The rocks got thrown into a pile over near the pergola.   After the edging was in place, I lined the rock border right next to the house with black plastic.   The idea is to have a strip of decorative rock between the house and the garden so that I do not have plants right up against the house, in the interest of proper air circulation.

It has taken me about a week to get ready to put my rocks back.   These are mostly very cool rocks that I have brought home from various gravel bars.   While I was doing the prep work, though, behind my back the rock pile became habitat.  I was not particularly surprised to find pill bugs and centipedes living there when I started moving the pile.   The big wolf spider also did not seem very out of place.

But this fellow surprised me!

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He (or she — I’m not good at sexing amphibians), had taken up residence under the pile of rocks and wished sincerely that I had not moved them.

I did pick the little fellow up, because I certainly did not wish to hurt him during my job.

As you can see with the scale of my glove added, this is a very small being indeed.  I think this may be the eft stage of the red spotted newt.  This is very interesting, because for a long time I have been aware of having what I referred to as salamanders living in the pond.  It turns out that the red spotted newt has an aquatic stage, and the guys in the pond are more than likely the red spotted newt in that aquatic stage.  This little fellow has found its way out of the pond to transform to its terrestrial stage.

I took it over to the rain garden, which seemed like a good place to relocate it out of harms way.

Indeed, it found the location satisfactory, and crawled back in and under the rocks there.

I am happy to find yet another individual creature that appreciates the habitat we have created here at the Havens.  It is really very exciting!

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I hardly know where to start with this post.

I am now certified as having satisfactorily completed my continuing education project.   That involved the commitment of a couple of grand to pay for the class in Neuromuscular Reprogramming that I just finished at the beginning of May.  It also required me to travel to California for a weekend each month for four months.   It was grueling, and gave me a new respect for the business Road Warriors who travel all the time.   Very few of my flights occurred without delays of some sort.

The class was well worth my time.   Neuromuscular Reprogramming is a technique of body work that achieves absolutely amazing results.   I am exultant and my clients are very pleased.   One of the side effects has been a huge increase in my business.   There isn’t a day of the week that I don’t have at least four massages scheduled.   Pretty good for the bottom line.

The side effect of that is that Jim has decided to retire from the work force as of June 28.   He won’t be able to start collecting Social Security until September, but that simply does not matter due to the increase in my income.   He will thoroughly enjoy being home for the summer and able to do his own projects.

One of those projects will be installing our new solar panels, which arrived this week.   I can hardly wait for them to be on line and watch the electric bill shrink to nothing while our carbon footprint diminishes as well.

The flower gardens are quite beautiful right now.   This is a view of the path in the Hosta Dell.   Don’t look too closely or you might notice all the weeds that took the opportunity to ensconce themselves while I was running back and forth to California.

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Of course, the vegetable garden has been a big project. We’ve been eating wonderful salads out of it for over a month, and it recently presented us with over 6 pounds of snow peas, which we blanched this morning and have in the freezer. I also picked a pile of spinach, which is already in the freezer.

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There is a sink full of broccoli raab that needs to be dealt with.  I will get around to that this afternoon, after I plant the veronica and the pink iris that one of my friends brought be yesterday.

So by now I’m sure you are wondering why I would title this “Labyrinth News.”

Simply this.   Back in November a most delightful woman named Twylla Alexander paid me and my labyrinth a visit.  She blogged about it here.  Her vision was to visit a personal labyrinth constructed by a woman in each of the fifty states.   I think she only has two states left to visit!   That is quite the journey, and during the course of it she has connected the owners of all the labyrinths she visited via email.

Now we are all agog over the near completion of her project, and hoping that we will be able to have a little cyber party to celebrate her accomplishment.   Well, and ours, of course!   And so, I make this post and I am hoping that it is possible for folks to upload pictures into the comments section.   I invite someone to attempt to do this.  If it works, then I will make a dedicated “Labyrinth Party Post” for us all to use.

Watch this space….

 

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A little while ago Jim and I made the trek out to the East Coast for two purposes.  One was to return a large cast iron cauldron that we had ordered which arrived cracked.   We took it back to the foundry to have it replaced with one that was not cracked.  The guy who packed it at the foundry just couldn’t imagine how it could have been cracked…   Personally, I suspect that it left the foundry that way and they were hoping that we wouldn’t notice until it was too late for us to make them do anything about it.   But UPS could have dropped it during shipping, which would not be surprising since it was in a box that was labelled “HEAVY” but even a person who was expecting “heavy” might have been surprised by the 87 lbs…

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It isn’t the largest cauldron ever, either.   It is only a 12 gallon sized, and they come all the way up to 60 gallons and more, some large enough to scald a whole pig.   I don’t know how you carry around a 60 gallon cast iron cauldron, actually.

The other reason for the trip was to visit the grandchild, who really represents a huge fork in our road.  He is developing in a most satisfactory way, thanks to the excellent parenting he is receiving.   I surely do wish we lived closer to that beautiful little family, but Skype helps.  One of the things that made the odyssey totally worth it?  Getting to see this:

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Another vision that really “made” the trip was this sign:

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This road has a serious identity crisis.  Not only does it not know what it’s number is, it doesn’t really know what direction it is going either.   Or possibly, it is all things to all people and going every direction at once.

Sometimes, I feel like that road sign could be the icon for my life.   Like most people, I struggle with the questions “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?”   “What is my purpose?”  “What is really important in my life?”   “Where is my place in the world?”

I do know my purpose, what I was put here on Earth to do, and that is to touch people and help them find the path to healing.   My work as a massage therapist has been doing that for well over 20 years now, and it has brought me peace and prosperity.   It has led me to connections with people that are deep and meaningful.  Recently I attended a class in California featuring Neuro-Muscular Reprogramming.   That re-connected me to Jocelyn Olivier and the Alive and Well School of Massage, the place where my training began.  Watch this space, you will hear more about NMR, which is a profound healing technique that I am anxious to master.  I see clearly that it is a fork in my massage road I am going to walk down, far down, and ultimately it will add longevity and depth to my massage career.

So that is one thing I am.   I am also a gardener…

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I like to create things, notably I am working on a quilt right now.  It is a bargello design called “Supernova.”   (This is a pattern I found in a book by Eileen Wright, which I have been thoroughly enjoying.)  I’m 75% done with the piecing.

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I am also a labyrinth tender:

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That “identity” has led me to connections as well.   My labyrinth is listed on the World Wide Labyrinth Locator, which brings strangers into my life from far away and turns them into friends.  Just a couple of days ago I was visited and interviewed by a woman who is visiting and writing about labyrinths in all 50 states.   I may or may not show up in her book.   After all, she may meet a better candidate than I am for her writing about this state.   Anyway, she had lived in Alaska for ten years and brought me a beautiful rock from the Mendenhall Glacier area of Juneau.   We had a thoroughly enjoyable visit.

There are no forks in a labyrinth, there is simply one path.   You begin at the beginning, follow the path through its twists and turns, and eventually you reach the center.

Sort of like life, actually.

 

 

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