Thursday, June 28, 2007

SANCTUARY - Part I, The Introduction

We live in a neighborhood which was heavily wooded before houses started to make their debut here some twenty years ago. The developers were very careful to preserve most of the mature trees and underbrush that grace this area today especially behind the houses. We have an abundance of well established oak, elm, hickory, ash, and mulberry. When we step out our back doors in this neighborhood it is like stepping into a forest preserve.

This natural setting invites a variety of birds to make their homes here: robins; cardinals; doves; blue jays; indigo buntings; orioles; goldfinch; yellow hammers; hummingbirds; wrens; martins; English sparrows; chickadees, and red headed woodpeckers.

Occasionally we see deer in the very early morning traipsing across someone's lawn. One evening late I spotted a fox in our neighbor's front yard. We have a few raccoons and opossums that make their homes here. Now and then a skunk will stroll through and leave its calling card. We have plenty of squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits. And dogs! I was talking to a neighbor recently about this dog phenomenon. We both agreed that there must be a covenant law that states you have to own a dog if you live here.

I hope you will click each of the following photos to enlarge them as you go along so that you can appreciate the shots more fully.

This is our home. Hanging on our front door is a pine cone wreath with a shingle attached to it that reads: "Nana and Papa's nest, where the flock gathers." The flock now numbers over twenty. Mostly children. And gather here they all do for birthdays and holidays and other occasions. Our home is kid-friendly as the basketball goal in the photo suggests. There is more kid-friendly stuff in the back yard. This is why six-year-old Ricky, one of our grandsons, calls our place "Nana and Papa's park."

Even though the above photo was taken a few years ago in the spring, not much has changed except the trees are a little taller and their trunks a little larger. You can see in this photo that we have some spring trees and bushes in bloom: magnolia; rhododendron; dogwood; crab, and cherry. Our brightly colored tulips and yellow daffodils are a welcome sight each spring.

Above: Every year for I don't know how long I have gone to this particular garden center nearby and purchased several large potted geraniums for the front of our house. Above: This arrangement is mostly impatiens with a few English ivy mixed in for variety. I am not a big fan of yard art, but I do like to sneak in an animal figurine here and there like I have this little rabbit.

Below: A row of yellow lilies adorn the south side of our house. You can't see them in this shot, but further down are a few peony bushes.

Above: This is the north side of our house. This is the path we will take to the back yard where most of the action takes place. Note the lily of the valley that is to the right of the stepping stones.

Above: Our back yard, especially, has abundant shade. We rely on the shade loving hosta for beautiful variations of the color green. Alongside this particular hosta is spirea which sends up feather like spikes loaded with tiny flowers. It was not in its full glory when this photo was taken.
Above: Another flower we rely on because it loves shady places are impatiens. We plant them in bunches here and there on the perimeter of our back yard. The effect is a panoramic view of bouquet after bouquet of flowers.
Above: Our yard would not be complete without an array of bird feeders. This is one of them. I call it the "Feathered Friends Fast Food Eatery With Fly Up Window."
Below: One corner of our back yard looking into the neighbor's back yard. Note our big hosta plants.

Above: More hosta plants...this time with blue green leaves. I see some of our impatiens there, too, and some lily of the valley as well as more spirea.

Above: A close-up of part of the previous photo.

Below: More spirea. Another name for spirea is astilbe. This one is in white. These are really beautiful perennials.




Previews of Part II - The Woods

Meet "Shagbark Barney" and, perhaps if you are lucky, "Woody" our Woodland Gnome in Part II of SANCTUARY....coming soon to your favorite neighborhood blog. BYO Popcorn.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Coming soon - SANCTUARY

"The Amen! of Nature is always a flower."

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

I've been working on a post of many photos taken of our flowers and yard. I thought I might be able to finish it tonight and post it to my blog. Unfortunately, my Broadband connection with its high speed turned dysfunctional on me leaving me with my very slow dial-up connection which is incapable of handling the load. This happens way too often, this loss of my Broadband connection. Eventually it will start working again...out of the blue. I will have to wait on it, the temperamental thing.

In the meantime, enjoy this one photo I have up for you of one of our perky-faced daisies. Please give the photo a click so that you can see an enlargement of it. Those are raindrops you see clinging to its petals. The photo was taken just after a nice rain.

Till Broadband returns.....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Great Ant Invasion

Ants can make you see red like they are doing with my friend Sharon Robinson. She writes:

The small brown ants crawling on the cabinet and stove top (what Mom always called sweet ants) started as less than a dozen. I suppose they were scouts. I cleaned and removed everything I thought they might be attracted to. (Too late, Sharon, they have your number. )

I thought - now they'll be gone. I don't like to use poison on anything...if there's any other way.

For a few days the ants were almost gone, and I forgot about them. That was my first mistake. Still not wanting to give in, I thought "I'll give the ants two more days (Two more days???? Why didn't you just hand them the keys to your house and move out?) or until my next convenient trip to town. In a couple of days this voice in my head was whispering, "You might want to re-think this strategy."

That was when I decided to go to Fred's for some Taro ant killer. I had thoughts of a wind chime that was advertised and on sale for $12. Fred's had six wind chimes and a couple of boxes of he six-pack ant houses left on the shelf. Apparently I wasn't the only one with ants. I bought the wind chime and one box of ant houses. (There had better be something about wind chimes that gets rid of ants or I am going to start to wonder.)

Fred's didn't carry Taro.

I placed two of the six ant houses from Fred's in the kitchen and thought that should do it. They'll be gone in a couple of days, I thought. In a few days the ants were in the small honey jar on the cabinet on the other side of the sink. (Was it the gingham curtains you hung in the windows of the ant houses that turned them off and caused them to head for the honey?)

They had ventured that far before, but I thought they won't go there because I've got the honey jar sealed tightly. But I was wrong! (I bet they unscrewed the lid.) The jar has a top like maple syrup jars you find in restaurants. You just push down the top and out it p0urs onto hot pancakes. ('re making me hungry.) The lid was not sealed 100%. There was a tiny crack under the spout. The ants found their way in and to the honey. They were in ant heaven. (And you were in ant hell by then.)

The jar of honey had a dozen or so dead ants floating on top of the golden brown clover honey. (I've heard of chocolate covered ants, but not honey covered ants. So, how did they taste?)

The other honey jar, with the regular screw on top and a tight seal, went into the refrigerator. I kept the dishes washed and the cabinets wiped clean immediately after every meal thinking that would do the trick. Again, that small voice whispered "You might want to re-think this strategy."

A week passed and I had to give up on the ant houses. (I tell you, Sharon, it was the gingham curtains...)

The next trip I made to town I bought some heavy duty Taro. Dad always put out a little Taro ant killer in a soda bottle cap and placed it strategically around the kitchen. (So how many cats and dogs did Dad lose due to Taro poisoning?)

I suppose the Taro stopped a full-blown invasion for Dad, but honestly, it never eliminated them in 14 days like the label on the container said it would. In time, I am sure Mom learned to live with a couple of ants on the cabinet top. She would wipe up a few, like I do, and move on. I think she waved the white flag years before I noticed those soda bottle caps with Taro in them just like I have waved the white flag over the mole hills in the yard. And over the deer population too.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I whispered to myself. I don't know if there is a line somewhere about "fool me three times", but...I am sure you have already guessed what it was like the next morning after I put out the Taro poisoning. (I'm afraid to venture a guess. Doesn't sound good.)

The next morning the ants were back and they brought reinforcements. As I sipped a cup of hot tea, I watched the ants move in a steady stream up the wall in front of the kitchen sink and toward a small clay flower pot on the window sill. They had "moved in." (But not into the ant houses, because they could not stand the gingham curtains, eh.)

The entire bottom of that small clay pot was BLACK with ants. In case you have never had an up close and personal relationship with ants (Hope I never do...) and in case you do sometime in your lifetime, ants love moist dirt and they adore flower pots. (Had you put a few flower pots in the ant houses, they might have moved into them.)

I knocked off the ants from the flower pot and moved it to another room so the ants would not be tempted. A lot of good that did.

It has been six weeks and I am still dealing with ants although their population has diminished due in part to the Taro, but mostly because I have become combative with them. (Now that's the fighting spirit!)

First thing in the morning I notice them and the chase begins. They run like the devil is at their heels as I nail first one then another with my thumbs. They now know that this is dangerous territory and that it is already occupied. They know I intend to stand my ground.

This whole ant business is taking its toll on me psychologically though. I am becoming paranoid and imagining that the ants are only toying with me, wearing me down until I give up completely and let them have the run of the kitchen. (Don't give in, Sharon. Keep on keeping on. They are bound to give up eventually and go to someone else's house and honey jar. )

I can't seem to find the humor in all of this ant business. Or the moral of the story except maybe that everything is looking for a home. Everything is looking for a home around our place for sure: the ground hog; the opossum; the raccoon; the squirrels; the deer; the snakes; and the rabbits. They all behave like they own this piece of property too. Even the skunk thinks it has a stake in this place. She has moved in under our wood pile in the southeast corner of the yard...and I think she has babies. I guess I will just have to share this place with God's other creatures and try to be happy about it.

Your friend Sharon with news from

Down on the farm

(Maybe if you would try the wind chimes, Sharon....)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Day I Made My Daddy Cry

It was 67 years ago today that I made my Daddy cry. Mother and Daddy had been married for only a year and Daddy was still only 19 when I was born. I can imagine that the nurse swaddled me in a blanket shortly after my birth and handed me to Daddy to hold before taking me to the nursery to clean me up.

That evening Daddy said goodbye to Mother and went home. At the time my parents were living with my grandparents in their big old rambling farm house. When Daddy got home Grandma was full of questions. She wanted to know all about the birth and her first grandchild. "Who does she look like?" "Does she have lots of hair?" "What color is it?"

Daddy was sitting at Grandma's kitchen table when he broke down and started to cry. He could hardly get it out. "Mom," he whimpered, "she is the ugliest baby I have ever seen." He had never seen a newborn before especially not one that had just entered the world moments earlier and was all ruddy and wrinkly and full of goop. Only a mother could love a baby in those early moments after birth.

With soothing tones, Grandma assured Daddy that I would look much better the next time he saw me. And I did. After that shocking introduction and once I was all prettied up in the nursery, he fell in love with me.

This is me - six months old

This is me - 19 years old

This is my daughter and me taken more recently