Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer thoughts

I feel like I'm embracing summer with great big bear hugs these days. It's immaterial to me that summer doesn't officially begin for another week and a half. Summer is state of mind, and it's absolutely wonderful right now.

Our small lawn, which was so scrawny and anemic-looking last year, has become unbelievably lush and thick. I'm convinced it's because of our new little reel lawnmower. I've been mowing about every five days -- frequently enough so the mulched-up clippings are quite small. It's unbelievable what great, easy, instantly-effective fertilizer that is. Our grass has become amazingly green, thick and healthy-looking. What a transformation!

Another unexpected plus I've discovered from the motor-free mower -- you can stop whenever you want! It sounds silly, but that's just not something you do when you're roaring along with a power mower. If I'm mowing and spot a dandelion, I pull my weeding tool out of my apron pocket and deal with it right then. If a cedar waxwing lands in the serviceberry tree and begins to feast, I can stop and quietly savor the scene without having to re-start a noisy engine. If Dan's out in the yard and we feel like chatting in mid-mow, we simply do. It's amazing how much more pleasure that brings to the whole mowing experience. It's so enjoyable that I'm almost sorry when I'm done.

Tonight we had dinner on the back porch and admired the freshly cut lawn and all the recently-planted perennials that are doing so well right now. The lavendar is just starting to blossom out, and the pink bells of the penstemon are so graceful in the breeze. There are no signs of flowers on the monarda yet, but the foliage is thick, slightly fuzzy, and perfect. The junipers planted last fall are heavy with blue berries that the birds love.

All this, and a wonderful partner to share it with. I am truly blessed. And truly grateful.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A denim garden apron

I’m always leaving stuff like my garden clippers, gloves, and such just lying around the yard and then I spend precious gardening time hunting for them. So since my sewing apron (pictured in my banner) comes in so handy in my quilting room, I thought I’d make myself a gardening apron, too.

I recently ran across this ThreadHeads tutorial (courtesy of Apronista) for an apron made out of old denim jeans. And as luck would have it, Dan had just sorted a worn pair of jeans out of his closet and I had nabbed them for a possible project. So last night, I used some of the ideas from ThreadHeads and liberally adapted them to suit my own needs.

Here’s what I ended up with.

I love, love, love it – especially the re-attached waistband that now buttons in the back.

If you can’t tell, the main part of the apron is actually the pants leg cut off with one seam ripped out, and then turned upside-down. In other words, the end of the leg – the part that would be the cuff, if these were cuffed jeans, which thankfully they were not – ends up at the waist.

I made a deep horizontal tuck to form the large pockets (plenty of fabric for that -- he’s got him some long legs, that sweet husband of mine.) That put the ripped knee right in the front, so I clipped one of the pockets off the tush and stitched it to cover the rip. The whole thing holds together with some stitching along the sides of the two “underneath” layers and a straight vertical line of topstitching along the center seam.

You could do some really adorable embellishments on something like this, with lots of appliques and rick rack and fun embroidery. For mine, I just wanted something really basic and utilitarian that I wasn't afraid to get grimy and that I could throw into the washer and dryer with ease.

I came straight home from work this evening, put it on, loaded up the pockets and had an extremely efficient hour of puttering around weeding, clipping, watering -- with everything I needed right there!

If you have any interest in making this and my description doesn't make sense, leave a comment or e-mail me privately and I'll work up a little tutorial.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Eeek! Thrips!

This weekend's unseasonably hot, humid weather has challenged my flowerbeds, so I've kept the garden hose handy to do deep watering. And I don't know if it was aggravated by the heat or not, but my wonderful little New Dawn rose came down with a case of the thrips.

I plucked off and crushed all the little critters I could spot, but they seemed to come back within hours. Dan positioned the finch feeder next to the rosebush, so that can't hurt. And in looking online for some natural solutions, I ran across this item about sticky traps.

Instead using yellow posterboard (really, who has that in the house?) I stitched some yellow fabric to a couple of narrow strips of stiff interfacing (OK, I do have that in the house) and added hanging loops of the yellow rick rack which also happened to be handy.

Then I just slathered them with Vaseline and hung them right on the rose bush.

To be honest, the thing looks pretty ridiculous with these yellow dangly things on it. Reminds me of old stories about medieval children with a poultices around their necks to ward off the plague.

But I'll be darned -- the traps actually seem to be working. I haven't seen a single little critter feasting on New Dawn's buds or leaves since I put them on yesterday morning!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dude, please -- just paint!

I apologize for being negative, and I truly don’t want to be unkind. But I have the World’s Most Annoying House Painter.

Fortunately he has no reason to suspect that I blog, so he won’t be seeing this. I would never intentionally hurt his feelings. But, just between you and me – this guy is driving me nuts.

He’s a talker. He’s REALLY a talker. Now, I am all for having friendly, collegial business relationships. But this guy is constantly flapping his jaws about anything and everything. We’ll be headed out the door to go somewhere and he decides he needs to hop down off his ladder and talk to us for 20 minutes about some situation with our eaves he’s discovered. Apparently he’s that he’s decided we have some sort of Dreaded Eaves Syndrome that will cause our entire house to self-destruct years from now. But hey, he’s got a cousin that could fix it right away and boy, would we be glad to have THAT little disaster nipped in the bud…

At first we didn’t mind him pointing out this and that, because he is, presumably, someone who knows his way around a two-story domicile and could have some valued professional input on its construction. So we’d listen with a mild amount of interest and assure him we’d look into it at some point. But once he’s got you in a conversation, this guy goes on forever and he always has an angle. He feels our gutters and downspouts are horribly inadequate. His brother-in-law can help out with that. He proclaimed our roof a mess. Surely it will cave in on us one night, but his wife’s nephew could save us from certain doom if only we would call him. You get the picture.

We had an exhaustive inspection when we bought the house two years ago, and while there is always ongoing maintenance to be done -- like, um, painting -- there just is nothing that dire about the condition of our house. But instead of just painting like we're paying him to do, this dude is on a one-man mission to secure employment for his entire family by fixing our home's fabricated ills.

To make matters worse, he’s painting only on weekends so the job is taking forever. Dan generally works Saturdays so that’s when I find myself flying solo in my quest to avoid the World’s Most Annoying House Painter. He’s working on the front of the house? I’ll bolt out the back! He’s run to the store for more paint? Quick, make a break for it!

But when I’m working in the garden, as I was almost all of last weekend, I can’t avoid him. More yappity-yapping. More endless observations of trees that need trimming, and how I'd better get my deck sealed or the earth is just going to open up and swallow my ramshackle hovel.

So you wanna guess my favorite gardening implement of all? Yep, you're right.

Blasting a little Van Morrison into my ears brings me right back to center and keeps the World's Most Annoying House Painter at bay for as long my iPod can hold a charge.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A birdly treat

My office window looks out onto a small courtyard crowded with trees. This afternoon I was earnestly writing away on something, and a flash of orange caught my eye.

Could it be? Nahhh, it couldn't...or could it?

It flitted about and perched in a more-exposed spot. Sure enough, it was a male Baltimore oriole, resplendent in orange and black and singing its little heart out.

This was an amazing sight, considering this little spot -- as green as it is -- seldom attracts any bird life but the occasional grackle or crow. I grabbed my camera out of my purse and snapped away.

When the bird flitted over to another part of the courtyard, I raced down the hallway and around the corner into my co-worker Mike's office. "Look out your window!" I told him. "There's a Baltimore oriole out there!"

Mike scowled. "You know I'm a Yankees fan," he said.

Y'got me on that one, Mike. Ba-DUMP-bum!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The first rose of summer

I’ve been anticipating it for days – yesterday morning when I left for work it had almost happened, and I was sorely tempted to walk home at lunchtime just to check. Pesky work got in the way.

And last night – not quite.

This morning’s early light did the trick. And so, I proudly present my garden’s very first rose of the season.

It’s a New Dawn climbing rose, and it seems to be doing very well in one of the sunny corners of my new flowerbed. It’s absolutely covered with more buds. My friend and garden advisor Judith tells me they’ll soon be exploding out like popcorn.

Not knowing much about roses, I was a little hesitant to put one into the garden, but Judith assured me that New Dawn is one of the easiest, most pest- and disease-resistant varieties in all of rose-dom, and that it will grow like gangbusters all through the summer. Guess I’d better start thinking about putting in a trellis so it can go about its business in a well-supported manner.

If I had been home today, I know I’d have been parked in the garden for hours, just staring at the lovely blush of New Dawn. Instead, I just saved the photo as the background screen on my computer at work. Not quite the same thing, but I sure did enjoy it.