Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Second Look--May 31, 2017

We've been concentrating on the inside recently and I haven't been spending as much time working outside as I'd like. Besides an inside focus, poison ivy has been the other limiting factor. It's presence prohibits exploring and working in most of the back of our yard. However, I've contracted someone to come in and treat it. Now if he can only find time to do it. In the meantime, the poison ivy is very happy and growing like crazy.

Despite this, I have spent some time with my hands in the dirt. What can you do when a great friend shows up with plants, tools, and a suggestion for a perfect place plant them?  You can get down to work with her and be grateful that she got you away from your perfectionism of doing everything just so. If she hadn't initiated the planting, I may have spent a long time figuring out where they should go and made it a much larger production.

There has also been some bird drama going on. At the feeder, the house finches have been entertaining us with their mating rituals. The males perform, fight with each other while the female enjoys it all. Just like we're watching the Discovery Channel. In the back, something has been raiding nests. It's disappointing to see broken eggs, but such is life in the jungle.

I"m not taking as many pictures these days, but here are a few.

Yellow star flowers have joined the coral bells.

There are a few poppies blooming among the ground cover bed. Their bright color can be seen from far away.

My friend helped me plant Lilies of the Valley and Strawberry Begonias. Both of these plants can spread, so when they do, I plan for the lawn mower to help maintain them. The strawberry begonias took me back to my college days when I had them as houseplants.

I also planted marigolds, celosia, and a few herbs along the back of the house. Most of the plants are starting to take off, but the celosia still look a little anemic. Hopefully, that will turn around soon.

Cherries are forming on the cherry tree. Not sure what kind they are, but time will tell.

Apparently, pears are also forming. We had the apple and pear trees severely pruned a few weeks ago. They have leafed out well, but I hadn't seen any fruit forming on them. But then I found this small pear on the ground and concluded that maybe the fruit is just too small to see among the leaves. It will interesting to see how much is really there as it matures.

I don't have any pictures of the house finches doing their dances, but this goldfinch certainly is sporting his courting colors.

I was very excited when the bluebirds built a nest and laid 4 eggs.

The mother bluebird actually let me take her picture while she was sitting on the eggs. Unfortunately, the next day the nest was empty with no birds or eggs in sight. A couple of days after that we found a dead bluebird near the box. It looked to be a young juvenile and I don't think it had anything to do with this nest.

A few days later, we found this robin's nest on the ground with broken shells in and around it. One shell was about 20 yards away.

Then we started to question what happened to this nest we found on the ground a couple of weeks earlier. We thought if had been blown out of a tree on a windy day. Maybe or maybe not...
All of this needs more investigation. Unfortunately, it is in the poison ivy area which limits our access. Maybe we should just let nature take its course, but I did so want to see baby bluebirds.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day-- A Remembrance

On this Memorial day, I am rerunning this post from three years ago. It's an important family story for Ward. 

 Memorial Day--Leo's Story

Today is Memorial Day in the US--the day we remember the men and women who died while serving their country in the armed services. There are many different stories about these people and I'm going to tell one of them here about Ward's grandfather, Leo.

Leo, 1941
Leo was the son of Polish immigrants and as a young man joined the army is 1929. He became part of the Army Engineer division. Later at a dance, he met a smart and pretty young girl, LeeAnn, and married her in 1932. They soon added a baby boy to the family and two years later they had another. After renting a small home, Leo built a house for his growing family. Being an enterprising young man, he used discarded lumber from a railroad yard for much of the house. (By the way, the house that he built still stands firm today.)

Leo's and LeeAnn's happy life was not affected much when World War II broke out in Europe in 1939. However, the Army started to send units to Iceland to build defensive fortifications to be ready just in case. At the end of 1941, his unit was assigned to go to Iceland to help in these preparations. While they were in New York waiting for their boat, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The US immediately declared war against Japan and her allies, including Germany. The US was officially in World War II.

Leo and his unit continued with their orders to go to Iceland, but they didn't make it. Their boat was attacked in the Atlantic by a German submarine and had to be repaired before it could go any further. During the month that the repairs took, the soldiers got to go back and spend time with their families. No one knew that this would be the last time they would see each other.

Their boat was repaired, and they were finally on their way. They made it to Iceland and completed their work. However, on the way back to the states, the boat was attacked by another German submarine and this time it sank. The seas were rough which made it difficult for many to survive. Most went down with the ship. First Leo was declared missing at sea and later he was declared killed in action. It wasn't until several years later that his family knew the details of what happened because much of the information was classified.

LeeAnn was suddenly left with two young boys to raise on her own. A few months later, the unthinkable happened and her younger son was killed in an accident. Despite the terrible losses, she kept going. With various jobs, hard work, and the help of family she carved out a good life for her and her son (Ward's father).

When I met LeeAnn, these events had happened over 40 years ago, but it was like they had happened yesterday for her. She talked about the surprise that Leo was going to bring her when he got home from Iceland and still wondered what it was going to be. She showed me some of the subflooring that Leo built where you could read writing from the railroad cars. She talked about how long it took for them to declare Leo dead and how that affected her benefits. But mostly she talked about the surprise her husband was going to bring her. She thought that it was going to be something to do with their tenth wedding anniversary that they were going to celebrate when he came home.

On this day and everyday, we remember Leo and the sacrifice he made for his country. We also want to remember all of the other men and women who have died in service and hope that their stories have been told. But most importantly, we want to thank each and everyone of them and their families. Because of their sacrifices, we can live a good life today.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

This and that

Things have been going fast and furious here not leaving much time for blogging. Now if I could only remember what they were. Circling, meowing cats, who want a second breakfast, are making it hard to hear myself think right now.

I planted geraniums in front of the house even though I said I wasn't going to.
I was going to wait until we got the invasive vine under control in that bed.
For now, it has been pulled and mulched over, but is coming up again
I do know that we continue to work on the house and it is slowly coming together. We had some major painting done which caused things to be put back into boxes and furniture moved. The disruption was worth it, though. There's nothing like a fresh coat of paint to brighten things up. The walls hadn't been painted in several years and were worse for the wear.

Also, the entire house had dark, wood stained doors and woodwork which Ward loved, but we decided to change to white to lighten up things. The long, tedious process of painting stained wood made it well worth it to hire painters for the job. The dark wood got four coats of paint along with sanding in-between. Ward painted some moldings before we moved in and found it a very frustrating process. So much so, that he was ready to rip the molding off and go buy some new. Anyway, the painting is done and the furniture is back in place.

While moving the furniture back, we tried several different configurations. Some of the placements feel just right while others will do as we figure out what might work better. Sometimes function doesn't always jive with what looks best. (BTW, do you ever notice on the HGTV shows that have a TV in a room they're featuring, don't have any of the furniture facing it? Looks good, but how practical is that?) We've also started to hang some of our artwork and it's good to see it again.

In the meantime, our range stopped working. Thank goodness, we have a microwave because it was about a week before Ward was able to fix it. Luckily, it was an easy fix and we don't have to take advantage of the Memorial Day sales to buy a new one.

Also, a large window almost fell out of it frame and into the yard while I was cleaning it. Ward was around and came to my rescue as I was precariously trying to hold the window in place. The window is back in its frame, but not safely, so we've fixed it so no one tries to open it. I would really like new windows, but I'm not sure that's next up on the priority list. The list of major To Do's is still pretty long, but all it takes is time and money, right?

The cats have come back and along with the meowing, they are gently poking me for more food. Consequently, I've lost my train of thought, so until next time...

Here are a few pictures of what's happening at my house.

Before: You can get an idea of the woodwork, floors and walls when we bought the house. The picture does a good job of hiding the wear and tear.

After: New floor and paint with white doors and woodwork.

The office, which you can see on the edge of the above photo, did not get painted and still has the darker woodwork. Not sure what we'll do with this in the future. I like the doors the color they are. 

This is a my great grandparents' marriage certificate. They were married in 1902 and that's their picture underneath. This is one of the things we hung recently.

The middle window is the one that almost fell out.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day--May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!!

Things continue to be very busy here, so I am going to rerun one of my Mother's Day posts from before. My mother is a remarkable woman and this is just a small glimpse into who she is.


Happy Mother's Day

I come from hearty stock. Thank goodness, because raising babies in my family is not for the faint of heart. Just ask my mother.

She gave birth to my oldest sister, Daughter Number One, as young woman one year after she married my father. She said at that point she knew as much about taking care of a baby as she did about being a plumber (not much). My sister did all of the fun things babies do like cry a lot for no apparent reason and never sleep. But soon my sister learned to talk. And talk. My mothered yearned for quiet.

Two and a half years later, Daughter Number Two was born. She followed in the footsteps of Number One and cried a lot for no apparent reason and never slept. Then she learned to walk. And run. And climb. And to never be afraid. She climbed the banisters, moved the furniture, scared the neighbors, and had the fire department rescue her from a drain. She didn't talk much, but that didn't matter, because Number One talked enough for both of them.

Three years after Number Two, I was born. I just didn't cry for no apparent reason, I cried ALL of the time. I cried so much that I burst my tear ducts. I cried so much that the neighbors took me with them when they delivered groceries. They hoped to provide some relief for all involved. I consumed every minute of my mother's time. Meanwhile, Number One talked and Number Two was “busy.”

My mother was tired, but the kids were happy.
Then the miracle happened. Daughter Number Four was born four years after me. She only cried when she needed something. She slept regularly. My mother was afraid that something was wrong with her. She didn't understand this kind of baby. Meanwhile, Number One talked, Number Two was busy, and I cried easily, but we were manageable now—at least compared to before. For a little while, my mother could breathe and just be very busy raising four young girls. That was until my ailing grandmother moved in. But that's another story.

My husband has a theory that the number of kids in a family is equal to the number of easy babies plus one difficult one. Thank goodness my parents didn't subscribe to that formula or I wouldn't be here. I want to thank my mother, on this Mother's Day, for not giving up when I'm sure she wanted to and giving me a great start to life.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Thankful Sunday--May 7, 2017

Red is being leash trained while he learns boundries and to come when called. 
I am thankful for buttercups.

Every year Aunt Martha selectively mows her yard to let a field of buttercups grow into a striking mass of yellow. Over the years, this became a great place to photograph her dog, Bear because he was totally black and didn't always show up well in photos.

Sadly, he passed away last year, but they have a new dog, Red. Red is a rescued redtick coonhound and has a varied, auburn coat which does not present the same picture challenges as Bear's did. However, I thought the tradition of buttercup dog photos should go on, so I took a picture of Red in them. And he looked just as good as Bear did. Enough so, that my sisters and I are thinking about having our pictures taken with the buttercups, since we also have auburn hair.  :)

So for buttercups, old traditions and new dogs, I am thankful.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Second Look--May 5, 2017

 We are experiencing typical spring weather which means it cycles from hot and humid to cool and breezy and back to hot again. With every change, rain is sprinkled in here and there. This has been good growing weather for almost everything. The grass and its accompanying weeds have been growing like crazy and we've needed to mow at least twice a week. The trees are leafed out with only a few blooms left on them. I continue to discover new things popping up in the yard which is a lot of fun. I just wish they weren't encased in ground cover vines or poison ivy. A challenging problem to solve for sure.

Here are a few things a saw this week
 during a Second Look.

While most of the trees have lost their blooms, these azaleas are still providing lots of color. The bushes are on the side of the house and looked like they haven't had much attention except some trimming of deadwood I did earlier. However, neglect must be good, because they are really pretty.

Corral bells are blooming on the other side of the house. I can't pass them without singing White Coral Bells. Now I need to find someone to sing this with me in a round.

A salvia plant has also started to bloom in that bed.

The back corner bed is the one that intrigues me the most. Three planted ground covers plus poison ivy thoroughly cover everything. So when I discover a plant or one grows above the background vines, it is truly a fun surprise.

Recently discovered are these poppies. I see buds, so they may be blooming soon. Poppies are known for seeding and spreading like crazy. However, I think there's too much shade or ground cover here for that to happen. Also notice the vinca vines' purple flowers on the right.

The dianthus I uncovered last week has started to bloom.

Remember Miss Annie Laurie's hellebore? It needs shade, so it was planted it in this bed. I moved it from the old house and it spent the winter in a pot. It suffered another assault when I accidentally dropped it head first into the hole I dug. However, just like before it seems to be rallying. 

No eggs in the nest yet, but there continues to be work on it.