"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere beyond the morning." - J.B. Priestly

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bird Count

I'm not actually going out looking for birds, but I am spotting quite a number of different ones right from my window.  Since my last post, I can add Red-Winged Blackbird (both male and female), Common Grackle, lots of Robins (including an immature young one that has different coloration), American Crow, Black-Capped Chickadee and, on a walk to the park with the kids, 2 sets of Mallard Ducks (male and female).

My Waxwings are long gone and I feel lucky to have had them visit my trees for a while.  This bird-watching is pretty fun actually.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lots of Visitors

Red-headed woodpecker
A very small portion of the tree-full of Cedar Waxwings
This morning, I have a whole tree full (at least 50) of Cedar Waxwings that are flying back and forth to my neighbor's Mountain Ash and sharing the berries with a dozen or so Robins and a few House Finches. There was also a big Red-Headed Woodpecker going up and down the tree for a while. Really enjoying all of the variety and color.  Of course, my driveway and sidewalk are covered with hundreds of those Mountain Ash berries that have been dropped by my visitors!
Anna in her school play

My other visitors are the two-legged variety:  all 4 of my grandchildren!  Thursday was Grandparent's Day at Jack & Anna's School.  Anna's class put on a series of "plays":  hers was The Little Red Hen -- so she wore a beautiful red dress.  When her class was done, she was able to leave with me so we went and had lunch with Mommy and Daddy.  Then, I went to Jack's class in the afternoon where we did puzzles and word games and Jack had to make a square for a "quilt" the class was making.

Jack making his quilt square
On Friday, Ian and Alex were also out of school so they were able to come over for the day and we went to Badger Sports Park where the kids played tons of game and, of course, Anna won a prize from a machine where absolutely no one else could win anything.

Popcorn and movies and a sleep-over, and everyone headed home on Saturday.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Seed Starting

It's not that I don't believe that Spring will ever come; I'm just not seeing much evidence of it.  Therefore, starting seeds makes me a little nervous as I only have so much room in my house and, unless the snow melts and the ground warms up, I might be stuck with the seedlings for a while.

That said, the 10 day forecast has us finally getting into the 40s and staying there.  That should take care of the bulk of the snow.

With a little trepidation, then, I decided to get some seedlings started.

Background first:  I've spent the past couple of months drawing up plans for my gardens as I wanted to do some major renovations this year.  Then, Stacy came to our Garden Expectations conference this year and, in the issue of B&B that she was using, was the fountain for my back yard.  That gave our President the idea that they should take one of our road trip meetings to our house.  Fortunately, it won't be until August, but I'd really like to have a nice, lush garden by then (even though I've really only been at this for 2 years).  To accomplish that, then, will require a lot of new plantings including a lot of annuals.  Hence, the need to start the seedlings unless I want to spend a fortune on transplants.

I had started 12 zinnia last week (3 are up and moved to the gro-light), and I've now added 3 Siberian Iris (already sprouted), 2 Agapanthus (already sprouted), 2 Arum, 28 marigolds, 40 assorted perennial and annual flowers, and maybe 7 or 8 each of basil and cilantro, plus a parsley.  Brought in one of my greenhouses (the other is holding my overwintering plants) and set it over the heat vent.  At least, now I'm started!

I still have a ton of flowers and some vegetables to get started -- probably in the next couple of days.  I've already pre-ordered 112 plants from various sources, and I know I'll end up buying a flat of impatiens and petunias for my containers.  This is going to be a lot of digging!

Bird Watching

I'm not a 'birder'.  I don't read magazines and books about birds, I don't try to learn the songs of different birds, and I don't go on expeditions to try to see specific birds.  However, I do have several bird feeders and I love to see the bright flashes of color when an unexpected bird drops in for a visit.

Through this long winter, I've become accustomed to the gray feathers of the mourning doves and the barely colored house finches that have continued to visit my feeders.  Today, though, the temperatures were a bit warmer and I saw some fun visitors.

First, there were three woodpeckers in one of the trees in my front yard.  They were pecking away at bugs, but I was able to clearly see them and identify them as Downy Woodpeckers.  As I watched them frantically pecking for bugs, I saw a flash of red and a different species of woodpecker.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see it clearly enough or long enough to tell whether it was a Red-Headed Woodpecker of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  Either way, it was fun to watch them and it motivated me to go out and clean up my feeders and refill them.  I'm afraid I had let it go a bit long.

Then, as we were sitting down to dinner, I looked through the back yard into the evergreen trees that grow on the other side of our fence.  Tucked into the branches was a big fat Northern Cardinal.  I had just put out some cracked corn and sunflower seeds so I'm hoping he'll stick around for a while.

The Mourning Doves have been coming up on the porch and hiding out behind the wagon that I have (filled with branches) as a winter display.  I suppose it's a bit warmer and safer hiding behind the wagon.  It's probably a nice refuge for them, but I wish they'd quit pooping all over my porch!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Home & Garden Show

Jim Beard (FVTC) at seminar
Jeff and I went to the Tri-County Arena Home & Garden Show.  We go every year just to check
things out and see if there's anything new and innovative that we just have to have.  While there, we sat in on Jim Beard's seminar on 'Waking up your Garden' and got a lot of useful information.  Gave me a nudge to get out there on the nice days coming up and get my spireas pruned down to about 4", and some really helpful information has convinced me to try to go organic with the lawn.  Might take a few years but the roots will go much deeper and the lawn will be stronger if we eliminate the synthetic fertilizers that we've been using.  Other than enjoying the seminar, there wasn't much else that we gained from being at the show this year.  Don't need gutter inserts and we aren't selling our home.  Did talk with VandeHey's about maybe coming out and helping me with some changes I want to make in my gardens involving large, flowering shrubs.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Desperately Seeking Spring!

Our Master Gardener group had our annual Garden Expectations conference on Saturday.  Friday night it snowed with blowing winds but Saturday turned out pretty nice.  Stacy spoke to the group on the process that goes into creating the issues of Birds & Blooms and she did an awesome job!  I continued to get comments from people long after she left.

Between Stacy and our other speakers, we're all really in the mood for spring and getting started with this year's gardens.  And it snowed again all day today!  Two days until the first day of spring and we're getting more snow now than we did all winter!

Nonetheless, I did start some seeds today.  3 pots each of 4 types of zinneas (including some that only get about 12" high).  I still have plenty of seed so I can start more, or simply sow them in the ground if and when we ever get to that point.  Right now, my tray of 12 potential seedlings is suspended over a heating vent for bottom warmth.  As soon as the seeds sprout, I'm going to get it set up in the basement under my new grow light.  Initially, I was thinking that I was a bit behind in getting things started (although I know the end of March is technically the 6 week mark until our last frost date).  With all of this additional snow, though, I'm thinking that there's no rush to get a bunch of seedlings that I won't be able to move to greenhouses.

Need to keep an eye on that long-range forecast.............

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tax Time

So, every year I put off doing our taxes.  I use TurboTax online (which is the best program ever!!!) so it's really easy.  They ask me questions, I give them the answers, and the forms get filled in and filed electronically.  Still, I always put it off.  This year, because of being completely retired and collecting my pension, I was a little concerned about how all of the numbers would shake out.  Should have remembered, though, that the pension funds are non-taxable income (yeah!).

Sat down to go through all of the paperwork tonight and, with very little problem (some complication over foreign taxes paid to Canada on some investments), I found that I should have done these weeks ago!  What a huge return we're getting from the IRS -- and we could have had it invested and working for us already!

Thank you, Scott Walker, excellent Governor of Wisconsin, for now making HSAs tax deductible.  Our burden to the great state of Wisconsin was cut in half this year as a result.

Our hot tub bit the dust this winter after many, many really good years.  The kids loved it but, as a general rule, it didn't get used too often so I won't be sorry to see it go.  Now I'll get my sun room back and I'm going to fill it with plants this Spring.  I already have my eye on some nice wicker furniture to put in there using a part of this nice tax return.  Kind of have my eye on something along the lines of this grouping.  This particular set is at Sam's Club, and I'll need some kind of rug not unlike the one in the picture.  Actually, they could just pick up the whole thing and bring it right to my house and I'd be thrilled to death.  Bring some of my plants into the room, which they'll love due to the sun that pours into that room all summer, and all I'll need is a book and a cold beverage!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Planning for this year's Garden

As I look out the window, it sure doesn't look like spring will be here any time soon.  It has been rainy and foggy all day, but the temp is dropping and it's getting kind of 'sleety' and windy out there.  I had actually hoped to go out and prune some of my shrubs this week (want to get to my wiegelas while it's still plenty early.  Don't want to cut off the flowers!).  Don't think that's going to happen!

One of my weigelas starting to bloom
So I've been reading about gardening, and watching TV shows about gardening, and I took all afternoon today to plan the renovations that I want to do in just one of my flower beds.  The front of my house just doesn't have the 'curb appeal' that I want (from a gardening perspective) as a result of older plants getting a big spindly and some of the newer ones that I had put in last year dying due to the drought and horrible summer that we had.  My magnolia is beautiful every year and all of my old-fashioned weigelas are so beautiful when they flower!  However, the two in front need to be cut back pretty severely so they'll fill in some pretty unsightly areas.  I have another one in the back that I never prune so it's big and sprawling and I love it.  Wish I had left the two in front alone and they would look as nice.  Sigh!

My front entry flower bed is in shade a good bit of the day.  It faces west, but we have huge trees that keep it shaded for much of the afternoon.  So it gets some early afternoon and, then, very late afternoon sun.  I have a sprinkler hose running under the mulch and I've learned the hard way what will survive in this garden.  My sedums (reliable 'Autumn Joy' variety) are very happy and my astilbes (one of my favorite of all plants) are growing larger each year.  We have a severe rabbit problem (probably brought on by the plentiful supply of food under my bird feeders) so trial-and-error have shown me what they'll leave alone on those spring days when tender shoots are coming out of the ground.  [Note:  I found that moss roses are not a good thing to put into the ground.  The bunnies cleared all of them out in one meal.)

My super boring front entry garden.  Yawn!
The plans I've made for that front entry garden are pretty extensive:  digging up three spireas (which will be moved up to my hillside at the lake), and replacing them with an azalea that needs to be transplanted from the backyard and two dwarf Burning Bushes.  Then, I also want to add another heucherella (Foamy Bells) and 2 Heucheras (Coral Bells).  I absolutely love Coral Bells and I'm looking forward to the two new ones:  Circus and Berry Smoothie.  There are 5 Hellebores going in between the 5 sedum that are there, and I'll fill in around the under with annuals.  I planted daffodils last fall and it will be interesting to see if they come up.  There was also a lovely chrysanthemum and, again, I'll be interested to see if it survives the winter.  The whole color palette of this entry garden is pinks and green-to-greenish-yellow, plus the yellow of the chrysanthemum (if it's still there).  I know that's not exactly the way the color wheel would have it done, but I like pink and yellow together.

The extension to the front garden is also boring!
 Next to the entry garden is an extension that goes over to the magnolia tree and this garden is planted more in shades of gold, yellow, and peach.  Using yellow, then, should tie them together (I hope!  Keeping my fingers crossed).  [Note:  as I was writing that last bit about tying the gardens together with color, I decided I need to add some foxglove for height and color as the azalea and weigela will be done blooming early, and the burning bush, sedums, and chrysanthemum (I'm keeping positive thoughts) show off their color in late summer to early fall.  I'll need something with a little color in the middle.]

 I'm also planning extensive changes to the rest of the front garden (that which runs over to the magnolia tree), and to the butterfly garden on the side.  So far, I've come up with more work than one summer can hold.  Guess maybe some of these are long-range plans.  Can't wait to get started, though!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Blog Fever

I originally started a blog when I traveled to England to chronicle a trip that I knew would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing (and it was).  I wanted to keep it separate from my daily ramblings because it will then read like the travelogue I was hoping to achieve and, via a company I've located, the entire blog can be downloaded and printed as a book.  It will make a nice addition to the souvenirs I collected there.

But, I needed by everyday blog to follow the ordinary things that happen in life (along with some of the not-so-ordinary) so I created this blog:  Vicki's Pensieve.  It's based on an item that appears in the Harry Potter books -- a basin in which your memories can be stored and examined at will so your brain doesn't get all clogged up trying to remember everything.

However, I liked the idea of having a blog that covered trips and travels.  Traveling has always been so important and fun for me and, now that I'm retired, I intend to do more and more of it.  So, another blog was born.

Then, when I started gardening seriously, I started a gardening blog more as a journal for myself so I could track the progress of the things that I was attempting.  Now that blog is also shared on our Master Gardeners website so I really need to keep the entries as non-personal as possible.

Now I'm going to China in July and had intended to create yet another blog just for that trip.  However, I've decided to fold that trip into my travel blog.  I mean:  Really -- How many blogs should one person manage?!

So I spent this evening cleaning up the blogs that I had, making them a bit easier to read, eliminating the one that I had started for China by integrating the information into the travel blog, and trying to find out how to delete old blogs (took me forever to find the instructions).  I also discovered that you can change the date on any blog post, which will allow me to go back and fill in some pages in a chronological order.  That was a wonderful discovery!