Thursday, February 28, 2008

Look What's Down the Street!

You know how you get in the car, hook your seat belt and away you go to your destination. And you watch traffic and stop at all the stop lights and signs. And you are thinking of what you need to get, do, and or what's for supper. All the while you really don't notice the things around you.

Evidently, that is what I have done.. for days now. I was bringing one of my grand girls home with me this afternoon and she saw this! About a block down the street from my house! We just had to take a picture. She and I were both amazed. Now there are 3 children in that house, 2 boys and a girl, none of whom are beyond grade school yet. So one or all are quite the artist!

When we saw this snow elephant, it reminded me of a blogger a while back that posted about being at an ice sculpture show and contest. If I could remember who, I would gladly give them credit(the memory is going!), but I can't. The sculptures were truly beautiful and took at lot of skill. But age for age I think our local artist did a remarkable job!

I would never have thought to try something like this...all I've ever attempted was a snow man using 3 graduated -slightly-out-of -round balls of snow. So I congratulate the inventiveness, the originality and the imagination of the artist(s)!!

And by the way.. take some time to observe what is around you!

Now for a side note... I won't be posting for a few days. About 3 weeks ago the dropped ceiling in our living room fell. Literally fell down around us! We took the rest of it down and now the back-ordered tile are in. So we are going to be busy putting it up these next few days. How fun!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Good News for Wild Life

I wanted to post some positives today.

Mary showed us some photos of Urban Sprawl taking place across from her. It is sad that so much of our precious natural habitats are being used for subdivision and mini mall. I feel fortunate to live in an area that is doing something about preserving native environments. A small, but growing very quickly, town to the south of us has started a Wetland restoration and educational site.
Now, I will grant you that this area is not prime real estate as it does frequently flood. No one in their right mind would ever consider building here. (well, stranger things have happened I guess) And maybe this was a tax write off, but the important thing is wild life comes out a winner!

I am not very good at estimating acreage or hectors, but I think this site is close to 30 acres. The north edge borders the Salt Fork River and there are lots of trees. Some native broom and prairie grasses have been planted or have come back on their own. There are several different types of bird houses setting on tall poles scattered across the grounds. Hopefully, there will be more added as they progress. The picture below shows the mound they have built up to be used as a viewing area.

As you can see, it is not open yet. From what I can find out, sometime this spring or early summer is the anticipated date. There will be wetland kits available to teachers for use with their students. These will consist of a birding book, soil testers, fresh water clam identifier and written materials. Of course anyone will be welcome. I do think it is important to reach young people on many different levels to stress the importance of preserving natural lands.

One other area that is very close (2 miles south) is owned by the University of Illinois. I would suppose it is about 20 acres of totally natural woods. Occasional, we see university vehicles pared along the road and now they are in there studying wild life, trees, or something. I go there to see birds and deer, as do many others.

Even though this looks like a road, you have to walk. They have blocked the entrance. Good for them!

So, my positives are that there are programs and areas out there to preserve nature. We just have to look for them and speak out in favor of such projects!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Planing a new Bed and Weather

This past week we got what else, more snow! The predicted 1-2" turned into 6-8". Our only saving grace was we did not have any wind. Here on the prairie wind can be dangerous when mixed with any amount of snow. Now that some of it has melted and the roads are once again clear, we are under a Winter Storm Warning for tonight and tomorrow. Well, technically spring is still 3+ weeks away! While we were having the snow, my cousin who lives about 200 miles south and is in zone 6, was getting ice. We think of ice as an inconvenience usually and know we have to watch for slippery spots so we don't fall, but normally we do not experience ICE! Ice, thick ice on everything! And while it was beautiful and made the area look like a sparkling wonderland, it did do a lot of damage to the tree population. Majestic old growth was horribly destroyed and most looked maimed beyond belief. Some will never recover. Some will grow back but will be disfigured for ever. Some will have to be cut down and hopefully will be replaced.

But even with all the destruction, there was beauty. The dried hydrangea bloom below I found strangely appealing. It looks like it has been freshly washed and dripping dry.

This is just a blade of grass that has taken on the appearance of a curved staff. Notice how thick the ice is!
Okay, enough winter pictures!
I am planning a new flower bed. It will contain mostly flowers for cutting. I am going to put it on the south side of the house along a brick walkway that leads from our patio to our deck. One side of the brick walk is covered in a low juniper bush that I am constantly cutting back to keep the path clear. On the side where the new bed is going, I have mostly ground cover and mulch. The plan is to cut back and pull out if necessary the ground cover and to remove the mulch. I will have to spade up the soil as it has been covered for several years and I am sure it is very compacted. Then I will sow my seeds and sprinkle potting soil on top. Below is the packet with "dark opal" basil. I love the color and think it will set off the other flowers' color and is supposed have a wonderful fragrance. Of course I can use it fresh in cooking, and later freeze some of the leaves for use in the winter.

Next, of course, is the good old standby Zinnias! These are called "Bright Border Mix" and will only get 12-15" tall. They promise 2 1/2" double and semi double flowers on disease resistant stems. And the packet says I can pinch young plants to promote bushiness. ( I didn't know I could do that to zinnias!)

I have never tried to grow Statice of any kind. But the flowers on the packet looked so lovely, that I thought...why not? I am supposed to get "dense, graceful sprays of dainty papery everlasting flowers that retain color when dried." Doesn't that sound wonderful!? And I think the butterflies will like them too.

Lastly, I am going to try once more to grow the Butterfly Flower. I was given a plant last year, but even with tender caring it died. And that is so frustrating because I have seen them just a little south of us growing wild. Maybe, I will have better luck starting them from seed. I have read somewhere that they do not like to be moved. If they do grow, they will stay in that spot as they are a perennial. Next year then, I can just fill in around them.

Well, That is one new bed done. Now I just need to start thinking and planning my new fern bed, my very shady bed, and my up sized day lily bed.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Seeds From Kent (UK)

My seeds came today! Yeah! From Cheryl at My Wildlife Sanctuary. I won a challenge by her for putting a caption to a photo of her beautiful doggie. I am in such a better mood today, even though we got more snow last night and more is forecast. Seeing these seed packets and how different they are from ours is very interesting. 3 come from Ipswich, England (I will have to get out my World Atlas) and the other from Kentford, Newmarket,UK.

The "Gartenperle" tomato (garden pearl?) are a tumbling variety. They recommend planting in hanging baskets or window boxes. The Cerinthe is an Aristocratic Border Plant. Doesn't that just sound English!? The Sunflower is a big fluffy teddy bear. Isn't that a wondrous description!

All of the packets suggest acclimatising the plants. I am quite sure we would say acclimating, but don't you love the way their word sounds? Cheryl also sent some "Poppy Black Paeony" seeds. There is no picture with these but Cheryl promises I will be happy with them. She doesn't know I am notoriously bad with poppies! I have tried for years to get them to grow. But I am willing to try. I just can't wait to get these started! Will have to get some peat pots and find a nice sunny warm spot. That will be a trick! Maybe I'd better wait a couple more weeks!

I am so thrilled with these and I want to THANK Cheryl for sending them to me. She has such a wonderful Blog with great pictures and insights and I have enjoyed finding her!
I did get my Garden Journal! I added some stickers and the title and date. It really looks impressive. (well to me, anyway!:}) And I have even made notes about plants and designs I want to use this year. Now if I can just be a good girl and keep it up to date! I am going to try, especially with plant names and varieties. I want to be able to put names with pictures that I post.

The other package in the mail today was my book! This is the Feb-Mar. book for Garden Bloggers Book Club. I have read snippets from it already and think it looks intriguing. Can't wait to read others' reviews.
So, even though we are still in winter's steely grip, I have a glimpse of spring in my seeds and book!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Okay, I know it is still February. And I know it is still winter. But come on! I am tired of the cold... as I write this it is 9 degrees and there is a wind chill of -8. I am tired of the snow... we had 3" last night. And I am tired of the wind blowing!

I have searched web sites for plants and seeds for this year's garden. I have my lists all made out.. my wish list and my " okay, I'll pare it down to this" list. I even have plans sketched for new areas in my gardens...maybe chicken scratchings better describes what I have drawn.

I have thought about, talked about, written about, and read about the garden. I am getting tired of thinking, talking, writing and reading about the garden. Soooo, what do I do now?

Does anyone know sorcery, witchcraft, voodooism, divination, soothsaying or magic? Maybe we who are still in the grip of winter could stand outside tonight under the lunar eclipse and yell "Hoo-di-hoo"!

Now that I am done whining, I will tell you that Robin of did a beautiful collage of flowers and butterflies on her blog. That got me to wondering if I could do something like that. I am very illiterate when it comes to computers and what they can do. I probably only use 5% of what mine could do. Anyway, I did manage this through a scrapbook program that comes with my printer.

Maybe someone, upstairs, will see it and know that I am ready for spring!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Here is my little corner of the world. Royal, Illinois.
the original town was founded in 1882 by immigrants from Germany. The ground was flat for miles and miles. There was one small problem. It was under water. But being industrious and familiar with drainage problems, they brought in steam shovels on barges and dug drainage ditches. Soon the water drained and they had wonderful fertile black dirt to raise crops in. They built a Lutheran Church and had a few houses. No name yet. And then in 1887 the railroad came through the area. But not thru the settlement. Again, being industrious , they moved the church and the few houses a mile and a half and situated them next to the tracks. Being by the railroad and hoping to get a station, they had to have a name. Some of the founding fathers were trying to decide what to call the town as a train was going by. One of the rail cars carried an advertisement for "Royal" baking powder and the name was born!

This our church as it stands today. We have built on to it a couple of times as they congregation has grown. But the original building is still in there!

Our main industry is agriculture. We grow lots and lots of corn and soybeans. To get all those crops to the market, we have a huge elevator (located next to the tracks!) During harvest season in the fall, truck after truck lines up waiting their turn to dump and head back out for the next load. The elevator ships out the crops in 100 car trains. For months we can hear the banging of train cars as they move in the next one to fill. The downside to this is that we have red snow. Not actually, but that is what we call it. The chaff from the corn cobs settles on to everything in town during harvest.

We have a lovely small town of about 350 people. Of course our community is much bigger as families from all the farms consider Royal their town too. I guess that is one of small town life's most rewarding characteristics. Everyone is family!

This is the original site. During our centennial celebration, we erected this marker. You can see the flat fields behind it.

We have lived in this town for 37 years and I truly love it. We raised our kids here and as the saying goes " it takes a village.." so it did. Small town life can gives you such a solid feeling of belonging. It teaches you sharing and caring, and ultimately, that is what it is all about.

If you are ever in our area, look for us. We will be here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Good Cause!

Some of you may already know about the free mamograms the Breast Cancer Orginazation gives. Some of you may not. So I am asking each of you to go to the site and click. It is totaly free and so very easy. Once there and clicked, you will be taken to the results page. There you can see how your click counts, and where the mamograms have been given. A lot of us that blog are of the age where we should have concerns about breast cancer. I have the site on my favorites list and go there everyday. Please tell at least one other person about this and let's get those numbers up!

Thank you all for listening to me while I was on this paticular soap-box!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day

I did some shopping the other day, stocking up for our weekend with the granddaughters. And I came upon a display of flowers for Valentine's Day. I looked and admired, but thought they wouldn't last in the car until I got home. The temp was very cold, I had several stops to make, and I was meeting friends for supper and a long gab session. So I passed them by. I got a few aisles away and I remembered I had my camera in the car. I parked my cart, got my camera and took pictures so I could enjoy them that way. I got a few funny looks and an employee stopped and watched until I was done. No telling what she thought I was up to! Seeing these in the store gives me hope that spring can't be far away. I hope they brighten your day, too.
So, these pictures of a promised coming of spring are my Valentine gift to you. Enjoy, and dream of Spring!


Pink and Heart Day

Angela at Cottage Magpie has challenged us to think pink for Valentine's Day. So these are my PINKS.

This is the "corner " in Dragonfly Corner, at the crossroads of Main and Olive. My pink cone flowers which are doing a good job of reseeding themselves and filling in have given me several new starts. I have put them in other beds, adding yet more plants that take little care. And my standby Wave petunias. I love the way they cascade over the sides of the planter and never have to be dead headed or become spindly.
This is a climbing rose..the name long ago lost! It grows up and along our back deck, but also through it. As vigilant(not!) as I am in keeping it trained, it sends runners up through the seating. I don't have the heart to cut it back when it is blooming. And there is enough seating that we can share!

I love lilies of any kind, and have several daylilies and Asian types. But I swear this is one I don't remember planting. The first year it came up it was just a stalk with leaves--no flowers. The next year, I think there was one or maybe two. Now it is full and the flowers are enormous. Since I can't remember planting it, I have no idea of it's name.

It just showed up on year in with my Rudbeckia! I love the thought that Mother Nature decided I needed a focal point!

I do have a lovely Queen Elizabeth rose. She is ever faithful and gives me such great blooms. And she is such a delicate pink, but alas, I can't find her picture! So From all my "Pinks"
Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today was a "Mental Health" day. Every so often when my Fibromyalgia gets the best of me, I allow myself a day to do nothing. I sit and watch TV, read, play on my laptop, and or nap. I don't do dishes, laundry, dust, or cook. (luckily my husband is gone most of the week). I haven't had many of these lately as I am on a wonderful new medicine, Lyrica! For the most part, I feel better than I have in years. But today was just one of those days.

I'm sure it has to do with the weather. It has been cold!! We had more snow during the night. No sun again! And the fronts have been moving through at a rapid pace. Feeling like this today, I can't get up the energy to even think about the garden.

So I thought I would show you my true flowers. My blooming beauties! The joys of my life! These flowers need no trimming, pruning, weeding, or watering. They need only love, tenderness, and a willingness to let them grow at their own pace. And in return, they give me happiness, delight, pleasure and abiding love.
I hope thier smiling faces give you a moment of joy, too!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Teasing of Spring

It was such a gorgeous sunny day on Saturday, that we decided to take a drive. We went to the forest preserve about 7 miles south of us to look for birds and wildlife.
What we found was the flood receding, but still showing the effects it had. There is a lake with an overspill into a normally small tributary of the Salt Fork River. Not small today, water was still everywhere.

I walked down to as close as I could get to the bottom. In drier times the grand girls and I have taken this way and walked a path way back into the woods. The roar of the water coming over and down the spill way was almost deafening, but exhilarating. There is something hypnotic about fast moving water. I tried to get a picture of how high the water had gotten. It doesn't show very well, but was close to 3 feet higher a few days ago.

Leaving the park, we took back roads out to the main highway and found several areas where the water had been over the roads. The road crews had been out and plowed debri off to the side. We wonder what they will do with all of it, as it will have to be moved. Here in corn country it is mostly corn cobbs and corn stalks. Not much mud though. And that is good. We don't want to lose anymore of our topsoil than we have to.

The "lake" you see is actually water still standing in one of the corn fields. I think we should be called "land of 10,000 lakes" now! What few problems the flooding caused was negated by the increase to our water table. We were way down on our rainfall last year.

We saw a hawk on our way home. Of course it was too quick for me to get a picture of it. I love the big majestic birds. I don't know the names of many, but have found a birding book of my Mother's and decided to try to identify and keep track of how many, what kind and where I see them. My own "Hawking Journal"!

When we pulled into our driveway, we could see our "spring day" coming to an end. To the north it looked like snow clounds moving in. Those of us who get snow know what those clouds look like. But it turned out to be a very(Brrrr!!!) cold front!

Spring will come. But could someone out there hurry it up a little?!!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Spring is here ...Not quite!

So many of you have been writing of waiting and watching for too. While searching for a certain picture of one of our grand girls, I found these pictures of Spring last year at our house.

The ornamental drawf cherry tree was an Easter gift to my husband a few years ago. And while it doesn't look drawf to me, it does have glorious blooms. We enjoy it more every year!

I also gave him a drwaf ornamental plum at the same time but don't have a picture of it. Probably because it has not done quite as well. We are still hoping though.

The tulips out did themselves last year. I plant mostly in small groups, here and there. There is a term for this...but can't think of it now. I like spots of color any where I can put them. I am often surprised when something comes up and I don't remember planting it there! Usually, I am pleased that it did though. I planted more tulips last fall and am waiting (patiently?) to see what come up where, and what colors I have. I like to buy the mixed bulbs and plant them 3 0r 4 to a spot. Then the early ones bloom first and mid ones next, followed by the late variety. Then I have color for a long time in the same spot.

Last year was an exceptionally good year here for spring flowers as it stayed cool for a long time. The year before, we had a really warm was in the 70's for days. And all of the flowers soon were spent. So I don't mind at all a slow to warm spring.

My daffodils, or March flowers as my grandmother called them, did very well, also. I planted more of them in more varieties. So am anxious to see what they look like. Can you see the blue fowers on the ground cover? I wish I could find a blue as true as this in something else. I love the color.

At least the sun is out today. And I can start to think spring is one the way! Keep posting your signs of spring and one day it will be Spring!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Taking care of business-Violets that is!

Well, I'll admit, it is not a pretty picture . Poor babies were crying for help!! So on this rainy blustery afternoon, I took pity on them.

I have a wonderful garden window in my kitchen above the sink that faces east. It is the perfect spot for violets. The window was my dream when we remodeled years ago and I have not been sorry. It brings so much light and space into my very tiny kitchen. Before we had to cut down the trees that were outside of it, I watched birds and squirrels while doing the (ugh!!) dishes. Now all I have to look at besides my plants are the neighbors!

Back to the violets. I had about ten plants in three pots. Some were ones I had started years ago from leaf cuttings and they have multiplied. An experiment that worked! The others were gifts from some time back.
I got out extra pots and filled my sink with soapy water with a little bleach added. While the pots were soaking(to get rid of the nasties) I unpotted, separated and cleaned off all the dead stuff...a technical term.
With my pots all clean and dry, I put a used dryer sheet(a tip off a gardening show!) in the bottom and added fresh gravel for drainage. New potting soil was added next. I made sure the soil in the bags was dry and loose this time. This past summer when I bought potting soil for outdoors, it was like mud in there when I opened the bag. I did use it but was sorry. It dried like concrete around my plants! The violets were added and I think I heard sighs of relief! I put the pots on those little clear plastic drip trays and am planning on getting aquarium gravel to put in there. That done, I will add water to the gravel. I remember reading that violets like humidity. (Can you tell I am not much of a true violet authority?)
Now all seven pots are back on their newly cleaned shelves just waiting for the sun to come out. They do look happy. And so will I be when I have to do dishes again. Now, if I just had the houseplants done!!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dreaming of Spring!!!

I was watching an older movie this afternoon, while listening to it rain, thunder and sleet. I had a blanket on me and was generally feeling gloomy and tired of winter. Any way, in the movie they were showing an outdoor garden wedding. The garden was not the main point but I noticed it anyway. The flowers were bright and very colorful and there were arches with blooming vines on them, and of course roses and very well manicured bushes. But off to the side were big bowl shaped pots with all sorts of annuals in them. They were sitting on different sizes of pedestal columns. How interesting they looked. I started thinking...

I have pot shaped like that. I could find small columns. I could add spots of glorious color anywhere in my garden. And I wouldn't have to dig or weed. Now, what to put in them?

Something tall..a dark grass,maybe. Something viney..a dark sweet potato and maybe a chartreuse of some kind. (can you tell, I don't know names of plants very well). Then fill in with lots of colors. Red geraniums, yellow marigolds, something purple, and maybe some pinks. (I love pink!) I could even try an exotic tropical.

Should I make all pots the same? How about each pot in one color using varying shades? Decisions! I shall have to start looking on line and in the seed catalogs. And I have noticed the seed packets are starting to show up in our local stores. I will defintely need to start making lists. And I have promised myself to keep much better records of what I plant, where, when, what works, and what doesn't. So I will have to get a garden journal.

Finally, I am starting to look forward to spring! I can almost envision my other planters being filled with blooming plants. It has been hard up to now, as they have been filled with snow for so long.

I hope you can start spring dreaming and if you have some thoughts, share!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Lilies and boots

Frances over at Faire Garden has been showing us "black" in her garden. What a novel idea and a very interesting color to work with. I searched my garden photos and came up with this lily. It was new last year and of course I didn't write the name down. For such a spindly plant, it produced several amazing flowers that were huge!

I have a few other lilies and have decided to plant several more this coming year.They are so undemanding and never fussy about being watered regularly or pruned and dead headed. And yet they give such a display of beauty! Does anyone have favorites they could recomend?

Today is Groundhog day. Wonder what will be the prediction? We are supposed to have almost spring temps on Monday with rain. Won't that make a lovely slushy mess out of our snow!!

I'll still have to wear my boots. Mine are old(10 years) but do the job nicely and I don't have to worry about wet and cold feet.

My oldest grand daughter(16) has boots, too. But hers are leather with heels and she wouldn't dare were them in the snow. I guess I can remember when style outweighed function(barely). But she does look lovely in them! At my stage in life, I avoid heels at all costs.

On the other end, my youngest grand daughter(2) has a pair of boots that have been handed down thru at least 4 of them. They are purple and insulated and she hardly takes them off to sleep. While I like my boots...she loves hers!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Getting Started!

Well, I have done it.(or so I think!) Please bear with me for a while. I am very new to this world of blogging and and feeling my way around yet.

I have read so many of your blog sites and enjoyed them so much that I just couldn't resist joining in. I have loved the garden sites from all around the world, but am not nearly as avid or as knowlegdeable as most of you seem to be about names and varieties. But, I will do my best.

Mostly, I wanted to share day to day experiences with others of like minds. So here goes.

We had a major snow event(as the weathermen call it now) last night and this morn. We had about 8" and thankfully the wind hasn't started blowing it around much yet. I love a fresh snow. It makes everything look so pristine and cushions and quiets the world, if only for a while. But then the snow plows start going by and the snow blowers are out and the sound of shovels scraping concrete can be heard.

I am glad for all of that when I go out to leave in my car. And I had an especially nice surprise when I did. Some kind soul took his snow blower around my car and made a path on my patio to mt back door. Thank-you who ever you were! I will pay forward that kindness.