Sunday, March 30, 2008

Finally ! ! Maybe Spring !

Well, there is finally a little evidence that Spring is nearly here. We still have some solitary patches of snow, but that should be gone in a few days. I walked around the gardens and found a few brave souls that had been buried by the recent snowstorm. It's amazing how resilient these early spring flowers are.


Miniature daffodils ready to "pop".

Sturdy bleeding-hearts.


While taking this picture of crocus, I never noticed what one of the bunnies had left nearby!

Ha, ha. Coming up are some other pretty crocus:

Below is a miniature iris - they are only about 6" tall!

And here is the Main Garden. What a mess!! I didn't do any Fall cleanup so this is what I've got ahead of me. There are all sorts of bulbs trying to grow up through that dead stuff so I'll be taking some days off later in the week and get my rear in gear.

Steve started some yard clean up and projects this weekend. He cut down a small dead tree and did a lot of trimming of various trees on the north end of our property. He loves working with his chain saw and extension saw. And he also raked some of the gardens along the house for me. He said it's so nice to finally get outside and be able to work. I had all kinds of errands to run and attend a party at my sister's house and then plant some more seeds in the basement.

I had ordered two brand new petunia types from Burpee this year. Normally, I don't order too much from them 'cause I feel their prices don't match the quantities. But, I just had to have "Baby Duck" and "Tie Dyed" - and planned to plant them in the new window box planters I've gotten from Kinsman. Most of the time I don't have a specific place in mind for plants when I sow them but "Baby Duck" was going to be what I saw out of my bedroom window this summer!

Some petunia seeds are quite small and companies will "pellet" them - coat them with a light colored water soluble substance to make them easier to handle. When I opened "Baby Duck" all I found was powder. They had been crushed in shipping and the same with "Tie Dyed". Boy was I pissed!! I had paid $5 for each package of 15 seeds. Rip off!! To make a long story short, Burpee sent me replacements and that's why I'm planting them late. They'll be a little smaller than the rest, but they'll catch up quickly. I can't wait to post pictures of my new planters filled with petunias!


Weight loss update ! ! Now I've lost a total of 23 pounds! Only 17 more until I reach my goal.


Some sad news. A few weeks ago "my" elephant, Delhi, died at the Sanctuary. She was very old, in her 60s, and died peacefully with her caregivers and sister elephants surrounding her. She was in hospice since January and with all the great care she got, suffered no pain.

Here she is, looking good and loving her last years at the Sanctuary. When writing about her, the people at the Sanctuary said she had "a gramma spirit" and was always gentle with her sisters. I'll miss hearing about her and seeing what she has been up to. ( Today I received an e-mail from the Sanctuary saying "Queenie" another elephant, had died suddenly, yesterday! Quite a shock! No illness or symptoms - what a sad month this has been.) But I'm happy that they both got to live out the rest of their lives in freedom, peace and dignity.
All animals, except man, know that the
principal business of life is to enjoy it - and
they do enjoy it as much as man and other
circumstances will allow.
Samuel Butler (1835 - 1902)
Bye for now,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Back In The Land Of The Living !!!

Before I begin my post, I want to thank everyone for wishing me well. Your good vibes must have made their way to me because the worst of the cold was gone by Wednesday. It stayed in my head - which is usually the case - and my voice is still down an octave, but except for being tired, I feel pretty good.
As most of you probably know, this Good Friday's weather was anything but good. A small area from Milwaukee out through Waukesha County (where I live) received an amount of 15" of blowing, drifting snow! The rest of southern Wisconsin got lesser amounts. That was surely disappointing for me since almost all of the previous snows had melted and I had crocus and snowdrops beginning to bloom. There were also daffodils and tulips as well as hardly perennials showing. I planned on doing all sorts of garden clean-up this holiday weekend. Now, everything looks like this AGAIN:
I took both of these this afternoon.
Looks pretty familiar . . .
Our Family Outing last Sunday was great. As I said before, we went to the showing of "Body Worlds" at the Milwaukee Museum. Here is an explanation from the web site:
Each exhibition features more than 200 real human specimens, including whole-body plastinates, individual organs, organ configurations and transparent body slices. The specimens on display stem from the body donation program that Gunther von Hagens established in 1983.The exhibitions also allow visitors to see and better understand the long-term impact of diseases, the effects of tobacco consumption and the mechanics of artificial supports such as knees and hips. To date, nearly 25 million people around the world have viewed the BODY WORLDS exhibits.

This plastinate was showing how different areas of the skeleton can be replaced with stainless steel prosthesis at the hip, knee, elbow etc. It's really amazing the amount of screws that are needed for each operation!
Here is a good description of plastination:
Invented by scientist and anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977, Plastination is the groundbreaking method of halting decomposition and preserving anatomical specimens for scientific and medical education. Plastination is the process of extracting all bodily fluids and soluble fat from specimens, replacing them through vacuum forced impregnation with reactive resins and elastomers, and then curing them with light, heat, or certain gases, which give the specimens rigidity and permanence.
This "Man Astride A Horse" was something - and it was huge! The horse must have been a very large breed. I know by this picture that it looks like two people are riding, but one of the legs is only the bones, the other is the musculature separated to show each area of the body. That procedure was done quite a bit and was a little disconcerting at first, but once I got used to it, it made the exhibit even more interesting. Other times the muscles were pealed away from the skeleton to expose the organs too.
We weren't able to photograph any of the exhibit, so I got the above pictures off of the "Body Worlds" web site. These two lungs are eye-openers! I wish I could have enlarged these even more but this was as big as they got. Obviously the ones on the left were from a smoker!
And the ones on exhibit looked just like that! It's pretty sobering and am I glad I quit smoking a long time ago.
I enjoyed seeing the individual organs in the display cases and was really surprised at the sizes of them. The liver is so big!! And the bones of the inner ear are so tiny!! I saw a heart after a heart attack, a brain that had a stroke, a stomach ulcer, enlarged prostate, lung cancer, breast cancer and damaged liver. There is nothing gory or gross about it at all - just amazing. The most wonderful were the blood vessels. They are as tiny as thread in our hands and looked like beautiful red (dyed for viewing purposes) sea weeds. The exhibit made me appreciate what is under my skin and realize how little we know about our bodies.
Last Saturday I began my indoor planting of annuals. You can see a week later they sprung up and are on their way to looking beautiful. I planted a total of 13 dozen pellets!
Double hollyhocks . . .

"Lady In Red" salvia
"Sundance" gaillardia . . .
Quaking grass . . .
Various impatiens and petunias . . .
As you can see, I've got the light fixtures very low for the new seedlings. I also like to hang pretty things from the 2 x 4's that hold the lights. Some are Christmas ornaments and some are silk flower garlands.

Remember these from previous posts? They are coming a long nicely.
The fibrous begonias had to be segregated for a while 'cause I thought they had some kind of fungal disease on the leaves. They seem fine, though.
Nameless African violet that I started from seed and just love!!!
This impatiens reseeded itself last summer in a pot that had another African violet in it. The violet has since died but the impatiens did well and is really nice to see at this time of year. Did you spy the Halloween crow in the background?

Two beautiful and lovely Easter flowers. Sierra looks so cute posing with the lily and was thrilled that Grampa gave her an antler to keep. She's wearing an arm load of bracelets that Gramma had in a tiny Easter basket for her.
I guess this was a tough week for Garm too!!
I found these lines in a poem I was reading yesterday and thought I'd share them with you.
The poem is Chinese and written by T'ao Ch'ien who lived from 365 - 427 and is entitled
"One More Fields and Gardens".
My private rooms are quiet,
And calm with the leisure of moonlight through an open door.
What a picture those words paint . . .
Bye for now,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sorry, No Blog This Week

Oh, I came down with a rotten cold over the weekend and I'm just dragging myself
to and from work. But there is lots to tell so this holiday weekend I'll make a nice entry.
Sometimes I go about pitying myself,
and all the time I am being carried
on great winds across the sky.
--Ojibway Dream Song
Bye for now,

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Slow Week for News ???

This was one of those weeks that we seem to plod through occasionally. A week when nothing seems very interesting and we are just going through the motions. It's during times like this (and yes, there seem to be many), that we've got to make a real effort to realize that there are millions of neat, tiny things going on in our lives. The secret is to recognize them.
That's what I like about blogging. Since I live a rather insular and predictable life, some weeks I must wrack my brains to come up with anything that I feel others would like to hear about. This is the "examined" in the title of my blog. Besides the great people I've become friends with over the past year, this blog has made me really look at myself and my life much more closely than I ever have before. One thing I've found out that is somewhat comforting and somewhat disconcerting, is that I'm not very different from lots of you out there. I guess most of us want to stand out a bit from the crowd, but that can be a little scary too.
Oh, I'm getting way off the track now. What I'm trying to say is that after "examining" this past week I'm glad to say I found things that have brightened that time and will continue to do so.
As you recall, I've been dieting for a number of months and as of today have lost 20 and a half pounds. I've cut way down on carbs and sugar - both which I love but are obviously my downfall. On a low-carb website I found out about coconut flour which is low in carbs but high in fiber. There was a receipe for peanut butter/cocoa muffins which I made as healthy treats for the week.
Here they are. I used mini-cupcake liners so I'll get a good taste of them, but not gorge like I usually do. The solid red and green liners are silicon and the others, paper. This is the first time I've used the silicon ones - I just can't get past using "plastic" in the oven. Anyway, they work much better than the paper. The muffins come out clean and weren't burned on the bottom. The coconut flour tastes faintly like coconuts but when it's with the other ingredients you can't even tell. The texture is a little lighter than wheat flour, but, all in all, they are excellent.
When I've got the time, I enjoy cooking and baking very much. I also enjoy trying out different and unusual spices and herbs. So having a spice collection is one of the things with which I indugle myself. This is some of the spice part of my open pantry.
Penzey's Spices is the brand that I prefer and as you can see, I've gotten alot of their products.

They have nearly anything you can imagine and I buy the smaller jars just to experiment. I also love ground pepper and have picked up different types of peppercorns - black, red, green, and white. Until I became familiar with Penzey's catalogue, I had no idea there were different kinds of pepper or salt for that matter.
The salt you see below is called Fleur de Sel which is French for "flower of salt". It's an expensive "finishing" salt that has a clean taste and is used at the end of cooking so as not to loose it's wonderful taste. It really does taste different from other salt! The "flowering tea" was a Christmas gift from Ashley.

Here, laying with the soon- to -be -frozen -'cause- they- are -becoming -inedible, bananas is a glass vial holding three vanilla beans that I also picked up at Penzey's. They smell so good and I'm going to make vanilla sugar (with my sugar substitute) with them. Don't they look like the dried worms you find on the sidewalk some times!!??

Very long worms ......
Since winter refuses to leave this year, I went out to the breezeway and found some "green" out there. (To cheer myself a bit, I bought this spathiphyllum - it was cheap and was at K-Mart begging to be rescued!)

The breezeway is a nice peaceful room and has pretty plants and knick-knacks (isn't that a wonderful word?) and I'm glad it's the first room I see when I come home. The amaryllis is now open and is lovely - the little Buddha looks as if he could contemplate it's beauty forever.

The bonsai, Moses-in-the-Cradle, and a tender pine (I got from work that was used as a Christmas table decoration in the lunchroom) all are doing nicely in that cool, well-lit room.

Garm and Thea came in to investigate why Mom was laying on the floor taking pictures. As usual Garm looks startled and Thea looks vaguely interested - sort of aloof. (Kind of like Cate Blanchette in "Elizabeth - The Golden Age"! don't you agree?)

Thea admired the bonsai . . .

....but failed to find anything to her liking!
The bright pink heart toy was more to her taste. There is just no accounting for taste. (I know, her nails need to be clipped - bad!!!)
Actually the coming weeks will be filled with things to look forward to and enjoy: I must begin my indoor seed sowing in earnest next week, our Family Outing will be to see Body Worlds next Sunday, I'll be taking a vacation day or two,
I will be having Family Video Game Night with Adeena, Tony, Sierra, and Ashley on Good Friday evening, there are some Celtic music CDs coming in the mail, I've got a new video game to play (Assassin's Creed - a neat stealth game!) and I just know Spring will be here soon. I have been hearing the cardinals calling outside, high in the willows - a sure sign the weather will be warming and the green is coming.
But the most important thing is this very moment - it is the only real one we have!
Looking at everything as if for the first time reveals the commonplace to be
utterly incredible, if only we can be alive to the newness of it.
Ruth Bernard
Bye for now,

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I'm Baaaaaaaack!

Yes, I'm back and feeling much better. I want to thank everyone for sending their good wishes. They cheered me up a lot. A woman I worked with from the Philippines summed up really well how I felt. She would say her husband (she was NEVER sick!) stayed home from work that day because of " a general malaise". But, my malaise has disappeared and here are some updates on my seed sowing and a real surprise.

Below you see the my first glimpse of Spring. Outside the breezeway doors is a little rectangular garden. It's on a west wall and, helpfully, near the dryer vent. Steve pointed out the very first daffodils coming up there! I was amazed since there is still a foot and a half of snow all over the rest of the yard and it hasn't been that warm (except today it was 49 degrees!).

You won't believe how happy this makes me. After seeing these few patches of green shoots, I tried to drag the pugs through the snow around the yard looking for more green! Garm gave up and I put him inside, but Thea and I did find a few more coming up against the south wall of the Main Garden. Spring will be here soon!

Meanwhile, in the cozy and warm basement the seeds I sowed last month are doing great. I took pictures last weekend and some today. You can see the dramatic growth......

These are the red and white fibrous begonia plants last weekend.

And today! These seeds are the size of pepper grains and they came out of the packet like water when I was planting. I've been doing some thinning the past few days . . .

The African Impatiens.

Transferred to an old strawberry container because they were hitting the plastic cover on the flat. They are a very tricky impatient to grow since they aren't like the traditional ones. I'm a little concerned with the pale color of the leaves and their not-quite-normal shape.

Another type of begonia. It is supposed to get up to 24" high - it's new from Burpee called "Braveheart".

I love this picture of the perfect heart-shaped leaves and the tiny white roots. Begonias are typically slow growing, but this big one is fast and you can see that they will be larger than the rest of the pack. They already look like braves little hearts :-)).

This is the potato-like tuber of my cream and apricot colored begonia. If you look very closely at about 2:00 (or nearly 3:00) on it you'll see a speck of what looks like sand or something. That's the first bud starting. Please ignore that tiny green plant on the left side - that seed must have been stuck on the side of the tuber.

Look at that! (I turned it around.) Today there are now 3 buds (at 9:00, 1:00 and 3:00). These buds will become stalks with leaves and flowers. It's best to only allow two or three buds to mature on a tuberous begonia - that way you'll have larger flowers. Like these:

All this beauty from a lowly potato look-alike. Sort of like "The Ugly Duckling" story.
Just about ready to pop! Look how tall this is - 24" Amaryillis always seem like some kind of alien plant to me. I should use my head right about now and stake it before I get up one morning and it's either on the floor or flopped over and broken. Tomorrow, maybe . . .
My book of quotes is not at hand so I won't close with something witty. Just
Bye for now,