a ruckus and a fracas

We have a bird house full of baby house wrens, and they are the noisiest baby birds I have ever heard. As they have gotten bigger, their noise is nearly constant and is audible from all over the yard. I Googled “noisiest baby birds,” and house wrens were often listed. So it’s a thing.

I took a video so you could hear them:  Our noisy baby house wrens

DSC_0020There was one baby who clogged up the exit hole. His is the voice most often heard.

 

DSC_0017Does he look a little grumpy to you?

 

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creativity 5 – persistance

Do you remember this?grilling-june-garden-hummingbird-009This is a photo from my post creativity 2 – make mistakes , nearly two years ago. Despite heroic efforts on my part, I was never able to overcome the effects of gravity, and the plants kept falling out of the frame. But I liked the idea and I persisted.DSC_0011I replanted the succulents into the garden so they could growDSC_0003and thriveDSC_0013and establish roots.DSC_0135And then I tried again. I found this weird little box at Goodwill for $1. I thought it needed some succulents. So, far, it’s Gravity: 1,  Jodie: 1.

a hard year on the garden

About a year ago, my biggest (75% of my annual income) client retired without notice. What ensued was what I can only call “The Year of Work.” When I wasn’t working, I was searching for other clients, jobs, etc. I gardened and created very little, and I missed it terribly.

The garden missed me, as well. DSC_0127This is my vegetable garden today. Riley is quite disappointed in the weeds and the chaos. All I can do at this point is to dig up the good stuff (asparagus & strawberries) and start over. It’s mostly weeds and I don’t have the gumption to fight them.

And then there was the winter: DSC_0006 (1)The heavy, wet snowfall in March was too much for my evergreens.

DSC_0002Branches snapped right off.

DSC_0077And a whole tree toppled over.

It was a hard year on my garden, and, I have to admit, it was a hard year on me, as well. But no more.

This year I will continue to work hard on my business. But I will make the time for those things that make me happy. That means relaxing with my family, gardening, and creating. Thus begins The Year of Jodie.

the summer day

My husband spotted two Luna Moths the other day. They had just emerged and were drying out.

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I’ve only ever seen one before, despite that fact that we have cherry, willow, and persimmon trees (all of which are host plants), on our property.

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Note the grape-sized persimmon for scale. This is a BIG moth.

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They don’t have mouths and will live only one week.

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I’ve been given 54 years already: what riches. It makes me embarrassed to squander even a moment. I like how Mary Oliver said it: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

 

my favorite things

I’ve been thinking about my favorite vegetable to grow, harvest and cook, and to my utter surprise, it’s swiss chard. It’s super good for me; it has vitamins K, A and C, and it is anti-inflammatory & has anti-oxidants.DSC_0031As a plant, it’s easy. It always grows; I’ve never had one die on me. It forgives me if I don’t pick it at just the right moment. It keeps growing all summer, and it’s pretty. DSC_0048It’s simple to prepare. I rinse the leaves off, pile them up, slice them lengthwise 3 or 4 times, then chop it up.DSC_0056 I saute it in olive oil and water with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (because red pepper flakes are good with everything). It’s tasty just like that.  But I make a ton of it and keep it in the fridge to do this:

  • add to eggs and omelets
  • spread over sautéed chicken & top it with swiss/parmesan cheese
  • spread on top of pizza
  • add to any kind of pasta
  • add to soups and beans
  • toss into salads
  • spread onto toasted bread (with or without cheese – oh never mind – WITH cheese)

So I have to give an A+ to swiss chard: healthy, easy, simple, delicious.

love spring

I haven’t seen a hummingbird yet,  April 29, which is late for me, but Spring is in full bloom here in South Jersey.DSC_0031Some of the Columbines are over 4 feet tall.  Sigh. I remember when Columbine was just a flower.DSC_0033Aren’t they pretty?

DSC_0037 (2)The bed by the front porch looks to have a promising year.DSC_0040 (2)The bed by the driveway looks pretty good, as well.DSC_0043The raised bed herb garden has some winter survivors as well as popsicle sticks promising good things to come.DSC_0045And here, my dears, is what my beloved party garden looks like on this very day. A sad, sad remnant of our glorious fall season together, as witnessed below.DSC_0006But, happily, my Sad Clematis has hung in there.DSC_0046Love Spring.

winter lessons

lanternWinter has finally come to South Jersey. We had about 7 inches of snow over the weekend and it’s not going anywhere because it’s COLD!

titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

When I went out to feed the birds this morning, I noticed that they were much more tame than usual. Usually they scatter as soon as they see me coming. But today, they didn’t budge until I was about 3 feet away.

sparrow

White Throated Sparrow

I’m guessing the frigid temperatures and blanket of snow have made food such a priority that their usual skittishness is tempered.

nuthatch

Red Breasted Nuthatch

So, after I fed them, I grabbed my camera.  I took the above pictures in about 5 minutes, and then left them to the serious business of eating.

creativity 2 – make mistakes

I never know where I’m headed when I create. Whether it’s a meal, a quilt, a garden, or a blog post, I just have to jump in and see where it takes me.

Sometimes I make something great that doesn’t work.grilling-june-garden-hummingbird-009Despite heroic measures on my part, I was unable to overcome the effects of gravity; the plants kept falling out of the frame. So I gave up.

Sometimes I make something bad that works.dsc_0127I wanted to try free motion quilting, but I knew I wouldn’t be very good at it. I did it on the back side of my daughters bolsters – the side that goes against the back of the couch – so no one sees it.

And sometimes, I just have to keep trying until I get it right.grilling-june-garden-hummingbird-059BEFORE – Here’s a little seating arrangement under a cherry tree. After years of cleaning up petals, pits, and poop (the birds LOVE those cherries), I took out the seats.may-backyard-prom-003AFTER – I used the pavers to make a little wall, filled the area with soil and made a cute little garden instead. Now all of the cherry tree debris just disappears.

too big for my britches

It started with a sad clematis.Sad

Then I noticed a lilac had taken over the party garden.

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The lilac in happier times.

I decided to dig up the lilac and put the clematis in its spot, where it will get the sun it so desperately needs.

So I dug. And I pulled. And I snipped and clipped. And I dug.

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This is after day 4. Party garden disrupted. Wall collapsed. Tools strewn about. Lilac stump not even budging.

roots)

This is after day 9. Looks like you could just pluck it right out of there, doesn’t it? . . . Nope

Now

Finally, two weeks later, things are looking up. The clematis is still just a bitty thing on the trellis (right in front of the blue jungle gym). But we all have hopes for a better future.

new neighbors

Even though food is abundant this time of year, I still feed the birds. I like to see who’s new to the neighborhood.July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 013

Mr. Chill is one of five young squirrels who keep me entertained. He spends most of his time flat on his belly in an overstuffed daze.June Backyard, wine bag, beach 006

This is a young red-bellied woodpecker. We’ve had  year-round residents for several years, and this is the second time that I’ve seen them with young.July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 036

And this little beauty is an indigo bunting. I’d only ever seen one in my life, and when my mom saw him in my very own backyard without me, I was a tad jealous. July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 026

Thankfully, he stuck around. I noticed that he ate the inexpensive seeds that I don’t usually buy – so I just keep feeding him that. He’s been here for weeks, but I am still excited to see him every time.

volunteers

I first noticed the gardening term “volunteers” while reading a novel. I immediately took it and made it my own. I pictured little seeds jumping up and down, raising their hand: “I’ll grow!  I’ll grow!”backyard, Dave's Quilt, Sea Isle 010

My lemon balm sends volunteers all over the yard, as does  my catnip. Sometimes I let them be, but usually I relocate them to a place that pleases me more.backyard, Dave's Quilt, Sea Isle 004

The native sedum that my brother planted in my mom’s yard (that I stole a piece of)  is spreading everywhere. Here I put a clump on an old stump. It’s happy as can be.crepe myrtle, spice jars 001

This crepe myrtle started a few years back beneath the mother tree. I transplanted it to fill up an empty corner.June Backyard 005

But this yucca is the best volunteer ever. It came from a neighbor’s yard, I suspect, because I have not seen one elsewhere. It flew over the street and plopped down in the perfect place in the corner of a street garden.

gardening with dog

Riley web 002This is Riley. She is 95 pounds of self-appointed yard protection. No bikers, joggers, walkers, or trash men are safe from her ire. She’ll race from one end of the yard to the other to get a good bark in.garden trampled by dogThis is the war path. Nothing can grow along the fences where Riley chases her prey: not even weeds. I’ve had to get creative in trying to mingle my love of the pretty with Riley’s habit of crushing everything in her way. brick and stone planter against fenceHere I built a little planter against the fence to reclaim a bit of earth.fence with purple runner bean growing on itI have lots of these three-foot fence pieces (thanks, mom!) I use them to trellis pretty vines and to “steer” Riley away from areas I am trying to protect. grouping garden elements to act as dog barrierGrouping works wonders. Here, the combination of the planter, birdbath, and hosta is just too much trouble. She’ll go around rather than through.raised bed gardenLastly, I’ve been able to train her to stay out of the vegetable garden. Unlike the rest of the yard, it’s an obviously defined space. The walls could never keep her out, but they do give her a visual boundary. So far, so good.

Cleome flower with bee

Seed Saving

My yard is always full of my family and friends. As I walk outside I am greeted by Woody Platt’s Sundrops, Grandma’s Tiger Lilies, and Mom’s Cleome. I take care with these special plants. To ensure that they stay with me, I save the seeds to plant next year.

Cleome flower with bee

Cleome Flower and Friend

Cleome seeds in the pod

Cleome seeds in the pod

This is the time of year when the seedpods are brittle and dry. That’s when you want to collect them. The Cleome seeds above are ready to be harvested. I’ll hold a large, clean, dry Tupperware container underneath and brush the seeds into the container.

Columbine Flowers

Columbine Flowers

Columbine seed pods ready to be harvested

Columbine seeds work the same way. Collect them when the pods are dry and brittle and look like the picture above.Seed collecting envelopeweb 003

I store my seeds in a labeled #10 envelope.  Seed Collection Envelope  Here’s a pdf to download to print your own envelopes. It is set up for my printer, which feeds envelopes vertically on the right. I can format it for different printers; just let me know.

Swinget turned into swing

Backyard Solutions

I’ve been living in my yard for a lot of years, and I’m learning what works for me.Swinget turned into swing

When our children outgrew the swing set my husband made, we pulled down the kid’s swings and replaced them with a swing everyone can use. I planted wisteria on one side and after just a few years we are getting nice shade.Bird bath made of recycled dish

I go through birdbaths like Snickers bars. I try to remember to empty them before a hard freeze, but the water containers always seem to leak after just a year or so.  I’ve learned that a big dish from Goodwill and a rock is all it takes to bring back the bathers.Gourd vine growing up a tree

My yard is a nice size, but gourds and cucumbers and all of those sprawling vines seem to take over everything. This year, I let the birdhouse gourds overtake the trellis and continue right up a nearby tree. The garden stayed neat, and this totally appeals to  my love of the quirky.Hummingbird silhouette

The hummingbird likes it, too.A squirrel peeking out of the the hole he gnawed in the trash can.

And the solution here? . . . Keep the birdseed in a metal container from now on.

blooming sunflower

here comes the sun . . . flowers

blooming sunflowerAfter a few days of torrential rain, today was beautiful. I saw my first sunflower bloom at coffee time.

full view of gardenJust for perspective:  The lowest finger points to the sunflower bloom pictured above. The finger above it points to the birdhouse gourds that are happily climbing every tree in sight. The finger in the top left points to the sunflower blooms (nearly 8 feet) that are in the near future.

cedar waxwingMy little darling Waxwing greeted me at dawn with his silent welcome. Even though I have studied their sounds online, I have yet to hear them. The nest withstood the heavy rains. For that I am thankful. It’s all right (do do do do do do dododododo).

a most unusual morning

It started out as any July morning:Riley web 002I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the party garden at 6:00 am while Riley stood guard and patiently waited for her run. Hot air balloonWhile we were running, I saw a hot air balloon. We stepped up the pace, got home, and I grabbed my camera and drove out to track it down. (Riley had a drink and a nap on the sofa.)hot air balloon on groundThe balloon had a friend.cedar waxwingWhen I got home, I noticed a pair of Cedar Waxwings nesting in my yard. This is unheard of. I am thrilled to see them once a year, in a group, in winter. I have never seen Cedar Waxwings during nesting season.cedar waxwingThey are very active, so the pictures aren’t great – but I have high hopes for the future.

just picked tomato

tomato time

just picked tomatoBehold: my first tomato of the year. I ate this one warm from the sun, sliced, with sea salt and black pepper.

This is not one of the heirloom tomatoes that I started from seed; they are a bit slower. This is a “Celebrity” tomato. I bought the plants from the farm market down the road. After the first came ripe, I was almost struck with a glut. Never you mind. I can handle the challenge.bread tomato kabobs
First up: Bread Kabobs.  Day old bread, tomatoes, olives, artichokes. Thread on a skewer & sprinkle with olive oil, salt, all sorts of Italian herbs AND red pepper flakes. Grill until toasty. Oh, my.

early july : my favorite things

My yard is bursting: with birds, animals, flowers, vegetables. Sometimes July can feel parched, but not this year. We are ripe with all of the things I love.zinnias in bloomZinnias I planted from seed are in their full glory. When they no longer look pretty to me, I will leave them as a meal for my goldfinch friends.cherry treeThe cherry tree is overripe to me, but it is alive with blue jays, red-breasted woodpeckers (and a fledgling – the first I’ve EVER seen), robins, brown thrashers, finches, cardinals, flickers, and titmice. The hummingbirds spend a great deal of time perching in it – but I have never seen them eating the fruit in any way. There are also a crazy amount of bunnies beneath the tree. Are they eating the cherries that fall?birdhouse gourd plant climbing a homemade trellisThe bird house gourds are happy to climb the trellis I made to keep them off the ground. I have big plans ahead for these, but the hummingbirds love their blossoms right now.tomatoes almost ripeBut of all those things to love, beautiful tomatoes, just days from being ripe, are my current favorite things.