The weather is cool again this week, going down into the 40s tonight.  The garden is very green, with the trees leafing out and the grass vibrant green.

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Lilac bushes on a sunny day.  The smaller common lilac in the front grew so quickly that the branches have been bent over after the heavy rains recently, since they have such heavy flower heads.  I need to prune off the flowers in a few weeks.

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Crabapple – malus profusion.  The crabapple was late in blooming, then once the blossoms were open the weather was hot, followed by strong storms, so the blossoms only lasted a few days.  I hope we have a good batch of crabapples for the birds later.

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Blossoms of the Duke blueberry bush.

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The two fothergilla bushes are blooming now with their funky flowers.  The green leaves, which are starting to emerge, are beautiful, too.

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I don’t pay much attention to hostas, but they caught my eye this week with their fresh green leaves.  The slugs usually enjoy nibbling on them, so they don’t stay good looking that long in my garden.  They are good ground covers, though, in the shade.

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Male goldfinch sipping water at the birdbath.  I finally left my camera by the kitchen window to try to capture a goldfinch before it flew away.  These birds are so quick.  The little brown bird is typical in that I can’t really tell all the little brown birds apart.  I assume it is some kind of female sparrow, though it looks different from the female house sparrow in the bird book.  It looks sort of like the female indigo bunting in the bird book, but it could be some kind of baby or immature bird, too.  Can anyone identify this brown bird?

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Male house finch at the birdbath.  These birds love to chew on the sedum seen in the background of this picture.

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This female northern cardinal took a nice bath and then flew up to the oak tree to fluff her feathers.  Then she flew back down to the bath and splashed around again!

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Handsome male northern cardinal hunts in the grass.  There are a lot of birds poking around in the grass these days.  Dan let the grass grow long before mowing it the first time and now it is growing quickly again with all the rain.  Such a pretty bird!

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Snow Angel

January 26, 2014

I know we have had some really challenging weather, but today I got up and bundled up in my warm jacket, long underwear, and boots, and took a wonderful walk around Lake Katherine.  It was a very peaceful walk, pretty much by myself the whole way.  There is something very thoughtful about the quietness and beauty of a snowy walk.  Then I wanted to make a snowman to put in the front yard, but the snow is too fluffy for that, so I settled for a snow angel!

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I can’t remember making a snow angel before, though I must have….

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I lay there for a while in my ski pants and super warm jacket and watched the clouds floating along.

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Thumbs up for a fun time!  My husband is my snow angel who took the pictures and who does a lot of wonderful shoveling for me.

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Another view of the birdbath.  This was before I made the snow angel next to it.  To the right you can see the sedum and hydrangea.  They have been snow-covered most of the winter, so that has made them more pleasant than when there is no snow and they look not so interesting.

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Snow on sedum and hydrangea.  I like the light and shadows in the snow this time of year.

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Here I was playing with my shadow.  The giant sacaton is the grass right behind the birdhouse.  It is kind of wispy and hard to see, but is at least 4 feet tall.

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Light through the fence on a winter morning.

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Red branches and buds of a duke blueberry bush.  The snow is so high that half of the bush is under the snow.  I think that is a good thing.

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Still our minds wander to warmer climates.  I got some books from the library and we wonder if we have enough free miles to fly south for a quick trip…

The end of summer can bring sadness, but there is something about a gorgeous fall day that reignites joy and contentment.  Here is what is happening on our street and in many other neighborhoods.

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This is the maple tree next door.  I think it is autumn flame.

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Coming on to our street are a few beautiful yellow/gold maples with a tall orange oak tree in the back.

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Here is a close up of that same orange oak tree.  Our neighborhood used to be an Oak woods, but not many people plant oaks these days.

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In our front yard we have a very old silver maple.  The color is never very exciting.  We recently had an arborist clean it up, but still there is the danger of a branch falling on our house or the neighbor’s.  A few years ago that happened in our backyard and we cut that silver maple down.  We have been thinking about what kind of tree we could put in to replace it.  We need to keep it out of the wires, but we would like a shade tree.  Our soil is clay and you can see that there is a little slope, so it tends to be well-drained or dry and full sun.  I would put another chinquapin oak there, but we are looking for some diversity.

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Zooming in we have two burning bushes and three small serviceberries.  The burning bushes are invasive in Illinois so if we replace our shade tree we could get rid of these shrubs at that time.  Meanwhile we enjoy the colors.

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In the backyard the chinquapin oak is brown on the top leaves, golden in the middle, and still has green leaves on the lower branches.  Time to pull down the laundry line.  The crabapple has lost most of its leaves, but is full of little apples.

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Some of the crabapples look hard, but others seem to be shriveled up and might be tastier for the birds.  The birds seem to be going for the viburnum berries and the yew berries these days.

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Duke blueberry bush.  The two blueberry bushes I have are so red, but they are hard to capture well in a picture.  I guess I need some more photography skills for that.  They always catch my attention when I walk by them.

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When I was trying to take some pictures from inside I ended up getting a picture of this spider instead.

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Collards.  The Arab lady, who I shared some of my collards with this summer, came back a number of times and we have become friends.  After she came back from a month-long trip to Jordan, she came to see how the collards were doing.  I told her she should work on eating the collard and we will try to eat the kale and we will see what gets eaten before the snow falls.

Winter gardening:  This past week the plastic has been off the hoop most days and we should have a few more mild days now.  That reminds me I need to go pick some lettuce for my salad tomorrow!

Berry Extravaganza

June 23, 2013

When we moved into this house some years ago the only berries we had were the mulberries on the tree in the easement.  Since then we have been working to increase the berries in our yard.  Berries are a great high vitamin food and so delicious when super fresh and organic, too.  The strawberries have slowed down a little, but we still are getting a some every day.
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These are the berries I picked Wednesday afternoon.  Mulberries, serviceberries, and strawberries.  I had some rhubarb sauce that I heated up, added some berries and a little Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream.  Wow!  It was fantastic!

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Regent Saskatoon Serviceberries on shrub.  The berries on the Allegheny Serviceberry were all dried up this year for some reason, though they were good last year, but we have had a lot of berries on the Regent Saskatoon this year.   I only pick them when they get to the purple stage.  I have three of these bushes now, so a good crop.

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The mulberries are a huge mess, so we have to be careful not to track them into the house.  However if you want a lot of berries, there are tons on this tree and the birds love them.  They are also adding nutrients to our compost pile on the left.  I like to mix them in with other berries and only pick them when they are black and ready to drop from the branches.  People in the neighborhood do some foraging on this tree, too.

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Look at these beautiful berries on the Duke blueberry bush!  These we eat sparingly, but each one is a burst of flavor.  They go from green to pink to blue as they grow in size and ripen.

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Forbidden fruit – my neighbor’s raspberries that are not yet ripe.  My neighbor told me to help myself and does not seem interested in them, so I am excited as these are so luscious when very ripe.

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Strawberry flower.  This is on an older strawberry plant I have that is not very productive, but the pink flowers are so delicate.

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Hydrangea Incrediball – Hydrangea Arborescens.  Getting away from berries, I moved this hydrangea out of solid shade into partial shade.  The flowers get huge so I anticipate them flopping over soon.  It seems happy now.  Catmint and lady’s mantle on the right.  The tree is a chinquapin oak – quercus muehlenbergii.

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Bee in catmint.  Catmint walker’s low (nepeta) and lady’s mantle (alchemilla mollis.)

The temperature was only in the fifties today and although a lot is blooming I have not seen many bees in this cool weather.  The mosquitoes have been not too bad, which I appreciate.  I have enjoyed watching hummingbirds zooming around the garden and I come across earthworms tunneling through the soil.

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We planted one foxglove plant many years ago, but have always had babies to keep them coming back each year.  Foxgloves are biennials, so they flower on the second year and then die, but leave lots of seeds.

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Cream colored foxgloves in bloom now.  They like partial shade.  Behind them the Joe Pye Weed is starting to stretch out.

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The pinks have been in bloom for a few weeks.

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I pick the strawberries every day to keep ahead of the birds and slugs.

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The blueberries are coming along on the Duke blueberry bush.

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The yarrow is turning yellow now.  From the kitchen I can see the salvia and catmint in three different shades of purple, but I can never capture it in a picture.

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The lady’s mantle is blooming yellow with catmint behind.

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I pulled up the dead caryopteris and planted a baby caryopteris seedling I found in the garden in its place.  I surrounded it with leaf lettuce, since Dan is always asking for more greens!  I also planted swiss chard and more green beans today.  More food! More food!!

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Friday night when Dan and I were walking around the garden we spotted this baby robin camouflaged in the lilac tree.  When I checked on it the next morning it was still on the same branch.  Later in the day it was gone though.

Garden activities:  I put up tomato cages on my tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers.  They are still small, but it is hard to get the cages on when they are big.

Many shrubs and perennials that were late in blooming this spring suddenly opened up this week when the weather warmed up.  Now we have a few cooler days, so hopefully the blossoms will stay a few days, unless they fall off with the rain.

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Common lilac – They smell fantastic!

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We added this little common lilac bush last year, so now we have three lilacs.  In the bottom left you can see that the strawberries are blooming.  There are a lot of flowers, so I am hoping they are getting pollinated and that we will have some delicious strawberries before too long.

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Crabapple – Malus Profusion

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Top Hat Blueberry blooms.  A few feet away I have a Duke Blueberry blooming, too, so I can’t wait to get some blueberries!!

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As predicted, last year’s kale is now flowering.  I wondered what color the flowers would be and now I know.  We will have to cut this out soon…

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At dusk a little mosquito-like insect rests on one of the last daffodils.  I have been bitten by some kind of insects recently and found myself scratching before I knew it….

Late Spring

March 31, 2013

Spring seems late this year.  Still, here it comes!  Happy Easter!

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The yellow crocuses smile out of the brown earth.

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Last week I planted this little “Duke” blueberry bush.  My hope is that this shrub and the little “Top Hat” blueberry in the pot in the ground will cross-pollinate to produce blueberries.

farm city

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook, Farm City, which I got from the library. I am not raising any animals in my yard for meat, but had a good time hearing her stories.

Bird houses:  In the last post I showed pictures of the two new bluebird houses we put up, which were supposed to be less attractive to sparrow.  Not so!  The sparrows have tried to move into both of these houses in the past two days.  I will keep clearing them out to see if we can get the attention of a bluebird, but I have not seen one for a while.