Garden Goings On

Summer is finally here. June has been mostly overcast and rainy with a few days of sun to give us hope. The weathermen say summer doesn’t start in Seattle till July 8th. I talked to my brother this week and it was over 100-degrees, and the MR’s brother-iin-law was posting about tornado warnings. I guess we can handle a little rain.

Our new deck furniture seems to be able to withstand stormy nights with no problem. Look at the way the water just beads up. It’s amazing.

All that rain, means cool crops, like lettuce, are doing great. We’ve had salad three times this week. Isn’t that romaine beautiful?

In total transparency, I have a lot of weeds in my garden and the broccoli is bolting without ever crowning; but on the bright side, the carrots that went to seed last year have sprouted all over the garden, the beans are looking good, I have a ton of lettuce (besides the transplanted romaine), two of the kiwi vines are climbing all over the chain link, and the carrots I planted are coming up in neat little rows. I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year.

Remember my swathe of purple dreams?  They are coming to fruition. A few of the lavender didn’t make it through last year, but this year all is well. I’m thinking of visiting a local farm/winery and buying some more. We have a big hillside to cover.

Along with rainy days, we’ve had plenty of mild weather to enjoy the new furniture on the deck. I’ve spent many a morning out in the sun with my buddies—the hummingbirds. When I was filling their feeder, the MR cautioned me to rinse it well, because he’d seen ants crawling on it. In problem-solving mode, I decided to google how to keep ants out of your hummingbird feeder. You can basically find anything on the internet. Sure enough, Amazon had a copper cup with hooks that you slather in oil. It’s done the trick so far. Amazon also had new stoppers for the wine bottle feeders. In the past, filling the feeders resulted in an arm drenched in sugar water, a shower, and a cranky Kim.

I tried to get an action shot, but my friends were being shy. Perhaps they didn’t like a camera and tripod set up next to their feeding station. Usually they’re quite pushy and demand attention. I went golfing and shopping with the MR yesterday; they could be feeling neglected. This little guy watched from afar.

I also saw this visitor. Fat bunnies are everywhere. We’ve also had plenty of deer and a few bears stop by lately.

In other outdoor news, the MR has been pruning in the orchard, and the front yard, and the driveway. I’ve thinned the apples down to just two or three per cluster. We’re going to have a banner crop this year with both apple trees covered in fruit. The rest of the trees have a few of this and that. But the currants are dripping with berries. It’s always fun no matter what we end up with. We’re bringing a currant-strawberry cake to a potluck dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

How is your garden doing? Any visitors?

(You can check out A Swath of Purple and All That Swath of Purple Stuff and relive all the fun of the past.)

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Embracing the Crazy

Remember last year when I told you our bushes were looking obscene? They had random branches growing out in all directions making rude gestures. (If you want to wander down memory lane, check out Trees with Attitude.)

Now, scraggly bushes may be commonplace at your house, but not at mine. The MR goes into this zen mode when he gets home from work caring for his yard. So I knew something was up when the shrubs where looking a little off.

The MR was aiming for another tier of growth on our decorative plants, and he urged me to be patient.

Well a year has gone by, and I do believe his little experiment is working. All that new growth appears to be rounding things out. I’ll have to admit; that guy of mine knows a thing or two.


The smoke bushes are responding even better—at least two out of the three are. 


Here’s hoping the next step requires a little trim.

Has your yard responded to the advent of summer?

 

Clearing Out

I was talking to my dad last night—just checking in—when he mentioned his Kindle was having some problems. The screen would close down in the middle of reading things. I suggested checking the sleep settings. And it had stopped receiving my blog. He didn’t know how long it had been since he’d gotten one…

Well gee Dad, I haven’t really done anything lately. But, he interrupted, the MR had that guy come and remove all the brush. You know you’re in trouble when your 77-year-old father is giving you blog post ideas. Maybe I’ll take him on as my assistant and let him write a few stories.

So here’s brush cutting in honor of Papa Willy. The MR and his dad had a fellow out this summer to look at the blackberry situation; let’s just say we have a lot. The guy wanted $4,000 to $5,000 to take out our bushes. The MR decided to keep looking.

That’s when he found the Brush Wrangler, who came in with a much better price. Unfortunately, with our dry August, they couldn’t schedule any work due to fire danger. One stray spark can create a world a trouble. We were next up on the list when we headed to Oregon to move Baby Girl into her sorority house. Finally, at the end of September the Brush Wrangler tackled our berry bushes.

Now some of you may be wondering why we’d get rid of blackberries. Obviously, you’ve never had them in your backyard. They’ll take over everything in sight. The MR takes a walk to the mailboxes a few times each month with his pruners to get rid of errant boughs.

I do have a thing for blackberry crisp and blackberry jam, but in Washington State, blackberres are classified as a noxious weed. The Himalayan blackberry is a non-native species that is out of control. OK, I’ll step down from my soap box for the moment.

Anyways, I was off at my ladies’ Bible study, when the MR started sending pictures to our family’s group text. It was amazing.

co-tractor

That little red machine was clearing a swath through the wilderness.

Now when I got home, I looked at the tennis court, and I still saw blackberries. What was going on? Aren’t they trying to get rid of these?

 

co-tennis-court-above

Well, the MR explained that the slope was too high, too steep, and the soil too loose for them to reach the very top of the patch of bushes below the tennis court. All you have to do is wander down below it, and you’ll see the progress.

co-tennis-court-below-2

This whole area was a mass of sticker bushes.

co-tennis-court-below

It’s amazing. The tiny path he used to drive the riding lawn mower down to the meadow has become a vast thoroughfare.

After the work was down, the MR figured the Brush Wrangler had cleared about an acre of berry bushes.

co-cleared-area-with-house

Now that the blackberries are gone, he has gained easy access (OK, maybe just easier access) to the vine maples and saplings blocking the view of the river. For the last few weeks, he’s been out cutting down trees and applying stump and brush killer to keep everything from coming back.

When I ventured down to see his progress the other day, I tried to explore the trail down to the valley floor. The former owners had roughed out a road down to the highway. I’m afraid it’s succombed to blackberries.

The workers have found a lot of things at different job sites. At one place, they’d found a barn the owners didn’t even know they had hidden among the blackberries. All they found at our house was an old fence post and some logging wire. We’re kind of boring in comparison.

Now that it’s mid-October, we’re gearing up for our first big storm of the season. It looks like rain and strong winds are headed our way. Stay safe our Northwest neighbors.

And if we have power, and water, and the dog doesn’t start barking at deer while I’m trying to sleep, I’ll have more to share on Monday. Otherwise my dad might start complaining about technical difficulties, again.

What killer weed is taking over your patch of earth?

 

 

 

A Little Drama

Our driveway has this dramatic turn at the bottom that gives visitors the first glimpse of our home.

When we first moved in, the house looked pretty good but the yard left a lot to be desired. (OK, so they both needed some help. We didn’t have any curtains in the master bedroom or bath, so I hung up panels from our last house. They make our shades looks so civilized in comparison.)

Outside view of master

Year after year, we’ve added a little of this and a little of that. And then last spring, the MR hired a friend to put in some landscaping for Baby Girl’s grad party. It was more than a tiny upgrade.

yard & house

Over the last year, the plants have started to fill in, and we added a few annuals from the high school’s FFA plant sale. I’m fairly please with the view these days.

But the MR always wants to go one step further. He decided landscape lighting was the ticket to really bump up the wow factor. He found some solar lights on Amazon with no wires and simple install.

These lights soak up the sun during the day and highlight our trees at night—a total win-win.

ALD Solar Lights in the Day

So in the day time, they look pretty good.

ALD Solar Light on Maple DT

And at night they look impressive, too.

ALD Light on Maple at Night

It’s rather nice to come home to this after taking the dog for her evening walk.

ALD Lights in the Dark

The 90-degree heat has done a number on the grass, but the cool days of autumn are on their way along with the accompanying rains. It’s fun to be able to add just a little light to the darkness or our valley.

Have you ever experimented with outdoor lighting?

 

 

 

Just Imagine

Last week, me and the MR spent a few days in Chelan at a B&B. We arrived in town in the early afternoon in search of lunch. 

From past visits, we knew Karma Vinewards  serves up a lot of tasty food, so that was our first stop. 

The chicken, Brie, and sautéed onion sandwich lived up to expectations, but it was the koi pond and beautiful grounds that captured my imagination. 

What if we built a waterfall like this on our steep slope above the meadow?


It would drown out the sound of traffic drifting up from the highway down in the valley. 

The MR—always the voice of reason—mentioned the amount of water it would require. Even on a closed system, you have to factor in evaporation. 

Oh… Over zealous watering has resulted in burst pipes in the past, and no showers or wash on Monday. It still is really pretty; maybe just not for us. 

Any backyard projects or inspiration to share?

The Price of Progress

A field of foxgloves with our house in the background has been the desktop picture on my computer for the last four years.

Foxgloves below the meadow

I was lucky enought to just stumble on this field of flowers by chance. Me and MR had been talking about adding lavender to the hillside, and I went out to find our own, ready-made swath of purple. You can see the flaws in our house—how the underside of the deck is falling to pieces. Drip lines run down the side of the girls’ wing, and bright blue paint outlines the roof.  We had so much to do, but somehow that meadow, filled with flowers, made it seem possible.

Over the years, the house has been painted and the deck repaired. We’ve added the orchard and the MR has mowed back the weeds and the brambles in the meadow. Somehow, in all that progress, our flowers were lost.

House & Orchard

I can still find a few scattered foxgloves here and there. A single stalk near the driveway made me go in search of more.

Foxglove

Later this summer, we’ll be enjoying apples and plums, and the currants are beginning to turn lovely shades of red. While I love the harvest and the progress it symbolizes, a part of me will always miss the wild beauty of the meadow.

We planted lavender on the steep hill below the well room, and Russian sage near the new retaining wall. They’re both doing well, and someday, we’ll have civilized blooms taking over our tangle of weeds.

Lavender on the Hill

But we’ll always have room for a few foxgloves.

What’s your favorite wild flower? Any bitter-sweet progress reports?

 

 

Sweet Surprises

Spring in earnest has arrived at our house. We came home late last Wednesday from eight beautiful days on Maui and woke the next morning to a front lawn dotted with purple azaleas.

SS Dogs

Not black dogs—that was purple azaleas.

SS Bogart

What you didn’t hear that buddy? I said purple azaleas.

SS Azaleas

Sometimes you guys don’t realize what I go through just for one picture.  The azaleas are quite pretty.

SS Azalea CloseupBack when we were adding all the new landscaping last spring, I had no idea that all those sweet, little bushes would turn out to be azaleas decked out in purple each spring.  We were https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/making-a-statement/ and let the landscapers have free reign.  They did well.  Me and the MR were talking about adding in some annuals like last year.  It might be too early for the new guinea impatiens that brought such nice color.  The deer did really like to nibble them, so maybe a less tasty option would work better.

The original owners lined the drive with barberry and candytuft.  Over the winter, it gets a bit scraggly-looking, and I wonder why we don’t just pull it out.  But on our return home, it was in full-bloom.

SS Candytuft

It looks lovely in all its glory and adds a bit of brightness along the driveway.

SS Candytuft Edging Drive

I think a little hint of white in our new planting beds might balance things out.  Wait and see.  I moved a little dirt and sorted out the worm bin, while the MR sprayed weeds, mowed the lawn and the meadow, used the weed eater in the orchard and the steep hillside, and power-washed half the deck.  OK, so he tends to be a little more driven than I am. Our yard thanks him, and so do I.

How’s your yard looking this spring? Any wonderful surprises?