Froggie Home

Water features make someplace special. Whether it’s your own backyard, a restaurant, or the local zoo. I added zoo to that list because a zoo near us is located in Emporia, Kansas. It is very small, but gorgeous. They have a large pond filled with turtles sunbathing on rocks, and ducks floating lazily in the Kansas sun. At one time, they even had a pair of swans. Every summer, the flowers are blooming in abundance, and it’s just a peaceful, beautiful place to take a stroll. It’s also free to walk through, so that made it a great place to take our children. Now, our grandchildren love going there. Add a picnic lunch, and it’s extra special. But for me, the best part is the water.

I’ve said many times, I’d love to have a home on water or near water, or even a view of water. As you all know, those kind of homes are usually rather expensive. So, when we first moved here, I purchased a small, black, pre-made pond. Digging the hole for it was the biggest challenge. The area I decided to place the pond in had once been the driveway, for many, many years. Thankfully, the pond was small! I built a rock formation around it out of limestone we found in the yard, and other places. A little pump completed the building process. The addition of little goldfish was the culminating act, and it was a delight for me to sit there and watch those orange specs swim around, happy with their environment. At least I believe they were happy. I purchased five goldfish that year, and when I took them out in November to spend the winter in a tank, there were eleven! IMG_20151003_170934444

This picture was taken two years ago.

Sadly, that little pond hasn’t been home to fish for a couple years now. I need a new pump, and we’re having some sort of electrical problem with the GFCI. So, it collects swampy water, and I occasionally scoop it out to water my potted plants. But I really miss those goldfish, and their cheery greeting of swimming to the surface each time I walked to the edge of the pond. I know, they were probably just hungry, but I can dream.

That little pond is still inviting to some though. About two weeks ago, I went out, neared the pond and heard splashing. To my surprise, around five or six frogs jumped in from where they had been sunbathing on the rocks. They were just teenager frogs, so just a bit scared. Soon, they each peeked out of the black water and blinked their big, frog eyes.

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For me, that would be a really disgusting place to live. I don’t keep it clean like I did when the goldfish made it their home. The water became a bit murky by the end of the summer, but I could still make out the fish. Now, the leaves and muck in the pond make it thick, with visibility at about zero. But I guess that’s the perfect place for a frog to be. Or, it’s the only water within miles!

This pond is my dream: pond-1184074_1920

An oasis on the Kansas landscape. Those little fish are happy. If I build another pond someday, this will be my goal. This one is gorgeous too, japan-74424_1920

but a little beyond my means to do with a shovel. It’s also in Japan, so the greenery would not be the same. But…after trimming the hedges in our yard the other night, it’s not too hard to picture. Periwinkle and hosta plants are taking over, and they are winning.

I’m happy with the little frogs. I’m glad they feel welcome to share our space. If I get motivated next year, maybe fish and frogs can live together. One year I had both! I miss the sound of the trickling water, and the slivers of orange smiling up at me. But autumn is upon us, and soon it will be time to dream again, and plan for spring’s abundance. Have a great Friday!

You Aren’t What You Think!

I’m wondering when your mind and thinking processes catch up to your body. In my head, I think I can still work as I did when I was 18 years old. My brain wants to rationalize as if I was still in my early twenties. “Bungee jump…sure! Why not? Work in the yard for 8-10 hours, take a shower, then go out and have fun until midnight…I can handle that!”

Even up until about 3-5 years ago, I could still handle the working in the yard for 8-10 hours, and even longer. I was a bit sore, but after lying down in a cold room for the night, I was ready to hit it again the next day. Now, 3-4 hours in the same yard, and I’m done-in. And our yard is looking like it!

When we moved here 10 years ago, I wanted a sanctuary. Someplace for me to go and sit among the shrubbery and flowers. A quiet spot to do nothing in, just relax. Well, I definitely have the shrubbery now. It’s still not very quiet. The neighbor’s grandchildren have progressed from the riding bikes through my flowers and screaming, to the teenage years of blaring radios and loud mufflers. Walking into the yard right now sends shivers down my spine as my eyes find every corner of the yard that needs attention.

Yesterday, our youngest and I tackled the ‘monster hedge’. This is what it looked like last March after a good trimming with the chainsaw.

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Spring Daffodils

Now it’s a jungle out there! This is the hedge in the front yard. I have two in the backyard surrounding the garden. I love it for the windbreak and the privacy it gives. But each year, our son-in-law comes over and chops it down with a chainsaw to a more manageable height. And then it grows again! If we lived in the middle of nowhere, it would be wonderful. It grows quickly and it’s hardy. But in a neighborhood with power lines, it’s just too much. Our daughter and I only tackled the sides of the monster hedge, cutting off the branches that attacked our vehicles each time we drove into the driveway. The tops will need the chainsaw once again. The hedge in the front now looks like this picture from last summer, only the hedge is about 6 feet taller:

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Yes, I think my yard is out of control. I think it’s time for an apartment with a couple tomato plants in containers on my tiny deck. And that is not the thinking of 18-year-old me! My younger self was not constrained with health problems or thoughts of restrictions on what I could do. I could do it all! And our poor children were my little helpers as I did. They could all tell you stories of their tortuous lives as they helped me with my projects.

Our son was the privileged crew member on this little stone terrace. It looks so neat and tidy here!

I hope at some point that our children don’t recall just the bad moments of hard work. The sweating hours in the heat and sun. Caring for the younger children in the house, and making meals while I painted outside or worked in the garden. My prayer is that they learned the value of a hard day’s work. The sense of accomplishment from completing a project and having it look fantastic. The knowledge that you can do much with a little elbow grease and the willingness to try something new. Those will last you a lifetime.

Yes, my mind is getting there. After only a couple hours yesterday, I’m done-in today. But you can get down the driveway, and hopefully our youngest is learning something along the way. I’m not as motivated as I once was, something our oldest four children remind me of every now and then. So I guess my 18 year-old brain is beginning to catch up as well! Have a beautiful summer day!

Projects…Labors of Love

I love watching shows about decorating, landscaping, home renovating, and DIY projects. When the HGTV channel first came on, I was as happy as a pig in cool mud on a broiling summer day. I was amazed that other people enjoyed watching stuff like that too. I just thought I was weird, and my husband still thinks I am. I think it’s fascinating to observe something go from being a wreck, to beautiful. It just satisfies my soul.

Our house has been a project. I would have loved to have had the money and time to gut the place, and then put it back together again as I’ve seen them do on TV shows. After all, it only takes an hour or so, and you have a crew of people at your beck and call…right? And then, voila, your house is perfect and staged. If any of you have lived in a project home, you know that’s not the case. These are the facts:

  • If something can go wrong, it will go wrong, and then some.
  • The estimated cost of a project is about an 1/8th of what it will actually cost.
  • The time calculated to complete the project will be less than an 1/8th of the calculated time frame.
  • My husband loves this one…the projects will never, ever be done. Something else will fall apart.
  • You will grow to despise the big box stores and the mention of a tool.

We have lived in our house since October of 2005. We have painted the outside, which needs to be done again. We had a new roof put on, new bathroom, wiring, plumbing, etc. I’ve landscaped, and made it a real challenge to mow the grass. It would be incredibly boring to just mow straight, walking back and forth for hours. Trees, shrubs, and flower beds break up that monotony. The yard is lovely with shade, peonies and roses fragrant in the air. And it would be wonderful to sit in the yard and enjoy it, for the two weeks or so that it’s not broiling hot outside or freezing. Yes, that is a bit sarcastic, but it rather feels like that much of the time!

Whenever a little bit more progress has been made on our house, I’m thrilled. It’s something I can check off. Our kitchen base cabinets and sink was finally moved to their plumbed location about a month ago. New counters were installed. I love that little corner of the kitchen now!

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Once the wall cupboards are moved and the back splash is up, you won’t see that jagged corner line. But progress has been made.

This picture makes me feel thankful.

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The flowers were a Mother’s Day gift from our third daughter and fourth child. She made my favorite almond flour brownies and cold brew concentrate to go along with it. The little plaque was a gift from the church we are attending. The pastor and his wife had an assortment of signs from Hobby Lobby that the mothers were able to choose from. I thought that was very special. When the kitchen is finished, this will be a reminder for me, that God has already taken care of tomorrow…and all my expectations for anything in this life are really not that important in the light of eternity.

Those pictures make me thankful. Thankful for the time my husband, our son and son-in-laws put into the kitchen project. Our son’s Mother Day gift to me was installing a light in my office and lights in the master bedroom closets. Three more things checked off my list. Our second oldest took me to lunch for Mother’s Day. It was a really good day, the day after Mother’s Day, going to doctor’s appointments, oil change and shopping with a wonderfully behaved one-year old. Our oldest has been a tremendous help with my book editing, and going to events with me, a privilege I never thought I would have. Our youngest made me cake pops with the help of our second oldest daughter and her husband. All of this seems like bragging, but I’m not. I stand amazed at what God has allowed in my life, the gifts He has given me over the years. Special words spoken and written down by our children are sources of encouragement and leave me brimming with love.

This house has been a project. Many days I’ve wanted to just move, and eventually we probably will. But I walk through my humble home and think of all that has gone on here over the years. Each time I flip a light switch, turn on a faucet, or wipe down my new kitchen counter top, the love is there…the projects that have been accomplished for me by those I love. Gutting the house and having a crew put it back together again would have been wonderful. But I wouldn’t have the memories that I have.

March 8, 2008 before the Ball

This is the original corner of the kitchen, picture taken around seven years ago. The new base cabinets, counters and sink is now in that corner. Our family was heading out to our first ball that night. Isn’t my husband handsome? And this is our two youngest, ready for the ball. Fun memories!

Short and Sweet

I love color! Vibrant hues that make you feel cheery on the inside. I especially enjoy them in spring after a long winter. Crocus peeking through the brown grass of winter make me smile. The tulips that follow those little flowers beckon me to my front door almost daily. I purposefully planted these two kinds of bulbs in a little area a few feet from our front door so I could look through the glass and watch spring bloom and grow.

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Aren’t these lovely? My husband, a very talented photographer, as I mentioned before, took a picture of these yesterday so I could share them with you. Pretty good for a phone camera!

The lilacs have bloomed. They smell sweet in that corner of the yard, the honeysuckle shrubs next to them contributing to the aroma. For me these seem like old-fashioned flowers and they make me think of days-gone-by. Just the mention of lilacs sends their enticing fragrance through my head. The hosta and peonies are bigger every day and I sigh as I walk past them. Last autumn’s leaves are still blanketing their bed and soon the hosta will cover them. I’ll try to do better this fall!

I think I’ve heard that one before!

Just a short post to say, “Happy Spring!” I hope you’re enjoying your spring.

 

The Yard in Bloom

Periwinkle…what a pretty name for a delicate flower. I love the way it rolls over your tongue and giggles at the end. At least it does that on my tongue. But I’m a writer and I experience things differently than others, I’ve been told.

Yes, I finally made it out to the yard this afternoon. I was greeted by this cheery purplish blue flower that I planted in many areas of our yard. Each year it expands, trailing its vine over the yard, and that’s fine with me. Usually it blocks weeds pretty well, and then we don’t have to mow that area. A great plan! And a much better one than us making our yard into a vast expanse of cement, which I think was my husband’s suggestion. I have strategically planted many items over our ten years at this house. It is very pretty now, with little areas of flowers for each season. But it’s like mowing around land mines. And after a hard day of work, it doesn’t thrill my husband to stroll through my landscaping pushing the mower.

Right now, the daffodils, the grape hyacinths, periwinkle and tulips are displaying their colors. The hosta is uncurling it’s large leaves, and the peonies are poking long stalks through the moist earth. The rose of sharon received a good trimming, much over due. I pulled up the small elm trees that greet me every spring. At one time, I saved them all. Now I am heartless. I know what they become in just a couple of years. Tall lengths of greenery that need a chainsaw to keep them under control. I don’t have the energy anymore and our son-in-law is probably pretty  sick of them as well! Well, I must say I took mercy on three of them and planted them strategically. My husband was thrilled.

I scooped out water from my little pond. No frogs greeted me. A bit sad, but after our cold night last night, he probably thought it was winter again. He’ll be back to sing in a few nights. He loved all the rain. Maybe he’ll bring friends as he did one year. They sunbathed on the limestone surrounding the pond, jumping in when they saw me coming. The goldfish and the frogs seem to enjoy one another’s company.

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I had several of these, displayed just as this picture represents. I love the purple with the white. So did our granddaughters! For now I have none gracing my yard. I tried to show them the beauty of the tiny bells as you see above, but they were more fun to pluck from the green stem. Next year, they will return! (And I hope my grandchildren will as well!)

Yes, I made it out to the yard today. And I remembered why I once spent so many hours out there. I sat at my bistro table and breathed deeply of the cool air, and was very thankful for all the hard work I’ve put in over the years.  For now we have a yard that is welcoming to people, birds, frogs, and grandchildren. It’s tranquil, and in a couple of weeks, the sound of water falling in my pond will add to the delight.

Periwinkle…what a lovely name for a delicate flower. flowers-1265770_1920

Dreaming…

I’m really dragging my feet today. The Kansas weather is warm again and it’s calling me outside. I should:

  • Rake the yard
  • Trim my bushes
  • Remove dead plants
  • Take the rotten arbors to the dump. (During our tornado warning last week, the one with my beloved grapes blew over!)
  • Clean out the pond
  • Get pots ready to plant

The heavy duty list:

  • The fireplace outside needs more mortar
  • I have several yards of cement that should be laid
  • The house isn’t terrible, but after ten years, a new paint job would be welcome

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I’m so happy we don’t live here!

  • The garage needs cleaning
  • Spring cleaning is here, and you can read my post on that one from last year!

And I’m in the middle of almost two weeks of working everyday with a couple days off here and there. My job is not a sitting one! I love it, but it exhausts me!

Just a few years ago, I would have gone out and got that first list taken care of in a day, maybe two. Then I would have started on the second list. Today, even the bright sunlight isn’t pulling me from my office chair. And I know 4:30 in the morning is going to come quickly when I’m on first shift again. Well, my shift starts at 6, but I like to be early and prepared. So of course I don’t sleep!

Is this the meaning of growing old? Because if it is, maybe I should just skip the house and move in to the assisted living where I work! A huge sigh!

This too shall pass. All those items on my list will still be there when I arrive back from my writer’s conference the first of April. Maybe then the tasks won’t seem so overwhelming. Perhaps the days of corralling five children, painting the house, weeding the garden and making bread in a single bound will return? Now I’m really dreaming!

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I could handle this view for a few days!

Winter Dreams

This week in Kansas, spring is calling and I don’t want to go! This is very unusual for me. At one time, at the very first hint of warm weather, I was browsing seed catalogs and planning my new additions to the yard.

Spring is coming, way too soon for me. I want to cuddle up beside a fire and watch the snow blow outside my window. The visual beauty of drifts deepening, tree limbs laden with white frosting, and blustery skies is very appealing right now.

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I think I must be sick.

Today will be in the mid-seventies once again. The birds are chirping joyfully as they swing on the bird feeder. Their little chat groups are meeting in my olive shrubs, red cardinals dotting the small branches.

As I look out my back door, I see hedges desperately in need of trimming once again. My northern Hibiscus has dwindled down to only a few stalks, my American Beauty climbing rose died last winter and still needs to be removed. The Angel Face climbing rose on the opposite side of the leaning trellis has green shoots exploding everywhere. The stone terrace is still only half-finished and my little pond is filled with slimy water. These tasks are what meet my eye, and it makes me feel sad and old. Old because the work seems overwhelming these days, and sad because the motivation is not there.

No, it’s not a big deal in the broad spectrum of life. And believe me, there are items that need to be taken care of in the house that are even more important. But this post is suppose to be about gardening, and the outside, not the inside projects.

So, today I’m going to think about winter, because we really haven’t had any this year so far. Not in my opinion anyway. I think we had flurries a couple of times, and nothing really on the ground for long.

This afternoon, I’m going to picture my little pond with the surrounding of limestone, blanketed with white. The birds will be chirping in the silence of a winter day, their colors stark against the blustery, gray sky and drifting snowflakes. I will visualize trees with dark branches covered in white, waiting for new leaves. In my dreams I can think of the bulbs, cozy and warm under the soil, waiting to poke out little green shoots into the springtime sun.

But I will be sitting beside a warm, crackling fire, sipping a cup of something dark and delicious. I may even pull out a gardening catalog, and dream just a little bit about the warmer, to stay, days ahead. But just a little bit.

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Cooler Days are Coming!

Summer! Hot and humid days, sun so bright that everything is a blur. Nights that barely dip below 75 degrees, the air dripping with moisture. That’s what it’s been like here in Kansas. And I’m ready for fall!

I’ve been trying to get back on track with my walking. It really takes a nose dive during June, July and August. This morning, I finally made it out to the lake at around seven this morning. It was still ‘cool’, in a manner of speaking. Only 72 degrees out. But the steam hung heavy over the lake and after twenty minutes, I was soaked through. Ugh! Our daughter’s dog, Buddy went with us. He gave up before us and just about needed a lift back to the van.

But before summer ends we still have tomatoes to redden on the vine. Lots of peppers to pick and cucumbers that are as big as zucchini squash. I have made refrigerator pickles in the past. They are my favorite because I can put them in a jar, add vinegar and spices, and let them sit. And I don’t have to add sugar. After one bite that puckered our lips and rolled our eyeballs, I added a little bit!

I love sour pickles, but these were over-the-top. The ‘weeds’ in the jar, as our son called them, are dill. I’ve grown my own in the past, but these are store bought.

To be fair, this summer has been a little different than others in the past. We’ve had lots of rain, sometimes torrential downpours. My little fountain has been filled to over-flowing many times this year. The flowers, grass and trees have loved it. My hedge has adored all the rain and this Monster Hedge deserves a post all it’s own. I planned to keep it trimmed up tight and neat. I wanted to keep it trimmed that way! But this hedge has a mind of it’s own and now, our son-in-law will have to return with the chain saw. Sorry David! I really did try to keep it under control.

The above picture on the left was taken in March, shortly after the hedge was trimmed back. It looked so forlorn! You can see the shepherd’s hook and the hedge is the same height. The next picture was taken a few minutes ago. You can’t see the shepherd’s hook enveloped by the branches, just the white bird feeder. The hedge is probably five feet higher than the top of the hook. The little fountain is covered as well. And I notice just now, my sun tea sitting on the table. It’s heated to around 100 degrees by now!

Summer…very special in it’s own way, but cooler days are coming and I can’t wait!

I Did It!

Well, after only about 12 hours, I finally have an updated site! Am I any wiser about menus and widgets, plug-ins and gr-avatars? I don’t think so. I read so much ‘stuff’ that my brain is at capacity. No wonder web-designers get so much money for what they do! But, I am pleased with the result from my end of things, and you will have to let me know what you think.

Why all the roses? I love roses! I love flowers in general and would like a bouquet in each room of my house, fresh, every week. But…that would be more money than a web-designer. I love the delicate fragrance of roses, and I have some sweet-smelling ones on my trellis, planted near my kitchen door. I adore English gardens, with climbing roses tumbling over white fences. But Kansas is pretty far removed from that…so I’ve tried to create my own English garden.

And for some reason, people have always told me they think of flowers when they see me. I have always taken that as a great compliment. So, maybe a little branding going on here.

At any rate. I hope you enjoy the new site. I’m feeling comfy already. Now it’s time for a nap!

Spring Has Sprung!

Well, I did it! I finally made it out to the yard, to do some much needed trimming. With the help of our son-in-law, son and daughter, the hedge is trimmed. That is a big accomplishment for me…something that has been wearing on me for about a year now. The birds were a bit distressed for a couple of hours, since that hedge is their home, but they settled down again with the help of some quiet time, and a bird feeder filled to the brim.

I know many of you are thinking, “Trim the hedge, what’s the big deal?” The problem with this hedge is that it grows very quickly. I love that aspect of it, and it was the reason I decided on that hedge. But you have to keep on top of it, or you have trees before long. Our hedge was very tall and I loved it for the privacy, but it was getting a bit scary as well. When you have to trim with a chain saw…it is out of control. Now it is a bit short, but when the leaves fill out, it will be lovely.

The picture at the top is of our magnolia in the backyard. It is pretty right now, all blossomed. I liked the view of the trellis in the background. Come late summer, that trellis will be filled with grapes. You can just make out our garden beyond that. It used to be fairly big, but this year, it may be about half. I did notice a couple rhubarb poking out of the soil…so a few survived the trauma of a few weeks ago. Lesson learned…don’t ask your husband to till the garden when you are in writing. Plants like rhubarb and horseradish, that are not obvious in the early spring, may not survive the helpful husband.

So, with a sigh of relief and a few sore muscles, I write this post. I still have some raking to do and a bit more yard clean-up, but the worse is over. And as I said, it will be lovely in a month or so.