June 30, 2016

June EOMV: Days of Peas and Raspberries

I garden in Eastern Washington state, USA.

So, it looks like I have pretty much all the same things blooming as I did 2 weeks ago for June Bloom Day. That's one thing about these summer perennials--they tend to stick around longer!

So, once again I tried for more overview photos, with maybe a closeup here and there.

We must start in the vegetable garden.
After some heat waves, that led to 2+ weeks of cool weather, we're back to getting the summer sun!
The tomatoes have really taken off, and the potatoes seem to grow visibly every time I water them.

Here's the whole vegetable garden, plus the cutting garden. :) 
I did have to replant my cucumbers.
I think there were too many colder nights in early June (no frost, but high 30's F), and I did not cover them as I should have.

The potatoes are on the top terrace, there, looking fantastic!

Fresh garden peas are one of life's great delights.
Also, that was the best-looking lettuce out there, growing in my youngest son's patch.
It was delicious for lunch. :)

Moving right along, we have the shade bed, behind the shed:

Then on the other side, we have this little flowerbed:

 Don't look too closely at the hanging basket--I'm having a devil of a time keeping it watered!

Cheerful coreopsis in bloom.

Then around the corner, to the raspberry patch along the fence:

We have raspberries!
The kids go out and forage several times a day!

I beat them to it this morning. :)

These are the new black raspberries planted last fall.
They are all looking very healthy.
I have high hopes for next summer.

My back flowerbed, next to the house, is a bit sparse at the moment:

We got all of the spring bulb foliage cleared out and now there's several quite large bare spots, as you can see. I'm still thinking about what to plunk in there.

At least I've got some lilies blooming back there.
This one is 'Hall's Pink.'

Moving around front now, the front porch bed:

I noticed recently that there's a white and green theme going on here, unplanned.

This oakleaf hydrangea is one of my favorite shrubs.
It has really put on a lot of growth this year.

The front terraced beds look much the same as they did 2 weeks ago, except I've had a few more Asiatic daylilies open up.

This is the view of the middle terrace from above.
I love it!

Just a quick note on this abundant catmint:
it started out in my garden as a pass-along, spent an entire winter uncovered in its 8-inch pot, and finally got planted in the ground the following spring when I noticed a few new leaves sprouting.
Just look at it now!
 It's enormous!
It is always covered with bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies.

Head on over to Helen's blog at The Patient Gardener, for some more beautiful gardens!

Thanks for the visit, and come again soon!

June 29, 2016

Summer Read-Alouds So Far

The last few months have been packed, with not as much time to read out loud as I would like. A few of these are from the end of the school year, and some are from the last few weeks. One thing I love about summer is more time to read books out loud together!!

Dealing With Dragons, (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1),
by Patricia C. Wrede

4 stars: Light-hearted and feisty.

Princess Cimorene is tired of everybody telling her she can't do things--like learn to fence, or learn to cook, or take politics, or ... pretty much everything except curtseying, embroidery, and dancing. So she runs away and ends up in the cave of the dragon Kazul. Before she knows it, she is plenty busy--cooking dessert for dragon meetings, putting Kazul's horde in order, and fending off pesky knights.

When the king of the dragons is fatally poisoned, Cimorene and Kazul work together to figure out who could have done it and why.

* * * * * *

I have liked this series for a very long time, particularly this first book. So I started reading them to my daughter. The boys listen in when they're around, also. I wouldn't be surprised if my oldest picks this one up on the sly. :)

As I'm thinking back on it, this was probably one of the first fractured fairy tales I read--even though it doesn't follow any particular fairy tale, it takes all of the expected conventions and turns them on their heads--which is what makes it so enjoyable!

My daughter wanted to go on to the next one immediately after finishing this. Luckily our library had it checked in!

Searching for Dragons, (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #2),
by Patricia C. Wrede

4 stars: Adventure, humor, and a faulty flying carpet covered in pink teddy bears. Also, just a touch of romance.

Mendanbar, the King of the Enchanted Forest, has done his best to get out of social engagements and particularly any entanglements with princesses. So he is less than pleased when his urgent visit to the King of the Dragons, Kazul, lands him talking to a princess instead. Although, she is different than any princess he has encountered so far.

You see, a large patch of the Enchanted Forest has died off--been entirely sucked clean of magic and life. He found some dragon scales at the site. Unfortunately, King Kazul is missing. Princess Cimorene was about to go looking for her, when Mendanbar happened to show up. For various reasons, they decide this is a search that should be undertaken together, starting with a visit to the giantess Ballimore and her husband.

They will get mixed up with all sorts before they get to the bottom of it all....and possibly fall in love.

* * * * *
Told from Mendanbar's perspective, but with all of our favorite characters from the first book back again. We got a kick out of the various fairy tale characters that made their way into this one, from the giants, to Herman the gold-spinning dwarf with a houseful of children to look after. Telemain the magician was pretty funny, too.

My daughter was so happy with the romantic ending! She was completely surprised by it, though I saw it coming a long way off. :)

Soon after finishing this one, we got it on audio and loved it! There was a full cast, and the various characters did accents that I couldn't quite manage.

The Saturdays, (The Melendy Quartet),
by Elizabeth Enright

3 stars: Comfortable storytelling, with a few dramatic twists and turns.

Four siblings living in NYC decide to pool their allowances for each one to get a special Saturday doing what they want to do. Mona, the oldest, aspires to be an actress, Rush wants to be a concert pianist, Ran dances and paints, and the youngest--Oliver--just wants to be involved. Each of their Saturdays takes them to unexpected places and they come home to share with their siblings.

* * * * *
This was a little slow for me, but my kids really liked it. It was obviously written in a more innocent era. These kids, the oldest is 13, go by themselves out into the city for their special days, long blocks and bus rides away.

I think my kids enjoyed the idea of having so much independence, and also seeing what happened as a result of the experiment. They also really liked Isaac, the dog.

The Four-Story Mistake, (The Melendy Quartet),
by Elizabeth Enright

4 stars: Drama and fun as the Melendys move to the country.

Mona, Rush, Ran, and Oliver are back (with Cuffy, Willy Sloper, and Father, of course.) The Melendy's have had to move out of the big city, to a house in the country called The Four-Story Mistake. It's hard to leave everything they are familiar with and love, but they soon find new delights. For one thing, there's the creek out back of the house: a frozen waterway ready for exploring in the winter, and full of caddis houses, fish, and other life in the summer. There's the cupola up top of the house, and even a secret room!

It is a year full of growth, secrets, friendship, and fun, as the Melendy's make friends in town and have adventures at home.

* * * * * *

As with the first book, this one was a bit on the slower side for read-alouds. Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily. It had longer chapters, with a picture maybe once a chapter. We would read 1 or 2 chapters in one sitting.

Even with the slower pace, it's one where I think the kids either wish it were them living it, or at least that the Melendy's could be their friends in real life. I liked this one better than the first, actually. There were a couple of parts that made all 3 kids break out laughing.

The adventures are on the ordinary side--no magic--but very believable; from Oliver's discovery of the cellar, to Ran's crazy bike ride into town, it's all stuff that could happen. The adults are mostly hands-off, but they come to the rescue when needed.

McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales,
by Sid Fleischman

5 stars: Witty, funny, and memorable. Also, short!

Josh McBroom, his dear wife Melissa, and his 11 redheaded young'uns, pack up to go West after many years of struggling along on their farm. Along the way they meet a shyster who sells them an 80-acre farm for a pittance. Turns out, the farm is 80 acres stacked on top of each other, at the bottom of a muddy 1-acre pond.

Well, the pond dries up, and when it does, the McBroom family discovers the most marvelously rich soil in all the land! Entire crops can be planted and harvested within a couple of hours. Even spare change has a way of growing, if left in the dirt by a careless youngster.

That doesn't mean that McBroom and his family have everything easy, though. No sir! They have the prairie wind to deal with, and grasshoppers, and the man who sold them the farm wanting it back. With ingenuity, perseverance, and nothing but the whole, unvarnished truth (wink wink) they will prevail!

* * * * * *

This was so great! Filled with unforgettable images, like the wind shoes and a giant ear of corn turning into popcorn. Quick and easy read, with short chapters told in a dialogue format. Josh himself tells the stories, and he would rather sleep in a tree than stretch the truth.

The most fun part as the reader was the frequent recitation of all 11 children's names (said as fast as possible, of course!) "WilljillhesterchesterpeterpollytimtommarylarryandlittleClarinda!"

I have to admit that part made me smile every time, partly because I am from a family of 11, and if I had a quarter for every time someone asked me to say all the names, I would be richer than McBroom! To this day I can rattle them off in 3 seconds flat. So this was right up my alley!

Bonus: I have taken to calling my children "my lambs" and they answer (with minimal eye-rolling)! Yes!

* * * * * * * * * *

I'm so excited for all the fun books to read together this summer! I have a long list of choices, and I'm hoping we'll make it through most of it.

What are you reading to your kids this summer?

June 28, 2016

Little Pipsqueak

We have some quail that have decided to raise a family in our backyard.
The kids and I are thrilled!

The Papa Quail sits up on a high perch--usually the fence--and watches over his brood carefully. If any of us get too close, he sounds the alarm.

Mama Quail is constantly hussling babies along--or hiding with them.
Can you see her? They blend in so well.
She's got one baby next to her in this picture, and there's one more at the bottom middle of the picture.

They seem to prefer the back flowerbed and the back slope: both places with excellent cover, so that makes sense.

Those babies are so darn cute!
Here's one that was exploring the garden.
There are at least 9 of them, but there may be more.
We want to gather them all up and pet their soft little heads, but have to content ourselves with watching from afar.

Except for this little one, whom my daughter named Pipsqueak.

He got separated from the rest of the family.
They were all up to the top of the slope and even in the top neighbor's yard, and he was stuck down by our shed, awkwardly hop-running along, peeping.
Papa Quail was on the fence, calling and calling.

After some discussion, we decided to help him out.

My daughter put on a gardening glove--in hopes of not getting as much human scent on him--and gently scooped him up and put him into a 4-inch pot.
Then she carried him up to the top of the slope and slowly tipped the pot on its side.
After a few minutes, little Pipsqueak hopped out, and ducked under the fence to join his brothers and sisters. As soon as they were reunited, Papa Quail hopped down off the fence.

It is just about the best thing ever to see this little family scurrying around our yard!

June 24, 2016

The Cutting Garden

I may have mentioned that my cutting garden this year is smack in the middle of the vegetable garden. The soil is better there, and I just love having splashes of color with all the veggies.
Besides, flowers feed my soul, so the food garden is the perfect place for them, right?

So far this year I have weeded out literally hundreds of self-seeded cosmos from last year's cosmo jungle. While I love cosmos, (not the kissy kind of love! as my 4-year-old would hastily qualify), I don't need them filling up an entire terrace!

Exhibit A: the Cosmo Jungle of 2015

Earlier in the spring I had planted some poppies, but didn't see any coming up.
Well, as I weeded the cosmos out, I found some poppy seedlings!
I was pretty excited.

They just started blooming--so far we've had red, orange, and pink.
These are California Poppy 'Mission Bells', or Eschscolzia californica.

The only thing I'm noticing is that they may not be the best for floral arrangements, because their stems are all pretty short. Oh well!
(Not that short stems has ever stopped my kiddos from picking things!)

I have a few plants still coming that I think are the Poppy 'Lauren's Grape', or Papaver somniferm
(beautiful deep purple color) that I also planted from seed.

I have also planted Bunny Tails grass, or Lagurus ovatus (we planted these last year and loved them!)
and a packet of "Grandmother's Cut Flower Garden" which contains a mix of 22 different flowers.

The inside of the seed packet had a good idea--which since I just now read it, I am too late to implement this year.  For next time: to help identify flower seedlings popping up vs. weeds, sow a pinch of your wildflower mix into a garden pot, so you can compare. Smart!

A few weeks ago I scattered some scarlet flax seed as well.

Plus, I still have all the cosmo seedlings I couldn't quite reach along the back edge of the bed, and one whole section of them that I thinned to 6 inches apart a few weeks ago. 

So far the wildflowers are just barely coming up.
I've pulled what I know are weeds, but the rest are sure taking their sweet time!
I hope by the end of the summer they'll look amazing!

June 23, 2016

The First Novel To Make Me Cry

Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson

5 stars: One of my all-time favorites!

Sara Louise or "Wheeze" has always been the less important twin, even though she was born first. Her sister Caroline has gotten everything, pretty much, from the time she was born as a sickly infant. Caroline is beautiful and has the voice of an angel, makes friends easily--she is the golden child, while Wheeze struggles along in her wake.

They live on Rass Island in Chesapeake Bay, where nearly everyone makes their living tonging for oysters or crabbing. Wheeze has her own little skiff that she takes on the water, and is able to contribute some to the family budget. Though her parents always thank her, it's Caroline who gets voice lessons, and Caroline who is the favorite. Wheeze can hardly contain her frustration and resentment.

Then an older gentleman moves back to the island, and Wheeze and her best friend Call, become friends with him. Slowly, things begin to change for Sara Louise, until she finally finds her own place in the world, out from under the shadow of her sister.

* * * * *

I first read this book when I was 8 or 9. I remember full-on crying at one point (I don't remember which part specifically), and feeling rather surprised at the same time that the story was affecting me that way. It was the first time I had a read a book that brought me to tears.

Since then, I re-read it every couple of years, and just finished it yet again a few days ago. It still got to me! Although, I think now I get emotional at a different point than I did as a kid. As I have grown up and had kids of my own, I have gained greater understanding and appreciation for the characters in the book.

I remember as a teenager reading it, and feeling so sympathetic to Wheeze and how unfair everything was to her. Now when I read it I still feel sorry for Wheeze, but I also see the broader picture of how her frustration affected her family, as well as the love her parents had for her despite how difficult she was. I guess that comes with being a parent. I can understand where the adults in the story are coming from a lot more, so it made sense that Caroline got the voice lessons, for instance.

This time around I gained such an appreciation for her parents! Hard-working, humble folk, who just did the best they could in every situation. I especially noticed how hard it must have been, having angry senile Grandma living with them, and yet they just carried on through all of that. Wheeze's mom didn't rail back when accused of being a loose woman and worse. She just quietly continued on. Wow.

Also, the way the Captain took Call under his wing was just heartwarming, as was the way he cared for the cat lady (can't remember her name at the moment), bringing love and dignity back into her life.

Also, I love the ending. It is just so fitting.

By the way, it won the Newberry Medal in 1981.

* * * * * *

So spill it! Do you love a good cry as you read? What tearjerkers have you come across lately?

June 22, 2016

Evolution of the Shade Bed

So. Let's talk about the shaded flowerbed, or the shade bed.

After my husband built the shed, we had an abundance of mud behind the shed, where we really wanted a path. We hired some guys, who came and built us this lovely path and retaining wall.
Yay! Fixed the mud problem.

May 2012

Completed wall and walkway.

However, it needed something along the top of the wall to look finished.
I'm never one to hesitate when there's the possibility to add more flowers.
The shade bed was born!

It has gone through various stages in its life.
In the beginning there were hostas and ferns and even dicentra (bleeding hearts.)
None of them lasted more than a year, 2 at most.

You see, not only was this mostly clay soil, but it was also dry.
Dry shade is one of the toughest conditions for plants to grow in--as I have found to my chagrin over the years.

The other problem was that even though it would begin the year looking like this:

April 2014

Respectably neat and tidy, with a few splashes of color.

Inevitably, by mid-summer, this is what I had back there:

June 2014

Overgrown grassy madness, with a few beleaguered flowers poking their heads through.

All in all, though, it was limping along.
The heucheras survived, and a few other things.

Then we got to last year.
It was very hot, plus we had more projects going on to finish the inside of the shed, which meant that back walkway was blocked off for most of the summer.
Zero water for about 2 months.

Not too surprisingly, this is what it looked like by the end of the summer:

August 2015

I could hardly tell if there was anything alive in all that mess.
Spoiler alert: Mostly there was not anything alive.

So now we come to this year.
Inside of the shed was done, along with associated projects.
The formerly blocked walkway was now open!
Woo hoo!

I knew this back bed would need some serious renovation.

Here's what it looked like back in April:

April 2016 

Hardly anything living, with a few notable exceptions.

My red-twig dogwood was still surviving.

I had a few columbines putting on new leaves.

Bless this little brunnera--it looked fresh and vibrant.

By the time I was ready to actually do anything about it, it was already May.
The weeds and grass were already running wild, as you can see here:

May 2016

Wild daisies, grass, and dandelions had all but obscured any plants that had survived.

Ooh look! A heuchera hiding in the grass!

This end was slightly better, but not by much.

Meanwhile, the brunnera was blooming like it hadn't a care in the world.

I am happy to report, I did it!
This bed has been cleared out, rejuvenated, and even edged and mulched.
Take a look:

June 2016

Full of greenery, but not overgrown.

I cleared out the grass from all through it, and most of the daisies--except this little patch in front.

Gave these columbines a little more breathing room.

I added another brunnera, because the other has done so well in these conditions.
This one is Brunnera 'Looking Glass.'

This columbine has just been blooming and blooming.
I think the improvements have agreed with it!

Down at this end, I added a second red-twig dogwood, 'Arctic Fire,' same as the other one.
Go with what survives, right?

The original brunnera.

I am so happy with how it turned out.
Keeping the grass out of it will be an ongoing task, I'm sure, but it looks so much better than it did before! Plus, I've got the plants in that survived all the neglect last year, so here's hoping with a little attention they really thrive!