June 26, 2021

First Flower Harvest

Bachelor's buttons are blooming!

The kids and I went over this morning and cut some flowers for the table.

Most are 'Blue Boy,' which I love, but there are a few others here and there--a light purple, a deep pink, and white/purple bicolor.

This one was mine.
I put in bachelor's buttons as my main flower, with lemon mint, lavender, and salvia to add depth.

My oldest daughter did this one.
Bachelor's buttons, agastache, yarrow, pineapple mint, and lavender.

It's so good to have flowers for cutting again!

June 19, 2021

New Boxes Planted!

 We got the new garden boxes planted!

I just took pictures of the flower box, because the rest were mostly seeds--so they look empty.

I decided to go with tones of peachy pink, raspberry, dark pink, and purple.
All my favorite colors!
After some thought, I did some perennials in this bed. I'm assuming we'll rent the same beds next year.
If not, or if we move, I will have to dig them up and bring them--or give them away to a friend.

This daylily is in the back left corner, below.
Love it!

In the middle I put a 'Cheyenne Spirit' coneflower.
You know how much I love those!
Then in the corners I've got the daylily above, Coreopsis Li'l Bang 'Starstruck', a bright pink geranium, and bright pink petunias.
On either side of the coneflower are 2 agastaches: 'Sunrise Orange' and 'Morello.'
I also put in 3 achilleas, all 'Summer Pastels' variety, and one lavender for my youngest daughter 'Hidcote Blue.' I filled in empty spots with Verbena Lascar 'Mango Orange' and alyssum 'Easter Bonnet' mix.
It's going to be so pretty once everything fills in and starts blooming!

In the long skinny bed, the kids planted half beans and half carrots--a mix of colors for each.

The other square box had almost 10 pounds of potatoes hidden under the soil!
After digging those out and refilling with dirt, the kids planted our one zucchini plant in the corner, then they did onions, corn, wheat grass, and bunny tails grass.

In this box I planted 3 varieties of sunflowers in the big empty spaces you see there.
I pulled out the parsley. The leaves were yellowing and it was going to seed.  
I don't remember the names of the sunflowers offhand, and the seed packets are in the garage!
One will be velvety burgundy, one was a mix of colors, and the other....nope, can't remember.
Those are my dahlias there, front left, getting big and bushy!

Plus a glimpse of the winter squash with very tall peas back on the left.
Everything has really started to take off these past couple of weeks!

June 17, 2021

June 16, 2021

One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker


One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, by Olivia Hawker

4 stars: Deep, thoughtful, moving.

Cora Bemis and Nettie Mae Webber have lived as neighbors for years, out on the Wyoming frontier. Though never friends, per se, they have been decent neighbors. That is, until Cora and Substance Webber have an affair, and Ernest (that would be Cora's husband) fatally shoots Substance. 

Now Ernest is in jail, and winter is coming on. Neither household has a man to help with all the farm chores. Nettie Mae's son Clyde and Cora's daughter Beulah, both teenagers, work hard to help get ready for the long months ahead. It's a good thing, too. Nettie Mae is consumed with bitterness and anger, Cora with regret. 

 It is a bitter pill to swallow when the women realize that they will have to combine their households in order to survive the winter. It takes too much time and energy going back and forth to care for both places. Accordingly, Cora and her 4 children move in with Nettie Mae and Clyde. The animals share a barn, and all must learn to live together.

Over the long winter months, cracks begin to appear in the attitudes of the women toward each other, and in their perceptions of themselves. A new life; a different, more joyful and authentic way of moving through the world awaits, if they can just break through the prison of the past.

* * * * *

I enjoyed this one. It was heavier than what I usually read, but there were quiet moments of wonder tending toward magical realism that brought me out of the heaviness --particularly the chapters from Beulah's point of view. The tone starts out pretty bleak and depressing, but more and more hope is allowed in as the book goes on. Tense and exciting climax, and satisfying ending.

These women are in desperate straits, and they know that. Their very survival depends upon their working together, but how would it be to have to bring your worst enemy into your life so closely? Hawker's answer was compelling and kept me reading to the very end.

Content: Occasional swearing, references to the affair but not graphic descriptions, some thematic stuff--Clyde's burial of his father is written in detail, some butchering of animals. I was so relieved that the relationship between Beulah and Clyde stays innocent throughout. Thank you, Ms. Hawker for that!

June 14, 2021

We've Got Some Work to Do!

As we've been going about our gardening business, over at the community garden, we have kept an eye on a couple of beds that seemed uncared for.

Finally, we made it in to the desk and asked about them--sure enough, they were unclaimed! So we claimed them. That is, we rented them for the season. 2 square, half-size boxes and 1 long and skinny one. 

As you can see, we've got our work cut out for us to get these ready to plant!
The bottom one is post weed removal.
There are some potato plants with flowers on them hiding amongst all those weeds. 
Wonder what else we'll find! 

June 11, 2021

Garden is Looking Good!

 Our garden has really been loving the warmer temperatures we've had the past few days.

The swiss chard is going crazy. We're giving it away in big bunches! We have eaten some, but it is way more than we can keep up with ourselves. Funny, for a crop that we didn't even plant!

The squash is starting to grow big, finally, and the peas are loaded with blossoms!

Tomatoes are hanging in there, but haven't put on much growth yet. Spinach is about done, carrots are getting big enough to harvest soon. 

In my flower box, the bachelor's buttons have lots of buds but haven't started opening up yet. Cosmos are getting big and bushy--I will need to thin them soon. Zinnias are up but haven't put on much growth yet, and same with the dahlias.

Winter squash, looking towards peas and tomatoes.


June 9, 2021

Flowers in Pots

I had kind of been debating if I was even going to fill these big flowerpots this year, but in the end, I decided to do it. I did check with our landlord first, to make sure he would be okay with where I wanted to put them. We have the 2 tall plant stands, so that works well for their new position by the mailbox.

This one has Japanese forest grass, sweet potato vine, and salvia.

In the smaller pot, we planted violas, veronica, and sweet potato vine. (The 3 v's.)

I'm glad I went to the effort after all. It has brightened my day to see these pretty flowers whenever I pull into our driveway.

Meanwhile, over at the community gardens, there are planters and pots lining the edges of the garden.
These are all supposed to be free for harvesting for anyone with a garden box rented.
They are a total mess! Full of weeds and half-dead plants, every one of them!

So we decided to help out a little bit with that situation.
There are 4 pots in particular right next to our beds. 
We emptied out 3 of them completely, and refilled with dirt (provided.)
The fourth has an enormous fennel plant in it, and my kids want to harvest some fennel seeds, apparently. So we are letting that one go to seed, but then later we will yank it out and probably replant it--maybe with some spring or summer blooming bulbs.

Anyway, in the first one we planted 3 kinds of mint: pineapple mint, spearmint, and orange mint.
The second one we filled with flowers--mostly petunias, with an African daisy and sweet potato vine to round things out.
The third had some chives planted in it that flowered this spring, but when I looked closer, some of them were still in 2" pots sitting on the surface, and there were dead plants and weeds galore.
For this one I did petunias and verbena in pink and peach tones, and replanted the chives in the middle.

There is a 5th pot that someone else weeded out then just left empty for a month. 
I didn't want to take over if they had plans, but after a month I figured it was up for grabs.
We had a big bunch of volunteer calendula coming up in our vegetable box that were starting to crowd out our tomatoes, so we dug those up and plopped them into the pot.
They are bright orange and yellow and quite cheerful-looking over in the pot.
Recovered very nicely from the transplant. 

Planter 1: all the mints.

Planter 2: petunias and African daisy

Planter 3: petunias, verbena, and chives

There are several more to go.
I'm kind of working my way around the perimeter.
There are two big planters with grapes in them. 
The one just needs to be filled up with fresh soil--it's only about halfway full and you can see some of the roots poking out. The other is chock full of weeds.
I have been watering all the pots that we have planted, and the grapes, at the same time we water our beds. (I really want to harvest some grapes this year! That would be awesome!)
I guess I feel a bit protective of them now.
We don't mind a bit if everyone else harvests the mint.
For the others, even though they're not really harvestable, I figured flowers were at least better than weeds. Maybe they'll increase the pollinators in the garden.  

June 6, 2021

Series Spotlight: Wesley Mackey Trilogy, by K.L. Fogg

 We have had this series sitting on our shelves for at least 3 years. We've moved it twice now! I had never read it and neither had any of the kids. It was given to us as a gift from grandparents. Finally, I gave my oldest daughter the task of reading that series for us all, so we could either decide to keep it or get rid of it! They are thick books and take up quite a bit of bookshelf space, so I had been giving them the side eye for quite some time. 

She took on the challenge and actually really liked them! She suggested that I read them as well, which I finally did--6 months later. So here we are! When I started reading them this past week, she decided to re-read them at the same time, so we had a few negotiations over who got priority to read. Ha! 

So, these were a lot of fun. Full of action--lots of kidnapping, daring escapes and rescues, bombs, fires, secret identities, diamonds, and also poisonous animals. They were clean, minus the action-related violence. I would say geared for ages 10 and up. Just for reference, my daughter is 11 and she handled them just fine. I think 3 years ago when we got them, however, they would have been a bit too intense for her.

Now for a bit about each book individually...

Serpent Tide (Wesley Mackey #1), by K.L. Fogg

4 stars: A search for identity, with lots of action!

Wesley Vandergrift is the son of one of the richest women in the United States--maybe even the world. Everyone at school envies him and also give him a rough time because of it.

What they don't know is that Wesley feels trapped. He can hardly do anything, ever. The only times he gets to do normal kid stuff, it's because the head housekeeper, Maria, aids and abets him--and doesn't tell his mom. He and his mom think so differently on every topic that he doesn't see how they could even be related.

By some chance, he is allowed to go to a horse-riding camp for a couple of days. When he meets the owners of the ranch, and their family, they all seem strangely familiar to him. Then he sees some pictures in their family room, and wheels in his head start turning. Could it be possible that this is his true family? 

So many questions, so few answers. 

* * * * *

One thing you have to know about these books is that there are several coincidences that are a bit far-fetched. You just have to roll with it, all right? That's probably me as an adult reader talking--I don't know if my daughter noticed or even was bothered by it. If you can get past the "it just so happens..." aspects of the story, it's an exciting plot, with a good bit of humor thrown in. Imogene Vandegrift, Wesley's "mom" is enough of a villian to keep things moving right along, and the supporting characters have plenty of endearing quirks. 

I think most kids will relate to the search for an identity and a sense of belonging. Well done. As soon as I was done with this one I had to go get the next!

Widow's Revenge (Wesley Mackey #2), by K.L. Fogg

4 stars: Hang on to your seat, it's an exciting ride!

Wesley finally gets to live with his Dad and stepmom, and is enjoying some of the perks of a normal (not super wealthy) life. Too bad school can't be as great. He is tired of being bullied at school, particularly by Dylan. So he finally does something about it. Unfortunately, that "something" gets him suspended from school for the rest of the year. 

His Dad finds him a tutor, who turns out to be this ultra-geeky guy named Harrison. He's all right, though. The real problem is that Wesley's grandma, after some digging into Dylan's background, has decided to give Welsey's tormentor a chance to change his life. That's right. Dylan's coming to live at the ranch. Grandma! C'mon!

Meanwhile, terrible news on the Imogene front: she survived the storm at sea and is lying in wait for her chance to reclaim Wesley, while wreaking revenge upon all who claim to be his true family.

It's going to be hard to know who to trust and even harder to come out of all this in one piece.

* * * * *

A strong second installment! Wesley and Co. have their work cut out for them for this time. As the cover would suggest, a certain black widow spider named Black Betty plays an important role in this story and yes, there quite a large forest fire as well. That's not even the half of it. There are adorable twins, more kidnapping, a senile old lady... What are you waiting for? Find this book and dive in!

Diamondback Cave (Wesley Mackey #3), by K.L. Fogg

4 stars: Diamonds and rattlers! 

 Some people just can't stop! Imogene Vandegrift is one of those people. She has a plan forever. Plans within plans. None of her evil plans include going to prison. They all include a certain stash of diamonds that she has hidden in a secret underground vault.

Well, you know that Wesley is going to get mixed up in all of this. He has to, because his friend Amanda's soon-to-be-stepdad is missing, and the grown-ups aren't doing anything about it. He and Amanda and Teddy the dog set out to find the missing man (I don't want to say his name because it would be a spoiler if you haven't read the other 2.)

Their search takes them into the depths of Diamondback Cave. Are there diamonds in there? Maybe. Are there snakes in there? Most definitely. Will they succeed in making it out alive? Well....that remains to be seen.

* * * * *

This premise is one that made me cringe as a parent--2 kids going off by themselves to search for the missing/kidnapped person. Of course it's a big secret, of course they run into trouble. Just--turn down the helicopter blades for a moment or two and get into the story!

In addition to the main plot, this one had a couple of side plots that added interest. There was an exploration of judging people by what you see, rather than who they really are, and some relationship stuff between Wesley's Dad and stepmom that were interesting to me. I don't know how my daughter felt about those parts! 

Satisfying character growth, and even a bit of a twist at the end. Good ending to the trilogy.

Have you read this trilogy? What did you think?