Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sweet warm wishes as we close out the year

Casey and I took a trip to the city on what was a very cold but bright day on Tuesday.
This year's Capitol Christmas tree was given to the people by the state of Arizona. The tree, just visible to the right of the foreground tree, was covered in decorations made by school children from Arizona. I was surprised how well the decorations have held up to the rigors of being outside in the unusually cold weather we have had in the past few weeks.

After walking fast from Union Station to the Capitol and back in an attempt to keep warm we decided to venture on to National Harbor, a newly developed area in Maryland. The main destination there for us was a visit to the first (and currently only) Peeps store. We had fun browsing the shop, trying our hand to see how "hot" we were on the Red Hot Tamales side of the store and choosing just which flavors to fill the bag with from the Mike and Ikes display. Afterwards Casey posed for his photo outside the store - at first I thought this would be a "delete" photo but I like the contrast of Casey bundled up and sitting straight and the girl just inside the store peering out to see what we were doing.
And in case you might wonder how cold it was that day check out this photo of the filling station at the pleasure boat jetty. Yes, that really is ice. And no, I did not venture too close to the edge because that water did not look at all appealing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Through rain and snow the mail must get through

I was walking by the front windows when I saw our intrepid mailman drive by in his truck. Alas, this was as far as he got so he got out and delivered the mail on foot from here.
Here he is going box to box...
But when he got back in his truck he could not get going again. He started to reverse down the hill but more snow piled up around the chained wheels and he came to a complete halt. I alerted my own snow removal team and they headed out with shovels in hand to dig out around the wheels. It took a bit of shoveling but soon they had cleared enough space for the truck to get turned around. And off he went about his delivery rounds.
The teenagers from the side street who had watched the happenings were there to applaud once the truck got underway again. We watched as that mailtruck skidded and slid and with a rattling of the chains set off up the hill and passed out of sight.

The mail got through! And after all that excitement it was only a couple of bills and an envelope of coupons that got delivered.

A pretty real weather event

We are in the midst of an unusual December weather event. Snow is falling at the rate of 1 - 2" per hour and is scheduled to continue all day long. This storm has the potential to be the biggest snowfall on record for December.
These birds are doubtless regretting that they forgot to fly south for the winter. However, officially winter does not begin until December 21 so they still have a few more days to flee.

I try to have some images that I record in various seasons. Here is the back garden pagoda but it is in danger of disappearing. I like the way the snow has sculptured a perfect form on the roof tops of the pagoda.
Here, above, is the first man of my snow removal team. He did a great job clearing the front walk.
And the number two man on my snow removal team had the smelly noisy machinery to deal with. But it does get rid of the snow at a faster rate than the shovel will. Before we started clearing the snow we measured it at 9.5" in the middle of the driveway. That was at around 10:45am and the snow is ongoing.

The snow began around 9pm Friday evening. When I looked out at 7am this morning the snow had stopped falling but it began again by 8am and has not stopped since then.

It looks as though the snow plow did come down our street once in the night but we have not seen it in the daylight. We will stay safe and dry at home as road conditions are very dangerous.

There is so much snow already that it is safe to say we will be having a white Christmas even if, by then, it is a dirty white.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Seasonal colors

Today we had fall and winter collide. Despite the predictions of the weathermen for a 70% chance of snow that would not stick...we did have snow and it has stuck all day long. Around 3pm I ransacked the closet to find my snow boots and ventured outside with my camera. I liked the contrast of the last red leaves on a small viburnum bush with the otherwise snowy scene viewed through an already denuded viburnum.
Here, the foo dog seems to be smiling at the weather. See how the mossy green coat on the dog contrasts with the wintry backdrop. And no, there are no eyeglasses on the face of the dog, it is just an illusion.

But, perhaps you need some brighter colors. Below is a shot of a bunch of flowers that are well past their "sell by" date. These were arranged ten days ago for Thanksgiving but look how colorful and vibrant they still are.

I am enjoying finding seasonal color in whatever form to share with you.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day is done, gone the sun and the summer as well.

Today we had one of those bonus days you sometimes get in the Fall with a lovely azure backdrop and temperatures rising at least to the 70s. It was an opportunity to get outside and soak up the vitamin D while doing more cleanup to prepare for the winter months. The colors have been spectacular this year and it is hard to pull out those annuals while we still get days like today. As you can see, the petunias put on their pleading faces and they got a stay of execution.

As I was dragging my weary body upstairs to change out of my dirty gardening clothes I glanced out the window and saw the sunset was just as pretty as the day. My photo does not do justice to the sky but I liked the way the jet trails were all lit with pink.

Lastly, I know a picture is better than a thousand words, but I am not bold enough to take a photo of a playful dog and his owner who live just up the street (I'll try to keep the description under the thousand words however). This spunky dog is perhaps a couple of years old and several times lately as we pass by walking our dog we see the dog and his owner out on the front lawn playing soccer together. Nothing unusual you might be thinking. But the dog is a tiny scrap of a thing, a Yorkie, and the ball is bigger than he is. The man gently kicks the ball and the Yorkie darts around barking with delight. It is a sight to behold.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Look up, look up!

Driving home one day at the end of October I glanced at the sky and noticed how dramatic the golden yellow maple tree looked. I dashed inside and grabbed my camera to capture the moment in the minutes before a drenching rain.
Surprisingly, I got my photo shot and the clouds moved on with narry a drop of rain.
And here, among some trees I had been observing the changes in each day, the fallen leaves reveal a penthouse apartment for a squirrel. When the leaves are on the trees and the wind blows, that tree really sways. And now the leaves are off? I hope that squirrel has laid in a supply of Dramamine (motion sickness remedy) along with the acorns and walnuts for the winter months.

A visit from the painter

Way back in April I sought input about what to do about the newly built screen around the ac units.
This week, the deed is done. The screen now matches the newly refinished deck. Once the spring and summer come back and flowers begin to appear in front of the screen it will soften even further. But for now, well, Jack Frost junior has already visited and the plants are looking scraggly. Basil is still trying to hang in there but his days are numbered as Jack Frost himself is due any day now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The colors of nature

A few weekends ago I went on a tour of the studios of local artists when I got the opportunity to speak one on one with several artists and hear how they see their surroundings. Now when I am out and about with my camera I'm trying to make vignettes or look at color combinations

Just look at the wonderful colors combined here with the crepe myrtle in the foreground and the New England asters behind.
Now you get the rich brown shot of color from the deck and the fall colors of the crepe myrtle with a last gasp of an almost lime green basil leaning to the left paired with the darker green of the rosemary to the right while just edging in on the extreme left is the dried lemon grass.

Last night we had a speaker (Ricki Silva) come to our quilt meeting. At one point she had a slide up showing a sunrise and she mentioned looking at that glory of nature and wanting to take her scissors and snip out a piece of that sky color to add into the quilt she was planning.

I can "see" a quilt in this lineup of autumn plants outside a nearby landscaper's storefront.Which plant shall I take the clippers to and add to my fabric stash?

Monday, October 26, 2009

More seasonal color

Over the weekend Fall really lived up to it's name. The big maple tree above this tableau just let go and there is leaf confetti galore.
While taking the dog for a walk this afternoon I spotted this great variety of autumnal colors. I just loved the way those two "volunteer" trees are peeking through the row of green and have put on their brightest color to make sure they are not overlooked.
And lastly, a few of the chrysanthemums in my front garden. A week or so ago I got really aggressive and pulled out/trimmed back a big lot of the very faded (summertime) black eyed susans and now you can have a much better view of the October flowers in this plot.

Ode to the season

I was away all weekend at a quilt retreat. As I drove out on Friday I thought how magnificent the fall colors were on the trees but that since heavy wind and rain was predicted for Saturday I would not likely get any good photos. But when I arrived home late Sunday afternoon I was lucky enough to have a few minutes of good conditions to take these photos. Look how dramatic the viburnum looks just to the right of the sidewalk in the photo above.
This shows the kousa dogwood tree with it's autumn clothes on. Some of the leaves have turned dry at the edges and curled up and I thought it made for a great image.
And here we are looking further down the street. In the foreground are the seed heads from the black eyed susan blooms that I like to leave up for the birds to feast on.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's a glorious Fall day

A couple of days ago I looked out my window and thought I should take a photo of the very beginnings of the leaf change color on this big maple tree. But then we had a day of high winds and the leaves looked very windblown indeed. But today is a wonderful day so I did get this photo afterall.
When I first looked out the window this morning the back garden seemed alive with birds. Of course the act of getting my camera, raising the window, removing the screen and then snapping the photo chased some of the birds away. But if you look closely here you can see at least three robins. Before I took the photo three starlings had been in this birdbath at the same time (unusual for the birds to share like that) and they had splashed out a lot of water.

The dogwood is also putting on it's Fall clothes.

The big leaf plant in the left foreground is one of my rhubarb plants. I just picked quite a few stalks yesterday so it is a little smaller now than it was.

Final version of the deck refurbishment

As previously mentioned, the deck refurbishment company did return to apply the stain coating. I am slowly putting some items back in place.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A long, dry spell

Some men in my life have asked why I have not updated my blog. Since the original intention was to show the building project, and that was finally over, I had not really had any incentive to update. However, now that Fall is here and I will be indoors more perhaps it is time to resurrect this blog and just create postings as the mood strikes or the camera captures something worthwhile.

This week we finally had the deck cleaned. The deck is nine years old and had not ever been stained or cleaned. When it was new we liked it in it's natural finish. But nine years of weather and watering pots had taken their toll and it was time for a refurbishment.

Here is a "before" shot of the deck. This was how it looked on August 23. You can see that the wood has greyed and there is staining from where pots have been sitting.And now this is how it looked on September 25 after the cleaning.

I don't want to put anything back on the deck yet because there is meant to be a followup visit by the contractor to apply a semi transparent stain.

And since Fall arrived on this past Tuesday it is likely time to empty out the pots of impatiens that have stopped blooming as well as cut back/pull out the petunias. Neither of these two annuals did very well this summer in terms of blooming.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Landscaping continues

Outside, I'm still beavering away, trying to bring the landscaping back into line and erase the signs of piles of building rubble and more. Above you can see that the planter box is home to some thriving marigolds and blue salvia. The lattice screen fence still awaits staining.
Today we had the landscape team here to work on fixing some longstanding drainage problems along the landscape beds in the rear garden/yard. Additionally, some large boulders were maneuvered into position to hold back the soil and mulch from being washed onto the new patio. Trying to find boulders to buy as been, well, trying! But we did come across some yesterday and have been able to add them to the three that have been there all along. It was not fun heaving those big boulders around as today was very humid and the bugs were out in full force. There is still a vacancy in the front right of the above photo for a fountain!
Rolo of course has to come and inspect what has been done and give everything the sniff test. Surviving plants were dug out and poked in the corner so they can be replanted once we get some more topsoil and mulch tomorrow.
Lastly, here's a photo to show how we have been able to reuse some of the pavers from the old patio. Because the rear yard slopes downhill we have a problem with water runoff. After the very heavy spring rains, mulch is continually washed away from the beds and into the grass. So today the team dry laid the old pavers as an edging along the garden bed in collaboration with laying new drainpipes to carry the downspout water away from the house. Those pavers look so much better laid in a neat line as an edging than they do piled up out in the woods!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

As we inch towards completion

I am reminded that it has been many weeks since my last posting. My excuse is that I've been waiting for something else to happen. So last Friday, we had some action on site when the carpet layers arrived to take out the old and the temporary carpet in the family room. In the photo below you can see them working on taking up the old carpet. In the right corner the door to the elevator is open altho the inner door is closed.

And now here we are a few days later. The new carpet is laid - unclear from the photo is that the carpet is now a soft green color with a subtle pattern in it. Please also note that the windows are sparkling clean and that the drapes are once more hanging from the rods (and not lying in repose on a bed downstairs). Geoff is engrossed in a book newly borowed from the library.
The photo above shows my newly planted clematis - this one replaced the vigorous speciman that did not survive being on the building site.
And now a long shot of the arch with a flowering clematis on both sides. The clematis on the right not only survived the building site but this is it's best ever flowering. I wish I could say something good about the grass below but reread the title of this posting...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A comment from the Gardener

April and May are the busiest times of the month in my garden. And this year some parts of my garden were hanging on by a wing and a prayer so I was very much looking forward to being able to get my hands dirty and get things made pretty once more. On Monday and Tuesday Rick and his team were here to weed and edge all the garden beds and then install 16 cu feet of shredded bark mulch. It is amazing how just edging and mulching the beds made things look vastly improved. The black iron garden arch which has been resting in the woods since last November was reinstalled. One of the clematis plants that previously grew over the arch survived and it has been reintroduced to the arch (and disconnected from the holly tree which it had adopted). The second one (which was always way more vigorous) has succumbed and I will need to replace it.

I played with dirt on Sunday and concocted what I hope will be a good growing medium in the new but narrow planter box. Then I filled it with a "scrap quilt" of marigolds.

Today I planted out ageratum plants out front and then needed to find a good home for the dozens of marigold and blue salvia plants that remained after I had filled the planter box.

In another few weeks I'll post an updated photo of my garden. That will come after Rick and I have decided what to do with the garden bed to the immediate left (out of camera range) in this photo. It's the one that has the new screen hiding the ac units. But we'll have to come up with an idea incorporating big boulders to hold back the soil and mulch so the latter do not wash down onto the patio. My favorite chaste tree, which had to be sacrificed for the patio, previously did a good job of holding back the soil. We'll come up with a solution I'm sure.

the grass is growing

I took this (above) shot this afternoon standing it the same location as I did when taking many of the construction progress photos. There has been a lot of changes during the months.
This afternoon I planted out some more of the marigold plants that I purchased a few days ago. These are not annuals that I buy/plant often but I needed something reliable that I predict/guess will grow in the nasty clay left behind. They also provide bright color in this corner of the yard that can be somewhat shady (but, gee, marigolds need full sun - we'll have to see what happens).
And for a "before" shot...we got the computer moved out of Geoff's bedroom downstairs and into what is meant to be it's permanent resting place. My vision of a pretty and tranquil home office is not yet a reality. Gad, look at all those cords. This is a work in progress that is for sure!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

And for those of you wondering

if I ever did get moved into the new sewing room here is a view of the tidiest part. I have stuff to put away in the new closet before I can take the "real" photo.

In the foreground to the left is my new cutting table. It was constructed using two of the units that were previously in the family room but had to be moved to accommodate the elevator. Pat decided to work on this on the Monday that I was leaving for NZ which meant I could not do some final sewing (of my lily top) that I had planned to do and the packing of my sewing items for symposium was very hurried as I grabbed them out of the way while Pat was outside cutting the wood for the top.

But it will be so much better to be able to cut fabric right there in my room and not as I have done for many years and dash downstairs to cut on the kitchen counter. And once I retrieve the iron from exile in the bathroom and put it back on the ironing board things will be much more efficient.

And finally

Spring did continue, unfazed by all the upheavals in the back yard. Above you can see the pretty white native dogwood tree. In previous years it has been overshadowed by a native wild cherry but I had that taken down last year. So now it has room to breath and be admired.
And here is one of the pink dogwoods that were planted way back in 2001 (I had asked for white but this is what grew!) Not that you can see in this photo but there is a second pink dogwood along with another native white one behind this tree. When I looked out the window to take the photo a bright red cardinal was posing nicely on the birdbath but in the time it took for me to grab the camera he flew away.

Please note the rhubarb plant just to the left side of the bird bath. When I left for New Zealand on April 6 it was barely poking it's head above the ground. Now on April 26 it is already sending up many seed/flower heads. I'll have to try to remember tomorrow to go out and pick some stalks to see if it is worth trying to keep this plant growing in the garden!