Monday, March 31

DIY Photography Backdrop

I'm getting prepared for my first paid photography shoot, happening this Sunday. I needed a backdrop, but didn't have a spare $200+ sitting around, so went to Lowe's and bought a painter's dropcloth. And bought dye. . . . And went back to town and bought more dye. . . . And went back to town and bought more dye. . . . And more dye. . . . Over the past few days I've dyed and bleached and re-dyed and dyed again and dyed some more. -- And run to town a lot. Ha! (I'm not exaggerating in the slightest.) And tonight I have a backdrop! Woohoo!!! While I'm not sure this is the one I'll be using for the project on Sunday, it was a great learning experience, and I will have it as a spare.

And now, (drumroll, please) here it is:
Since Husband was at work and the kids were in bed and I was too impatient to wait for some willing subjects to wake up in the morning, I nabbed son's teddy bears, and got some still life shots. Here's one:

Leave me a comment, tell me what you think. Thanks!

Thursday, March 27

Slow Progress

Since the last post, I have been hanging' out at the hospital with Husband, who was diagnosed with pneumonia to both sides of his lungs. Was it the tree he cut down with the hand saw that did it???

Also, since my last post, our neighbors totally bowled us over with their kindness. -- As we headed off to the ER, they snuck back to our yard with a few more people, and, armed with chainsaws, tore the bank's underbrush and rotten trees to shreds in just a few hours! When I came home briefly to pick up clothes and other necessities for a hospital stay, I was too preoccupied to notice it till I was headed back down the driveway, and then I just sat in my car and bawled. Had it been left to me to finish alone, it would have taken me weeks, and then it wouldn't have happened because I would have been overcome by all the encroaching growth. So, this was simply amazing to see! I spent the time at the hospital wondering if I'd been dreaming about what I saw. :)

Today I spent a lot of time outside with the kids while Husband slept inside, recuperating.

This morning we planted:
2 bareroot raspberry bushes
3 bareroot blueberry bushes

We potted to larger pots (till there's time to dig a permanent garden spot):
3 hydrangeas
1 butterfly bush
3 ecchinacea
1 monarda

This afternoon I worked on clearing leaves and GOBS of garbage from the bank. So far there is quite the growing pile of cinder blocks, garbage bags, dishes, an old metal garden frog, and various other non-descript items. The happy thing I'm "discovering" is lots of boulders. -- I knew they were there, but now I can really see them. And suddenly, I have a new garden-in-the-making: a rock garden!!! I am so excited! The sky is the limit for what I could do here! But for this spring, I'm just going to work at clearing it out, and then planting annual seeds. I have a plethora of seed packs, some old and some new. I don't know if they'll all make it, but I figure this will be a good place to experiment. So, I shall let you know how it comes along.

Saturday, March 22

What Is It?

This is the happiest item we unearthed yesterday, in all our thrashing of underbrush. Minus a few blossoms that got knocked off, it looks pretty good, but the question remains: What is it?

The thin tree bears delicate flowers of light pink color, with a dark pink cluster of stamens (??? -- Forgive me! I don't remember my floral anatomy from college A&P) in the center. Leaves are bright green, with one point at the tip, from what I can tell, as they are barely opening up.

Thanks for any help with identification!

Friday, March 21

Worn Out

Husband and I spent most of the day working along the bank of our front yard. The yard abruptly ends at the top of a fairly steep bank where nothing has succeeded to grow save scrubby undergrowth -- largely wicked honeysuckle vines and some even more wicked thorn bushes that have grown from the ground up to the heights of the trees. Many of the trees at the edge of the lawn are dead, with parts hanging over the lawn, making it precarious for Husband to mow.

So today we started into a huge project: removing all of this undergrowth. Armed with two small handsaws, Husband and I actually chopped out a lot. Pulling it out was probably the hardest part, as the vines acted like super-glue, keeping the trees in place.

Daughter kept busy running between the edge of the lawn and the trash cans, as Husband and I also unearthed a dump from the previous owners. Why do people do that?

At the end of our day, I can look out our front windows and actually see past the edge of our lawn, which is a very nice start toward ridding the claustrophobic feel that we've had until now. I think tonight we will all sleep harder than we normally do!

Tuesday, March 18


This morning I went to my local nursery and took Mr. Jim's advice and bought Loropetalum and Abelia and Camellia. (Seven plants total.)

This afternoon, I planted:
2 Loropetalum
4 Abelia
1 Camellia
And transplanted to pots (for now):
2 Echinops Ritro
1 Echinacea
1 Hydrangea

And tonight I am sore and tired! Nothing like digging in clay!!!

I still have to plant:
3 Nandina
4 potted plants from above
4 other hydrangea
3 blueberry bareroot bushes (I'm nervous about the bareroot part!)
2 raspberry bareroot bushes
1 butterfly bush
3 rudbekia
1 monarda
and a ton of seeds, which I'm not at all worried about.

Also need to MAKE a bed for many of the above, weed out another bed and finish building it, and dig out an old gravel drive where I'll plant the berry bushes. In other words, more aches and pains! But, oh, you'll not hear me complaining come summertime, when I'll be rewarded with all kinds of beauty. :)

Sunday, March 16

Empanadas and Tomato Cilantro Salad

I do not like to cook. Period. But a couple days ago I stumbled upon a recipe I'd torn out of a magazine ages ago. It was for Empanadas. A salad was pictured with the empanadas, but I didn't have the recipe for that. So I did what I thought would taste good, and wow! -- Lunch was a hit!

Here is how to make the empanadas:

1 pound refrigerator pizza dough (Next time I'll make my own)
1 can refried beans
1 package cheddar cheese
Salsa sauce

Cut pizza dough into six equal portions. With rolling pin, roll out each portion. Spoon refried beans onto one half-side of dough. Spread on 1 1/2 tablespoon salsa. Sprinkle on 2 tablespoons cheddar cheese. Fold empty side over filled side; pinch edges of dough closed. Lay on baking stone. Rub oil over empanada. Bake @ 350 for 12-15 minutes, or till slightly browned. Serve with more salsa or sour cream.

For the salad, I cut up 4 tomatoes (from on the vine), snipped a good bit of cilantro into it, added some thin slices of red onion, and drizzled the salad with fresh lime juice and olive oil. Talk about sinking your senses into summer! -- This was it!

I think we'll have empanadas and Tomato Cilantro salad every week from here on out. :)

Saturday, March 15

Signs of Life

We are having the wettest spring! As opposed to last summer when there were huge fissures around our yard from the severe drought, we are now getting rain, rain, and more rain. When I walk in the lawn, squishy sounds greet my ears, and water pours into the holes of my crocs as my feet sink into the swampy turf. (If you could call our lawn 'turf'. -- It's more like 'healthy weeds' than anything!)

Today was no exception with the rain. And thunder and lightening kept the kids close to our sides much of the day. The gutters overflowed into my flowerbeds, drowning the poor plants that managed to survive last year's drought.

But after the rain ended, the sun burst out from behind a cloud and rewarded us with all the signs of spring.

Hollyhocks in my garden are taking off! Can't wait to see their blooms!

Vinca is already showing pretty blooms. And that was one of the things I was thinking of pulling out. Oh, dear! I'm very tender-hearted toward a plant that will do well with me. So, maybe she'll stay.

My Confederate Jasmine is also thriving, although reddish in color. ??? I saw its brothers and sisters at the nursery I bought it from, and some were green; some were red. Mr. Jim told me that it did seem odd, but it still was healthy. Maybe a different variety???

Forsythia just glows under the evening sun. Yesterday I noticed tiny hints of yellow; today it is open.

The greenest thing in the woods is still the moss. If I could turn my yard into a blanket of moss, I would do it in a heartbeat. I love it! Now, though, I am enjoying it in the woods (not from the edge of my yard). -- Our dear neighbors (I really mean 'dear'!) are blazing a trail through the woods from their house to the top of the hill, with another trailhead entrance at the edge of our lawn. It has since made me feel like a participant in our woods instead of a by-stander. -- I can enter the woods without tripping over vines and being torn to shreds by briars. It is lovely!

Of course Dear Children felt the need to be a part of Spring by playing in the mud puddles!

Thursday, March 13

Nursery and Mail-Order Plants

I recently put in an order through Spring Hill Nursery for some more plants. (I ordered from them last year, and was pleased with the results, so decided to try it again.) Soon after ordering, three hydrangeas (one red and two purple), a butterfly bush, 3 rudbekia, and 1 monarda arrived in the mail looking small but healthy. Now, about a week later, they have leafed out an incredible amount, and are literally lunging in growth by the day! I am so pleased!

Hands down, hydrangeas are my 'most favoritest' flower! I hope to own one of each (of which I'm learning there are hundreds, at least) someday. :) I just love their colors: not shockingly vivid, although some are close to that, but . . . I don't know, just softly pleasant to view. . . . Love 'em!

I also saw Jim at my local nursery. What a help he was!!! I spent at least an hour with him, discussing the pros and cons of plants appropriate for my problem-spot garden, and soaking up all the garden knowledge I could. I came home with a few plants, plus wrote down all the ones he recommended. I'll be sitting down with my graph paper and figuring out where I'll fit all these beauties in. Can't wait to have something good to show you!

But first, I've gotta start hacking at my clay. Groan!! I need to move not only my hydrangea from the front around to the back of my house, but also the lilac that is now quite big. Oh, my achin' back, here we come!

Monday, March 3

Spring is Coming!

I don't think much could thrill my soul more than the little bits of green that I see poking out of tree and shrub, and pushing aside the dark earth. Equally exciting is the weather being warm enough to enjoy a close-up look, and tearing out the weeds that have filled in a lot of that dark earth.

I spent the morning at a local nursery getting some much-needed help. I am too embarrassed to show you how bad my flowerbed currently looks. Maybe I'll get brave and show the "before" pictures once I have an "after" picture to go along with it, so you know how much it improved.

Too late I realized that I shouldn't try to make my foundation bed a perennial garden. Currently I have overgrown lavender and rosemary in it, as well as a hydrangea that gets cooked in summer's heat; echinacea, clematis, and hollyhocks that look good but are poorly placed; and struggling echinops ritro.

So, it is time to move some stuff, and then cover up that ugly cinderblock foundation with some shrubs. The nursery man told me to draw out my bed's dimensions, adding in what's currently there, and take some pictures. He'll help me from there. -- Thanks!!! -- I need all the help I can get!

So, till there's something good to show you, think of me pulling weeds, killing ant mounds, and moving plants around in preparation for planting shrubs. Can't wait to see the improvement. -- Anything has to be better than how it currently is!