Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Out and About in my Mid May Garden and Nearby

While we wait for me to sort through the New Zealand photos here is a quick overview of what nature is showcasing in my garden and in the nearby Potomac River as of yesterday.
 Last week we had a lot of rain and it went on for days and days. Yesterday, with no rain imminent, it seemed like a good chance to go view the Great Falls on the Potomac river. The water was running fast and furious and was very muddy colored.
Here is a similar shot taken on January 16, 2017. Now there had been snow a few days previous to this trip so you might have expected that, being a midwinter shot, there would be a good amount of water in the river. But you will notice there are way more rocks visible than there yesterday.
 In the water yesterday all sorts of debris was being washed along. A small boy near to us at the viewing overlook number 3 was thrilled to spot this ball and kept his eye on it for several minutes as it bobbed along with the fallen tree trunks and more.
 Arriving back home and coming up the driveway I thought the kousa dogwood was at about peak bloom. This is one of it's more spectacular bloom years.
 A closer view of the dogwood.
 Out back the peonies are coming out. They took a real beating in the rain and the hasty emergency tying up to try and protect them meant they are leaning in all sorts of weird directions. But I love the pretty pastel pink of this one. My plan for the back garden is for it to be a pastel white, pink and blue theme and this bloom epitomizes the pink I aim for.
 Down on the shady rear patio I can see it is well time for a good power washing of the brick. Before that happens however I can marvel at the heuchera (coral bells) that take root there and seem to stay unnoticed by the browsing deer.
 In the front garden it is the week of the iris.
 Here's a pretty one.
 The lacecap hydrangea has plenty of buds on it and I am pretty sure we won't be getting any more frosts this season. Now if I can just keep the deer away it might be a good season for hydrangea blooms.
 When I was outside yesterday I thought this peony was just one day away from peak bloom. Today, it would have been nice to have some sun to coax out the full beauty but instead, yes, more rain.
Another shot of Great Falls on January 16 last year...
And the same aspect yesterday.

The downside of all this rain means the weeds are getting out of control in the garden because I cannot get out there to pull them. The upside is that I should, surely, have more time to go through my New Zealand photos and get them ready for posting here.

We did have a lot of rain during our time in New Zealand also. Seems to be a theme for now!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Lest We Forget

Today is April 25 and it is 103 years since the ANZAC forces landed on the shores of Gallipoli during the Great War of 1914 - 1918. In both New Zealand and Australia it is a sombre day of Remembrance. As I have just returned from a vacation in New Zealand I wanted to acknowledge this date and share some images taken on my trip that are pertinent to this day.
 First I wish to honor the memory of my grandfather, James Patrick Coughlan, Ist Batallion Otago Regiment, who was there on April 25, 1914 and also my father, James William Coughlan, 36th Battalion, who served in the Pacific during WWII.
 Our recent trip to New Zealand involved travel through some places that have a special connection for my family memories. I was impressed by the care taken with upkeep of the many cenotaphs of remembrance even in the smallest of locations like this one in Glenroy, on state highway 77, 12 km west of Hororata in Canterbury. While we have no direct conenction to this hamlet my father had a much remembered sheepdog named Glen and my sister lived on a street named Glenroy.
 On April 23, our last day in New Zealand, we had time to spare waiting for the first of our three flights to get home. That was at the Christchurch airport where, unlike most days of our trip, the weather turned on a beautful sunny autumn day. Wandering outside to enjoy the sunshine I came across a beautiful tribute to the (then) upcoming Anzac Day. If you are wondering about the large piece of sculpture in the background it is "Cumulus Gate Pavilion for Richard Pearse" by sculptor Gregor Kregar and installed in 2012. Richard Pearse was a pioneering New Zealand aviator who flew and landed an airplane in 1903 some time before the Wright Brothers later more well known flight.
 Much careful and painstaking attention to the small detail of "planting" all the poppies made for a poignant sight.
 We spent two nights in the small South Canterbury farming community of Fairlie, gateway to the Mackenzie Country. When my father was a boy his parents owned and farmed a property in this vicinity and the stunning landscape in the area is a particular favorite of mine. Like many towns Fairlie was preparing their Cenotaph for Anzac Day. The white crosses installed at the base of the Cenotaph I can understand but I am not sure why there was also that higher scaffold to the left.
 In the  Omaka Aviation Museum in Blenheim I came across this display of some of the handmade poppies that were made for the 5000 Poppies project. Long time readers of my blog might remember my mention of this amazing project when I was at the Manawatu Quilt Symposium in January 2015. If you click on the link you will see this project eventually yielded more than 300,000 individually handmade poppies mostly made in Australia and New Zealand but also from many worldwide locations.
 The display at the Christchurch Airport was better appreciated in person than through the camera lens as the stunning black sillhouettes were difficult to photograph against the very busy backgrounds.
Thank you to Kilamrnock Enterprises for planting this field of poppies. It was a wonderful way to end our New Zealand trip.

Lest We Forget.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Firsts of Spring

March 20 (yesterday) is the spring equinox. It is traditional that people watch out for the first signs of spring. So here are a few...
 The first robin of spring 2018.
 The first daffodils of spring. And in the background the netting to keep the deer away from the first azalea buds of spring.
 The plum tree in spring.
 The Lenten Rose has finally had it's first blooms open. Can you see them?
 The first shoveling of spring.
 The first glimpse of color in my blue garden.
 The first mint of spring...growing in the crack between the concrete garage floor and the driveway asphalt.
 The river birch bark in spring.
 The Green Man laughing at the spring thoughts. Just two days ago I saw two bluebirds investigating the bluebird house. I think they rejected it.
Two days ago I went outside to see if I could find the first daffodil bloom of spring (not seeing it are you?). Instead I found this squirrel who was after a good meal of discarded seed from the birdfeeder.
"Maybe if I hide under here she won't see me!"

So I'm sure you get the picture of spring so far. And now I better go before we have the first power outage of spring.  I need my first quilt project completion of spring and I can only do that if the electricity stays on.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Early March in the Garden

 As you might have heard we had a "little" wind event here over the first few days of March. It absolutely roared in like a lion. We woke up on Friday to no electricity and the sight of this major maple down in the back yard. The tree had a triple trunk arrangement. This was the trunk that faced into our garden and had the only branch low enough to take lovely Fall photographs of.
The winds howled and roared all day with gusts up as high as 70mph/114kph. I did not want to venture out too far but I did find this pretty (or is it brooding?) sunset on Friday.

The hellebore, variously known as the Christmas Rose or the Lenten Rose is very late to bloom this year. Some years it is out around Christmas but this week, here we are at the third week of Lent and still no blooms have opened.
The tree came down and hit the small lantern on the way. I thought it had pushed it down into the mulch but alas, this morning, I discover it entirely broke off two of the four legs.
The bluebells have just begun to break through the ground.
 Fortunately the pagoda missed being hit. As you can see in the background I have daffodils up but have yet to see the first bloom.
 We were without electricity for 33 hours and were very relieved to get it back late morning Saturday. Dinner time called for comfort food and we had a roast chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes and oven-roasted vegetables. Many other families in our area had the power outage last into five days.
 The maple was the most dramatic damage but we had several other trees blown over also. Some, like this one, were likely already dead but got caught up in the tree canopy and did not fall far. The suet feeder, you might notice, is empty. Some critter decided it needed the suet all to itself and after managing to get the feeder open and make off with the suet cake twice in a five day period I have temporarily given up.
 Today the crew came with their chainsaws and truck and in very short order that maple and the assorted cedars were sawn up and taken away. I measured it last night and that piece was about 50 foot from top to bottom.
 The ornamental plum tree is always the first to bloom in the early spring in my garden. Now it is out I am holding my breath that we don't get a hard frost which turns the pretty pink blooms to a most unattractive brown.
Goodbye maple tree - it looks like you had an interesting life. You will be missed.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Oh February...

This has been, as they say, an interesting week. February starts off with Groundhog Day and a few days later is Waitangi Day (for those of us with a New Zealand heritage). Then comes the big week we just had:
 Lincoln's Birthday on Monday, Mardi Gras on Tuesday (good golly I forgot to make pancakes!), Valentines Day plus Ash Wednesday made Wednesday a real puzzle. I ended up wearing my heart earrings and pendant set against an all black outfit. And the Chinese New Year - Year of the Dog slipped right by me without a nod.
 Throw in some bizarre temperature swings which saw a record breaking  high of 76F/24C on Thursday sending loud messages to the daffodil bulbs and the
 maple trees which started showing leafbud color only to face 32F/0C and snow and sleet today.
 The birdies were happy that the suet feeder had been replaced. Earlier in the week I looked out and the feeder, chained around a branch on the maple tree,  had disappeared. "They" say a racoon must have gotten it down.I say that must be a pretty darn adept racoon to have gotten the chain off the tree. Fortunately we found the feeder on the ground only ten yards or so away. The suet cake was gone but the feeder was unharmed.
 On Thursday I was meant to be hanging a new art exhibit for my art group. Alas, the venue, a senior living facility, had to go into quarantine because of the severity of the flu outbreak locally and we could not hang art. Phew, I do have time to finish my piece. Sitting at the front window to do the hand stitching while watching the snow fall today made for calming moments.
 I was exchanging messages during the afternoon with my niece in New Zealand. She asked me to take pretty pictures of the snow. Does this qualify? It reminds me of an oil painting someone in the art group currently has on display at the above mentioned venue.
 I went out on the front porch looking for a pretty picture to take when this small family herd of deer happened along. Do you see the eight legged two headed deer in the center? (wink, wink)
 My favorite tree in April is this dogwood in the back yard. The buds were beginning to look promising earlier in the week and I do so hope that this quick burst of winter has not upset them too much.
All in all it was a day for comfort food for dinner. A beef stew in the crockpot, roast veges in the oven, a little fruit salad and a pinot noir from the Awatere Valley seemed like a good idea.

This one is for you Jen!

p.s. all photos are in full living color despite the fact that it looks like it was a black and white sort of day.