Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Gardener - Have pruners, will travel...

A few weeks ago my mission was to recapture a garden that for one reason or another had lost most of its plants and purpose. I love this kind of challenge - especially when someone else is footing the bill (ha ha) and gladly tackled the project with gusto. I should admit that I let my friend, whose garden it is, pull out all the weeds first, and it was covered in whatever grows freely down in West Virginia. While she did that, I tackled her 70 year old rose bush and several hours later we were both pleased with our notable progress. At this point, I must admit, we didn't think to take "before" pictures. I guess one just naturally assumes "who wants to see a picture of this mess?" and then when you are finished and it looks great you think "Gee I should have thought to take a picture of Before and After." So you'll have to settle for the after and just know that the before was pretty bad.
as close to a "before" picture as you will get
love this rock
 Since we had a completely empty canvas I decided to work some love into the soil and so the digging took a bit more effort than I had planned, but thankfully dear daughter showed up and did the heavy lifting. We added some nutrients and deterrents to the soil and then planted the perennials. We chose mainly perennials because this garden often goes untended (it is at my friends summer place) so we needed something that would take root and then do its thing for the next several years. I also got the notion to build a rock border on one of the smaller gardens so set about gathering some rocks. Again I got lucky and found a pile of ones already dug up and ready to be hauled. For which I was very thankful because the first rock I found turned out to be a lot bigger than the little part sticking out of the ground. I thought I would find China before that excavation was over.
little rock border
"Mary's rose bush
I tackled the pruning of several other bushes and tress - rhododendrons and a huge lilac bush - nothing was left untouched, and my friend said "We'd better get Mary and her pruners out of here before she starts trimming the clover in the meadow." The first time (several years ago) that I pruned her rose bush she was sure I had killed it and it would never bloom again but the hundreds of buds that have returned every year since have been my saving grace for a "thorough" job. This time around the middle of the bush was dead so I untangled it cane by cane and cut out the dead canes and then wound the branches back together for a more balanced look. At least we can now get to and ring the bell.
I truly hope the garden lasted the hot dry week ahead and was just as cheerful and welcoming for the family reunion as it was when we left it Sunday afternoon. And of course we all hope that it survives for many seasons to come.

"You can ring my bell"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Do you love quilts?

My mother-in-law is really quite amazing. Aside from raising 11 children, being a farmer's wife, teaching school and driving bus she managed to enjoy many crafts and and sewing pleasures. Now that she is in her "golden years" she can put the busyness behind her and play with her hobbies and crafting pleasures to her hearts content. Which apparently she does, especially during Iowa winter's long, cold nights while her husband watches television. At a recent visit to her home I had the privilege of seeing her quilt top collection; I was blown away! She said she has always wanted to photograph them so she doesn't have to get them out each time and of course "yours truly" was up for the task so we opened up each one and photographed the top and some detail. Here are a few of my favorites:
detail work - all done by hand

I especially loved the ones where she added hand embroidered sections. She said they were all free hand - just ideas she had picked up when looking at pretty things. One was done after seeing a pretty doiley pattern at a yard sale. Others came from magazines or the fabric itself inspired ideas.

After laying out, photographing and counting them (she didn't really know how many she had - turned out to be 32!) she showed me her work space in the basement where there were stacks of tiny blocks, finished larger blocks and strips of blocks, all hanging in organized rows; probably enough to make another dozen quilts. If you look closely at the ones below you will see that instead of embroidering a large block she chose a tiny block to accent each piece. The quilt top was finished before she got the idea so she pulled each block apart to add a hand embroidered piece.

She hopes to one day soon get to actually quilting them; she wants to do them by hand as well, but admits she may need to take some to the nearby Amish ladies and pay to get them done. A few quilts have been spoken for but others she has plans as to who the recipients will be - oh please pick me pick me. It was much fun to show the pictures at a recent family gathering and hear her sons and daughters laughing as they picked out various items of childhood clothing on some of them. A true vintage quilt experience

the crazy quilt


fans - added a little rick rack for interest. Word got out that she was trying to use up her rick rack and friends started bringing theirs in case she didn't have enough. Needless to say - she has run out of it yet!

more hexagons

the doiley inspired quilt

I convinced her to let me purchase a few squares for framing and was very excited to bring home these.

the detail work still amazes me


Fingers crossed that someday I will be able to snuggle under a warm, hand stitched quilt with my honey that was made with love and lots of long, cold winters.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Just Breathe

I had the most relaxing weekend at the farm. I did my chores first and then played the rest of the time. Good advice - thanks mom! One of my chores was to wash the living room windows. That was an especially good idea because then my view was unobstructed from the myriad of spider webs and leaves that had accumulated over the winter and spring. Husband says - "We won't know what to do with ourselves looking out of clear windows". I say good grief - it's not like I NEVER clean the windows - but the clean windows were a treat and were enjoyed. It was one of those cooler in the house than outside kind of days on Saturday so washing windows really was the smart choice. Then a little garden weeding and a little mouse turd vacuuming and I was free! Free to ride my ATV over the countryside, free to read under the big shade tree, free to walk in the woods and take photos, free to sit by the stream and listen to the gurgles. Free to watch butterflies and bumblebees romp and play in the flowers and free to later take a nap on the couch, drifting off to sleep looking out those clean windows.
Hubs idea of relaxing is driving his tractor so he "relaxed" in the heat to the sound of the mower. More power to him - I wouldn't want to disturb his idea of heaven on earth. I think he likes to look up and see me flying like batman over the hills (on my winged atv) bringing him cold containers of water and stories of the treasures I've unearthed. I stumbled across a delightful surprise in the back of our property down near the sharecroppers cabin - a large patch of orange lilies, little faces beaming towards the mottled sun as it flowed through the opening in the thick patch of trees. I shared this find with great delight until husband commented. "Well yes its always been there - I usually just mow them down." Aghast, I give him the stink eye and tell him from now on - DON'T!
Sunday morning I convinced him to walk the woods with me before he gets back on his tractor for his day of rest. We enter the tick infested jungle (only brought three piggybackers along with us) and meander along the stream. For some reason whenever I go into the woods I hear the narrator on Bambi saying "Man had entered the forest." No bambi sightings this time around but we did see some wild turkeys and a large turtle soaking in a pool. The woodland animals probably laugh when they hear me coming. I must be the noisiest thing to ever enter - even trying to be quiet was unsuccessful this time and I heard many creatures scampering away long before I got to their hiding places. I was delighted to find ferns and tiny wild flowers and was rewarded by the above mentioned turtle and a frog who dared me to try to catch him. Coming out of the the thickest undergrowth we began our trail clearing chore - it really is much more fun to ride when you don't have to stop and move fallen logs. The woods trails are now ready...until the next branch falls. Except for this place - that will take a bit more work like as in a chainsaw and other equipment.
never happier than when mowing

  I am most pleased with the status of my rhubarb. This is plant number 3 that I had attempted so maybe by next year I will be able to have some to make a pie

 where the wild things grow

 Lastly I spent my time playing with the camera and the treasures I had gathered or accumulated over the last few days. John Deare said he'd be done in a few minutes which I think must be code for 2 hours so eventually I tired of being artist and took another delightful nap before traveling home.

a few props - later I cleaned this window too

 fingers crossed for black raspberries when we return