My wild garden

I am a Gemini. I get bored easily. I like change. I garden.

One particular part of our yard has gone through so many transformations it’s hard for me to remember them all. We started out with a very formal circle garden in this area, a simple design of blooming azaleas, English ivy and pachysandra, a hydrangea, and a beautiful variegated holly tree; all originally planted and cared for here by the previous owners of our house (my husband’s aunt and uncle). A late summer storm one year brought down a neighbor’s black locust on our holly, splitting the trunk. We salvaged the hydrangea, but replaced everything else with viburnums (love them!) and old garden roses. This was nice for a while, until the roses got leggy and the viburnums grew huge! So we moved the viburnums to the border of our property and added a few dogwoods and other plants to make something of a woodland edge. Very nice and thriving now!

A year later we cleared the area and built the pond there. But for the summer in between I had a garden that was an absolute riot of flowers. I went crazy planting annuals and perennials that would attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. My husband thought it looked like crap (he’s an orderly sort of fellow when it comes to *his yard*), but I loved the craziness of it all. Every flower was planted with pollinators in mind and it was buzzing with them! I loved to spend time sitting in the middle of it all and watching all the insect activity.

When we put in the pond I transplanted as many plants as I could. The pond is orderly and neat, so the DH is happy, but I miss my wild garden and all the wonder that came with it that summer. The purple flowers pictured above are perennial Mexican Agastache (very popular with bumblebees) and Verbena bonariensis; an annual that re-seeds with utter abandon and is well-loved by butterflies.

Sapsucker art

The (awful) photo at right was taken on my most recent trip to the Adirondacks, probably somewhere in Bloomingdale Bog. It looks like this tree was quite popular with local sapsuckers!

Sapsuckers remove the outer layer of bark and bore into the cambium, causing the sap to ooze out of the tree, which they drink with their long tongues. Their habit is to return to the same tree over and over and this can cause significant damage to the tree. I liked the pattern so I snapped the photo, although at that time I had never actually seen a sapsucker. Since then I’ve learned to recognize their *mewing* calls and sometimes find them in my neighbors apple tree. Last spring I had a great look at one outside my office window in a blooming crabapple tree. The are very pretty birds that might easily be mistaken for a downy woodpecker. The yellow-bellied sapsucker has a white wing-stripe and dull yellow underparts that are good field marks.

The skinny on rabbit poop

Most housebunny owners are somewhat obsessive about bunny-poop. We pay a lot of attention to how much a bunny is *producing* and what the pooties look like. This isn’t because we have too much time on our hands (well, not entirely) but because pooties are an indicator of the health of a rabbit’s digestive system. A rabbit who isn’t making nice pooties has a problem and it’s up to the owner to figure out why.

Unless a rabbit has a physical problem, oftentimes the cause of less-than-perfect-pooties is a lack of fiber in the diet or too much starch. Rabbits need huge amounts of hay and very little of the other stuff that people like to feed bunnies. If there is a problem, you’ll notice your bunnies’ pooties getting smaller and smaller. It’s all about knowing what’s *normal* for a particular bunny. The photo at left shows a sample from each of the five bunnies that live here. The pooties on the right are from the Flemmies and are marble-sized. All the way on the left are Dora’s pooties – she is not the smallest bunny here, but she is not a good hay eater and it shows in her poops. A rabbit that eats a lot of very high-fiber hay, like oat hay, will have beautiful, light-colored flakey pooties. (Oh gosh, listen to me! – I am not obsessive!)

Many people who haven’t encountered a rabbit, outside of a backyard hutch rabbit, are surprised to learn that they can be litter-trained. In fact, most rabbits will train themselves to use a box, so long as you put the box where they want it. My newest bunny Dora has been somewhat difficult in this regard, because she refuses to use the litterboxes that are in her cage. She “holds it” overnight and will dart out of her cage to the corner litterbox first thing in the morning. She does the same thing when I’m at work. Why she has this peculiar habit I don’t know, but she is proof positive that rabbits are “clean” animals. It’s the way that most people keep them that makes many think otherwise.

An important part of training a rabbit to use a litterbox is to set up the box in such a way that a bunny will like to go there. It has to be cleaned regularly. I set mine up with a pelleted-wood product for litter and fill it to the brim with hay. The bunnies will munch hay and poop at the same time. Most bunnies here also seem to find their box to be a convenient place for a nap or a snuggle-session. You can see Boomer and Cricket in one of their boxes with barely an inch to spare!

If you’re really interested in learning more about bunny poop, a good article (with photos!) is available here.

Farmhouse table

Now I just need the farmhouse to go with the table 😉

After much procrastination and indecision, our new furniture arrived yesterday – and I love it! I never want to have to pick out furniture again. I’ve put this off for more than 12 years because I knew what a pain it would be to find something that both my husband and I liked and that I was willing to afford. We found this gorgeous dining table months ago and fell in love with it. I convinced myself it was too expensive and not really practical – after all, it’s just the two of us, do we really need such a huge table? We could probably seat 10 with the leaves in (do we even know 10 people aside from family?) I’m glad my DH was finally able to convince me to get it – I’m really, really happy with it.

We also bought an end table and coffee table for the living room – big news! We haven’t exactly been living with milk crates in place of furniture, but practically! I think I may be missing some critical female gene; I am so not a shopper, and even less of a decorator, but I think it’s coming along nicely. We’re still waiting on our new couch to be delivered, but once that arrives I’m done. No more furniture ever! I have to admit though, that it is nice to have a home that feels *like me* filled with things I love and that make us happy. I just wish it weren’t so difficult figuring out just what that is!

Momentary Rant: Blogger is sapping what little creativity I have lately; I’m having soo much trouble uploading images!!

Buddy and a favorite poem

There is something about seeing a big black dog with a red bandana that makes me smile. Especially if it’s my Buddy. He always wears a bandana, in fact, he looks absolutely naked if he doesn’t have one on. Today he’s wearing a green one with shamrocks, in honor of his Irish heritage (that is, in honor of the leftover corned beef he had for dinner!) Buddy has been a great friend to me for 11 years now and it saddens me to see him feeling his age. He still loves to romp in the snow and chase squirrels, but would really prefer a nap. On the couch. That’s a new (bad) habit, but how can I deny him a soft place beside me, even if the furniture is new?

I’ll share a favorite poem by Jimmy Stewart. I remember when I heard him read it on the Johnny Carson show so many years ago, and how it made me smile despite the sad ending.

“Beau” by Jimmy Stewart

He never came to me when I would call
Unless I had a tennis ball,
Or he felt like it,
But mostly he didn’t come at all.

When he was young
He never learned to heel
Or sit or stay,
He did things his way.

Discipline was not his bag
But when you were with him things sure didn’t drag.
He’d dig up a rosebush just to spite me,
And when I’d grab him, he’d turn and bite me.

He bit lots of folks from day to day,
The delivery boy was his favorite prey.
The gas man wouldn’t read our meter,
He said we owned a real man-eater.

He set the house on fire
But the story’s long to tell.
Suffice it to say that he survived
And the house survived as well.

On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,
He was always first out the door.
The Old One and I brought up the rear
Because our bones were sore.

He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,
What a beautiful pair they were!
And if it was still light and the tourists were out,
They created a bit of a stir.

But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks
And with a frown on his face look around.
It was just to make sure that the Old One was there
And would follow him where he was bound.

We are early-to-bedders at our house–
I guess I’m the first to retire.
And as I’d leave the room he’d look at me
And get up from his place by the fire.

He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,
And I’d give him one for a while.
He would push it under the bed with his nose
And I’d fish it out with a smile.

And before very long
He’d tire of the ball
And be asleep in his corner
In no time at all.

And there were nights when I’d feel him
Climb upon our bed
And lie between us,
And I’d pat his head.

And there were nights when I’d feel this stare
And I’d wake up and he’d be sitting there
And I reach out my hand and stroke his hair.
And sometimes I’d feel him sigh and I think I know the reason why.

He would wake up at night
And he would have this fear
Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,
And he’d be glad to have me near.

And now he’s dead.
And there are nights when I think I feel him
Climb upon our bed and lie between us,
And I pat his head.

And there are nights when I think
I feel that stare
And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,
But he’s not there.

Oh, how I wish that wasn’t so,
I’ll always love a dog named Beau.

Orange Hawkweed

near Lake Placid, NY Summer 2001

A field of hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) like this one is something that I love about the Adirondacks. I don’t see hawkweed here in NJ although the USDA says it occurs in some northwestern and southern counties of the state. It’s a non-native, but well-loved wildflower, and is considered a noxious and invasive weed in many states. But it is beautiful, don’t you agree?
We visit this country road each year on our way to Lake Placid and usually stand around for a bit looking for bobolinks, I think. I don’t know that I remember ever finding any there, but I do enjoy the scenery.