Monday, December 30, 2019

It's been a while

Hello from the land of post-surgery! Two weeks ago, I received a shiny new hip. I'm still in recovery mode, but doing better everyday. Toward the end, I was feeling quite desperate to get the whole thing over with. I don't know how people with chronic pain deal with it, day after day.

I'm a ways away from doing any yard work. There isn't much to do besides clean up. I'm mentally making plans for next year, when I can actually do something. I will continue downsizing, for one thing. I'm also abandoning the "I'll take one of everything" approach to plant selection, going for larger displays of fewer plants.

Last night I awoke to loud rainfall. I couldn't help but wonder, What if that were SNOW?!? Unlike many others, I like a good, snowy winter, something that doesn't happen very much around here, especially in recent years. One can only hope.

May your dreams be full of springtime. Happy New Year!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Last mow, first snow

I had almost talked myself into waiting until today to pick up dog poop and mow leaves. The winter weather advisory changed my mind. Yesterday was a nice fall day, today a winter wonderland.

After yesterday's chores, I did hobble about a bit, camera in hand. I'm glad I captured this silver grass in its upright position; today it is severely slumped over.

This is the trunk of one of my redbud trees. I assume the damage was caused by the extremely wet spring we had and hope that the tree will recover. This one is next to the deck and quite useful shadewise.

The common milkweed pods are exploding. I'm contemplating just letting it take over one corner of the yard. I didn't notice very many monarchs this summer, but then I wasn't out and about in the yard much.

I am very impressed with how rubust my Triumph elm is. Once the leaves dropped, a nest appeared. I hope this tree continues to thrive.

The still tiny Prairie Fire crabapple insists on fruiting. First year sleep, second year creep, third (next) year leap - I hope. The Perfect Purple crab in the front yard isn't looking very robust, so I'm hoping it takes off soon, too.

Some shrubs still have fruit on them while others have been stripped bare already. The hawthorn tree in the front yard is loaded with orange berries; the robins will find them in late winter. Last year they did not eat all of them, so I plan to harvest some for dyeing yarn.

My SO came over Saturday and cleaned out the poison ivy patch under the gold mop. I've sprayed the poison ivy several times and it looks like it is finally finished off. May it never return!

Sunday, November 03, 2019

43 more days

I am counting down the days until my hip replacement surgery. Time can't pass fast enough! I am keeping up with the mowing, and mowing leaves. We finally had a hard freeze, so hopefully I can put the Toro away soon. A little bit of yard cleanup has occurred - very little, enough to allow the trick-or-treaters to reach the front porch - otherwise, it is on hold. Even though I fret about the state of my backyard, I have to admit I kind of like how wild it looks, as though I live on the edge of a woodland instead of in suburbia.

At some point, pokeweed became established in my yard. I pick some of the berries (even though they are not a good source for dyeing) and leave plenty for the robins and bluebirds.

And one starling.

I can watch the avian acrobatics from the living room but it is not a great place to take photos. Plus the birds seem to become camera shy once I pick up the Olympus. I am rearranging some rooms in my house - turning the fiber studio into a den (TV, desk, exercise equipment), a bedroom into the fiber studio - so hope to view more wildlife from inside this winter. It's time to plug in the bird bath!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Will summer ever end?!?

This is not a normal autumn for this part of Indiana. In the past, we could count on cool, rainy weather, with a brief respite in October. Instead, summer just lingers on. I like changing seasons - when is this one going to change?!?

After listening to an association member complain about his neighbor's yard, I decided I should at least make an effort in mine, before someone calls neighborhood code enforcement. I hobbled around yesterday, trimming the front yard, a few days ago pulled some weeds. I can't wait to get my hip replaced!

Yellow Bear, Spilosoma virginica (I think)

While weeding, I came across the above fuzzy yellow caterpillar. Today I saw bluebirds around the empty bird feeders. This summer I am a bad yardener. Hopefully, I will be able to get back in the groove shortly.

Meanwhile, Clio knows how to beat the heat.

Friday, August 30, 2019

August is almost over already

Yikes! It has been over a month since I posted here. I am obviously not spending much time outside in the yard, but when I do, I enjoy it despite my hip. How that the weather is cooling a bit, I hope to get some of the mess cleaned up before long. Meanwhile, here are some flowers to enjoy.

Rudbeckia subtomentosa

'Wild Romance' aster

Aster laevis

'Purple Dome' aster

Cosmos sulphureus

Coreopsis Tinctoria

'Limelight' hydrangea

'Royal Standard' hosta

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A bee paradise

Thanks to the heat and my bum hip, the backyard is a mess. I am very thankful that the privacy fence shields that mess from the casual observer. Occasionally someone needs access to my backyard, like the underground utilities guy (my neighbor has plans for her shed). I was prepared to deliver my usual apology about the mess when he pronounced my backyard a "bee's paradise". That led to discussions of beekeeping (a potential hobby I decided was too much work). His words gave my mess new meaning, though.

Despite my neglect, stuff is growing and blooming.

Cupplant (Silphium perfoliatum)

Cupplant (Silphium perfoliatum) - up close

Sweet Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)

Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya)

Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya) with bee

Also because of the heat and my bum hip, the front yard is not in much better shape than the back. Ordinarily, I am a weeder and a mulcher, but this year I am also a sprayer, as there is a patch of poison ivy I literally don't want to touch, growing under the gold mop. Despite my efforts, my hip is just getting worse, so once mowing season is over, I will probably get in line for a replacement. It's hell getting old.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

It's a jungle out there!

The heat wave finally broke, so I took advantage of the lower temps and overcast sky to mow and trim and weed a bit, mostly in the front yard. I tell myself to just pull a garden cart full of weeds each day and the yard will look halfway decent, but like housework, it is too easy to say maƱana.

In previous years, I have complained bitterly about the lack of blue berries on the Viburnum dendatum 'Blue Muffin'. For whatever reason - polar vortex? rainy spring? heat wave? = it looks like it will have a bumper crop this year. For the same or different reason, the bishop's weed had very few seed heads while the yarrow decided to bloom.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the butterflyweed looks good this year AND now I can report it is doing its job of attracting monarchs. This fellow hung around just long enough for a couple of decent shots.

I was equally happy to find (bumble?) bees on the bee balm, aka monarda. Many years ago I had plenty of this in the so-called meadow, but somehow it all disappeared. I'm happy to have it back with its unique scent.

In an unrelated note, I am attempting to improve my drawing skills by rendering one flower a day, in a range of mediums, mostly colored pencil or markers. Needless to say, my first efforts are obviously first efforts. For days when the weather is uncooperative, I am capturing some closeups of blossoms, so I can continue this pursuit indoors. The drawing results are posted on my IG account, under bittenbyknittin.

Here's hoping the milder weather continues for a while.

Monday, July 01, 2019

So THAT'S what smells so good

Recently, when I stepped out the patio door, I smelled something wonderful but could not place. Today I realized it is the common milkweed. I'm surprised there isn't a perfume called Eau de Asclepias syriaca.

I have seen a few butterflies this summer, including a random monarch or two. I wish I knew what this guy is. I initially mistook it for a leaf. The legs and body are fuzzy, like a moth, but it has its wings folded like a butterfly. Anyone know?

The Betty Corning clematis experiment is half fail, half successful. I didn't get the tuteur moved early enough for one, plus I did not provide it with stable support, so now it looks like it is crawling toward the redbud. Another problem is some critter hides underneath it, so the dogs are always nosing around there.

The other BC is doing what I hoped, except this particular variety of clematis does not get tall enough to twine through the tree branches. I will have to rethink this experiment. (Sorry for the poor pic - it was a bit too sunny for quality photography.)

I have tried repeatedly to get some butterflyweed established, even purchasing a variety that is supposed to do well in clay soil. One problem is it is easily overwhelmed by its neighbors, which is my fault. It needs a little elbow room. (In the background are the black hollyhocks.)

I could try to convince you that these hollyhocks are a new variety known as "Lacy Leaf". I plant hollyhocks for two reasons: the blossoms yield a lovely natural dye and the plants act as a trap crop for Japanese beetles. Success on both counts.

As if my bum hip weren't enough, I caught a summer cold (THANKS, JANINE!) and now it is unbearably hot out. A few minutes standing in the sun chatting with my neighbor just about gave me heat stroke. It's a bit too dry (didn't think I'd be saying that after our wet, wet, wet spring) but not so dry I am watering anything... yet.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Just can't resist

I haven't been posting many photos of my yard and garden this year, but sometimes one just can't help oneself.

Last summer, my SO and I attempted to shape the purple leaf smokebush. It doesn't get quite enough sun, so looks rather rangy late in the season. Our efforts paid off. This baby looks almost perfect. We will have to keep up the good work.

The Golden Spirit smokebush isn't smoking much yet, but it looks wonderfully lush. It is in a sunnier location than its cousin, so hopefully will not get so gangly.

I know I have already posted a pic of the Lemony Lace elderberry, but I just can't get over how great it looks this year. It's framed by mugo pine and cotoneaster. Some of my neighbors are probably shaking their heads, imagining my shrubbery as the perfect place for a creep to hide. Quite frankly, if someone manages to get into this shrubbery, I doubt he will be able to get out without a lot of thrashing around.

I forgot I had tucked a couple of extra black hollyhock plants next to the climbing rose. One is languishing - not enough sun - the other surprised me with these blooms, earlier than the ones in the garden proper. The rose is not very prolific this year, probably due to that harsh winter we had.

I'm still struggling a bit with my hip. My GP sent me to an osteo surgeon who had only one solution to offer: replacement. Talk about a one-trick pony! Most days I can walk without much pain, so I'm holding off. I'm following Pete Egoscue's skeletal alignment exercises and self-administering trigger point therapy, practicing some yoga poses and physical therapy exercises I've picked up over the years. So far, so good, although there are days when I wonder if I'm being too stubborn.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Everything is HUGE (including the weeds)

As a rule, I don't water lawn at all, shrubs and in-ground plants only in times of drought. This spring has been wet, wet, wet, and it is amazing what a lot of rain will do. Everything looks ginormous.

'Chicago Lustre' and 'Blue Muffin' viburnum

Wentworth highbush cranberry


I should have included the blue false indigo in the front yard as well. Last year there were loads of volunteer columbine, this year only a few plants. The creeping phlox and cotoneaster both need to be restrained from world domination.

Despite the weeds, perennials transplanted last year are faring well. I couldn't remember if I planted cup plant or compass plant by the back fence. As this photo shows, definitely cup plants.

These blossoms looked like they were on the chokeberry shrub; that's how weedy my yard is. They are a nightshade of some sort (bittersweet?), an invasive. Pretty, though.

Today we've had several downpours between bouts of sunshine, producing a fair amount of humidity. I've been trying to spend at least a little time each day yardening, but family and friends have also need tending recently. Thank goodness for privacy fencing!

Sunday, May 26, 2019


I have never let my rhubarb go to seed, as I was under the suspicion that one should not let one's rhubarb go to seed. This year with the rain and all, I just didn't pay attention to it. So this is what rhubarb looks like when it is allowed to fulfill its genetic destiny:

That is one thing that is going on in the backyard. In the front of the house, the Lemony Lace Elderberry is going to town. Over the winter, it looked dead, dead, dead, with only a few sad looking branches. Once spring (and spring rains) hit, it took off, now overwhelming the mugo pine.

I was recently diagnosed with severe arthritis in one hip, which explains the pain there. I'm talking a prescription strength NSAID now, and wow, do I feel better! I didn't realize how much all over discomfort I was living with until it was gone. Yesterday I went to town with the trimmer, and today my biceps hurt. But it's a good kind of hurt, from labor, not from age. The yardening seems less daunting now.