Monday, June 30, 2008

Growing Green

Emma Townshend at IndyBlogs has challenged gardening bloggers everywhere to show their green today, that is to look beyond all the showy blossoms blooming in our gardens right now to take a closer look at the most important color of all. I hadn't planned on doing a post today, but after looking at several green posts, I decided to join in the fun. That means no long-winded storyline today, just lots of photos of what is going green in my garden.

Taking a quick look around the garden this morning to capture a few photos in ten minutes, I realized the main flowerbed, the first planting I did when we moved here, is a riot of color. I think I went for "show" when I planned this bed. Instead I had to look to my containers and shade garden for some green. I seem to have gone for more foliage in my plantings this year--maybe that is a sign of my growth as a gardener? This first photo is of one of my favorites for containers, Persian Shield. It isn't even green, obviously, but the purple foliage is a nice counterpoint to the showy pink petunias and geraniums in several pots.

Coleus is one of those old-fashioned plants that I wasn't that fond of a few years ago, but growers have been coming up with some spectacular varieties in recent years. The introduction of the Kong series made me re-think coleus, and I usually include one in a couple containers.

This year, though, I saw so many new varieties of coleus that weren't even "Kongs," that I could have bought one of almost every kind I saw. I restrained myself, though, and just bought this "Glennis."

I don't think knowing the specific name even matters--just pick the one that strikes you! Next year I think there will be many more coleus here, not just in containers, but in the shade garden as well.

I love the showy foliage of caladiums, and I planted several bulbs in my shade garden, but I haven't seen any life from any of them. I think they may have gotten drowned when we had the torrential rains at the beginning of June. I consoled myself by buying one plant and putting it in a container.

An old standby for containers for the "spiller" effect is the sweet potato vine. This one is "Marguerite," and I have three of them in different places. I'm not sure what to call this color, but it is a lighter, brighter green than so many other plants and really creates a striking focal point for containers.

I have planted a couple of the darker, nearly black ipomoeas before, but decided I really didn't care for them. But this year when I saw this "Bewitched," I was won over by its shiny, velvety leaves. It really doesn't show up very well in this photo, but trust me, this is much prettier than "Blackie" or other dark sweet potato vines.

But this one--now, this one is a real beauty! It's called "Tricolor Impomoea batatas." (If you're impressed I know the names, it's because this year I actually saved all my tags!) Notice the young leaves begin as a dark pink and then mature to a variegated green with pink tinges on the edges.

Moving on to the shade garden area, there is a lot of green here, especially since hostas are the main planting in this area. But if you ignore the lovely pink blooms of the "Endless Summer" hydrangeas (supposed to be blue, but of course I always forget to add some acidic food until after they've started blooming), you'll see even the leaves are quite lovely.

I hope to eventually have a lot of ferns in this area, but the small bare-root plants I ordered from a mail-order company last fall didn't make it through the winter. So this Japanese painted fern is a bit lonely.

The lamium, "Silver Beacon," I think, is a plant I've shown before. It is growing profusely through the shade garden--a word of caution if you've never grown it before: plant it where you want something to spread.

Heucheras have certainly grown in popularity the last few years, and I'm becoming a big fan. This is a new acquisition this spring, "Dolce Creme Brulee." Not a very good picture--it actually has more of a bronze tint--but it was hiding behind some other plantings in a container. It will be moved to the shade garden this fall.

The "Plum Puddings" I bought on a whim and planted last fall are doing very well.

I've mentioned before that I expanded my small shade garden last fall, nearly doubling its size. It's a work in progress with lots of empty spaces yet--the plant budget got shot before I got to this area. I did buy some inexpensive hostas from a mail-order company last year, including a "grab bag" of unnamed varieties. They're all doing quite well, but as to be expected they're still quite small.

But here's the show-stopper of the shady ladies--my Sum and Substance hosta. This one, I think, is only four years old and has really taken off this year--must have been all that rain this spring. I didn't get out a tape measure, but just "eyeballing" it, the leaves are about 10-12 inches wide! Next spring I'm going to have to move everything next to it to give it some more room to grow.

But the best green of all is nothing I've planted. This magnificent old oak tree stands as a sentinel at the front of our yard. At one time there were several large trees on the property but many of them succumbed to lightning and storms. This one, though, has survived, living for generations before me, and I hope it will stand for many generations to come.

Well, it's been fun looking at the garden with a different perspective! Unfortunately, I've spent my usual blog-reading time doing this post instead, so I apologize--I will try to visit everyone tonight. Despite some nice rainshowers this weekend, there is still a lot of watering to do or I will have nothing green left!
For other "green" posts, be sure to check out Emma's blog.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Guest Post: A Word From Toby

"If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?"
--George Carlin

I just looked at the calendar and realized that next Tuesday is the beginning of July. Where did June go?? I have several summer projects and an anniversary celebration for my parents coming up by the end of July, and I really need to get busy on those rather than spend so much time blogging. So today, to save time, I thought I'd ask another household member to take over the blogging duties and write a guest post. But first, a little background on today's host.

I don't believe in reincarnation, but if there is such a thing, I know exactly how I would want to come back in my next life--as a cat. Not just any cat, mind you, but specifically Toby, the lord of our manor. Toby has his every need taken care of and spends his days sleeping and lazily exploring the grounds. Sounds like a great life, doesn't it?

Despite his aristocratic good looks and regal bearing, life has not always been easy for Toby. Nothing is known about his family, but his blue, blue eyes suggest some Siamese heritage. Like most of the pets here at the Prairie, Toby was a rescue cat. When older Daughter was in college, she dated a football player and became friends with some of his teammates. One of them asked her one day if she would adopt a kitten that lived in his apartment. I don't know all the details, but apparently he felt the kitten was being abused by one of his football roommates and knew Daughter was an animal lover. She naturally agreed and gave Toby a home in her apartment. He was rather nervous and skittish at first, but after some time relaxed and eventually became the laid-back character he is today. After college she and Toby moved in with us for a couple of years before moving to Arizona last summer. As much as she wanted to take Toby with her, she knew it was in Toby's best interest to stay here. He loves the farm: every morning and evening he explores the grounds outside and has even been known to climb a tree or two despite being declawed. And the farm has been good to him--once a trifle overweight, he's trimmed down with the exercise and now looks quite svelte.

And now, I will turn the keyboard over to Toby.

Thank you, Rose; I would be pleased to share a few insights with your readers.

Thank heavens, she has left the room. Now I can be frank and give you the true story on this family. The Woman fantasizes about being a mystery writer some day, yet she's never written more than the first page of a novel over and over again. I have given her many ideas from plot to characters, but she never listens, unfortunately. I don't know why; after all, Lilian Braun has done quite well with a feline protagonist in her mysteries. Instead, the Woman spends all her writing energy on this silly blog. Even then she has to rely on me as her muse and editor.

Some other aspects of her character that you may not know include the fact that she has a bad habit of hoarding. Just how many empty boxes does one person need? Of course, she is not as bad as the Man; he never throws anything away.

She even has three small aquariums in the garage, leftovers from a garage sale last year. It's no wonder they didn't sell; I've checked them out, and they are really too small to accommodate anyone but a small fish. I've recommended she throw them away, but once again, she hasn't taken my advice.

On the other hand, I did spend some time in her basement storage area this past winter and recommended a thorough sorting and re-organizing. Thankfully, she did take my clutter control advice, and now we can walk through the area and find whatever we need. I have been thinking about offering my services as a consultant to HGTV's "Mission Organization," but so far I have not gotten a response.

The Woman is also quite the scatterbrain. One day I had just settled in for an afternoon nap on a soft pile of freshly laundered clothes, when she came along and slammed the dryer door shut. I was forced to spend the entire night in the dryer until the Young Woman came to my rescue the next morning! The Woman blames it on the Young Woman, saying she had left the dryer door open with clothes strewn everywhere, but I fault her for not even taking the time to check who might be in the dryer. She was properly repentant the next day, but I gave her the silent treatment, nevertheless. It is important that such careless actions not go unpunished. Humans need to be trained properly to co-exist with us.

I used to have a companion, Max. In our youth we enjoyed recreational wrestling and other activities of the young. I am sad to say, though, that Max passed suddenly two years ago from an insidious disease. I miss him, but one must go on. May you rest in peace, old chum. There are other companions here in the manor, but I find them more annoying than entertaining. In particular, the pampered Pomeranian Young Woman refers to as Coconut is tolerable at times, primarily when he is relaxing or sleeping. At other times, he is simply an annoyance. He finds it quite amusing to play this little game of trying to prevent me coming inside after I take a little fresh air. I play along with him for awhile and let him think he has dominated me, but it really is quite tiring. I could easily overpower him, but I abhor violence and refuse to resort to fisticuffs.

There are also some other felines, but for the most part they remain outside. One female called Sasha comes in quite often and seems to be a favorite of the Man, but she is rather bossy and I've let her know in no uncertain terms who is the head of the house here.

My days are filled with activity. It's important to supervise the Woman in her housekeeping duties to assure that she does them properly. She is not a particularly meticulous housekeeper, although the house is presentable and she does prepare regular meals for me. The one area in which she is somewhat lacking is maintaining cleanliness in my downstairs toilet facilities. I really must speak to her about that.

Assisting in cleaning takes up some of my time, including the proper storage of out of season clothing in the bedroom.

Occasionally, I also assist her in her gardening. She took this photograph of me and published it on one of her posts because she thought it was "cute." How condescending! In reality I was trying to help her once again, measuring the depth of this planter and calculating the best types and number of plants to fill the container. It was my eye that concluded a purple and white scheme would complement the pink color of the planter.

I also assist the other humans in the house as well, although the Young Woman is not very responsive to my suggestions. I occasionally venture into her room; however, it is in such a state of perpetual chaos that I prefer to be elsewhere. The Man is a little more responsive though rather sedentary. When he returns home in the evenings, I sit by him while he ruminates over a crossword puzzle and subtlely give him hints to the answers. He has been known to sit for hours at a time watching a pointless game he calls baseball; during this time I try to nudge him occasionally to make sure he is still breathing.

The Woman finds it amusing that I have a penchant for empty bags, boxes, and even high closet shelves. She frequently interrupts me to take photographs to e-mail to the tall Young Woman who used to be my personal assistant. What she doesn't understand is that there is a method to what she presumes is my madness. There are small Humans that visit the house occasionally, and while one-on-one they can be polite and respectful, they can also be rather boisterous, especially in groups. I find it much simpler at these times to retreat to one of my previously discovered places of seclusion and enjoy the solitude until they have departed.

I find that an afternoon nap is quite refreshing and renews my energy for the rest of the day. Quite often it is the only time that I can sleep in solitude. At night the Woman and the Man like to sleep in bed with me, and it can get somewhat crowded. Apparently, they are afraid of sleeping by themselves.

Hobbies are also important to an overall sense of well-being. One of my favorite pastimes is bird-watching. I find that the large picture window in the living room offers the perfect vantage point for birding. The goldfinch feeder hangs from a tree directly in front of me, per my request, and I have spotted at least 8-10 additional species of birds in the front lawn at one time.
In the evening I take my daily constitutional: exercise is important for mental stimulation as well as for health reasons. In all modesty, this evening ritual has enabled me to keep my youthful figure. I prefer walking to more strenuous activities and find that sufficient to stay fit and trim. Occasionally stopping to enjoy the smells and sounds of nature is a pleasant and effective way to relieve the stress of the day.

Please note the stick at my paws in the picture above is for the dog, not me. The Woman and the small Humans are trying to train him to "fetch." He hasn't quite mastered the concept, not having the intellectual capacity that I have. Of course, I find such activities beneath me, preferring mentally stimulating games such as war maneuvers with the birds.

These maneuvers involve prowling stealthily along the ground for low-flying or unwary birds on the ground. Once my prey is spotted, I move in for the attack. I have startled many an unsuspecting bird this way. Do not fear, though; I would never harm a defenseless bird. It's all in good fun, although I do think some of the creatures have developed an actual fear of me; I have heard them refer to me as "The Great White Hunter."

Indeed I do have a very fulfilling life. The Woman has alluded to my dysfunctional family and and abandonment as a child, but I have put the past behind me. One cannot blame others for one's lot in life; in order to move forward, one must accept responsiblity for his own actions. I have created a pleasant atmosphere in my home so that it is a sanctuary for me, and supervising this family of Humans has provided me with a rewarding career. I plan to live here the rest of my life; frankly, this group of humans couldn't function without me.

It has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I wish all of you a pleasant and enjoyable weekend.


Toby, Esq.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekend News

The Saturday edition of our local paper had a couple of articles that I thought would be of interest to you. Did you know that this is National Pollinator Week? Concern over the decreasing honeybee population has led scientists to create more awareness in the public about the important role bees play in maintaining the world's diversity of flowering plants. In the U.S. the number of honey bee colonies has declined by half since 1947. According to the head of the University of Illinois' entomology department, "Without pollination, for these species there will be no fruits, no seeds and no future. All the organisms that depend on those particular plants are thus jeopardized." The U of I entomology department is taking an active role in promoting the week by sponsoring several activities, including getting the public involved in monitoring wild bee populations through a web site called BeeSpotter. A related article stated that "ordinary people" can help conserve bees by "limiting our use of pesticides and favoring native plants in our landscaping."

I know I am preaching to the choir with this last statement, but I think it is great that more and more people are being reminded of the importance of protecting our bee population. As for me, I was never much of a bee lover and remember all too well what a bee sting feels like. But in the last few years I've come to understand their important role in nature, and I can now say that the bumblebees and I happily co-exist in my flower garden.

The other interesting article was in a weekly column written by a horticulturist with the County Extension Office which this week featured a suggested garden destination: The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This immediately caught my eye, because we visited these gardens a few years ago while on a short vacation in southwest Michigan. There are indoor garden areas as well as outdoor themed gardens and nature trails. The Meijers, founders of the grocery stores of the same name, also were very interested in art, particularly sculpture, and have an excellent sculpture park as well as three art galleries on the grounds. I don't know very much about modern art, but even I recognized the name Rodin among the artists. My favorite piece, though, was the huge bronze horse sculpted by an American artist and modeled after the famous bronze horse attempted (but then destroyed) by Leonardo Da Vinci. It is one of two such horses, the other being in Milan, Italy. This summer they also have two special exhibits honoring Monet and Degas. My husband and daughter were trying to humor me when they agreed to drive over to Grand Rapids for the afternoon to see the park, but I think they wound up enjoying it as much as I did. If you live in Michigan or are driving through, I highly recommend a stop at the Meijer Gardens--it's worth the trip!

So how did I spend the weekend besides reading the paper? On Saturday Beckie and I went on a Garden Walk sponsored by the local Master Gardeners. (I'm thinking of changing the name of my blog to "The Gardening Adventures of Beckie and Rose," what do you think?) This is the first time we have attended this yearly event, and we had been looking forward to it for several weeks. Since neither of us are early-morning people, we decided on a late morning start, which was a good thing since a brief thunderstorm hit the whole area about the time the garden walk began. By the time we started out, though, the sun had come out, and we had a great day admiring other people's gardens.

Beckie has already posted about the walk, so I'll keep my description brief. Besides, I apparently was oohing and aahing over all the gardens that I forgot to take many pictures!

We visited 6 of the 8 gardens on the walk, all of them at private residences which varied from modest homes to larger homes in new subdivisions (read: no trees) to one home in an established, very affluent neighborhood in town. I was captivated by the front lawn and garden of this house across from the Country Club, and it wasn't even on the walk!

All of the homes featured large expanses of plantings from the front yard to the back. One home was on a lake, and the homeowners had plantings right up to the lake as you can see below. It was beautiful, but I kept imagining myself falling into the water trying to plant irises on the hillside.

Beckie was in dragonfly heaven here as there was a flock (a throng? a herd?) of dragonflies hovering about the waterlilies. We even saw two flying together in what appeared to be the mating act. Both of us kept snapping away with our cameras; she definitely got the better picture. The sun was much too bright to get a good shot, but I wanted to show you this one anyway. I didn't know until I looked at the photos later that there were two in the picture!

Besides just enjoying the beauty of a well-planned garden, one of the advantages of this type of walk is seeing how people combine different plants and their placement of garden art or accessories. I saw this sedum at one home surrounded by a collection of medium-sized rocks. I don't know the name of this particular sedum, but I've seen it in local nurseries. Seeing it in this setting gave me the idea of the perfect spot for it in my garden.

I do not have an eye for decorating, so I especially enjoy getting ideas from the ways people use different objects as garden art. This decorated pink flamingo apparently won a first prize in some kind of contest.

Funny and original, yes. But I'm not a big fan of pink flamingos. I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy one to decorate any time soon.

My favorite garden on the walk was actually the first one we visited. The front of their modest-sized, tidy brick home was surrounded by these Annabelle hydrangeas and large hostas. The Annabelles seemed pretty popular as we saw them in several of the gardens.

Passing from the front yard into the back, every other square inch of property had been transformed into a garden. In the middle of the back yard/garden was a pond complete with koi fish and a small waterfall. If I had a pond (and how I wish I did!), I would love to see this little guy floating in the middle of all the lilypads.

It was a lovely day, and you might think I went home with a serious case of garden envy to go with my camera envy. Yes, I did see some beautiful gardens and wished I could add more to my own garden, but at the same time I kept thinking, "These are huge! Unless I could afford someone to dig up and prepare all these beds, I couldn't keep up with all of this." Instead I went home and looked at my gardens with a critical eye, thinking about what could be added or moved, but I have no plans to dig up my whole front yard! I'll let someone else worry about trying to create an award-winning garden.

Our weekend ended on a sweet note--literally. Our youngest grandchild celebrated his first birthday with a party on Sunday. The chocolate cake was delicious, but no one enjoyed it as much as he did!

Happy Birthday, my dear little one!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Birds and the Bees (or the Quest for the Elusive Hummingbird)

I have a serious case of camera envy. This past Christmas my children bought me a new Sony Cybershot camera to replace my five-year-old 2.2 pixel digital camera. My new camera had 7.2 pixels and the 3x optical zoom; I was thrilled! That is, until I started blogging. My new camera takes great pictures of the grandkids and decent photos of flowers (once I figured out what macromode was), but trying to take a photo of anything that moves or flies is nearly impossible. I'm too cheap to buy a new camera, and I'm not about to tell my family, "Hey thanks for the gift, but what I really need is a $500 camera with at least an 18x digital zoom."

Instead I'm trying to make the best of what I do have. I have a friendly Mr. Robin Redbreast who often stops by to visit and share a little conversation. He likes his space, though, so this is the best picture I could get of him, and that is with a lot of cropping. As you can see, once you start drastically cropping, the picture gets blurry.

The goldfinches who frequent my feeder are also camera-shy. One day, though, four of them were so busy fighting over who got which perch that I managed to sneak up on them. Camouflaging myself in the tree branches and standing very still, I waited for their return and was able to take several pictures before this one detected me.

I realize that having a good camera is essential to taking sharp photos of wildlife, but skill plays just as large a part in good photography. I have been trying for the last month to take a photo of the hummingbirds once they arrived in the area. Don't even bother enlarging the next photo, because there is no hummingbird there--he flew away before I even had the camera focused.

I thought I was being smart this year in hanging a second feeder on my porch, just a few feet away from the swing where I often sit. Yes, they did find the feeder, and I could have gotten some great photos---if I'd had my camera with me. I've learned from my mistakes and now take the camera with me nearly every time I go outside. But for some reason the hummingbirds have spurned this feeder lately. Could this be the reason?
I know this is blurry (there's my skill problem), but maybe you can see the ants covering the feeding hole. We seem to have a plethora of ants this year, though so far they've stayed outside. One group seems to love climbing into this feeder to reach the sweet nectar even though it means a certain death by drowning. After I shot this photo, I emptied and cleaned out the feeder and refilled it with fresh nectar, but the ants were back within a day's time, a host of them floating at the top of the juice. Do you think the hummingbirds are turned off by this?
Or could this be the problem?
I doubt the hummingbirds would be intimidated by Tarzan, the guard cat. And frankly, if they came to visit, I think Tarzan would be so entranced by them he wouldn't even move. Whatever the reason, I'm getting frustrated by my lack of success.

As I said, though, skill is such an important part of photography, and I am lacking in that area, too. Back in the days before digital cameras, I was known for taking advantage of wonderful photo opportunities, only to discover I didn't have film in the camera. And my daughter will never let me forget the year I took a whole roll of film of her and her date on Homecoming, but all the pictures were double-exposed! I never did figure that one out.
Digital cameras have made photography so much easier for the average person, yet I still make some mistakes. At my daughter-in-law's graduation ceremony last month I was given the task of taking pictures of her with her family. Somehow in the process of juggling three different cameras I turned the mode dial on mine to video. (The price of vanity--I refuse to wear my reading glasses unless absolutely necessary.) So instead of a nice group shot of her family, we have a short video of them getting in position, standing still for a second, and then several seconds of pavement and (ugh) my stomach while I took shots with the other cameras.

By far the most infamous example of my ineptitude with cameras, though, was during my trip to Europe 5 years ago. I was one of the chaperones for a group of high school juniors and seniors on one of those 10-day whirlwind trips of three major European cities. Our first night in London we set off on a walking tour to see the sights, led by our Italian guide. I looked like the typical American tourist with a backpack on my back and a large camera bag slung across my chest holding my first digital camera and a video camera borrowed from my daughter. The digital camera worked fine, but I'd never used a video camera before. I remember taking video in the heart of London as we walked through Picadilly Circus. I'd heard of Picadilly, of course, but never quite knew what it was--I was expecting an actual circus. (Yes, my UK friends, you may laugh at this.) I remember taking video to show everyone at home just what this famous landmark looked like.

After our stop there, we set off on a long walk to Trafalgar Square, so I eventually put the camera back in its bag. By the time we finally reached Trafalgar Square, I was in an excited state of bliss--I really was in London, the home of Big Ben, the Globe, and Westminster Abbey! I took out the video camera again to be able to capture the whole scene, but to my disappointment, the batteries were dead! My daughter had told me I could take only so many minutes of video before recharging the batteries, but this was ridiculous. It wasn't until later that night as I reviewed the video I'd taken that I found out the reason--I had never turned the camera off! So instead of a 20 minute video showcasing the grand sights of the heart of London, I had five minutes of Picadilly Circus, then 20 minutes of the derrieres of the people in front of me, my feet walking on the streets of London, and finally total darkness with an audio of my conversation with the students walking with me. (I had put the camera back in the bag, remember.) I can laugh about the incident now, but I sure do wish I had that video--who knows when I might get back to London?

I have learned from all my past mistakes, and I am working on learning the finer points of photography. Why, I even read the camera manual! But even with some skill, a photographer has to practice to understand the effects of light and shadow or using the proper settings. One morning last week I saw the first dragonfly of the summer. He was a very accommodating fellow, landing on this iron lantern holder and posing for me for several minutes. I must have taken 7 or 8 pictures of him, yet this was the best I could do. As I stuck my camera just inches away from him, I could imagine him saying, "Hey, lady, how long is this photo session going to last? I've got breakfast to catch!"

This morning, though, I was a little luckier. This dragonfly wasn't quite so patient with me, but he did land on different flowers for a couple seconds at a time, so I was able to get a better picture.
Look at those gossamer wings! And here's another one for you, Beckie.

After reading many of your blogs, I know that those of you with great photos also show a lot of patience. But sometimes you just get lucky. While waiting for the elusive hummingbirds to appear one day, a bee landed nearly at my feet, enjoying the sweet blossoms of a verbena.

Traipsing around my garden trying to get some good shots for this past Garden Bloom Day, I noticed this ladybug crawling inside the Stella d'Oro daylily. Once again, the photo is rather blurry, but I was happy to see her. (You may have to enlarge this photo to see her.)

That same day, as I looked more closely at the garden, I found this spider enjoying the watering I had just given the petunias.

And resting on the leaves of a coneflower was this little guy. Can anyone identify this insect? To me, he looked like a baby praying mantis, but I'm no entomologist. Please just don't tell me he's a purple-coneflower-eating parasite!

Sometimes a good photo is simply a case of pure dumb luck. Taking pictures of my gaillardia for my Bloom Day post, I didn't even see this bee until I downloaded my photos and began editing them.

Obviously, I have a long way to go before I can submit a photo to Audubon or Insect World, but I'm going to keep practicing on the birds and the bees, though I think I'll stick to showing you mostly flowers from now on. I do hope to get a photo of a butterfly sometime; once my coneflowers are in bloom, I usually have dozens of them flying about. And I am not going to give up in my quest for my very own hummingbird photo, even if I have to camp out under the feeder all day. In the meantime, I am going to continue to enjoy the photos of all you who do show such marvelous photos of wildlife. In particular, I want to note the work of three master photographers: Cheryl, the "Queen Bee" at My Wild Life Sanctuary; Mary, Head Chef to the birds at Mary's View; and Sherry, the "Butterfly Queen" at Q's Corner. Ladies, you are a true inspiration to me!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ABC Wednesday: V is for Value

I never win anything, which is why I very seldom buy a lottery ticket. I might as well send a dollar or two each week directly to the State Treasurer's Office rather than waste my money on any kind of chance drawing. You can imagine my surprise then when a couple of weeks ago, Jane Marie of Thyme for Herbs notified me that I was one of three winners of a new pair of Burpee clogs that she was giving away on her blog, courtesy of Burpee.

The clogs arrived on Monday--a lovely shade of green, don't you think? If I take them off and accidentally leave them in the garden, I should be able to find them without any problem!

They fit perfectly, and, just as advertised, they're very comfortable. The insoles feel cushiony, which is good for my finicky feet. Burpee sells them on their website for $14.95, which is a great Value for that price. They're lightweight, washable--even in the dishwasher, the ad says. (Who washes their shoes in the dishwasher??) They are just perfect for the summer time instead of my old sloggers below.

I won't be throwing these away, but you can tell I've had these awhile. Three years, to be exact--I know because of the tell-tale chew marks. Coconut was a puppy when I got these; his first year with us he ate more shoes than dog food. These are also great paint shoes, as you'll see from the specks of white. (Please ignore the feet inside--who knew I had wrinkles on my ankles as well??!) So I'll keep them for the really dirty jobs, but my new pair of clogs won't make my feet sweat, er perspire, during the hot days ahead.

I hated to get the new clogs dirty, but I decided to break them in today anyway. It was such a beautiful, sunny day with mild temperatures and a cool breeze, that I decided to pick some strawberries. I don't have a strawberry patch, but a neighbor down the road has a small truck farm and sells U-pick strawberries. I spent a little over an hour on my hands and knees, but in my new clogs, picking strawberries. I came home with almost 13 quarts of fresh strawberries, not bad for an hour's work.

As anyone who has ever grown strawberries knows, the "store-bought" variety just can't compare to home-grown strawberries. They are so sweet and full of flavor, it's hard to resist eating them while you are picking. I made a double batch of strawberry freezer jam and then froze some sliced strawberries as well. Of course, I saved quite a few back to eat fresh. I fixed strawberry shortcake with whipped cream for dinner tonight--yum! Daughter doesn't like strawberries and my husband fell asleep watching the Cubs game before eating any, so I decided to eat his share, too. But strawberries are so good for you, right? I'm already thinking strawberry pie tomorrow . . .

Thanks again, Jane Marie, for the lovely new clogs. And by the way, she is offering another give-away from Burpee, this time a gardening cap. So visit her before Friday, June 20 for a chance to win.

ABC Wednesday is sponsored by Mrs. Nesbitt; you can see other ABC posts by visiting her.