Monday, August 31, 2009

Coleus Dark Chocolate

Although I enjoy flowers in my garden, my weakness will always be plants with interesting foliage. Like this coleus growing under my kitchen window:

When I first planted this lovely ‘Coleus Dark Chocolate’, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d picked it up late in the season and it wasn’t in the best of shape to begin with. But because it was such an interesting plant (and priced just right), I just couldn’t resist. I said to self “let’s take one home and see what happens”. Self agreed.

Well, the days and weeks passed, and somewhere along the way this pretty little Coleus decided to settle into its new spot and thrive. Not only has it grown steadily since I planted it into the ground, but it’s also flowered recently. I’ve also discovered that it’s much happier when the temperature is cooler. On hot days, it looks – for lack of a better description - depressed. Not that plants can get emotionally depressed; at least I don’t think so.

In any case, this Coleus is an interesting addition in the garden, and I will definitely be picking one up next spring.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Introducing Bailey...

...the newest addition to our household:

A couple of years ago, my younger daughter asked if she could have a ferret. My answer was: “A ferret? I don’t think so”. And that was the end of that. Not only did we not have the space for this pet (ferrets need a sizeable cage) but I didn’t know much about them.


It turned out that the desire for a ferret was not just a passing phase because when we bought our home this spring, my daughter brought up the topic again.

“We have the room now” She said.

That’s true.


Still not ready (or willing) to take her request seriously, I gave her some homework to do, which I was sure would change her mind about this pet.

“I want you to learn everything there is to know about caring for a ferret and then explain it all to me” I said to my daughter. “And be prepared to answer some questions; I want to make sure you’re equipped to handle this type of responsibility”

“Okay” She said. “How much time do I have?”

“One week”


One week later (after reading books, watching YouTube videos and googling article after article), my daughter joined me at our kitchen table for the ‘what-do-you-know-about-ferrets’ oral exam I had prepared for her.

She passed with flying colours.



Seeing that she was very determined about this, I promised my daughter that I would give her request some serious consideration after I did my own serious research. Basically, I was trying to buy some more time. But a promise is a promise; I eventually forced myself to buckle down and read books, watch YouTube videos, google until there was nothing left to google and visit a few pet stores to ask a lot of questions about these small animals. And lo and behold, I began to grow a little interested in these critters, if not a little fond of them. Then one day while visiting a local pet store, one of the young girls working there placed a young ferret into my daughter’s arms.

“Can I hold her?” I asked.

That’s how it all started.

As soon as I took that little fluff of fur in my arms, I decided that my daughter could get a ferret. We didn’t pick one up that day for various reasons, but a few weeks later we returned to that same pet shop and took Bailey home with us.

Isn’t she adorable?

So far we’ve discovered that she has a very sweet, gentle temperament and that she’s a champion at sleeping, eating and pooping. How in the world does a tiny little thing like this produce so much waste?

Bailey has only been with us for four days but I’ve grown very fond of the little furball. And even though she’s technically my daughter’s pet, guess who she’s going to spend the day with when school starts? I’ve no doubt that her and I will get to know one another quite well. I’m looking forward to it.

And yes, our young ferret is named after Baileys Irish Cream. In case anyone was wondering.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Husband That’s Not Familiar With Plants...

...should never be left alone in the garden. Ever.


Because of this:

This is an Asclepias tuberosa that was brutally yanked out of the ground (where it was happily growing) by a plant-clueless, well-meaning husband (he was kindly removing weeds from one of the flower beds) and ruthlessly tossed into a yard waste bag where it was later (frantically) retrieved from by said well-meaning husband after his startled wife exclaimed “OHMYGOD! WHERE IS MY BUTTERFLY-ATTRACTING LITTLE PLANT?” (Clearly, she was not amused by the weed-pulling)


After the discarded little perennial was frantically retrieved from the yard waste bag by the plant-clueless but well-meaning husband, the startled wife replanted it, watered it and said a prayer to the plant gods.

So now the question is:

Will the Asclepias tuberosa that was planted again into the ground by the startled wife as her plant-clueless, well-meaning husband watched apologetically survive?


Your guess is as good as mine.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hello Blogging World

I'm back!

Although I had a nice little visit with my family, I’m happy to be back home. And I’m certain that my feathered and furry friends are thrilled about it too. Who else in the neighbourhood spoils them like I do?


I should be putting up posts pretty regularly from here on in, although there may be days when they’re late and days when there won’t be any. But for the most part I’ll be on top of things.

While I’m trying to get back on track with my writing (both for my blog and my website, here’s a pretty picture that I took almost two weeks ago when we had some friends visiting from out of town:

I really enjoy taking pictures of animals, especially when they are not afraid to come close to me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

See You Later

I’ll be out of town for a couple of days visiting with my family. I’d planned to schedule some posts but there hasn’t been enough time.


Regular blog posts will resume later this week. In the meantime, I leave you with this cute picture:

You can never have too many chipmunk pictures.

See you all later this week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tune Time - Wacky Music Of The 70s

I ran across this song recently on YouTube and I swear I’ve played it 100 times since then. Not because it’s a musical masterpiece but because it brings back so many memories. Remember discotheques? (Maybe you’ve been fortunate enough to have bypassed them)

Do any of you remember this song? Do any of you want to remember it? Especially if you really, really liked it back then. And even owned a copy of the record. This is one of the ‘I can’t believe my mom and dad listened to this’ music skeletons in your closet that your kids are searching for. To poke fun at you, of course. You might want to put a lock on that door!


As wacky as it is, this song by “Rick Dees and His Cast Of Idiots” (gotta love the band’s name) became a nationwide hit by the early fall of 1976. Furthermore, it held the number one spot for an entire week in October, the number 2 spot for four consecutive weeks and stayed in the top 10 for ten weeks altogether.

You gotta love the 70s.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cleaning Up Under The Maple Tree

I keep telling myself that all the hard work I’m putting into my garden this year, which consists mainly of cleaning it up, will pay off next spring. Well, I certainly hope so because it isn’t quite over yet and there has to be some compensation – albeit in the future – for all the aches and pains that I’ve endured.

With that in mind, here’s a photo of what the section under the maple tree looked like before it was cleaned up:

When I first began cutting down these bushes under the maple tree, I happened upon a garter snake living inside one of them. Having never seen a snake before (aside from zoos and such places), I was quite startled, to say the least. No, I did not faint or run away screaming or react hysterically in any way; I simply froze in place and thought to myself “This is either a worm on steroids or a snake. I think I’ll bet on it being a snake.” My daughter, on the other hand, was elated. She exclaimed how adorable the snake was and asked, jokingly, if she could keep it as a pet. Um, no.


The snake moved away and the cleanup was finished. Here’s a photo of what the section under the maple tree looks like now:

The only plans I have for this newly-cleaned area is to add some grass to it. As long as the weather holds up and there’s no rain, I will be spending a significant amount of time in the garden today. One of the outdoor chores will include spreading grass seed under the maple tree. Hopefully there’ll be enough soil added on top of it to give it a chance to sprout before the birds get to it. But I’m not betting money on that.

There’ll be a post in the future on the outcome. Good or bad.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Feathery Visit At The Birdbath

Alright, so here I am again with yet another post about some bird or another that has dropped in for a visit in my backyard. Or better yet, has dropped in to eat or bathe in my backyard, not just to visit. Because who am I kidding? If it wasn’t for the goodies I put out for them, the birds wouldn’t come around. But, hey, if bribing is what it takes to bring them in, then that’s what it has to be.


Here’s one little feathery visitor that hangs around the finch feeder just about every day:

After some research, I believe it is a house finch. If anyone has other suggestions, let me know. In any case, this little critter is a real cutie. And it seems to have no problem accepting bribes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Big Garden Cleanup – Phase III

Okay, so there was The Big Garden Cleanup that involved getting rid of a lot of overgrown, unwanted shrubbery. And then there was Big Garden Cleanup – Phase II that involved adding some edging and grass seed. And now there’s phase three that involves the addition of some plants.

Since this newly-prepared area receives little sun, I decided to start with some hostas pictured below.

First there’s Hosta ‘Blue Whirl’ that I couldn’t resist (picked up one):

And then there’s Hosta ‘Frances Williams’ (picked up two):

And here they are all together in a group hug. Aren’t they just lovely?

Then there’s me showing off my sexy gardening look (every woman should have a pair of rubber boots):

And me digging in the dirt with my sexy boots:

The end result:

Hmm… That spot looks awfully empty, doesn’t it? And the hostas look pretty lonely with so few plants around them. Well, there’s only one way to solve that problem. Buy more plants! And do more gardening!

I guess this means that at some point there’ll be a phase four to this garden cleanup. Looks like I’m going to get to wear my sexy rubber boots again. Isn’t my life exciting?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Bee In The House

The other day, while tending to some chores in my basement, I found this:

Lucky for this little fella that I really like bees or else he would have joined the big insectarium in the sky after a hard smack with a shoe accompanied by shrieking and hysterical gestures (mine). I’m not even sure what would have ultimately killed him – the smack or the shrieks.


Because the basement is a little cool and because he’d probably been there for awhile (two things that slowed him down and weakened him), he was not able to fly. This was a good thing because a) he couldn’t dive bomb me and sting me if he felt threatened and b) it was very easy to trap him so he could be set free outside. In addition, I may not have felt very charitable if he’d stung me. Sometimes shoe smacks are impulsive. So there’s that.


Since he couldn’t fly and I wasn’t stung and there were no impulsive shoe smacks, I carefully trapped him and took him outside. When I lifted the plastic cover to set him free, he didn’t fly away. He just sat in the little container and buzzed around a little. At first I thought he really couldn’t fly, that he was injured. But after warming up by basking in the sun for a minute or so, which proved to be exactly what he needed to get him going, he went on his merry way.

Don’t you just love a happy ending?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Regular Backyard Visitors

There are a couple of chipmunks that hang around our backyard throughout the day. Sometimes they pop in to drink some water. Sometimes they drop by to munch on goodies that have fallen from the bird feeders. And sometimes they can be found under the kitchen window doing whatever it is that chipmunks do under kitchen windows. Like this little critter:

I don’t know why this little chipmunk has made it a habit of showing up daily near my kitchen. It couldn’t possibly have something to do with the cashews I put out for him, could it?


Monday, August 17, 2009

Regular Backyard Visitors

I don’t know much about mourning doves, but it seems to me that once you show them a little hospitality, they become regular visitors. Not a day goes by that a handful of these birds (and I swear it looks like it’s the same bunch every day) drop by and hang around the backyard (for hours on end, it seems). They swim in the birdbath, they munch on seed that’s fallen from the birdfeeders and they sit in the grass (usually next to your favourite sitting areas). And they bring the entire family with them.

Here’s one of my regular backyard guests:

I guess with all the visiting, they’ve gotten used to me because they don’t scare that easily anymore. This allows me the chance to take some decent photographs of them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vriesea Splendens – Flaming Sword

It’s been awhile since I included something on houseplants. So, today’s post will include care information about this lovely plant:

This is one of my favourite indoor plants. While it’s sometimes referred to as ‘Flaming Sword’, its botanical name is Vriesea splendens.

Here’s how to care for it indoors:

Vriesea splendens is a stylish, low-maintenance plant that can handle some morning sun but does best when placed away from direct sunlight in a brightly lit spot. Average room temperatures between 15°C (60°F) to 24°C (75°F) are fine and humidity levels of 40 to 60 percent are preferable, but not easily attainable. Increase humidity by adding a humidifier near your plant or by placing it on a pebble tray.

Pot up your plant in a porous soil that drains well, water it when it dries out considerably and then water thoroughly. You can also water this Bromeliad exclusively through its funnel of leaves and eliminate the soil entirely by growing it attached to driftwood. Keep the tank (cup) filled with water, flush it every 1 – 2 months and refill with fresh water.

Convert to hydroculture; this plant is a prime candidate for the system. As an epiphyte, the Vriesea Splendens does not require any type of soil, making it a prime candidate for this alternative growing method. Conversion is very quick and completely painless – for you and the plant.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Tranquil Moment By The Lake

Years ago, as my husband and I walked along the lake holding hands, I stopped to snap a photo of this lovely couple:

Moments like this remind me of the beautiful things in life.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I’ve Got Grass!

Noooo...not that type of grass. What are you folks thinking? I’m talking about the type that (when a lot of grass grows together) forms what’s called a lawn. The lawn is something that you have to water and fertilize and mow and trim and occasionally nurse back to health if it gets infested by injurious bugs and sometimes reseed if it’s thinning or if it develops brown or bare spots. And every ten days or so (depending on the weather), you get to mow and trim all over again. Fun, no?


After the big garden cleanup in the front and right side of the house, grass seed was planted. And (I'm guessing because of all the rain we had) it germinated very quickly - within three days! At the speed it’s growing, those bare spots will be filled in no time.

Here is a photo of all the darling baby grass:

Isn’t this just the cutest thing?

There is a lot more sprouting on the right side of the house but that batch was a little camera shy. (Not to mention whinier because of the sun beating down on it. Oops! Did I say that out loud?)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Creepy Crawler In The Backyard

I was sitting outside yesterday evening - enjoying a Joy Fielding novel and minding my own business - when all of a sudden I felt something crawling up my leg. A fly, I thought. Or maybe a mosquito.

Not quite.

I peeked down at my leg and saw this:


So this creepy crawler fell off my leg after I did the ‘EEEEUW-GROSS-GET-OFF-OF-ME-YOU-CREEPY-CRAWLER’ dance. (Have you ever seen a middle-aged woman do this? It can be quite amusing to watch.)


After he landed on the (hard) patio tiles (ouch), he stayed there for quite some time (stunned?) before he slithered away. And where did the little bugger go? He headed straight to the birdbath. I tell you, that birdbath is quite popular. I’ve seen birds, squirrels, wasps and butterflies hanging around it. And now, caterpillars.


When he finally got to the birdbath, the creepy crawler climbed all the way to the top, which I must say was quite an impressive feat for such a little creature, to drink some water.

I don’t know when or how he got down from the birdbath because I eventually had to run inside for cover when the mosquitoes started snacking on me. For all I know, he’s still there. I’ll find out later this morning when I do my garden rounds.

Incidentally, I did google for information and discovered that this hairy beast is a Hickory Tussock Moth (Lophocampa caryae) caterpillar. That’s too bad. I’d really hoped it was a butterfly caterpillar.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Big Garden Cleanup – Phase II

Okay, so a few days ago I wrote about The Big Garden Cleanup that hubby and I did in the front and right side of the house.
Before the cleanup there was an overload of shrubbery (sad face):

After the cleanup there was no more shrubbery (happy face):

Once everything growing there was removed, we decided after a couple of days (our bodies had started to heal) to take it to phase two.

Phase two involved edging:

And seed grass:

So now we have this:

Things are coming along nicely; slowly but surely. The garden has put up one heck of a good fight but obviously not good enough.

Phase III, which I hope will commence soon, will consist of the addition of plants. Maybe some hostas for the shady front. Maybe some daylilies for the sunny right side. We'll just have to see what happens next. Stay tuned for more...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aerobics For Birds

My backyard is very bird friendly, so there are usually a lot of feathery critters dropping by throughout the day to eat, drink or bathe. And sometimes they can be quite entertaining. Take for example this mourning dove that looks like it’s doing some exercises:

There’s no end to the amount of entertainment you can derive from the behaviour of birds if you have a digital camera – and a very active imagination.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Woodpecker Comes To Visit

On Saturday, I spotted a woodpecker hanging off the peanut feeder. I grabbed my camera, quietly stepped out into the backyard, and slowly, ever so slowly so as not to frighten him, snapped photos as I inched my way closer to him (or her). He didn’t seem too concerned about me or the fact that I was moving closer, and had it not been for the &$^$#& red-winged blackbird that suddenly swooped in and startled him enough to make him take off, I might have had a chance at a closer, better photograph.

In any case, this is the best I can do with an older camera at quite a few feet away:

I have never in my entire life seen a woodpecker, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was when this one dropped by for a visit. For those of you who have seen woodpeckers many times, this is (yawn) no big deal. But for us deprived souls, it’s a monumental moment.

Now I’m not sure which one it is but it looks like it’s either a Downy woodpecker or a Hairy woodpecker. The little dude didn’t stick around long enough for me to snap some decent photographs. Now I know the quality of the image is not the best, but if anyone has an idea what type of woodpecker this is, please leave a comment.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Big Garden Cleanup

By mid July, the amount of plants (most of them quite large) growing in the front and right side of the house had gotten ridiculous. First, our living room window was being lost to the overgrown vegetation, which reduced the amount of light we received indoors (even the houseplants began to complain). Then we stopped using the pathway that leads to the backyard because it was obstructed by mammoth bushes that made it very difficult to get through. In addition, you couldn’t open the gate because the Cedar tree was growing up against it and blocking it. So everything had to go.

(Forget ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ music, it’s not good enough for this project. This here job requires ‘Mission Impossible’...)


Analyze The Challenge (Consider Bolting):

Get The Tools (Laugh Menacingly):

A Few Hours Later (Gloat):

Use Secret Weapon (The Husband):

Check Husband For Pulse:

Admire Results After Cleanup:

Well there you have it folks; another garden success story. Now I just need something to plant there.

And you know, even if these bushy things hadn’t begun to take over our home, I still would have taken them out. I’m not a big fan of bushes or bushy-type growth, unless it’s compact and grows nice flowers and has cool-looking leaves and doesn’t get too wide and doesn’t need regular pruning to keep it small and attractive. Okay, it’s obvious that I really don’t like bushes or bushy-type plants.