Tuesday I snuck out to the garden to check on things, and to finally get all our sunflowers and the boys’ marigolds in the ground. All these little plants were grown from seed on our window sill and survived the frost because we were too lazy to plant them last week.

I like the plan for the formal planting beds because they have a lot of space allocated for perennials, some annuals and even herbs. I’m a big fan of gardens that are somewhat formal but have opportunities for whimsy or in-formalities, variety and edibles. It will be years before the gardens on the grounds come into their own, but even now I can see the potential.  We’ve got roses next to sun flowers, wild goldenrod next to mint and basil, on and on the variety of combinations is endless and delightful.

We’re done planting for the year in terms of landscaping. The bushes we planted last year are growing large; I’m glad we’re getting a jump on plantings. I realize it costs money but I feel it’s important to get plants in the ground early on so that we can enjoy them before they put us in the ground. Also the landscape will increase our property value and make the house more presentable should we have to sell in the coming year.

What we've planted to date.

What we’ve planted to date.

In the veggie garden I inspected everything and it looks like yes, I will have to replace all our tomato, pepper and cucumber plants as the frost surely killed them or at least rendered them not worth keeping. I planted all the seeds for the carrots, onions, beets and radishes. Our watermelon and pumpkins have sprouted little sprouts from our “easy grow” pods, as has the spinach. Here’s a general layout of our veggie garden…I just realized I left the lettuce and spinach out, but we planted those near the peas. Also it’s off scale because I didn’t squeeze in the maple sapling, or the existing native “bush” that live in the middle of our garden…yes that’s right I left a bush and a maple tree in our garden for aesthetic purposes. Where it says “radish” on the left…slide all that over and that’s where our lettuce is going. Our garden is 20’x40′ which is a perfect size. This should produce enough veggies to feed 2-4 families for the year.  Friends and relatives should call me to get on board. I’m open to bartering. 🙂

Layout of our veggie garden this year.

Layout of our veggie garden this year.

I also examined and fenced off one of our service berry bushes. It’s lost all its leaves and I don’t know if its deer or a disease or lack of water or etc. etc. etc. We have two and the other looks better so I just fenced off the one. If it bounces back then I know it was deer picking on this one bush. If not then it must be watering or disease. I did rub some plant tone into the base of both berry bushes; we’ll see if that helps.

This service berry wasn't bad, and I'm not disciplining it - rather providing it some protection to see if it's because of deer that it's doing so poorly or if there's another cause of it's lack of leaves and berries.

This service berry wasn’t bad, and I’m not disciplining it – rather providing it some protection to see if it’s because of deer that it’s doing so poorly or if there’s another cause of its lack of leaves and berries. You can see new growth at the base of the plant.

Bee Check and Adding Another Deep

Yesterday Christine checked on her bees and they are doing awesome. She saw eggs, the queen, even new baby bees emerging from their comb. The bees have filled up most of the frames on the bottom deep with brood and capped honey that yesterday was the day to add our first “deep” box on top.  The new upper deep contains ten frames just like the bottom one and the bees will start filling those frames next. Checking the hive will take longer now, as we have to check both deeps and therefore twenty frames per visit. On top of it all is just a deep box to cover up the bucket feeder. The bees used up all the pollen substitute and they are relying less on the feeder as well.  Long story short the bees are doing well.

One other interesting thing we saw, as we relaxed at the dining table drinking wine after dinner, in the south meadow was one of our doe chasing off two other does.  This is something I had never seen before in all my years watching deer (in the woods and the yard). Then it struck me, that must be the doe that was pregnant and I suspect she must have deposited her fawn(s) in the south meadow. As such she was chasing off intruding does, sort of protecting her babies. I’m no scientist but it seem logical enough to me. A little while later I could see her back in the meadow sniffing down in an area, which is where I presume sits one or two little spotted deer, nestled amongst the tall grass. I dare not go check it out though for fear of disturbing her nest. Suffice to say though I’m happy that so many of the animals find our land as safe, healthy and nurturing as we do to raise their families.  Most people who moved to this sort of place would have probably mowed everything down. By virtue of leaving it natural we essentially have our own wild zoo and baby animals growing up right off our back door. By the way the baby birds vacated their front porch nest last week.

Enjoy today’s photographs of the bees and our mama deer. Also I’m thinking of starting yet another blog here, Photographs My Kid Takes.  It’s not up yet but stay tuned…should be fun.


Christine pulls each frame out and inspects it, looking for eggs, and general health of the bees.

Christine pulls each frame out and inspects it, looking for eggs, and general health of the bees.

The bees cover the frames going about their business.

The bees cover the frames going about their business.

Frames are gently removed and replaced, but invariably a few bees get squished throughout the process.

Frames are gently removed and replaced, but invariably a few bees get squished throughout the process.

You can see the capped brood cells and uncapped cells.

You can see the capped brood cells and uncapped cells.

Getting ready to inspect the first frame.

Getting ready to inspect the first frame.

Our mama doe in her meadow. I suspect along that old hedge row a baby deer or two sits nestled in the grass.

Our mama doe in her meadow. I suspect along that old hedge row a baby deer or two sits nestled in the grass.

Burr comb bee wax on the inside of the hive cover, this gets removed before replacing the cover.

Burr comb bee wax on the inside of the hive cover, this gets removed before replacing the cover.

Here you can see our queen. She's marked with an orange dot. Notice how much larger she is.

Here you can see our queen. She’s marked with an orange dot. Notice how much larger she is.

Here you can see a new bee poking its head out of its comb cell. All the empty cells had bees in them as well. I'm guessing our hive is approaching 8-10 thousand bees, but I have nothing to base that on really.

Here you can see a new bee poking its head out of its comb cell. All the empty cells had bees in them as well. I’m guessing our hive is approaching 8-10 thousand bees, but I have nothing to base that on really.

New bee emerging from its cell.

New bee emerging from its cell.

Memorial Day Update

It’s Memorial Day, so that means a day off for all the people with jobs out there, for the most part. For me I’m taking the day off too and going to hop into my art studio finally. I need to switch gears and start cranking out art work for I have a show coming up at the beginning of July. Today is also the wife and my 13th wedding anniversary but nothing exciting is planned to celebrate that….I just looked, traditional and modern presents are lace and textiles or faux fur respectively….instead we’ll write off the screen porch and plants from Chicago as our anniversary gifts.

We’ve had frost the last three nights down in the valley. The first night I refused to believe it so my uncovered veggies all go wiped out except the peas and sunflowers. That resulted in about $50-$75 worth of plants dead, plus all the baby cucumber plants Christine raised from seeds are dead. We’re leaving them in the ground for now, and covered them the last two nights but I suspect all is lost so I’ll have to replace them, probably next week sometime. The lack of rain is killing us too. Much of our landscape is showing some form of subtle distress, so I’m keeping a close eye on things.

This weekend found us hosting our first cook out of the season on Saturday. The weather proved to be pleasantly sunny, and a tad bit cold but tolerable. It was nice to have a day off and visit with friends, eat some good food and have a couple of beers.

We did awake to discover a tick on our youngest’s neck / head. We calmly removed it and we’ll keep an eye on him. Ohio is being overrun by ticks with the climate changing and this Spring is proving to be a banner season for the little bugs. One great by-product of man-made global warning that you don’t read about too often. I sent a photo of the tick to Glen Needham, professor of entomology at the Ohio State University and he promptly identified it as a male dog tick. There’s less concern that this type of tick carries any bad disease but we’ll be on the lookout just in case. Getting guinea fowl, and me building a coop has been added as a top project priority – the fowl love eating ticks and other pests in the garden and orchard. For now we just try to keep the boys out of the woods and tall grass and check them daily for the little arachnids. A note, in Ohio the Department of Health has lost funding to track ticks and tick borne illnesses, so it falls upon citizens to remain diligent in being aware and communicating sightings and looking for illness.

One last word before I go today. On this Memorial Day I want to say thanks to all the men and women who have served our country and sacrificed to assure we are free, can speak our minds, have cookouts, and worry about frozen veggies and ticks instead of worrying about bombs, persecution, and other nasty threats to freedom. Thanks to their parents, children, friends and communities for their sacrifice in sending their loved ones into harms way. I pray some day that won’t be necessary, and I truly believe it is possible. But until then I’m proud and thankful that we have such great heroes out there protecting us today, and throughout our history. For all it’s faults, real and perceived, it’s still a pretty awesome country to live in, driven by faith in humanity and the human spirit. From the first men and women who had the courage to form a better type of country to the guys and gals who have sacrificed it all in recent years, and everyone in between: thank you.  God bless.


Laundry Room Design

Today I had some “free” time (i.e. not a paying job and too cold to go outside) so I’ve been working on the laundry room design for the estate. Right now the room is a pile of clothes, baskets, ticks, and god knows what. Someday it will be organized and useful.

For inspiration I used a few resources such as the laundry room in our old house, (which I’m now addicted to), and of course our new laundry room space. The contemporary farmhouse style of the old house laundry was inspired by an image in a Martha Stewart magazine the wife had. The new laundry room will be simpler by virtue of keeping costs down, taking our learnings from the old laundry room and because of how the new space is defined.

From a practical standpoint we’re ahead of the game already because our laundry space already has two full closets in it. While they are not overly organized, they can hold a bulk of the cleaning supplies and whatnot. One wall of the laundry is already defined because that is where the sink plumbing is as well as the washer and dryer hook-ups. Opposite that wall is an alcove that we’ll utilize for air drying clothes. Lastly there is the integrated ironing board that is already installed on the left side wall, as you walk in.

Air drying is a big deal for the wife, who does our laundry. As an aside, before you write me a nasty letter crucifying me for being a male  chauvinist pig, my wife won’t let me do laundry because my idea of laundry is two piles – whites and colors. Anyway, I’m a guy so I take the quickest path from A to B which totally goes against how she likes to do laundry, therefore early on in our 13 years of marriage it was decided that she was in charge of laundry…and by default really, she’s in charge of or the primary driver and ultimate approver of the laundry room design. What you see in the computer rendering images is the approved design I generated today.

Laundry Room Design Notes:

  • Sweater drying racks – wood framed “trays” with mesh inserts for air drying sweaters or other clothes by laying them flat.  In old laundry these were on drawer tracks. For new room I simplified and the racks will just rest on 3/4″ strips of lumber attached to 3/4″ plywood, which in turn is attached to the wall. I’ll paint the supports wall color and the racks trim white. The mechanical racks in the old house were prone to falling apart. Simpler new ones will be fool-proof and unbreakable. I left the drying racks off the floor by about 18″ so we can store a basket full of hangers down there.
  • Flip down drying rack – I wish I could have found my specs from the old house as this rack worked perfectly. I’ll try my best to replicate it.
  • Hanging rods – for drying we’ll have one permanent rod above the sweater racks for hanging clothes to air dry. The cool part is down below where, just by making a few notches in the sweater drying rack 3/4″ side panels I’ll be able to store a second hanging rod that I can bring out when needed to double the rod space. Simply stow away the sweater drying racks and dry away on hangers. Note, all these drying features are easy to make, look cohesive when painted and mean we don’t have to search the internet for existing, often expensive, products.
  • Upper trim – this is from Martha Stewart and we’ll execute this 5-1/2″ trim in the new room just as we did in the old room, placing it at about door height. It just feels “farmy”, ties everything together, adds a simple detail and is a great place to mount peg hooks for hanging shirts after they are ironed.
  • Cabinets – all the cabinets will be stock units. A 30″ sink base and 15″ waste can base unit with and end cap just to the left of the washer and dryer. Upper cabinets are a pair of 36 incher’s flanking a 33″ wall cabinet. The leftover space will be infilled with trim and provide a landing spot for the upper trim terminating into the wall cabinets.
  • Washer & Dryer – our old units are about 14 years old so they don’t have much life left in them presumably. The new units will be high-efficiency front loaders that use a fraction of the water and less energy. Water usage is important because we do a lot of laundry and we’re on a fixed water supply (rain, which is rare around here lately). The new units are 38″ tall and I’d like to put a counter over the top of them so we’ll terminate the sink counter short to make way for the washer and dryer. The good news is we can do everything then wait for the old units to die or be donated when we can afford new units…we just pop in the new ones and install a counter above, offset from the sink countertop.
  • Hook ups – with the counter over the washer and drying being about 39″ off the floor our water and electrical hookups are in the way. We’ll have to cross this bridge when we get to it but suffice to say it’ll probably require something being moved down or up.
  • Dryer vent – ugh, our dryer vent as is forces our dryer to be 8 whopping inches away from the wall. I’m going to goto Sears and ask about venting out the side of the Whirlpool dryer, which is a definite option. If that goes well I’ll just squish the washer and dryer to the left, and leave myself 8-10 inches to vent out the side. A valance panel up front will trim out that gap to the right of the dryer.
  • Paint color – we love the light blue of the old place but we’ll mix it up a bit and choose off our Global Spice pallet – Garden Sage SW7736 will be the color, same as what we’ll do in our youngest’s bedroom someday. The green makes the room warmer visually, making laundry less depressing a chore.
  • Hampers – we’ll place a two or three cell freestanding hamper under the flip down drying rack for sorting clothes. Next to that is the existing vacuum charging station. Win, win.

A rug, art and incidentals and the laundry room will be a warm an inviting place, add value to the house and be one more thing off the want-to-do list.

New Jersey Tea

Alright, I promised I’d post some pics of our bees so here we go (see below). Also we just got back from Chicago where we went on a mini vacation. I discovered a great nursery online that specializes in native plants, primarily prairie plants. The reason I discovered them was because I was looking for replacement New Jersey Tea  plants. As I’ve said in a previous post I didn’t think our New Jersey Teas (Ceanothus americanus), or our Common Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), had leafed this Spring and that they were all dead. So I searched the net and came across Possibility Place in Monee, Illinois. Possibility Place specializes in plants native to Illinois. Being so close to Ohio, it’s no surprise many of the plants they grow are native to Ohio as well, or at least do well in Ohio’s climate. Our landscape plan calls for plants that are, unfortunately, not easy to find in our local nurseries even though the plants can be found here, presumably in the wild. One note of interest, I never thought about it but the owner of the nursery mentioned that Illinois is a prairie state, while Ohio is a forest state. Maybe that’s why local nurseries don’t carry some of these plants, but realistically I think most nurseries are driven by (ill-informed in my opinion) marketplace demands, and I guess the market for native plants just isn’t there.  Thus I have to drive two states over and buy native prairie plants.

We drove out and had a nice evening taking the boys out to an arcade and dinner. We then woke up and drove just down the road to pick up our plants. I had called ahead as the nursery is not open to the public, except by appointment. Snaking our way back past the greenhouses I parked and walked into the office. They thought I was joking when I said I drove all day to get there, from Ohio. But sure enough our paperwork was there waiting for our arrival. The owner personally walked me over to where our plants waited. They were meticulously arranged on a pallet, each plant personally labeled with my name on it – like fancy computer labels.  Very nice. The staff loaded up all of our happy plants, 10 NJ Tea and 3 Common Witch Hazel bushes in 5 gallon buckets, into our trailer.

In walking to and fro I learned that Possibly Place also has bees, a very nice veggie garden, ducks and they’re even raising fish.  The atmosphere was extremely friendly and welcoming. There offering, judging by their artful and informative catalog, along with the expanses of green houses, looks to be second to none in terms of native plants. Overall I’ve found independent nurseries to be good sources for uncommon and native plants. Possibility Place has to be at the top in terms of philosophy, knowledge and offering as far as this writer is concerned. I highly recommend checking them out and making the trip, especially if you’re in the mid-west, the next time you are looking to infuse your landscape with some native planting happiness.

Today I planted all our new bushes and discovered that a few of our bare root New Jersey Teas were sprouting in fact, but they are so small there’s no way…getting relatively established plants was the way to go. And the Witch Hazel were outright dead so the three, large, new ones were a welcome sight. I transplanted the stick looking New Jersey Teas elsewhere in the yard.

Elsewhere in the yard we’ve been weeding and watering our veggies. As far as I’m concerned we’re in the middle of a drought with no end in sight. I give it a couple of weeks and we’ll be in trouble if we don’t get rain. If anything I’ll be tired of hauling watering cans of water back to the garden.

Bug wise we’re going bonkers too. Ants are getting into the house, so despite all my tree hugger-ness I will spray the foundation with something to kill the ants. I also received some seals from Thermatru that were not installed on our exterior doors. These should seal up the “daylight” spaces I can see in the corners of our doors; stopping air intrusion as well as bug intrusion. Outside the ticks are crazy everywhere. We have a nature friendly plan to combat those but it will be a while before that plan goes into action. Meanwhile we check ourselves for ticks before going inside the house.

We’ve checked the bees a couple times in the last week. Everything looks great. Our friends helped us find our queen and confirmed our hive is overachieving in terms of production of bees, and overall health. So without further ado take a look at the photos to see what it looks like inside the hive. Also see pics from Possibility Place and even our trip to get ice cream tonight from Country Maid Ice Cream & Orchard. Of course I don’t have any plant pics, but will get some up later this week.

Garden Gate

Well today I got another monkey off my back, the double gates are hung in the garden, thus rendering it somewhat immune from deer and other critters that like to sniff where they ought not be sniffing. We also got all of our veggie seedlings off the window sill and into the soil. With half of the allotted garden space given to seedlings, we will infill the rest with seeds for carrots, radishes, and onions (I think), as well as (as yet to be) purchased plants for tomatoes and peppers. In the ground already are peas, cucumbers, lettuce and sunflowers as well as seed pods for watermelon, pumpkins, and spinach. So there is an outside chance we may actually have something to harvest this year as our basket has all kinds of potential eggs in it…unless of course something wipes out the entire garden. Oh wait, we’re not supposed to temp fate….I forgot.

As far as the gates go, you’ll see in the pics that install was fairly straight forward, though the one post was 1-1/8″ off level so I had to scab on a ripped piece of lumber to square it up. Tip of the day: run a string and level from post to post to assure your gates are level. don’t worry about their relation to the top of the posts or the ground. The posts likely run along the pitch of the ground, and any excess ground space can be rectified with pavers if your fancy or by filling in with dirt below the gate.

I do have some good bee pics too, but you’ll have to wait til later this week. For now enjoy these.


Screen Porch Finished

The screen porch monkey is off my back. Sure there are some minor decor things that need to be addressed, but we finally have a screen porch; something we’ve been waiting for since we were building our last house. In fact we always hoped to have a screen porch so Daphne, our cat, could go outside to enjoy the fresh air without running away. She’s 13 now, and cat’s don’t live forever. It’s really nice to go out there to eat dinner, or just hang out. We have an adjacent open porch area as well, so that serves as a nice spot for the grill and a chair to rest in whilst waiting for burgers to cook.

As you may or may not know, we installed a Screen Tight system to enclose our porch. This is definitely the way to go. The base track went on easy, and eventually the screen and cap pieces went on fairly easily as well. After about 4-5 screen sections we got the hang of it, making the rest fairly easy to install. Tips:

  • install on a warm day, in late morning or afternoon. This loosens the track, spline and screen, decreasing the chance of “bubbles” in the finished screen section, as well as making it easier to insert the spline in the track.
  • keep track sections slightly away from overhangs and columns if possible, will make it easier to hammer the cap onto the track.
  • use tape to hold large screen panels in place until you can insert the first, top, spline into the track. I used the butt end of my spline tool to “hammer” in the spline to start each section. Insert top then sides and finally bottom spline in that order.
  • have a helper to help keep screen tight as you insert spline.
  • get 10′ lengths of cap material if possible. We had 8′ so we have a lot of unsightly seams. The extruded cap material is cut in line during production so not all the ends are square, especially the double (3.5″) cap material.
  • cut cap material with a hacksaw. I tried snips (messy), chop saw (plastic shattered, nearly taking an eye out), and a utility knife (mind numbingly tedious).

With all the screens and caps in place, the last step was to install the door. I installed a pre-made door, from Screen Tight. This was a bit more difficult because my posts / columns were a bit out of whack. I decided to mortise the hinges into a column, but it had such a bow, that only the top and bottom hinges got cut into the column; the middle hinge was just flush mounted so to speak. I checked the door and it showed level horizontally, but the bottom corner still rubbed on the deck boards….oh well, not sure what else to do I decided I could sand down the bottom corner of the door. I then installed door stops on the inside; made by ripping down a leftover pressure treated 2×4 into 1″ strips. I fastened all three strips and checked the fit. My door fit okay but was kind of all over the place…I then installed the door hook on the inside, this tightened up the closure, but only with the hook latched. Finally I installed the spring which was my only complaint. To get the door to close tight I need a lot of tension. Well the inside door hook doesn’t bite into the fiberglass door enough. Under tension it’s already starting to pull out. Poor design if you ask me, even with my sub par installation job. Overall I’d give my door install a D+ or C-. It works but it’s not the best and will probably benefit from a complete redo at a later date, but for now it’s manageable and keeps the bugs out.

As for the Screen Tight system I’d give it a A.  It’s the way to go if you want a screen porch at your home.

So that’s one major project done. Tomorrow I’ll install the garden gates and we should get most of the veggie garden planted.

The boys are really enjoying the house and yard. Each day they discover more and more ways to make me smile and laugh. I am very fortunate to be able to spend so much time with them while they are this age. Granted we may starve but I’m glad that we at least have this time together as a family. I realize a vast majority of parents are just trying to make ends meet or busy chasing wants or needs. So in one way we’re very lucky in these times.


The east meadow is exquisite this time of year. Like a painting it's saturated with greens, yellows and purples. The colors reach into your pores, as if seeing them isn't enough.

The east meadow is exquisite this time of year. Like a painting it’s saturated with greens, yellows and purples. The colors reach into your pores, as if seeing them isn’t enough.

Azalea Blossom

I noticed this morning our azalea plant has a flower on it! Boosting the pH level with fertilizer really did wonders for this little plant. We’ve had him with us for three houses now, transplanting him as we went. He’s never gotten higher than a foot tall and blossomed only in his first year I think. He’s even died a couple time I swear.

Now he’s all green, leafy and blooming. Yay! for me finally giving him what he needs. See I’m not so bad.



Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I’ve taken a couple of days off this week between projects to work on my “monkey on my back” list. And I’m actually making slow but steady progress.

The screen porch is well on its way. The Screen Tight porch screen system is really great and relatively easy to install. The wife has been helping me. Having two people makes the job a lot easier. For reference our porch is about 20′ x 14′ and has three sides. As you might recall we had the porch framed in, with 2×4’s, 4×4’s and columns, and painted white last year. So all we had to do was install the screening system. I went to Lowes and Home Depot to buy the components – the Depot for the Screen Tight track components and Phifer BetterVue 48″ wide black fiberglass screen material and Lowes for the 0.175″ diameter spline material in a bulk bucket of 300′. Cost was $400 for these materials, including a 36″ x 80″ premade screen door; which included door hardware. Though now I’m wondering if I got enough screen….we’ll see because we’re not done yet.

I figured we’d be done with the porch by now, especially with 80 degree weather planned for tomorrow but honestly, it’s been tough getting a second set of hand out there and the weather has been really cold lately. It was super easy to screw the track in place and that can be a one man job. But putting the screen up benefits from a helper, even if it is just for moral support and a voice of reason. We had to call off working on the screen yesterday because of the wind. The wind just blows the screen all over and make it difficult to get it tight. And the cold weather makes everything stiff so it’s tough to get the spline in the track. Warmer weather relaxes everything and makes it easier. That being said we’re averaging about 3 sections of screen a day which isn’t a lot. Actually the last section took just 10 minutes to do but it seemed like 30 mins. It’s kind of stressful because you don’t know how it will turn out until a section is done; if there are “waves” you have to pull the spline and re-tighten a portion of the section. We’re learning the techniques, tips and tricks as we go so we are getting better. It’s just that the novelty of stretching screen has worn off. There is some urgency because you’re not supposed to leave the track exposed to sunlight, but we’re doing the best we can. I don’t think it’s going to degrade much over a few days of Ohio on again, off again Spring sunshine.

In addition to the porch I have been moving nearly eight yards of top soil from the drive to the veggie garden. What a total pain in the butt but it is basically done. Tomorrow or later this week I’ll till the soil again – new soil and existing earth, along with bags of compost / manure. I use one 25 lb. bag of compost per 100 sq. ft. of veggie garden. Our garden is about 40′ x 20′. That’s eight bags if you’re following at home. I will probably toss in some plant food too before I till the soil.

I have finally finished all the garden gates too, for the most part at least. I have to mount the two double gates later this week but wanted to wait until all the soil was moved so the gates didn’t get in the way. I’ll keep posting photos. Basically I designed them myself and simply used 2×4’s and 2×3’s with corner lap joints and ran a 2×2 diagonally to stiffen them. I then stapled garden wire on the outside and mounted two Stanley hinges each. The key in my opinion is to keep their weight to a minimum. This should make them easier to operate and give them a longer service life. Weight is always a negative in moving parts; the lighter they are the less work they have to do over time. Keeping my gates light should serve them, and us, well in the long run.

One addition to our garden was a gift from my mother, a statue of St. Fiacre, the patron saint of gardens / gardening. He is also the patron saint of venereal diseases and his name is invoked when praying for someone to heal hemorrhoids so we’re covered pretty much across the board. It’s a really cool statue that looks like stone but is a plastic resin. St. Fiacre can be seen holding a shovel and has a bunny rabbit hanging out by his feet, so a little nod to the VW.  I  proudly placed the statue of our Irish friend in the corner of the garden, under my favorite crab apple tree. May he find our garden to be most agreeable and may he look over it, the crops we grow, us as we work in the yard, and finally all those who enjoy the fruits of our bounty.

I drove out to the Depot to look at a sink for my studio (that project has been going on for like eight months now…and no I didn’t find a solution yet) and couldn’t resist buying a 8′ tall Eastern Redbud tree. I’d been eyeing them from weeks now, standing on pallets in front of the store. They were reasonably price so I bought and stuffed one in the Rabbit. As you may recall the four redbud (twigs) we ordered online, and planted last fall, didn’t leaf this year and were dead as door nails. The plan calls for four of them to bookend the playground. I yanked one dead one out and replaced it with my new leafy friend.

Sure enough we went back to the Depot to get the compost I wanted for the garden, and I wanted to get the tall 9′ tree I’d been eyeing, but didn’t buy cause it wouldn’t fit in the Rabbit this morning. Wouldn’t you believe it, the really tall one (they’re all the same price) sold between my two trips today, morning to afternoon. Darn it, I should have stuffed the really tall one behind the oak trees. No one buys oak trees.

If that wasn’t bad enough I made the mistake of asking my two blonde boys which redbud tree they liked (Home Depot had a bunch to choose from…more than anyone else I know of, at that price). I hauled out the two finalists and of course you know what happened next. One boy picked one and the other boy picked the other. Well we only needed one because we’re trying to save a buck, and the space in reality is smaller than what the plan shows…I really think we can get by with just two guardian Redbuds in front of the playset.

Which son do you like more?” My wife asked me.

I thought about it briefly and, while a name popped in my head, I decided it inherently wrong to play favorites. Or at least let anyone know you play favorites.

So now we have a total of three Redbud trees. I picked out one. One of the Redbuds is James’ tree, and one is Jude’s tree. This is becoming a theme around here. Named trees. The wife has her birch tree. I have my five black gum trees. I named the two transplanted trees, standing watch over the garden, “John’s trees” after my nephew who transplanted them. Hmm…that’s three of the twelve apostles…maybe I need to name nine more trees.

Not to sound totally crazy but I am thinking of getting little species markers for the various trees and bushes we have…maybe after I mow the nature paths in. I’ve learned so much about them all, I think it’s be fun to take a stroll and look at all the plants and compare and contrast.

Well I have to get back to design work tomorrow, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Once we finish the porch and garden we’re pretty much done outside. We have one round of planting next week, not counting the veggie garden. By then the porch should be done. Oh, I have to make a sandbox before Memorial Day weekend, but that should be a Saturday project that I can wrap up solo in a day. And I’ve got a couple of things to paint (my studio ’cause the paint is just sitting there in a can, and the cistern tops to protect them from UV light – shoulda done this last year, eeek!). And we want to get some decoration up on the walls, like in the Family Room, to make the house more “homey”. Ok I think that’s it….for now.

Seriously I may be close to getting back in the art studio, going fishing and / or golfing. Plus getting back to hammering the design front, getting projects and new clients hopefully. Really awesome time.  Lot of work but it’s all worth it. All part of a greater goal and going relatively according to plan. I just need to remember there is only one of me so I have to remain cool and take my time. And while I agree it doesn’t all have to be done right away I have my (good) reasons to try to get as much done as I can now.

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there.

No amount of thanks is enough for all that the mother’s in our lives do for us. I have no idea what it is like to be a mom. But I certainly can appreciate all the good that is given to our world by them. I see it first hand watching my wife work tirelessly to raise our two boys. Often it’s her attending their every need, as her absent-minded, self involved husband chases windmills. She changes diapers, reads books, oversees craft time, drives to and from, cleans, and cooks. She’s also the boys “go to” for comforting, cuddling, and conflict mediation. Thank you to my wife for everything she does as the resident “mom” in our home.

Mom’s are so much more than all of that, as we all know. And a mother’s love transcends just the biological bond between a mother and her born child. We see it every “mom” whether a woman has her own children or she just plays that role, in some way, to us or those around us. I think it’s an enzyme or something in their DNA or who knows.

So thanks to all those in our lives that fill that role. Or filled that role in the past. Or will fill it in the future. To the mothers, sisters, sisters-in-law, aunts, friends, cousins, nieces, strangers….woman we’ll never even meet halfway around the world…anyone I’ve missed in my list. To those of you who we see every day and to those we see only in our hearts. Thank you for the love, kindness, gentleness, understanding, patience (especially the patience, more so that anything I suspect), leadership, guidance, discipline, teaching, creativity, humor, tears, and laughter. Thank you for holding our hands and wiping our tears. For sitting by our bedside  (and cleaning up the mess) when we’re sick and waiting in the car as we walk off to school for the first time. Thanks for working tirelessly to make sure we don’t kill ourselves prematurely when we think we can fly, run with sharp objects and drive too fast. Thanks for worrying about us and waiting up for us when the hour grows late. For cheering us up when our hearts are broken, giving us tough love when we need it and for celebrating our accomplishments, large and small. For teaching us respect, and teaching us about the world around us, and fostering our creativity. Mother’s (and their surrogates) are in one way or another responsible for every great idea mankind has ever had I bet. And they are the reason why no challenge is too large if we put our minds and spirits to it.

For those mom’s that have, thanks for giving birth to us. I’ve witnessed the whole process from start to finish over nine months and it ain’t pretty. I could never do it. If it were up to guys, then humans wouldn’t exist because the being pregnant and giving birth is just way too much to ask.

Thank you for taking care of us when we weren’t even your kids. Once again making sure we walked the straight and narrow when our real mom’s weren’t around.  For doing all of the above when you really didn’t have to. Thanks to the mom’s of the world for keeping an eye on us. I’m certain the human race would have completely wiped itself out by now were it not for motherly love. Thanks to my sisters, sisters-in-law and other mom’s who I secretly steal tips and tricks from on how to be a parent.

Thanks to all the mom’s who left us and this world before us. We miss you every day. But you’re in every good thing we do.  Rest easy, you’ve done a great job.

Thanks to the mom’s we rarely think about that aren’t even human like you and me. The mama bird who I’ve watched sit tirelessly on her nest for the last month and the pregnant doe I see eating clover every morning. Heck even all the bees in our new hive (most of whom are females that will never lay an egg, but dedicate their entire lives to raising new baby bees). Even if it’s just because that’s how their DNA is wired, I still like to think deep down inside they have a mother’s love. A mom’s ability to sacrifice is second to none.

And thank you for that sacrifice. For the countless lost dreams, hopes and wishes that were cast aside throughout history; replaced without complaint by your support for our, and other’s dreams, hopes and wishes. Thanks to mom’s who have given the ultimate sacrifice, their life (in reality or spirit), so that their “children” would be protected, safe and happy. We have yet to discover a way to repay you, other than saying we love you.

Thank you to my mother who helped make me the man I am today. Because of her I am in awe of the world around me and I believe anything is possible. These are two of the most powerful traits any person can have.

Thank you. Enjoy your day. You deserve it.

My mom and me at the beach c. 1978

My mom and me at the beach c. 1978