Showers N’ Flowers

Today I am sitting at my desk at work, contemplating why I even attempt to re-ink a stamp. The frugalista in me says, “Why buy a entire new stamp when a bottle of ink is three dollars?” The realist in me says, “Every time you re-ink a stamp, you end up looking like you were booked and fingerprinted MULTIPLE times in the county jail.” I now have ink on my desk, my face, all of my fingers, my pencil cup, my mouse, and the book I was reading. Luckily, I wore a black shirt today.

But let us discuss more pleasant and pretty things. My yard, for example!

This spring was chilly all the way into the first of May. Not that I’m complaining, HOWEVER, my corn I planted never came up and my cream peas were lackluster. My tomatoes were sad and took forever to grow. Even so, now that it’s warmed up, things are filling out. Let’s take a look around:

View from our porch. It rained today for the first time in a MONTH, PTL! I was already tired of watering.  Yarrow and daylilies are at the forefront:

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View of the house. The front porch will eventually be screened in the front, and closed on the sides with big screened windows. I call it my future three season room. You can see that the blanketflower (on bottom left) really took over. It is all over our yard now.

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Front left side of porch. From left: Indian hawthorn (covered in blackberry I can’t kill), blue/black salvia, daylily, and then my lemon trees I grew from seed five years ago. Also, a couple of geraniums.

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View of what I call “The Salad Bowl”. Jason leveled the front yard, and this required making a hill around the driveway. I have really been working on this hill with tomatoes, wildflowers, asparagus, and Drift roses, among many other things. Trying to keep it covered to prevent erosion. Also, it is 100% ‘sugar sand’, so I am slowly digging out sand and replacing with compost. The flat ground is where we will plant big thing like corn and okra, and you can also see my sad peas and my rows of green beans. The flowers are brown eyed Susans, which I love!

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Raised metal bed that Jason built. The plan is to trellis indeterminate tomatoes here. This is a 10′ bed, but a 20′ is in the works. I will put anything vining or trailing on these.

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Prime-ark Freedom blackberries! Only 2 yr old vine and producing tons of huge fruit. I love this berry!

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Backside of the ‘rose garden’. Time to clean up the old bulb leaves. Once they are brown, they are fine to remove.

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Iris bed with orange, purple, and white irises. Also have some daylilies and crocosmia planted.

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The ‘rose garden’, with a few unidentified roses, but also has “Trumpeter”, “Electron”, Mutabilis, “The Fairy”, and “Dolly Parton”. I put assorted impatiens in the empty spots just to fill space.IMG_20180520_190023805

Another view of the iris bed. You can see the lighter green crocosmia taking over, but it’s so gorgeous here in a few weeks, who cares? The little tree on the right is a lemon tree that I planted from local seed. There are two lemon trees in Jacksonville that I know of, and both are ancient. I got seed from both trees about five/six years ago, and one tree is just now fruiting! We are sooooo excited. BTW, the Coors can you may see isn’t mine; it’s for the slugs. Yes, I am a bootlegger for slugs. Only kidding…slugs are apparently addicted to cheap beer and they will come by the hundreds to a beer-filled dish only to party and subsequently perish. Try it for yourself if the slugs are driving you crazy!

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Hope you enjoyed the tour! In the next month, things will start getting crispy out there and I’ll only come out “when the sun hits the pines”, which is to say, either before sun up or after sundown!

 

Year nine on the farm: Older, fatter, and furrier

October 2017 marks two milestones for our family; we have now been on the farm for nine years, and I turned forty.

Turning 4-Oh

Something about turning forty has changed me. With any luck, I hope to live another forty years. It would be a gift of another lifetime! With that, it got my little pea brain churning, thinking about:

  • The importance of living every day to the fullest
  • Celebrating every birthday, and that sending birthday cards to family/friends is no longer optional
  • Planning for a life we’d like to live after the kids have moved out
  • Becoming debt-free so we can work minimally and live to the max
  • Maintaining our health so we can enjoy life to the fullest

I also think about how I have already lived four years longer than my own grandfather did, and how every day is truly a blessing.

On a funnier note, I am trying to understand why, at forty:

  • My body has begun to cling to every single calorie like a person dangling from the side of a cliff
  • God decided that visible nose hairs are not optional just because you are a woman while simultaneously they become more prevalent/darker…yet at the same time, I am losing the hair on the top of my head
  • Any new hair I DO happen to grow on my head is either white and silky or a thick and extremely unruly black menace that sticks straight out
  • I can throw out my back by simply standing up and moving my leg half-inch in the ‘wrong’ direction

These are the things I ponder now.

 Year Nine on the Farm

With this year, we are still working on paying off our debt, maintaining the home and grounds, and now we are downsizing.

While I did keep some baby chicks hatched this year, the new goal is to continue to downsize the flock until we have a nice number of laying hens. Let’s face it: I do NOT get $100 worth of eggs a month that I’m paying for the feed at this point! We do have some older layers as well as several hens who are more like pets, but as usual, we also possess a disproportionately large number of roosters who are getting fat on my dollar.

Now for a review in photos!

October 2016:

That time that everyone got ticked off after playing Sorry:

November 2016:

The cold and wet beginning to our square foot beds:

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Our living room/library area after bringing in the ferns for the winter:

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Fall foliage:

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December 2016:

A beautiful winter sunset!

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From 65 degrees to 48 in 47 minutes!

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January 2017:

One day, as I was hanging laundry, I looked up to see this ‘mackerel sky’. I made myself pretty dizzy trying to take a good pic.

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This year marked the beginning of new beds and a new gardening method: Square Foot Gardening. I love it!!! Jason built the beds. The soil you see was just, well…crappy, but it’s all I had. Now it has much better soil.

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2017 was the Year of the Annoying Ladybug/Asian Ladybeetle invasion. Here is a group in our barn, but there were hundreds in the house. Yuck. Glad they do eat aphids, but it would be lovely if they would hibernate outdoors like REAL ladybugs!!!

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February:

Being sensitive to sodium nitrate (Read: gives me major migraines), I can only eat uncured meats. Let’s face it, when you live in the sticks, things can be difficult to find. Our local Wal-Mart decided to stop carrying ‘my’ bacon, so I was forced to drive thirty miles to find some. Jason came to the rescue with my Valentine’s gift!

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Ladybug invasion continues in the warm sun:

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A true ladybug! I found several Twice-Stabbed ladybeetles on our pear trees. Yaaaay!

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March:

Another ‘true’ ladybug, the Convergent Ladybeetle. I probably learned more about ladybugs this year than in my last 40 years!

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April:

April showers and all of that!

May:

May’s warmth brings out the reptiles! Anoles and rat snakes are in full force!

June:

A cicada emerges!

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Swedish strawberry cake:

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A new friend emerges from the woods! My first photos of Eleanor, the wild cat.

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July:

Happy Fourth!!!

We add another new family member. Meet Esther. Note: Esther is the one without the beard.

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August:

Esther enjoys robes and hiding in the mini pantry. This behavior was not endorsed by yours truly. No one likes cat hair in their cereal.

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September:

Another new family member! Meet Milo:

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2017, so far, has proved to be the Year of the Cat! I also have declared it the year of Returning to the Homestead since I have now deactivated my Facebook account and suddenly have hours and hours added to my day! Amazing, isn’t it? Hope you enjoyed this year’s re-cap.

On to 2018!!!

Down at Ye Olde Noodle Hole

Buying a home is an interesting experience. You are certain to come across some surprises from time to time. For example, one year our washing machine was draining slowly. We ended up digging up the PVC drainage pipes and rather than use a joint fitting to get the water to go where they wanted (down the hill), they simply…bent the pipe.

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Yes, friends, who needs a 22 degree joint when one can use their brute force to just BEND THE PIPE almost in two? Well, now THAT certainly won’t cause issues. So after the pipe was fixed, it did lead to the discovery that our greywater from the house drains into our hillside. This is all the water you use in the house except the potty. Now this was actually a pleasant surprise! Greywater can be used to irrigate plants for your gardens as long as you are careful about the soaps and cleaners you use, assuming you do your greywater recovery correctly.

After the greywater drainage discovery, it wasn’t long that we also found that our dogs had come to the same conclusion. Yes, all of the kitchen waste that accidentally makes it down my sink does flow out by the hillside. And yes, dogs find this delectable, especially when we have a dish like spaghetti. Thus: The Noodle Hole got its name.

The screams of “The dogs are in the Noodle Hole again!!!” were pretty frequent in the first year we lived here. After running dogs out of the Noodle Hole, away from donkey dung, and out of the chicken manure, I decided that dogs are just gross. I pray to God that they don’t have taste buds.

But back to the Noodle Hole! For some reason, this year we have tons of tomato plants that have decided to set up camp by the Noodle Hole outlet as well as the washing machine drainage. I guess I had some tomato seeds in my pockets? Who knows. But there are about seven giant tomato plants, covered in green tomatoes out there now. Unfortunately, our first hard freeze is coming later this week and so I am going to pick the green fruit, take some cuttings, and cover them just to see how long the vines will make it. I have had tomato vines through January before!

Since the ‘maters enjoyed their laundry/kitchen water so much, we are planning a tiered box which will utilize the greywater and keep our tomatoes watered through the hot summer.

When life hands you a Noodle Hole, make a greywater recovery system!

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Tomatoes Love Noodles

 

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The biggest tomatoes at the Hole
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Dichondra apparently loves laundry water!

 

He promised me a rose garden…

When Jason and I got married, I told him to not send me cut flowers. More specifically, no cut roses. Give me a rosebush instead. After all, a rosebush will last for years, and cut flowers just a few days! I finally created a rose garden I like. I had a nice one when we lived in town, but not one since we have lived on the farm. I’ll give you a quick tour!

 Let’s start with the least impressive picture, lol. This is the first of two new rose gardens I have. They have only been in this place for about 2-3 months, so the plants haven’t had much time to fill in. 

Now for the individual plants! First, let’s start with one of my new favorites, Mutabilis. This is an old variety that gets quite large. The flowers start off almost white like this:

And then finish off dark pink like this:

And did you notice the Buckeye butterfly that was kind enough to let me take its picture? Well, here’s another. Usually, I have the hardest time getting quality butterfly photos, but I think this little guy was drying its wings.

Another lovely rose is a hybrid tea called “Electron”. This is what I call Jason’s “birthday rose”. I got everyone a rose that was either introduced or won an award the year they were born. Electron was an AARS winner the year he was born. Here it is:

Now we come to my birthday rose: Trumpeter. It is a floribunda type and was released the year I was born. It is a short little thing, but has the most magnificent neon red blooms:

Probably nine or ten years ago, I did some plant swapping with a woman through some internet group. I don’t remember her name, but she gave me this rose and told me she had gotten it from someone in Mississippi. So, I call it the Mississippi rose. It’s a prolific bloomer, and even though it has very little fragrance, I love the cute little blooms!

And that is certainly not all my roses, but those are the most decent ones for now. I also have Duchesse de Brabant, The Fairy, Tropicana, Le Marne, Don Juan, Hot Cocoa, Rainbow’s End, and many more that I can’t remember the names of right now. All of my roses have to be easy to keep. I don’t spray for anything, so they are on their own! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Front Yard Do-Over (Again)

August 2008: This is the front yard the day we bought the farmhouse. To the left there is a holly tree, which we immediately removed since: A. I don’t like giant holly trees and B. It had a huge hole in the trunk and would be weak anyway. On the right was an odd little tree that resembled a ginkgo. It was not a ginkgo, but we did end up removing it for some reason or other. Normally, we don’t take down trees at all, but…

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March 2009: Where the front garden all began. You can see that we fenced it in and were in the process of doing raised beds. There are lettuces, broccoli, onions, and cabbages planted here. What you may also see is that we did not remove the grass, which turned out to be a VERY BAD decision. I assure you, you will NOT WIN when battling Bermuda grass. Do yourself a favor, save your sanity and START WITH A BLANK SLATE.

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May 2009: You can see that the lettuces and broccoli are done. The cabbages, as you might notice, are completely eaten up by cabbageworms. Hurrah. Not. Also note that we had a nice watering system that misted all of the beds. Also note that the grass is growing at a rapid pace.

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January 2011: If you read my yearly reflections, you will know that I am always saying to live simply and not take on more than you can handle. Well, here I am, not following my own advice. Even though my front garden was crazy with grass and not well kept, I decided to plow up and landscape even MORE yard! Go me!

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August 2012: Three years of battling Bermuda grass has driven us to the breaking point. It has invaded my beds and even grown into some of the wood. We have the tractor in place to remove the raised beds and we ended up burning them. It was a happy/sad day!

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Here is the front space that we created back in 2011. I seeded it with a wildflower mix and a poppy mix. See the lovely grapevine on the fence? Something ate its roots not long after this photo was taken and the entire plant collapsed in two days. I still weep for that grapevine. This is early summer, 2013.

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These beds were also seeded with wildflowers. You can see my onion patch here, too.

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June, 2013: You can see that the grasses have been trying to grow back. Also, note the blackberry bush in the lower left corner. It honestly made the nastiest blackberries I have ever had the displeasure of eating. They had to be dead ripe to get any sugary taste, and even then, it left your mouth with a bitter taste. Gag. It was labeled as Rosborough. Nope, never again. I finally tore it out in 2016.

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Shpring has shprung! This is April 2014. I love the wildflowers, but they are just hiding the fact that I don’t really want to deal with the yard at this point. Trust me, there are a ton of grasses in there that are already seeding…

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April 2015, from our bedroom window. Love love love me some irises!

 

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A favorite orange variety, given to me by an old schoolmate! I adore this iris and it is very hardy. I divided it this year (2016), so I hope for a LOT more!  In the background, you can see oregano, then Lamb’s Ears, and….more irises!

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Spring 2015:

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Looking awfully grassy out there….No garden beds 😦

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June 2016: The Brown-eyed Susans and Indian blanketflowers were absolutely insane this year. True, I had no real gardening beds (other than those right by the house), but I couldn’t tear these out…yet.

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September 2016: The breaking point that has built up for eight long years! It’s time to do this dadgum yard RIGHT! One of the major issues was that it was never properly leveled, so you were always walking up or down a slope. After a few hours’ deliberation and some quick sketches, Jason and I decided to do this right so we NEVER HAVE TO RE-DO THIS AGAIN. Time for the “reno”!

First, you take a backhoe:

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And you start to work on the leveling. It is really impossible to tell here, but that little scrape-out is about 3 foot tall or so! And then…

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You raze that sucker and get it as flat as a pancake! Notice, almost no weeds…Praise the Lord!

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We left this cornerpost because it supports a big climbing rose I have. The apple tree is actually going to be removed as sadly, it is too blighted to keep. Darn it.

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And, welcome to our desert garden!

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Now, for this shot, I had to get in the bucket of the backhoe and Jason lifted me up. Did I mention that I HATE heights! Whew. The asparagus bed to the far right was removed and we put it along the newly created arch next to the driveway. I call this garden the “Salad Bowl” because of its shape!

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Here you can see that bowl-shape I was talking about. And here we have laid out our beds to run east to west. I can see everything from my front porch! Woohoo!

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All my cute little beds…

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To keep me from losing my mind, we gathered all the pine straw we could to cover up the sand. I wish you could have seen how much came in through my front door in that first week…yuck. I hate a sandy floor! And you can also see the four ornamental beds I have created in the very front of my house. We used logs from our woods to make the edging. It’s still a work in progress, but I did relocate almost all of my roses to the beds on the left, and then a lot of irises to the bed on the right. The crepe myrtle coming up in the bed was a volunteer. We have more baby crepe myrtles than anyone I’ve ever seen. We have relocated many to the chicken coop and some more to the front yard. This particular one is a nice pink color. I have no clue where it came from!

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Sanity has been restored! Here we are in October 2016! It’s pretty amazing because so much has already grown up in the two weeks since I took this picture.The roses have really started filling out, and I planted tons of bulbs and some daylilies.

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I hope you enjoyed the tour through time! If you take away anything, just remember that Bermuda grass is the devil and you’d better rip all that hot mess out before you get to planting! And yes, it goes deep underground. Had we done that to begin with, I’d have a really lovely eight year old garden now. Oh well! Live and learn!!!

Until next time!

I’ll take one. No, better make that 200.

“Cure for an obsession: Get another one.” ~Mason Cooley

I have a weirdness. It popped up in a conversation between Jason and I the other day. For a bit of a backstory, it began innocently enough, as it always does.

I was in the plant section, more specifically, the CLEARANCE (clear-ron-say, as I love to pronounce it) section of Lowe’s. Three sad and mostly dead African violets caught my eye. They were a whopping dollar each. And now let’s hit the backstory to my backstory: Ten years ago, I got an African violet. I don’t remember where I got it. It started innocently enough. A single plant, right? Then, as I started researched African violets, they have things called “suckers” which are little baby plants trying to come up from the base of the mother plant. This is not a good thing for your normal violet, because they will stop blooming. So, being the good plant stewardess that I was, I painstakingly removed each tiny embryonic baby from the mama with tweezers and a Xacto knife (sterilized, of course) and put them with gentle, loving care in a Jiffy greenhouse. You know, the giant ones with like 40 cells.

Then I discovered that there are things called “trailing” African violets, which, LONG AND VERY BORING STORY SHORT, suckers are NOT a bad thing and that’s just the ways trailers grow. Well, crud. So now I had approximately 41 trailing African violets. I will spare you the horror of the boring details, but I ended up doing hours and hours of research on how to BEST raise African violets, what they needed, what they hated, the Latin name, and heck, I may have joined the African Violet Society of America. I even gave a presentation (seriously) to our local garden club on African violet care.

Because you see, when I get fixated on something, I get FIXATED. I have to know all about it. I want you to ask me questions, because I am READY and PREPARED with an endless array of information and documentation and if I had been on Jeopardy and African violets were a subject, I would have stomped a mudhole in everyone else’s behind. Back to present-day Lowe’s:

I thought about my violet that I had ten years ago. I still miss “her”. (Yes, it was a ‘her’, and she had a name, though I can’t remember it) Here she was in her full glory. Be still my heart:

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And the worst part was that I have no idea what happened to her. I am sure that, in the course of us moving and my subsequent obsessions, she suffered a terrible, neglectful death. But anyway, I got the violets at Lowe’s. I have babied them (one did die), pampered them, fertilized them, and given them the quarter-turn each and every day in their sunny, south-facing window. They have rewarded my patience and persistence by thriving and blooming:

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But enter my weirdness. I don’t want just two African violets anymore. I want a hundred. I want a greenhouse full of African violets. I want so many that people can’t come into my house without falling over some Saintpaulia (if you don’t get it, don’t feel bad…it’s the nerd in me). I want so many that people will call me “that crazy violet lady”.

So naturally, a few weeks later I was in Lowe’s again and there was a FULL FLAT of sad, neglected AVs. Be still my heart. But they weren’t yet marked down and I’ll be danged if I pay more than a dollar each for a flowerless AV from Lowe’s when I know that’s what they mark them down to. Enter my DLS (dear long-suffering) husband. A week later, he has to go to Lowe’s. I beg him to go check on the flat. When he returns, it’s like Christmas. He scores fifteen violets…for a dollar a piece. I am giddy. It was better than getting a pony.

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So later that night, he says, “Why is it that you can’t just have ONE of something?”

Me: I don’t know what you mean.

He (looking at me like I have lost it): You can’t just have one. Why do you have to get multiples of everything?

Me (puzzled look): I don’t know what you’re talking about.

He: We have six dogs, more chickens than anyone we know, like 10 parrots….(voice trails off)

Me: shrugs

Of COURSE I know what he means! It’s the same reason I couldn’t have a pair of zebra finches. I had to have 15. I couldn’t have one gerbil; I had to have every color so that I could, quite literally, be able to recreate ANY AND ALL possible color variations in the gerbil breeding world. I couldn’t have just one orchid; I had to save them all from Lowe’s and my kitchen window looked like a Brazilian rainforest minus the monkeys. I couldn’t just have “three or four” chickens, but instead I needed one (okay…more) of each breed known to mankind. One roll of washi tape? NO! I must have one representing each holiday, each possible vacation destination, and every color in the full Pantone color library.

But I have good news! I am older and I am tireder. Yes, tireder. And I am tired of having multiples of anything! Minimalism and my obsession to have a full set of 200 gel pens to go with my new coloring book do not mesh. So, I have been clearing out my past obsessions, and not putting anything else in their place.

Except African violets. Which I can justify because they do not poop nor do they shed. Those are some of my new requirements to come into my house.

Also, if you know where I could get a plant like my original AV, you are my new friend…I really do miss it and I will always make enough window space for one more!

Cheers!

Texas: Hotter’n a pot of collards

It’s no secret that in Texas, if you want the weather to change, just wait two minutes. Honestly, it’s a real mixed bag around here. You can walk out in shorts and a tank top that morning, and come back a few hours later in need of a pair of woolen underwear, four layers of clothing, and a full-body zip-up sleeping bag with arm and legholes. But that’s just fall.

In the summer, it is hot. Like…deathly hot. Like…walk into a steaming hot blanket kind of hot. You will hear us say all of the time, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Well, I am here to tell you that it’s both, and it’s horrible. And hint, hint, it gets worse the older you get. I have learned that I need to be inside from about 10:30am until just before sunset. If I can’t do that (and let’s face it, I can’t), then when I AM outside, I’m hugging the treeline to stay in the shadows. It is on days like today that I dream of moving to Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine….pretty much anywhere where my shoes aren’t melting on the pavement and where snow is not a rarity.

Fortunately, there are only a few months that are pretty gross, and our winters are mild. Starting mid-July through September, however, I am ready to live in an igloo and hunt caribou. Or whatever igloo-dwelling people do. I don’t care. I no longer wonder why people take mid-day naps around here and siestas in Mexico. It’s because it is too hot to even manage a decent conversation without wanting to kill or seriously hurt someone. You want to see mayhem? Go check out a line of people waiting for ANYTHING in Texas come July. It ain’t pretty.

BUT, at least earlier this year, we got rain. A ton of rain. Enough to scare you kind of rain. And with a lot of rain, you get a lot of wildflowers. And this year, the crepe myrtle were so beautiful, they literally brought tears to my eyes…I swear I saw a double rainbow and white doves and the American flag in the background as I was taking photos. Really.

So please feel free to live vicariously through my happy photos during the month of May and June. Sadly, everything in my front yard now looks like it has been hit with a blowtorch.

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