Sunflower Feeders

A successful season of growing these giants is way over.
The stalks are gone from the beds and are now bulking up the burn pile. 
My favorite super hero, Garden Guy*, composted and, AND! put the flower beds to 
sleep under a thick layer of leaf mulch. Ahhhh!  I love you Garden Guy!

*Formerly known in an earlier career as Diaper Man, this superhero visited our home
 every weekend and took on the nighttime diaper 'dooties' so I could get some sleep.  
The work of a superhero is never, ever done!

I harvested* the heads, and they relaxed on the picnic table for a few days, then 
went on to dry in the greenhouse.  It didn't take long for the tufted titmice to find them - 
those birds must buckle on their smartie pants every day.

* Flower gardeners like me take any opportunity to use the word harvest to get a 
temporary leg-up to the Vegetable Gardener League. 

So I moved them out for all the fall birds.  
A super cheap and all-natural birdfeeder, the thick stalk makes it easy to ram it between 
tree branches or in metal plant hanging hardware (below).
You could lay one right outside on a window ledge for a front-row, birdwatching seat.
Sparrows can't seem to hog a hanging seed head for their tribe - big bonus!


November Closings

The gardens are almost 'put to bed' for the season.  
The perennials are trimmed to the ground, and the annuals have been yanked.
We've added umpteen bags of compost and all that has to be done is a thick blanket of leaf mulch.
This seems like a bigger job every year, and for the first time, I'm thinking 
maybe I'm to old to keep this up with all of this.
The gardens were my distraction during the intense years of childrearing.
The boys wanted to be outside and were happy to follow me around, 
digging in the dirt, swatting leaves with sticks and occasionally tasting a worm.
Yes ... it happened.

* I am completely in love (gushgush) with these photos of the morning sun on fall leaves. All I had to do was juggle the dials a bit and set the camera on the patio. Press the button and check the result - each photo a great surprise. Photography is so much easier now than the film days when each shot mattered since it cost dollars to develop. 

But now my occupations are mostly indoors and no one is coaxing me outside 
to play. And so the gardens are not as well tended as in years past.
We actually took one out last week; moved the plants we wanted to keep 
and threw the rest on the reject pile.  It was a relief to see bare space where 
a garden had been - isn't that sad?! 

** Is it sick that I'm happy to know that all spiders have frozen?  This guy lived, rent free, in the Lily of the Valley patch for at least a month.  Pretty generous of me... I think I've earned some grim glee at their passing.

*** I was sitting outside looking up into this HUGE sweet gum tree with My Youngest. "Remember how we used to sit out here and read Lord of the Rings, Mom? Those were great days!"  The words of a teenaged son can be brutal or blessing, and they seem unaware of either effect. I'm savoring these as a special blessing.


One Man's Trash ...

SO I walked away from a yardsale with a huge box of old gourds. 
Is it odd that I felt like I had just struck gold???
You know I have a love affair with gourds. Maybe better described as 
a secret longing, since my efforts are always foiled by evil mildew

A brown and barefooted old fella said he just throws out the seeds and the vines take over  some 
small trees in his backyard. In the winter, he said he just  yanks the gourds down and 
throws them in the shed. He acted like he'd never heard of powdery mildew and
 let the box of gourds go for $2. I danced my way to the car.

I've fiddled away lots of happy hours with those gourds these last couple of months. 
They have to be soaked, then scrubbed with furniture stripping pads to remove the 
outer 'skin'. Beautiful designs emerge - it's the coolest thing. Every one 
has different patterns, various tones and hues created by the temperatures and 
growing conditions they endured.
And that would preach if we wanted to travel a rabbit trail ...

 Drilling a hole and removing the dried seeds and pulp take time, but are a satisfying 
(if messy) way to pass time while talking with boys, almost-watching  a football game 
or catching an episode of The Paradise.

Choosing a font for the saying and applying it is tedious, but nail polish remover 
can make a mistake simply vanish. I have to admit adapting the bird image from a 
Tasha Tudor illustration.

Sealing the finished gourd with polyurethane is the icing on the cake.
The patterns emerge and seem to glow- my favorite part of the entire process.
There are more of these, and some pretty striking long neck gourds that 
are actually correctly sized birdhouses.  I'll be selling them at a local craft show 
next weekend. Come take a peek!
Whatever's left will be appearing in my Etsy shop soon.



In remembrance of these fall flowers, so recently beautiful... as in three days ago.
All now frosted and blackened, in only one freezing night.
When the fall flowers are in their glory, it's about time for me
to return to the basement of UC's nuclear medicine department and bare a buttock (or two) for some injections.
These yearly labs are important in getting a heads-up in case the thyroid cancer recurs. 

*** Side Note:    'Injection style' is a definite thing. 
How hard the injection thrust   vs   how gentle.
How swift the injection   vs   how slooooww can you go... 
The alcohol swipe.
And the count "Here we go!"
"This is it!"
"Big stick now!"
(and the traditional, no-fail) "One, two, THREE!"
Everyone claims own unique technique - should there be a class on this???
I was truly sad to see these nasturtium go. The package that said RED must have really 
indicated ORANGE, but no matter - the charming round leaves carry the day anyway.
Then this surprise bloom!  Beautiful. I've got to go out this weekend and scrape around for seeds.

In the Grand Scheme, these tests are so very, very simple - 
merely one inconvenient week among the 52 weeks of 2014. 
Believe me, I'm thankful that all I have to complain about is some minor injection discomfort. 
I'm well aware that things can be infinitely worse than this.

And in light of that fact, here are two verses from this morning's 
reading that really stood out to me. These are cling-able:

He delivered us from such a deadly peril 
and He will deliver us. On Him 
we have set our hope that He will deliver us again.

The righteous ... he is not afraid of bad news; 
his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid...


Falling Leaves

The leaves are falling in a chilly, drizzly rain just outside the window where I sit. 
I always try to be ready for the finally bare trees, but I think I failed this year.
When I make time to stroll golden-carpeted grass, then I'm ready to let the leaves 
fall with no regrets. The maples trees in our front yard and the sweet gum in the back 
are among the last trees in the area to turn, so the show goes on here for a 
little bit longer than expected. 
There might be a few more days to appreciate the fall color after this rain clears away.
My own reflection in a honeysuckle berry.

Side Note - 
I want to leave you with a quote that is just too good to leave unmentioned. If you've been led through valleys of trial or spent any time in a vale of suffering, then these words from ol' Clive may be especially savory to you, as they were to me. 

"Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."


Stenciled Pumpkin Tutorial

There's a craft show coming up just before Thanksgiving. I got these mid-sized 
pumpkins at the local market for super cheap. I've given them 
an upgrade and plan sell them as table decorations for the big Feast Day.
I wonder what you think a good price would be...?
Here's a simple tutorial - you can make your own!

 1. Start with a clean, dry pumpkin and the supplies pictured above.
Print your word on lightweight copy paper. 
I used a font called 'Lightfoot Wide Expanded Regular' size 120.

 2. Cut out the word and snip the top and bottom as shown. 
This will make the paper lay flat against the pumpkin when you tape it in place.

 3.  Use painter's tape or masking tape to secure the paper tightly against the pumpkin. 
It's OK to have small folds as long as they don't extend into the lettering. 
Start with the short sides, then tape the snipped top and bottom. 

 4. Trace slowly around the outside of the each letter with a fine point sharpie marker. 
The ink will soak through the lightweight paper and leave an outline on the pumpkin. 
To make sure the ink is bleeding through properly, lift the template from one edge and take a peek
Don't take it off completely because you won't be able 
to reposition it in exactly the same place.

 5. Use the fine point marker again and trace along the outline left behind.
Then color in the sharp corners because the thicker marker will not neatly do the job.

6. Fill in the rest of the letter with a regular tip sharpie. 
Repeat for each letter.

I hope yours turns out well! 



I hope you're cramming autumn beauty into your eye-gate with both hands.
figuratively speaking, of course

These leaves will be gone much too soon, and we'll be left with cold and bare branches, desperate for color.

Until it snows ... 


Take It All

 The old hymns, 
I know I've said this before
 they float around in my head and appear at the oddest moments. Verses of song 
from my very early youth may pop forward while washing dishes, watering the gardens, in the shower... 
Is it something in the water???
And  I'm hoping the Holy Spirit will do the same for my sons - 
bring sacred things to the front. 
At this point in their lives, all the scripture verses and chapters they memorized and 
the few hymns I taught them as children seem to be buried.
But buried treasure is still treasure, folks.
And the best news of all is that the Faithful One knows exactly where it's buried 
and the perfect moment to retrieve it.
Here's the buried treasure He dug up and offered to me today, sung in a new way - 
certainly not the as in the Methodist days of (my) yore. 

Will you dare to ponder these verses with me and consider what might happen 
if we prayed this and really meant it? 
Not the Sunday Morning Version of consideration, please.
I'll speak for myself and admit that too often, instead joining in wholly dedicated worship, I'm actually pondering:
what happened before we arrived in the building 
 my own uncomfortable state of being
what my pew-mates may be thinking/saying/doing
how the worship team stays in perfect unity
the amazing enthusiasm of the deaf interpreter
after church plans and schemes ...
NO, let's not indulge this quarter-hearted rumination!
Take five minutes with me and really let these words sink down deep, where  you hoard 
your pile of Authentic Self. Turn the verses over a few times, read them in reverse order, 
say them aloud and ask yourself -

WHAT might He do with me if I sincerely and unabashedly 
fling the entire pile of myself at His feet? 

Romans 12:1
1 Corinthians 2:9-12

* photos from Colonial Williamsburg, VA trip, 2014



It's still going on out there in the greenhouse.
The Great Gourd Vine Takeover. 
The vines are filling the entire space and rolling up the other wall,
 tapping on the glass and fairly waving with glee.
My guys think I've gone over to the freaky side of gardening. 
"Your own little shop of horrors, Mom?"
That comment almost inspired me to snip some vine ends and put a stop to the 
Gourd Madness.
But then I look out the kitchen window and see gourds ripening on the roof 
of the greenhouse . . . 
and the sunbeams shining through the scruffly summer-colored leaves. 
I mean the leaves that haven't been ruined with powdery mildew. Yet.
And I know I have to let this gardening (mis)adventure finish its course.
The first frost is not so far away, even if we hate to admit it, and the 
party will come to its own end.

But I'll have a whole basket full of egg gourds!


Face Down

The sunflower's seeds mature after the bloom head goes face down.


I'll go ahead and state the obvious - there's a LOT to ponder there ... 


More Tomatoes?

This spring my guys built a planting box for me, my Mother's Day gift. Finally I could outwit the 
rabbits and whatever other critters that always have eaten any vegetable I've ever planted.
So I put in tomatoes, up high where nothing could dine on them - except for us! 

The tomatoes that stayed green for way too long, finally went ripe and just keep comin'.
So we've eaten a lot of BLT's this summer.
Now I've moved the family on to salsa, and they're still loving it. 
There's a bucket of  juicy ripe ones on the back porch right now. If I don't get to salsa making 
today, I'll be dumping them over the fence tomorrow and hoping no one catches me wasting the 'maters. 

It's funny how what was long anticipated and much celebrated - the first ripe tomato - 
has dropped in value and almost seems like a burden now, here in mid-September.