Vacancy at the Gourd Hotels

So I bought these large dipper gourds at a yard sale a couple of years back. They were straight out of some guy's garage, still all moldy and raggedy from his garden. I got them for a dollar. I envisioned some lovely birdhouses when I looked at these, and I played the "Mother's Day" card pretty hard. That didn't quite work out, though, so the birdhouses turned into a school project.
First thing to do was to get rid of all that scaly scubbiness covering the outside.
Did you know that steel wool sands that stuff right off? 
And soaking can take you a long way, too. 
We preferred soaking to sanding, since we quickly found that stuff to be a lung-clogger.
Underneath the scaliness, we found beautiful, lovely patterns graining the surfaces of the gourds.
It's like ink-blot samples straight from nature.
Measuring out the holes was a careful exercise of newly learned compass skills. Even the difference of a tiny, weensy 1/4 inch can discourage a bluebird while encouraging a wren. Weird.
Those miniature spinner gourds were bought at a flea market - five for ..... a dollar! I drilled some tiny holes in them, too, making what --- a fairy abode? a lightning bug retreat? I don't know yet, but they're so diminutively awesome! I got plenty of seeds out of them, and they're sprouting out in the greenhouse. I plan to run them up a small teepee, spray the heck out of any white mildew that appears and harvest my own crop of spinner cuties.
I think they look great hanging out in the red maple, even though they're still empty.
I plan to put up a VACANCY sign in the morning.


The View from My Chair

On our Great Anniversary Get-Away a couple years ago, we loved using these chairs out on the beach. You just lean back a little bit and boom - you're in full basking position. 
I miss the beach!
After we returned, we both  helpfully guided  our boys to choose one of these chairs as Mother's Day / Father's Day gifts. It is a happy day when we get to spend some time reclined in a "beach" chair. 
Here's the view from my chair last week. Husband, of course, in his chair nearby. 
That improves the view a hundred and sixteen percent. 
A tub full of perennials helps too - salvia, stellas, hosta, and a few lily of the valley. There is no room for any annuals in there this year. This is a good thing! I might tuck something else in there when the perennials stop blooming, though.
And who knew these snapdragons would return so big - another advantage of the mild winter, though, I think. Also in there are some dianthus, purple hearts, and a bit of some light green viney stuff taken from a hanging basket several years ago.
I don't think I'm putting anything extra in there either!

I did score some great deals on the clearance rack at Lowes this weekend. Eyes popping out, I gathered big pots of healthy zinnia, pink and yellow, for just ... ONE DOLLAR! May Night salvia in perfectly good condition, and even some pretty poor looking  hydrangeas for a dollar. I put the hydrangeas in containers, too, and am hoping that they'll return next year and fill those containers --- for FREE.


Crazy Amazing Trick

It doesn't seem like that long ago that my Second Babe came into our arms. But it was seventeen years ago today!
He was a little big raggedy looking as a brand new infant, wasn't he!
Poor kid, we both  had a rough time of it.
This boy taught us that rules were made to be tested and 
boundaries were meant to be crossed. 
He was not supposed to climb on that box, since it was the official first step in swinging from the ceiling fan.
                                           We've watched him grow and change. Looking up into his face instead of down, while still, every fleeting now and then, catching a glimpse of his little boy smile. 
That smile from the top of a putt-putt course piece is my favorite little boy smile of his. There are several versions, but this one was rare and so sweet. It only appeared at moments of  ultimate boy bliss
I've seen it pass over his face a very few times since it became covered in whisker bristle.
 He's becoming a man in front of our very eyes! 
What a crazy, amazing trick the Lord can do with those tiny bundles of joy that land in our lives.


Pie Knees

I know I've talked about peonies before. 
PLEASE - I know we all have pronunciation differences around here. 
Tomato / tomato  and all that. And who cares how you say clematis  anyway? 
(clem-AY-tis   or   clem-AT-is  --- whatever)
BUT do take care with how you say peonies
I mean would you rather have  pee-knees  or  pie-knees
We could all agree probably, and especially here in the land of middle age
that pee on the knees is mostly a very grim situation. 
On the other hand, having pie on the knees - that's all good! 
Let's go with pie every time!
ANYway. I think these might deserve a spot every year. It's all about the teamwork!
Check out this photo - if you can double click to enlarge it, do that. Look at all the different sizes of ants working away at these tight-fisted blooms. Is that crazy or what? Since when do those big-butted ants work in harmony with those teensy, barely-there ants? And yet, when it's almost time for the peonies to bloom, they are all out there just busy, busy, busy, laboring for the common goal. 
Reminds me of the local pregnancy care center. Not big butts, of course, but all different sorts of Christians working diligently, and in harmony, toward a common, and beautiful, goal.
And look how much work they had to do this year!  
This past mild winter allowed almost every plant to outdo any bloom show it ever put on before. Usually, this peony bush has only a dozen or so blooms,  but just see what it did a couple of weeks ago!
And finally, peonies in the grass. 
It's a short show.



This is a 'telling photo'. 
Do you have any of those? 
The sort that causes you to cast a knowing glance at the Spouse. 
The kind that makes you say, even years later, 
"That just says it all, right there..." 


Blue Bird, Old Lady and One Bad Boy

The birds were looking a little confused for a while this spring, 
as were we all, but they seem confident now.
Aren't bluebirds the most lovely of the spring birds? Blue as blue sky, on a bird flying around the backyard - amazing!
If faced with being a bird someday (!), 
I certainly plan to ask for a spot as any bird with blue feathers
When we moved here, seventeen years ago, there seemed to be lots of bluebirds around. Then they must've moved on to better gardens since we didn't see them anymore.
(or maybe they were frightened away by Insane Spidey or some other miniature  superhero) 
 This bluebird is seeing and being seen out in our side yard. When I get on the treadmill in the morning, there he is, bopping through the trees, scratching around in the garden or hanging out in the red maple. Last week, I decided to try to get a photo of him, but he was a little far away, so I gave up after about a thousand frustrating shots. Later, I almost killed myself falling off the treadmill to snap this shot when he landed just outside the window on the fence, very close by. 
Glad the boys weren't there to see the gymnastic humor in that smooth move.
 When I saw this bad boy, (below) I nearly did the splits trying to get turned around and run to the next room to get the camera before he stopped hammering at my stump.
sock feet + hardwood floors = involuntary slapstick humor
My body didn't do the splits because it is a complete impossibility. But it would've been knee-slapping hilarious for the guys if they had caught a glimpse of me running in circles, arms in the air, trying to not frighten the bird, looking frantically for WHERE I last left the dang camera.
Don't feel sorry for them - they get plenty of laughs at my expense. The show is free and I'm here for another ... thirty years? 

Which reminds me of the tiny, old, old lady at the softball game last night. 
"Don't worry Christopher!  That was a good try!  You tried to hit that ball!"
I'm sure Christopher was pleased that her voice carried over the entire ballfield (and two playgrounds), as clear and high as a bell, complimenting his courage in striking out. She wore a granny hat, sat in an old-fashioned strap chair and cheered her team on. And as soon as she started cheering, they started winning. She drove past us in the parking lot - two flags waving from her back windows. A generous winner, she waved so happily to us as she negotiated the turn. 
Not just a hand in the air wave. 
Certainly not a finger or two lifted from the steering wheel. 
She gave us a whole arm in the air, a waving from the deck of a ship wave, even though we were less than fifteen feet away.  
I LOVED her!
 Doves are so considerate, though. 
And blonde. I think doves are the blondes of the bird world. 
I don't ever have to run for the camera because doves leave the nicest impressions behind. 
 Then they just fly away! Can't see how they would still be able, after leaving a print like this one, but still, they do!
It's a little eerie, isn't it. I should probably clean that window soon...
Just want to point out that those peonies and those poppies should NOT be blooming at the same time. Or yet. Neither should be blooming yet.
But should is such a big word.


Oh, Laws!

Oh, Laws! 
(what one of my aunts used to say all the time. usually just after I had spilled my drink, but still, it applies.)
Can you believe how crazy glorious this poppy is!?! 
And if you could touch it, you'd be in love!
The petals are papery, but silky smooth like crepe paper. 
I'm going to admit that I have been known to bend down to touch these petals to my lips.  
OK, I've done that with peonies, too. 
And beaded stationary...
(what is that lip thing? if i'd had a silk-edged blanket when i was a baby, i'd blame it on that.)

Oh well, Laws! 
(more of an under-the-breath exclamation from my aunt. uttered in mild vexation when i may have stepped in a cow-pie or made some other mis-step. ha)
You knew I was Garden Weird.
When the wind drifts by and lifts the blooms, those dark purple stamens/anthers actually bounce around like decorative beads tightly bunched around a velvety center. 

Laws, Child! 
(and she wasn't even from the South)
Go out and press some poppies to your lips! 
Admire His handiwork, seek His face and give Him glory, like the rest of creation.


A Delicate Business

I've had the stems of these Purple Heart plants for three years. Every fall, just before the first hard frost, I get lots of clippings and stick them in jars. They spend the winter rooting in remote windows. When  the days start to get warmer and longer, and it's almost time to plant, I take them out to the green house for a trimming. All the dead leaves and bits of stem that withered  must be taken off pruned away before their new growing season can begin. They're a pretty raggedy group at the end of a long winter, but I have a vision of how beautiful they'll be when they're planted and well on their way in the garden. 
Pruning is a delicate business, you know. 
I've made mistakes, mostly due to haste, and snipped off something completely viable. Big oops. Maybe it's my shears - they're rusty, bulky and at the moment, covered with mud. 
Not exactly a precision instrument; not a lovely tool.  But as any gardener knows, pruning must be done for the progress, sometimes for the very life, of the plant. 

So I was out in the greenhouse, getting ready to prune up these Purple Heart stems for their new season, and I heard that Small Voice
(If you're thinking I'm crazy right now, just go ahead and blog-hop on to your next stop - no hard feelings at all - I get it.)
As I pressed the shears into the delicate new growth, aiming at snipping off the dead winter waste, I heard Him say, 
"Do you trust Me to prune your sons this way?"
It's been hard to watch our boys growing up and beginning to make their own way, moving in their own decisions, sorting and scrutinizing the ways we've taught them - sometimes even casting aside things we consider precious. While I know that this is all part (not the sum) of growing up, I have to admit, I've been squirming in my seat. At times, I've been clenching my fists and pressing them into my eye sockets - and for a sound effect, you could add some low keening in there, too. Do you get the picture, here? I haven't exactly been the Proverbs 31 Woman, smiling and laughing at the future, confident in what the Lord has done, what He's doing, and what He will do.
(and I'm not very well behaved on long distance drives, either)

I put my things down and spent a few minutes repenting. 
Repenting that I doubt His timing, His aim, His attention to detail. 
Not all the time, mind you, but much of the time. 
I've been questioning His tool choice - 
those bulky, muddy shears? Those look too harsh.  
I've been standing at his elbow, questioning His plan - 
are you sure you want to trim there? That will be a very deep cut. 
Pointing over his shoulder, casting suspicion on His ability - 
watch out! That part is so fragile! 
How annoying would it be to have me in your greenhouse? 
Romans 4 describes Abraham's righteous faith. I was impressed that this is the kind of faith I need to ask for and keep for my sons as they grow and undergo timely pruning. Abraham 'grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised'.  'He did not weaken in faith' when he considered the circumstances, and 'no unbelief made him waver'. In hope, he believed against hope in the God 'who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.'  I'm praying differently these days, unclenching my fearful  fists, and filling my mouth with hope-filled praise instead of keening. 
Not all of the time, mind you, but much of it. 
I'm growing --- He's pruning me too! 
(and I've found it's best to be still when you're getting pruned, 
instead of squirming)


Morning Drive

Driving My Middle Son to school in the morning is not one of my favorite things to do. 
Wonderful Man usually handles that, and I am the pick-up person. But sometimes, I have to do the morning job, too.  It's a ten minute drive through the country, and this morning there was an extra lot to look at. The green fields were laced with a delicate fog, and the sun was just coming out to gild it faintly golden. 
It's hard to concentrate on the  road  when the  roadsides  are so lovely!

The Morning Drive to School is a carefully timed mission - you must  leave no later than 7:01 to miss the buses. If you leave after 7:02, well then, you're going to have to sit in a bus-interrupted line while nine thousand and five buses (busses?) pass in front of your vehicle. 
(side note: It is interesting that most of the kids on the bus are looking into the cars they are passing. When I was a kid, I don't think I ever looked in the cars near the bus - unless of course they were directly behind the bus. Isn't that Kid Law  - 'persons who drive a car directly behind a school bus must be at least mildly tormented by bus riders')

Second Son being a time conscious sort, we almost always leave exactly on time, but you still can't be certain of missing the busses. It is an entertaining delay, anyway, seeing all those young faces peering right into yours. 
(side note: I sometimes feel called to prayer right then - do you ever feel that?)

 It's a family joke that driving to school is like playing a live video game.  It's eerily  FROGGER-ish.  There are deer that stand on the side of the road - are they gonna jump out, or just watch you drive by?  And deer that run out - are there more than those two, or are more coming?

We didn't see any deer this morning in on our drive today, though. Canadian Geese were out instead, some standing just next to the road in pairs, surveying the rural traffic patterns. (another side note: Geese are so lofty, aren't they? Don't they just seem nearly imperial? I guess it's the neck? Is it the fact that you can't actually see their eyes? How do they make me feel so small?) One goose pair decided to bump the edge of their personal life-envelope and stand on the roadside - actually deciding to feel the Kentucky asphalt under their webbed toes, while giving me the look, of course. 
I swerved. 

I slowed down to try to miss the chipmunk, who decided to stop running across the road and run straight ahead instead.   brilliant   He was still running when I whizzed by. 

My tires did bump-bump over a large snake, which had already gone on to his reward, probably during the night. (side note: WHY are snakes already out? ugh ) But I didn't make contact with any of the crazy birds who tried to fly across the road just  barely  in front of my  car, as if on a dare. (I think those might be teenager birds, absolutely certain that nothing bad could ever really happen, at least not to them. 

I didn't see the other players in the Morning Drive Game - turkeys, squirrels, black cats (and only black), house dogs, cows or elderly persons wearing hats out for a morning walk on a country road. 
They must be scheduled for tomorrow's drive.