Sunday, April 24, 2011

Who has been sleeping in my birdhouse?

Little drummer boy.

     I was having my morning coffee on the porch, surveying my domain when suddenly a flock of flickers landed on our light pole in a frenzy.  Love is in the air.  I made a mad dash for my camera, but wasn't fast enough.  Oh well, I figured today was a good day to wander around taking photos of the happy little birds enjoying their spring romance. 

The light pole lover.

She looked, but wasn't interested.

Not interested in much either.

   The forest is alive with a rat-a-tat-tatting as the male sapsuckers are trying to impress the ladies.  It is fun in the spring to watch and hear these guys all over the forest.  They keep the forest alive.
Happy bird.
      Besides following the sapsuckers I looked around to see who else was in the woods.  Of course there was the chickadees.  Such happy birds.  My grandmother loves them.  They are so curious.  Whenever I walk in the woods they follow along.

As the crow lands.

      I was surprised to see a crow.  They usually fly over on the way to somewhere more important.   I guess he may have been a lookout for our neighborhood hawk.  Later I saw a murder of crows attacking the hawk and driving him away. 

      I love blue jays.  When we lived in town I would put peanuts out every Sunday and the jays would come and politely take the peanuts one by one.  My country blue jays are a bit more skittish about people.  Any movement and they are gone!  I was lucky to even get this photo.
Signs of life.

Look blue sky!

         After taking some photos, I refilled my coffee cup and settled back on the porch.  It was then that I notice my new bird house was showing signs of use.  Sure enough there is a nest in there.  I resumed my chair and staked out the house hoping to find the builder.  Sounds like a good reason to sit on the porch and drink coffee.  I did finally find the culprit.  I wasn't very happy to find out who has been sleeping in my birdhouse.
A little snug!


    That was my Sunday adventure.  Coffee, bird watching, coffee.  As you can see from the photo, it will be awhile before gardening is in the equation.  Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I've got nothing...

Snowed again.   We got about 6 inches.  Ella was the only one happy.  She loves to plow with Kelly and then relax by the fire with a good bone.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mason Bee Condo...

     Kelly and I spent the weekend finishing the trim work on our basement.  While we were cutting trim in the garage I found a slab of wood left over from the table project.  (Do you get the feeling there are a lot of projects at our house?)  Since the wood is untreated, I figured it would be perfect for a mason bee house. 

     I started with a 3 1/2  x 4 1/2 inch slab of untreated wood.    My loving husband cut the top at a 35 degree angle.  I sanded it down some. 

    I used a 5/16th drill bit for the nesting holes.  I went in about 3 inches.   A bit of advice, after carefully drawing a grid for the holes, stick to the grid.  Deviation from your lines affects how neat your rows are.  Luckily, I don't think mason bees are picky about uniformity in their condos. 

     The red roof was an accident.  I was painting the basement trim and painted the roof before I realized what I was doing.  Since that is an interior paint and of course this is going to be outside, that could be a problem.  I used wood glue to attach the roof to the top of the condo.  Then just to make sure it made it though the winter, I put a couple of nails in with the nail gun.  

     All that is left is to attach a sturdy hanger to the back.  I will be putting it up on a south facing post in the orchard.  I had one at our old home and the mason bees loved it.  Even though we have two hives, you can never have enough bees.  I'll probably make a few more before the summer is over.  Overall, the project took about 1 hour.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Garlic Gardening Advice Needed...

     Calling all gardeners!  I need garlic advice.  Before I get too far, I want to thank Jenni at the Rainy Day Gardener blog.  She asked for advice about one of her gardens and it opened my eyes to the wealth of knowledge out there. 

   My husband and I went to Wal-Mart today to by a giant bag of dog food for our little mutt.  Suddenly I heard something calling my name.  By golly it was the gardening section.  My husband was on his own and I was digging through bags of sad looking bulbs begging to be taken home and planted.  Finally, I settled on a bag of garlic.  I have always wanted to grow garlic and the bed I wanted to put it in is actually melted off today.  That may not be the case tomorrow, as snow is in the forecast.   Some wonderful looking blackberries weren't so lucky.  I couldn't bring them home, because the orchard is still under a foot of snow (I double checked when we got home). 

   Anyway, all garlic gardening advice is appreciated.  I am a zone 3.  Break it to me gently if garlic isn't hardy for zone 3.  Please send your advice as soon as possible as it is supposed to by yucky starting tomorrow.  Here are some things I would like to know:

Should I not plant it if it is still freezing or snowing outside?
I am supposed to break the bulbs into cloves and plant those?
How deep do the little buggers go?
How much space in between?
When do I get to pull them up and use them?
Any fertilizers that work better than others?
Any companion plants?
Anybody that shouldn't be a neighbor?
How big do they get?
Should I be planting it in the spring?
If I can't plant them in the spring do I hide them in the basement until fall?
Get the feeling I don't know anything about garlic?

Yes, I know I could look all of this up.  It seems way more enjoyable getting it from friends.  Thank you for any advice you can throw my way.  I will be anxiously watching for your comments, kind of like how Ella anxiously watches the turkeys.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Log table project...

Well,  tonight I am forcing myself to stop thinking about snow (hard to do when it is STILL snowing outside).  First I gave my chockecherry wine a stir, then made a pitcher of raspberry lemonade, baked a cherry pie, and now I am making myself sit down and create a positive blog.  I decided on sticking with the theme of being positive despite the negative weather.  I'm going to show you the log table project Kelly and I did last fall.

          Here in the Black Hills we have had a problem with pine beetles killing our pine trees.  Our property was no exception.  We lost 5 big pines to the beetle.  How is this positive?  My husband and I finally fufilled one of our dreams.  We have always wanted to build our own log dining room table.  Kelly cut one of the dead trees.  We bought an Alaskan Mill and used it cut it into three 3 inch slabs.   Sorry no photos of the mill.  We were too busy cutting slabs.    

    The thing about bug hit trees is that they have a beautiful blue stripes in the wood.  As you can see the slabs are very pretty.   The sides are a beautiful silver. 

     It took a lot of work getting our three slabs together.  Ella was a great help, right up until she went under the slabs after we glued them.  I found out when I went to pet her and my hand stuck to her fur.  Bath time for our little helper.

 After squaring up the slabs, Kelly had the idea of using the trim pieces on the ends.  We really liked how that turned out.   It took a lot of sanding to get everything smooth.  I don't mind sanding there is something soothing about it.

     The legs and feet weren't too hard.  We tried to stick with a simple design.  We did forget that our chairs had arms on them.  It was a few tense moments when we got the table in the house and slid the chairs underneath.  Somehow we were lucky and they fit.

     My husband has made our bed, the log railing in our cabin, coffee tables, and end tables, but this is the first log table.  We really didn't know what we were doing, but between the two of us we figured it out and the table turned out great.  Something to check off on our bucket list.    

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Great Mouse Count - Winter 2010

A mouse free front bed.
     Joy and rapture!  My front bed finally melted off and our winter trapping efforts were worth while.   What efforts you say?  Trapping outdoor mice.  For the last two winters my front bed (and most of our yard) has been completely ravaged by mice under the cover of snow.  Thankfully, they never made it in the house, but the destruction they did outside was incredible.  They tunneled, destroyed perennials, and completely ruined any desire to even work in the flower bed. 

     Not this year!  Last fall war was declared and 108 mice later we seem to have won.  A clean up of the bed proved that the perennials made it through the winter and none were eaten to the nub.  My beloved Etain Violas even made it (mice find them especially delectable)!    

     We started in October and the trap by the front door was catching a mouse every twenty minutes.  Finally, we slowed down to 2 a day, and then by January 1 every two weeks.  I think it is safe to say to population is depleted and my flower bed was saved from damage.  I kind of wish I had kept them, could have had a nice fur coat by now. Ha!

    This was probably a somewhat morbid post, but if you have lost shrubs, perennials, or trees to mouse damage during the winter you will understand my happiness at the success of this endeavor.  I highly recommend if you have had mouse damage in the past to give the simple method of trapping a try.  It was worth the disgusting effort when my bed melted off and was clean and free of mouse damage.
   Apologies if you didn't like this post.   It can't always be sunshine and roses.
The gruesome Mouse Count board.  Amazing what you do for entertainment when winters are so long.

Friday, April 8, 2011

All about Ella...

First day home.
On December 19, 2009, Ella entered our home.  We were looking for a German Wirehair Pointer and found her on the Internet at Shutte's Diamond Wirehairs.  Kelly was smitten and immediately said she was the one.  We met the Shutte's in Alliance, Nebraska.  We brought a giant dog kennel and as you can see by the photo to the left she was the size of shoe when we picked her up.  I let her ride on my lap.  She howled for the first 3 minutes and slept the rest of the 3 hour drive.  She was easy to train and is very well behaved, especially for a spoiled dog. 

Chilling with the family.

Little Ella fit right into our life.  She loves projects, and we are always working on projects.  She is right there helping if we are measuring, quilting, or gardening.   Her biggest love is riding with Kelly when he plows the road.  I wish I had a photo of this.  She sits right next to him with great pride.  Heaven forbid he leaves her home with me and takes the plow truck anywhere.  She sits on my feet and howls in anguish. 
She isn't sure that measures up.

Watching to be sure my stitches are uniform.

Ella's feels that pine cones, branches, and trees were put on this earth purely for her enjoyment.   If she is not dropping a pine cone at my feet, she is throwing it in the air and trying to catch it herself.  As the photo below shows, she thinks trees are chew toys.  This spring Kelly cut some dead trees that posed safety hazards.  Ella was sure that was purely for her chewing pleasure. 

Ahh! A delicious tree.

Ella's newest joy are Mardi Gras beads.  
Ella sporting her newest fashion statement.
Every year there is a Mardi Gras parade in Deadwood and my husband always brings me beads when he comes home.  Well, this year he put a set on Ella also.  She  thinks they are the greatest.  Every day when we come home from work she gets excited, because my husband puts a different set of colored her beads on her.  I don't know who likes it more Kelly or Ella.  I realized how much Ella has him wrapped around her paw, when he admitted to me he would take her hunting wearing the beads.  Wow!  She will be the only hunting dog wearing beads. 
 Our home is a better place with our little addition.  She keeps life interesting and full of wonder.   As I write this, she is sleeping next to me with her tail wagging and her feet twitching.  I bet she is chasing squirrels.

"A dog is one of the remaining reasons why some people can be persuaded to go for a walk."  ~O.A. Battista

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yummy rhubarb cake on a crummy day...

My Christmas present in the snow.
     For as nice as it was yesterday it is crummy today.  It is snowing, the wind is blowing, and I have yet to see any sunshine.  At least I got one nice day. 
     To make the best of it, I rummaged around in the freezer and found (to my surprise) frozen rhubarb.  Thought I had used that up.  With visions of spring in my head, I made my mother-in-law's rhubarb cake.  It is wonderful and picked up our spirits some.  I've been gleaning recipes off of other blogs, so I figured I'd share one.   

Cindy's Rhubarb Cake

1 1/2 c. brown or white sugar        
1/2 c.    butter
2 c.       flour
1 t.       baking soda
1 t.       salt
1         egg
1 c.     sour milk
2 c.     rhubarb fresh or frozen

Combine all ingredients.  Pour in a greased baking dish.  Top with:
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 t. cinnamon

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Enjoy. 
Probably isn't the best photo, but I already ate that piece.
I figured if I cut another piece for photo purposes I'd have to eat that one also.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


     Lesson learned:  Do not start a garden blog in January.  I have 2 more months until I can even consider planting anything.   Hard to write about gardening when you can't do anything, but wish.

     There was a glimmer of hope this weekend.  It is about 62 degrees and my rose bed has melted off.  I got the pine needles cleaned out.  I was very pleased with the results.  I have learned the hard way no matter how nice it appears to be do not unwrap my roses until the end of May.   It felt good see and smell fresh dirt. 

Anyone know what this is?
 I also cleaned the pine tree bed.  My garden decorations made it through the winter.  If anyone know what these are, please, let me know.  My dad collects antiques and he can't identify them.  He is not impressed that I am using them in the garden.  If they turn out to be some expensive antiques I will not post your comment, because dad reads this and he will have a heart attack.   Still, I would like to know what they were used for.

Antique whatcha-ma-call-its.

     I had a great time cleaning up the yard.  Of course, whenever I do anything in the garden I have lots of help.  Don't think she has any interest in what I'm doing.  She just dropped a pine cone and is anxiously waiting for me to toss it.                                                                
All and all it was a good day.  A few beds were cleaned and quite a few games of pine cone catch were played.  I even felt hopeful and changed our sign.  Hope springs eternal.