When my friend invited me to Bend, Oregon, over Presidents holiday I didn’t expect to find a Fire Pit Competition at their Winterfest. They seem to be made from steel salvaged from Bend’s old mill. People gathered around the art pieces at Old Mill Park along the Deschutes River to share the warmth of the outdoor sculptures with a purpose – they had to be interesting to look at and hold a blaze.
Cabin Fever is no problem for these sculptors. They have a problem to solve and a product to craft. Mission accomplished.
Not long ago on a cool November day I stopped in a small town for coffee on my way home from a trip to The City. Well, really, I missed the coffee house, an old house alongside the highway, upscaled into a relaxing place to sit with coffee or tea. When I turned around at an intersection down the road a ways I noticed this almost secret garden between buildings. Just enough space to invite anyone to sit and relax, slightly removed from the street scene. Mind you, this is a small town with a highway running through it. The noisiest thing you might encounter here is a logging truck passing through.
I asked 4 people in the hardware store and 2 in the coffee shop about who created it and is it a memorial for the lady painted on the sign. No one knew. And they all live here. It’s a real place but you can easily remember or create in your mind such images of relaxing spaces. Relaxing is all in your head. Right? I’m inspired to put some of these garden elements into my home landscape.
Relax is a state of mind.
Our minds think in images. Whatever images help you relax, that’s what you need to see in your mind’s eye until nothing else is there. Nothing. Think of it. No. Don’t think of it. If you can really think of NOTHING you are really relaxed. No THINGS are in your awareness.
Try this. Slowly push all the air you can out of your lungs, visualizing negative thoughts or images leaving your muscles and blood vessels as you exhale. Then slowly pull new oxygen into your lungs, visualizing light and new energy entering into every cell in your body. Make an image in your mind’s eye of a place where you feel relaxed, keep your focus on it and let it move you deeper within the relaxing space. Repeat. Repeat. Stay there as long as you feel comfortable and slowly come back when you are ready. You don’t have to be any place special or private to do this relaxation exercise. Just let yourself relax often during your day. If even for a moment and inside your own mind.
Every autumn I look forward to lighting a bonfire and tossing onto it things that are no longer useful to me like an old rag rug Mom made that even the dogs won’t use anymore, and outdated income tax forms more than 7 years old, and a small note describing a relationship that is no longer helpful, or even a portion of the relationship that needs to stop. Smoke removes negative things and purifies them, and us, so the ancient stories tell.
Smudging is similar and it doesn’t require such a huge flame. It can be done indoors. I try to smudge the guest room between guests, even if I only burn incense. I felt it’s time now to really smoke the negative energy out of that room and my home so I studied up about crafting my own smudge sticks and took myself on a gathering walk outside my door.
For this smudging to remove negative energy I bundled a section of a mullein seed stalk with sage from my garden and dry pine needles. The sage was fresh and the mullein damp. I didn’t give the bundle time to dry so it was hard to keep it smoldering yesterday when I held it by hand and whooshed the smoke with a group of feathers. Today I initiated a rescued cast iron cauldron that Rusti Shilling discarded. I swear on a stack that’s her name.
My ideas was to kindle a fire and let it settle to coals to keep the smudge stick smoking. I collected some twigs from beneath a pine tree in my yard but they weren’t as dry as I thought. Crumpled gratitude notes from my gratitude jar flamed easily but not enough to keep the twigs burning. So let’s try 3 tea candles. Three is a good number and I shaped them in a triangle. That did the trick.
I got the smudge going outdoors on my deck then brought the cauldron into the guest room and set it up on an inverted iron pot to protect the floor, keeping it well away from bedding. I’ve washed sheets and bedspreads and I left all the bedding unfolded on top of the bed. I also opened the closet doors and the adjoining bathroom door, and opened the window a bit. All the while I was telling the unwanted energy and spirits to go away, they are not wanted, they are not useful today, they are free to go. Repeating it over and over as I walked and wafted the smoke through the area.
This method sustained a lot more smoke and I hadn’t thought to disable my smoke alarms ahead of time. I discovered how sensitive they are to even a little smoke not even in the same room and that’s assuring. I let a little smoke out of the guest room into the rest of the house and then closed the door so the smudge would work most effectively in the areas most used by guests. If you’ve been a guest, don’t take offence. This is something I do to prepare the room for the next guest and I prepared it for you, too. I like the energy of some guests so much I don’t smudge the room for a long time so I can feel the good vibes longer.
Finally I placed an inexpensive item on the smudge stick that was left by a guest who experienced a really negative energy, intense but brief, while staying here. I expected it to smolder and put out the tinder but instead it flamed up. For safety I took the pot outdoors and let it burn up most of the remaining elements.
I’m all about safety from fire at my place since I live out of town and no fire truck is able to get here in time to save my home. Rusti gave me this cast iron lid, too, which doesn’t fit the rusty pot but it worked wonderfully to smother the fire.
So now I have released negative energy from the new-to-me cast iron cauldron and my home. Tommorrow I will burn lavender, holy basil, rosemary, and mint to bring healing, protection and calming. I feel like this iron pot will be a handy and safe “fire pit” for me, and I like that it’s portable. Some years, like this one, I haven’t had a bonfire because it’s too dry and grass fire is still a danger. This year I’m starting a new tradition for smudging my home at least once every autumn.
“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” » Carl Sagan
Celebrate National Pollinator Week, June 20 – 26, 2016!
I registered my gardens in the Million Pollinator Gardens Challenge. I’m on the map now as “Syringa Hill Farm” at Glendale, Idaho. Registering my garden means simply that I am one in a million gardeners who grows one or more plants that attract pollinators like butterflies, honey bees, bumble bees, bats, humming birds, lizards or any of a number of animals that pollinate flowers. I have several gardens, each a little different from the others. What blooms at my place has to withstand serious summer heat, winter cold and snow, and attacks from rodents that live underground and above ground, and occasionally range cattle and deer when they can get over or through the fence. Wildflowers do well! Having 8 acres, I used to garden on the deck before we fenced out range cattle and deer. Deer tracks in wet soil beneath our new Autumn Blaze maple a few mornings ago warn me that I still need to put up deer net to extend my fence higher than they want to jump.
Just some of the stable plants that I can grow easily here, and on which I’ve seen pollinators include:
any garden food that blooms when I let it go to seed
“Pinks” and Jacob’s Coat roses
How wonderful! As I’m writing this two black chinned humming birds are exploring potted flowers on my deck. I didn’t bring out my camera and the cat is on her harness nearby so I have to keep my eye on the situation. One way I assure more birds in my gardens is to keep the cat tethered. She has a long enough lead but I have to find strategic places to let her enjoy the outdoors considering our predators, including her, and the food chain when we live with wildlife! Just perfect!
You can register your garden here or here to join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, too. Do it! You get to display their enchanting logo on your blog and help spread the word about making pollinator friendly gardens and farms. Even one sole flower counts.
You can find out more about growing pollinator gardens and get lovely posters and wall paper and education materials at the websites below.
*U. S. Forest Service: posters, wall paper, and many resources about wildflowers, native plants, ethnobotany and much more. Gorgeous posters of wildflowers, ferns, bees, grasslands, forests, and other pollinator partners. You can get some free and others you can download the pdf. and print them yourself. http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/features/posters.shtml
There are many more websites if you just google “pollinator partners”. Please send me a photo of a flower or garden you grow or find that attracts pollinators. Use the comments below to post them. And please register your garden in the challenge! I’d love to see it! You don’t have to garden in the US to register. My badge is way down at the bottom of my right sidebar. Scroll down to see it.
This was when the whole world measured time
This is when the light would turn around
This is where the past would come undone
and the spinning earth will mark a new beginning
Let’s go back in time, to when it all began
To the breaking of new dawns
Where moments bright with fire, would light the chanting song
Where pagans worshipped sun, and danced among the trees Wore strange masks of covered straw, and blessed cold ash with awe Wreaths hung upon the door against all spirit’s, dire
and when the winter’s grasp let go, the sun reversed the pyre
This was when the whole world measured time
This is when the light would turn around So that spring arrives, and seeds will sprout and grow
Oh, radiant sun, stretch the day, shorten night
Return earth’s darkness into light
This is where the light will turn around
And this was where the past has comes undone
Lauren McCarter is a watercolor artist living in Boise, Idaho. She generously gifted this art piece to me at a time when I needed a boost. Thank you, Lauren!
Thanks for turning me upside down these couple of weeks. All in all, it’s good to go topsy-turvy now and then and look at the nature of life from the flip side. It gives me an angle to see that I am only a small part of nature. I’m not alone in going upside down to find my provisions. Misery and providence, isn’t that the point Mr. Hugo wanted to make?
So my kid’s in jail and I won’t go her bail and she gets herself out soon enough – yet again. And it’s the blame game – yet again.
So 4 friends die or have memorials in as many days and I can’t get to all of them. I feel like a refugee trying to keep my balance as they all fall down.
So my van gets clobbered by a hit and run driver after one of the memorials.
So my old rescue dog gets attacked by a pack of 3 pit bulls and when I give her permission she clobbers them well enough to give a slight window of time so their owner can pull the lead dog away with many bites to his arms. And the gang follows the leader. We make our get away escaping the unrealized massacre.
So he apologizes lavishly yet denies that more than one dog was attacking and we will let the judge hear us and decide. And that’s a big disruption in my schedule. And it’s what a multitude of residents and dog owners ask me to go through. And I will.
And I discover I belong with a local, national, and international community that supports me in more abundance than I would have felt had I not tumbled over in this short avalanche of unfortunate events.
Now, tell me, Spinning Planet, that you will relax for a while and steady the current just for me so I can regain my harmony and shift my attention to the butterflies who have arrived in my gardens and the mule deer in my back yard who gave birth to twins just here and now. I still have strength to peer through disorder and flow with nature. And I remember that I am only a small thing, all in all.
This poem hangs on my bathroom wall honoring our resident snakes who defend our land from voles and mice. This morning our cat hunted insects along side our house where grass grows taller in a shallow gulley shaped by snow melt and rain dripping off our roof. I chanced to catch her studying a sleek Yellow Bellied Brown Racer, the first snake we’ve seen on our property this year. True to it’s name, all I saw at first was a whip lash as it sped to a safe corner and tried to hide behind tall catnip. Such a beautiful light brown skin and soft yellow belly. We looked each other over, then I walked away. We also have Blue Racers, generally bigger, and I bet I’ll see one soon.
I tell the truth, I did not make these images. I found them in an image search. I was more interested in mowing down long grass this morning, for good reason.
Hey, WordPress bloggers, have you had this problem where the draft looks spaced nicely with extra lines between stanzas of paragraphs but it posts with no spaces between each? I think it’s a WordPress thing just for now. I hope I can edit it later to put in white space where I intended. Any ideas, I’d appreciate them.
I have only wildflowers and no fruit trees blooming this spring so when I saw these cherry blossoms photographed by Incahootswithmuddyboots I felt inspired to give it a go at painting them with watercolor. This is my 4th completed watercolor painting and the only one that is not landscape. I made it on a small 4X4 paper. I think I’d rather go big like the kites I painted (acrylic) when I tried to imitate Georgia O’Keefe’ blooms. Did you know she painted the same subjects in many different ways for years on years? That’s the way to study technique. Check out the many cheery spring blossoms on Incahootswithmuddyboots’ post.
It’s February, a season for dragons. We dug up this rock last summer when we planted the maple tree. I think it looks like a dragon’s face. I’ve watched it in summer, fall, and then lost it in winter. It gradually reveals itself as snow melts. Is it a coincidence the props manager for this season’s children’s theater asked me to make 5 kites, and one must be a Chinese dragon? I don’t think so! I must need dragons this season. They’re here.
Chinese dragons are useful and powerful. Most live in water. Our creek has been running nearly all winter, so unusual. I can hear it from the house though it flows through the culvert beneath our drive with room to spare. Did a dragon bring this on? (I don’t think so.) Dragons bring rain, and probably snow, that’s needed for irrigation and they can prevent floods or stop them. “It is said that the dragon is a large-scaled reptile, which can become dark or bright, large or small, long or short, and fly into the sky in the spring and live underwater in the fall.” Perhaps my rock, which was buried all these years, has lived under snow all winter, a frozen form of water. Maybe it wants us to move it to the creek. We can do that. Fabulous Husband is just waiting for another tractor landscaping project, no doubt.
I welcome the strength of Chinese dragons this season as snow melts and spring appears. “The Chinese dragon symbolizes power and excellence, valiancy and boldness, heroism and perseverance, nobility and divinity. A dragon overcomes obstacles to achieve success. He is energetic, decisive, optimistic, intelligent and ambitious.
Unlike the evil energies associated with Western dragons, most Eastern dragons are beautiful, friendly and wise. They are the angels of the Orient. Instead of being hated, they are loved and worshipped.” Here is a fascinating site about Chinese dragons. For now, I’ll consider the dragons emerging in my life as donors of some powers I need now, or soon will.
I learned how to draw a dragon here and here. I cut a worn sheet and painted the kites with acrylics. I used wood dowels and string for the frame and then attached the kites to the frame with duct tape, the wonder tool. I found simple instructions for making a kite here. I hope they really will fly when I get them back after the play.
This is my response to the weekly photo challenge: seasons. Share an image evocative of the weather or represent the current “season of your life” in metaphor.
Last summer 2 grandsons and a neighbor helped us plant a maple tree for shade. I want to see how the tree and the boys grow, how we all change over years, so I took some baseline photos with help. The youngsters did most of the work, of course. Working with them is always fun. We thought we looked a little like the American Gothic painting even in the dorky glasses we tried on.
Here’s the original art that inspired us.
This is my second post for this week’s photo challenge: “Life imitates art.”. The idea is to find inspiration in a piece of art, and go further: imitate it. You can see more amusing American Gothic remakes here.
Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
And fright him as the morning frightens night!
from “To Hope” by John Keats
This post is my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimitic. You can read Keat’s complete poem here. I’ve been observing birds at my garden for a long time. This immature Northern Goshawk has been a visitor for about a week. Winter is hard for wildlife. Consider the predator that must keep optimistic to spy and capture its meal. A predator at my bird feeder is not necessarily a bad thing. An oportunist, it takes advantage when it can to locate food. Predators are a necessary part of the food chain, eliminating the weaker, slower, less alert prey and thereby strengthening the gene pool of the survivors and reducing their competition when scavenging their food. I root for the predator and I root for the prey. They teach me patience and hope.
(I’m not certain of this hawk’s identification but it’s the best I can do with the sitings and photos I’ve had available.)
Last night a neighbor and my dogs alerted me to the likelihood a mountain lion or bob cat is prowling our neighborhood. I’ll see if I can find cat tracks today. The moon has been full for a few nights.
The shock of the strike the assault or unexpected injury
Impact with vehement feeling or expression
Shoved in my mouth
When an electric current passes through all or part of the body
a talon in the chest wall stammering heartbeat
to create strong internal stress
A claw in the heart limp corpse in the hand
And what is myself without wings
A means or instrument of flight, travel, or progress
Will you collide violently with me
Will you inflict a harmful and obsessive influence on the mind
Shove my blood into your mouth
A bundle unwrapped and uninvited
The shock jar impact
Strong blow to the sense of decency
And I want to root for the Beast
For it must live by plunder
Taken by robbery, theft, or fraud
It knows no other way seized and devoured
About this poem
This morning I heard a bird hit the window. I looked for it and saw this hawk tangled with its prey in the deer netting strung around my garden. My camera was upstairs in the loft. I got two quick shots, then ran downstairs to get closer. When it heard me on the deck it had recovered, was resting, and then alarmed by me it flew away into the pines with its prey. I can’t tell if it took a quail or jay until I snow shoe to the scene and look for feathers. A jay and a pair of nuthatches in the pine were telling me all about the excitement.
I opened my e-mail and read the Poem a Day sent from Poets.org. Today’s poem is a new format for me, it introduced me to invoking and intervening using dictionary definitions in the text. Definitions are set off in italics. The inspriration came to me from here.
The predator and the daily poem, they just seemed to belong together and so inspired me to create this composition.
No argument that the sun did it’s darndest in recent years to dry out the land and burn up forests and grasslands in western America from Mexico into Canada. But what I’m talking about is mythology and tragedy and theater, drama based on real events. Mother Earth in a character in the play I am directing for children’s theater this fall. I need to design her costume and I’m rather stumped on this concept. I know a lot of my followers are artists or writers or gardeners or use fabric in your designs, all highly creative folk. Here’s your opportunity to help design a dramatic costume for Mother Earth, and then more for some other characters if you like!The play is “Phaeton and the Sun Chariot” by Wim Coleman. Phaeton is the son of a mortal mother and the immortal Sun God, Helios. The kid challenges his dad to let him drive the Sun Chariot across the sky to prove his own powers and of course disaster strikes when he loses control and drives the sun too close and too far from Earth. Fires, ice, floods, excessive darkness, regular panic and havoc among the mortals, that sort of disaster. Mother Earth comes on stage in a rage and scolds Zeus for letting this happen as she yells about agriculture, strip mining, and air and water pollution, in addition to burning up the earth. So we need a suitable costume. Actors will wear black tops and leggings/pants (no togas) and use masks as they portray different characters, much the way it was done in original Greek Theater. Mother Earth is an exception, she can have more than a mask, a full costume, as she enters from back stage. She has to look like she’s being destroyed, mostly by fire. The costume needs to be quick to put on and take off as the actor will also be playing other characters in the performance. I want it to give the mood of a supernatural or mythological deity, though she is not a goddess. She will probably be barefoot.
So there you have it. I’m asking for collaboration. I need ideas, drawings (very draft is fine), photos, any images you can send my way, please. What is your muse telling you? Use the comments section below or Contact Me here to send me your ideas. I’ll share them and give you credit. Of course I will post the completed costume after the performances in November. And if you can get to McCall, Idaho, come watch the play!
This was the first day out of the nest for this fledgling wren last June. The large grid keeps range cows outside my garden. The mesh raises the height, keeping deer from jumping over the fence or poking their noses through to get into the goods. Birds never ever get stuck in the net. They always find their way under or over it. Takes some a little longer than others.
My son gave me starts of his Zinfandel and Shiraz grapes last March. I popped the twigs into soil and kept them well watered. It takes months before my grape starts usually show leaves so I am happy to see this much growth this season.
Using filtered sun along the deck rail, I sheltered the twigs from the strongest Idaho summer heat. The white table grapes I started last summer grew enough to give shade this summer and even produced sweet fruit. See what I mean when you look in the back ground in this photo. Shiraz starts are small but healthy in the foreground pot while white table grapes vine among the rail posts in the background between the south sun and the pot.
Genoa Basil and Verbena mark north and south. Two tiny Shiraz starts mark east and west. I’m not sure this is true companion planting, but they all seem friendly enough living together. I wanted the pot to look pretty and tasty while waiting for the twigs to sprout leaves.
The Zinfandel start is so big now, I moved it into morning sun. Only one of three twigs produced leaves so far. Happy Genoa Basil and a first year Milkweed keep this grape company. I had to move the Milkweed here after one of our German Shepherds, Ozette, dug in its pot to hide her ball. She’s attracted to some deck pots more than others.
I love the dancing shadow the new Zinfandel casts when I have my first cup of coffee.
This morning I sat with a “Western Fence Lizard” hiding in the shade of the Zinfandel planter. I wonder what it was named before fences came to the West. It looked like it was growing a new tail. I’ve seen plenty of them do that here. But look closer. It’s molting! What a sleek new dark mantle it’s putting on for autumn.
I planted 4 white grape starts last summer below the deck, hoping they would eventually grow tall enough to shade our deck and the two lower rows of south facing windows. A year later it looks like I can start constructing the arbor.
I’m thrilled to find sweet grapes in the first year!
Here’s a great example of non-companion planting. These white grape twigs were planted last spring. Look closely on the left and you’ll see the stump of a huge volunteer Mammoth Sunflower. This spot is directly beneath my bird feeder dishes; you can see them in a previous photo on the deck rail. Here’s proof that certain plants cannot grow near Sunflowers or in soil where sunflower seed husks have accumulated. Why not?
Grape vines will be fun to arrange among camel bells and hanging plants. Notice the smokey mountains in the background? This is a relatively smoke free morning considering the wildfires in our region.
I feel like I’ve been blessed by Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine (agriculture), and Greek Theater. The annual Greek festival in his honor held contests for early playwrights. This mask lives in my garden. I’m using it this week for a mask making workshop for the Greek Tragedy I am directing this fall for children’s theater. Yeah, some kid gets to die on stage! He’s gonna love that!
Many of the best plants in my garden, like these grape varieties, aren’t planned. And they turn out the best! Like artichokes, but that’s food for a future post.
Landscaping to attract nature is not particularly challenging when you live in an ecotone where forest meets field in rural Idaho. Ecotones, the spaces where two environments transition into each other, are rich in diversity. These areas provide for more wild life than either zone on its own. Native Mullein grows readily in disturbed ground here and when this set planted themselves in my new vegetable garden I wanted to see how they would flourish. The fence is about 5 feeet tall so you can see how large these mulleins grew in top soil we brought up from the riverside. I didn’t expect to see this White-headed Woodpecker searching for insects that inhabit the flower stems. It worked over these plants for several days, as well as a stand of them along our gravel road.
Designing my yard and garden to attract interesting birds and pollinators in the Rockies means promoting plants that attract these animals while resisting damage from deer, ground rodents, range cattle, and drought. Mullein is a sound choice that does all that and it’s a intriguing flower to watch develop. It’s super easy to grow and you’ll see it spring up in dry fields like a weed. These pictured grew as volunteers, but I have dug up the first year plants, the leaf sets, and successfully transplanted them. They build flower stalks their second year. This a fabulous plant for children’s gardens where they can feel the soft fuzzy leaves. Plus mullein is a wonder plant for respiratory problems and many other health issues. I dry the leaves in fall and make tea when my allergies attack.
If you don’t have access to the plant where you live, contact me and I’ll send you some seeds free. If you can find the plant try getting seeds from the flower stem and planting them in fall or transplant a first year root.
Crowded out of the nest, the usual sibling pecking order of fledglings, this little house wren found it’s first perch in the garden below. It surveyed its world outside the nest and later with a parent’s coaching, flew to refuge beneath a set of 4 large mullein, and then into the Elderberry bush to its new home. Three more fledglings left the nest a couple of days later. Or did this little birdy run away from the nest? Children have a way of knowing when to leave home whether by their own push or that of another. Hovering around Summer Solstice days, I just lost count of the new fledglings of many kinds of birds at our feeder. But I took all the new baby photos I could and you can see them in a future post.
She put a page of monologue notes into the draft on her computer and then crumpled the crisp yellow paper and let it drop at her feet. Another page, same thing. One after another she crumpled the hand written notes after she added them to her story. It felt so good to make progress a little at a time and to hear the sound of destruction as she dismissed used up ideas. Ah. And what to do with the little pile of crumples? She rocked in the old stuffed chair where she worked on her deck. Aimlessly she tossed the pages over the rail onto the garden, letting them fall with the breeze. Food for the compost pile. Paper is good for compost, right? Aren’t our ideas worthy of decomposing and nourishing the food we eat and the muse that drives us to create? Ideas and words and stories grow like straberries, and mustard, and chard, and weeds. They thrive in manure and mud. She watched the wind lift a page over the garden fence and carry it off across the river, down the valley, over the hill, into the ocean, and down the throat of a bad-child-eating-sea-monster. Every story knows where it should go. A writer needs know when to let it wander, not that it’s gone stray, just finding its way.