Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cottage, Summer 2016

Oh my gosh!  You would not believe the projects that I have been working on this year.  This is the year we finally sell the house in Orlando, Rod moves here and we build a garage here at the cottage.  Rod still doesn't believe me when I tell him how much he is going to love having a garage!  Especially when he tries to change the oil when it is 10 degrees outside!

I arrived in April, right after my show at Lake Eola in Orlando.  I did two quick trips to bring all my soap kitchen things to the new house.  I got sidelined in Nashville when the transmission went out and I had to spend two nights there.  I did get a loaner car so I could explore!  Thus the picture below of the American Pickers shop in Nashville.

Once I got back to Rockford, I got right to the Spring Cleanup!  This year was a little easier as I had cut and bagged most of the grasses in the Fall.  But there was still a lot to do as I had to move four different planting beds, container and statuary out of the footprint of the new garage...and it had to be done before things got growing too much.  The following pics are some of that process!

The Yellow Hybrid and Purple Baptisias!  This is only temporary as there is really only room for one of them here!

One of three Clematis that I hired to be moved...they are touchy, so I wanted help with them!

Some coneflowers and yellow eyed Susans

OK, not sure where this picture came from, but, I did grow a bunch of seeds this year.  Two of three cherry tomatoes and now blooming with little green tomatoes.  All the perennials I tried to grow from seed were eaten by something...rabbits I guess.

I have two of these pretty dwarf willow bushes that I paid to have moved too...they were just too big for me too handle
The area to the back I call the monuments area and it had a trumpet vine taking over, so, I yanked it out...well...I really had to nuke it to get it under control.  I am still trying to kill the thing a month later!  That is a Black Walnut tree to the left side, which I will be taking out at some point.  

The dry Koi Pond, before the fish, frogs and turtles were put in!

The Phlox,  Lily and Russian Sage Berm

The Phlox is so pretty when it is blooming...and nobody has run over it trying to get in and out of my driveway!!
This barely covers all the moving of the plants.  I did a new planting bed with all the lilies...actually two by the mailbox and one by the front courtyard in front of the wisteria.  I had the landscapers move all the big container plants--those are cedars and arborvitaes I think.  One of them is dying, but, I can't change it yet...I am afraid I would lose it with everything else going on.  

Those planting beds that had to be moved are the ones surrounding my little soap shop!  Notice the pretty glass flowers hanging from the railing.  Those are from my glass artist friend, Susan Goracy of Starry Night Creations.  She has been a soap wholesaler of mine for years when she had her gallery down in Islamorada in the Florida Keys!


Then my niece Ali helped me with a little furniture project I had been wanting to try.  I picked up a couple pieces I wanted to paint last summer.  Then recently I started playing around with graphics and how to transfer them to furniture.  So we came up with the following.  Ali painted all the pieces after modifying them per my specs.  

This one is going in an area that I didn't want the right side "hamper", so she cut it off!

Then we took a weekend and went to my nephew Travis's graduation at the University of Wisconsin, Steven Point.  Ali was there that weekend, so, we all got together and celebrated.  The boys Mom's all put on a really nice spread for us--and took good care of my folks who went with us!


Next up were some projects inside.  I had originally wanted to have a builder come in and rehab the bathroom and kitchen, but, not for the $12k they had in mind.  So, I ditched the kitchen plans for now, and spent $100 in the bathroom to put up a flexible curtain track, sewed three shower curtains together and put a holder for the shower head handle on the ceiling.  Done!  Oh, well, almost!  Another crafter friend is helping me bling out the shower curtain tie back that I will use when company comes over!  I will have to take a picture when that comes!

Rod and I also decided to have air conditioning put in and since we are not going to put ductwork in our pretty high ceilings, we went with a mini-split system.  Two units inside up on the wall and the smallish condenser on the outside.  It takes away a bit from the wall with the branches, but, in the opinion of a menopausal, hot-flashing woman--worth it's weight in GOLD!

I also decided to change out the cellular blinds in the house's windows in the great room and the bedroom.  The old ones had to be risen by hand and then chained on both sides.  I found that Home Depot will cut these to size in the, I spent a bit of money on them, but, they open and close so easily.   Lowe's had them on sale too, but, they were more expensive and I didn't like how you had to hit a tiny button to open and close them.  The new blackout ones (pictured darkly below!) in the bedroom make it so nice to sleep past 5 a.m. in the morning!

Which brings me to the last of the projects--just finished today!  I use one of those ugly plastic utility sinks to wash my soap pots.  And I can see that ugly thing from the kitchen window!!  NO is all pretty now thanks to a couple colors of spray paint, some 4x4's and a dahlia stencil from Home Depot and some lattice panels that were laying around. 

When we bought the cottage, there was an outdoor shower--that hadn't worked in years.  A couple weeks ago Rod researched tankless, portable water heaters and I was happy not to spend 3x the money on a 6 gallon RV water heater.  It isn't perfect--the water hose connection to the shower head leaks--but it works just fine for occasional use.  Like today after I spent a couple hours digging out a tree stump that was on the upper tier where all the big containers went.  Whew I was dirty from head to toe and it felt great to wash up outside and not have to drag all that dirt into  the house!

Notice that Trumpet Vine here too!

I know there is more--notice nothing about all the soap shop news...all the challenges during the initial setup of the kitchen and the ongoing worry about where the soap shop will go when the garage is built.  Jeez, I never lack for something to do around here!!   Just walking to the mailbox can create a 50 pound bag of weeds!  

I hope all is well in your world.  Can someone please send me a margarita, no salt!???

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Cottage Garden--new PURPLE finds!

Here are some of the plants that are peeking around the many corners of this gorgeous property this week!  Many of them I haven't identified yet, so, if you know leave a comment and I will edit the comments down the road.  
I have three beauties hiding in the monuments planter.  Mom was over and I think she said it was an Allium.  They are really hidden in this planter, so, after they lose their flower I am moving them to the front of the white trellis so you can see them!

I have a couple of these in different planters.  I love the color--not my shadow in the background!  Mom says they need water every time she comes over...but they are getting a regular drink from Mother Nature, so, I am not gonna add more.  Any idea what they are?

In the same planter this one  has a different growing pattern but a similar colored flower!  Love it, too!!  But I don't know what it is, do you?

This Clementis is growing very delicately on the chimney trellis.  I worry about the tiny, thin stem that is peeking out of the ground...and then it produces two gorgeous purple flowers like this.  They didn't last long on the vine...too much rain or wind???

This vine is growing in the fountain planter and is circling its way around one of the two Dwarf Alberta Spruce I have growing in pots.  Again, I don't have a name for it, but the little flower "drops" are very pretty!!

This purple Baptisia is a show stopper!  After the flowers are gone, the plant produces cool black seed pods that stay on through the Fall to contrast the green of the plant.  It is hardy too!  I am actually going to make a hedgerow of these in front of the fire pit this Fall, dividing this huge one into four plants.  I will move two more (one is yellow) from the back of the soap room to join this big guy!

  The next two pictures are not purple or plants.  I discovered the entrance burrow about 10 days ago and the exit was dug out a day or two later.  It may be a woodchuck in there???  It's a pretty big opening as you can see from the brick I put in to show the size!  I closed the entrance by the fence and threw some used kitty litter in the other hole.  If it is a woodchuck, I understand any young ones would be out and about by now, so, I want to get whatever it is OUT before I seal up the borrow.  I have a trap out there too, but, I haven't had anything big in it yet.  Some smaller critters are going in to steal the bait, but, they aren't big enough to trip the door.   

Thursday, May 14, 2015

DIviding the Hostas


On Tuesday, I finally got the right conditions to spread some weed and feed--the grass was wet with dew and the temps were in the 50's.  I used my Dad's old bucket spreader and I can honestly say that I expect to have a few patches of yellow turf--the whole on/off mechanism takes a little getting used to.  At least I could practice on my lawn before doing Dad's. 

When I arrived at the folks house to spread the weed and feed on their lawn, Dad had decided he needed to mow--so that project got crossed off the list.  But wait, there was plenty more to do!  I finally tackled Mom'a hosta bed on the north side of the garage.  It was my first real experience dividing plants, and, unfortunately my partner in crime really shouldn't have been working in the garden at all.  But, I am finding it impossible to keep Mom from doing things that will end up hurting her back.  This is the finished product (picture above), nine plants all nicely spaced and set back from the sidewalk a bit.  When they are in full bloom, they tend to sweep over the walkway, so, hopefully this will keep them a bit more contained. 

While I was out there, I set up the fountain too!  Which reminds me I need to get mine going also. 
After a quick sit at the computer, we had the third project completed and it was home to do some work on the cottage. 

On Wednesday morning, we again had cool temps--perfect for a day of digging!  Mom came over and she masterminded the placement of the 20 hostas on the berm by the koi pond.  Then to keep her from doing too much, I sent her back to the backyard to work on one of the tiers she could weed standing up.  About the time she got done with that, I was mostly done with the hostas.  She was already planning on hitting up one of her friends who had a different color hosta to go with the two kinds we had in place.  There is plenty of room for more, but my back says to wait a while to put in any more!

My sister had helped Mom dig up a patch of overgrown irises a week ago, so, I had two trays of plants to put in.  Behind Mom is the bed she had prepared.  While she sat and cut the irises, I dug the holes and then planted them.  She wanted three rows, but, I think the two rows I ended up with are perfect.  And they won't need to be divided for a long while!   But, we still have a ton more to put in...somewhere.  I think they will go in a nice sunny spot on the east property line in the front yard.

Mom thought the leaves should be cut down more..I wanted them on.  Partly to see more of our hard work, but, mostly because I like the green in this particular planter.  I need to get some mulch on this bed...and if you can see the landscape fabric showing through on the next tier up, you would be screaming at me to hit Home Depot for MORE MULCH!!
Five of the new hostas with a bunch of coneflowers in the foreground.

A close-up--these two-tone hostas are just gorgeous when they reach their full bloom.  That's some grape hyacinth behind...the goal is to have no place for the weeds to come up!!!  Talk about wishful thinking!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The First Cottage Spring Cleanup April 2015

Earlier in the year I had grand plans to drive back to Illinois with the folks when they were ready to end their 2015 Snowbird Season.  It was a challenging plan, as trying to fit me into their SUV with all their stuff was not going to be easy.  But, I figured anything I displaced could ride with me in the big van up to Illinois in May.  But then I discovered an error in my calender.  My Orlando show, Fiesta in the Park, would not be on its usual first weekend in April, it was moved back a week due to Easter.  Oh snap!  My ride up to Illinois now became a challenge to book a cheap flight to go with the cheap return flight I had already booked on Allegiant on April 19th--about $80 with no bags.

I did find a flight on Southwest that was cheap-ish and came with two free bags, so, I booked that for Tuesday the 14th.  It would require the folks to make a trip into Milwaukee from Rockford, but, it's a pretty easy drive if you can avoid the rushes.  As the plane arrived at noon, it was doable.  What remained in question:  would I be able to whip the winter ravaged, 2/3 of an acre garden into shape in FIVE DAYS?!

Can you believe I didn't take any before pictures?  I was so excited and anxious on Tuesday afternoon I just started hacking away at the grasses near the back-up area of the driveway.  It took four hours the first day to get them cut up, bundled and bagged.  Over the next five days I would put in 40 hours,(my Mom volunteered another 8 hours, my nephew Roger about 2 very physical hours) bagging 38 bags of yard waste, 12 bundles of stalks and limbs and laying 54 bags of mulch!!  The pictures below show the end result--it isn't perfect but most of the brown, wind blown and spent plants had been trimmed.

Oh crap, I forgot to fill the bird bath.  The two brown bushes here we cut
back a bit...there was already new growth out to about the tips.  The red/
brown freeze on the two rows of boxwoods started last winter.  That may be a
project to replace down the road.   

The middle and top tiers both need mulch and the top tier needs some more
attention by the tall trellis wall.  Mom said there is some Ribbon Grass
I may want to remove.

The Scottish Thistle is starting to come up in this planter.  I will
get more pictures of that when I get back.

There are some daffodils and another unidentified flower (the reddish pink
one below that I will move into the little planter above.  These used to be
planted around an Airstream trailer they had back here.

What are these???

I didn't get the fountain set up in this planter...and, yes, there is still some
winter burn on those potted shrubs.

The Koi and the critters are playing in the "pond"!

You can see I still need to mulch the east property line planter...
another 20 bags there maybe???

I have already talked with Rod about taking a week of vacation in April with me next year so we can get the yard cleaned up.  Before I leave in October, I will get all the grasses cut back so those curly-cues aren't all over the place in the Spring...that will eliminate about 1/4 to a 1/3 of the work!  And this will become part of the Fall routine--those grasses get caught in the snowblower and we don't want any extra work come snow removal season!!