Tag Archives: milkweed

Fall ramblings to the north.

For five days and nights I drove here and there, a total of about 20 hours on the roads and highways so that I could visit with twelve family members and two dear friends in three places. There was a good deal of time spent at Pippin’s, where we went for a walk right away, to see if the aspens in the nearby grove were turning yet.

The aspens were still green, but as we looked up in the blue sky we saw several vultures flying in a line above us… and several more following close after them, and we began to count… eventually about 30 of the birds had streamed past, making us wonder what it could mean.

Little Jamie was thrilled when a long freight train passed close above us on the track.

In just a short time exploring the neighborhood we saw Showy Milkweed about to pop its pods, ruins of a concrete hut, and mullein, first and second year specimens growing close together. Scout has been studying herbs in his homeschool group program and I learned that if you can find some larger leaves on the younger plant they make good bandages for wounds, not least because they are absorbent.

Can you see why I called these Mrs. Tiggy Winkle Burrs?

Jeffrey Pine cone and seed

The next day I drove a little farther north to my Oregon family and watched my oldest granddaughter Annie in her first cross country meet of the season. The setting and the weather were so perfect, most of my pictures show her as a soft shape blending into the golden landscape.

I reveled in more visits with those children and older grandchildren, hearing from them about an Italian sister-city, doula training, country music, 70’s Ford trucks grandson Walt is dreaming of restoring, and the same boy breaking an old horse for children to ride. Two of the grandsons have plans to fix up a truck to sleep in on upcoming ski trips. Most of my six older grandsons own or have owned or plan to buy a truck, or another truck! I love boys.

We picked apples at a farm, took walks to the library and post office, and ate tender pumpkin bread Walt decided to bake on the first day of fall. Sunday morning six of us made the short trip on foot to church, I being the only one of the family not wearing cowboy boots.

With my taste buds in mind, Pathfinder and Iris had bought some ginger beer — not the carbonated sweet and spicy kind, but this smooth alcoholic version. It was wonderful.

Then it was time to head back to Pippin’s, for the birthday of Ivy!!! Ivy is now five years old, and if my grandma were still alive, she would have turned 125 on the same day. Before the excitement of the evening, including an over-the-top leopard cake and oodles of presents, Pippin and Ivy and I had a quiet outing of the kind we all like, exploring a meadow and a creek, and feeding the fish at the hatchery.

A couple of weeks before my visit, Ivy had dictated a letter to me, including these lines: “I have new shoes…and they’re good for running, climbing, hiking, and also for walks. I really want to take a walk with you — I know you love them!”

We arrived at the fish hatchery just as a man was about to refill the fish food machines, so he filled our containers directly and to the top. We strolled along the ponds and tried to share equally among all the different sizes of trout.

Then Ivy fell in! She lost her usual cool and made a big fuss, because she thought the fish would bite her. The fish, however, cleared the area very fast, as Pippin and I hauled our girl out.

We exchanged her sopping shirt and fleece for my flannel and corduroy shirt, and that warmed her up enough that she was cheerful again, and happy to stay and scatter the remainder of the granules — in the next pond where the fish hadn’t been scared away — looking at the creatures with a new perspective.

I took the picture above because I’d never seen a trout with such severe scoliosis.

After a stop at home to get a whole new set of dry shoes and clothes, we went back to our exploring, in a meadow with a stream running through, where Pippin and I watched Ivy take risks climbing above a tiny waterfall where she might easily fall and get doused again, but she showed her usual grace and balance and came home dry.

Douglas Spirea fills the foreground above, its formerly hot pink flowers turned to rust. All the textures and scents, the variations on gold, beige and brown seemed especially rich and sweet, set off by the blue sky and evergreen shrubs and trees. The surrounding air was fresh and cool in the slanted sunlight of fall.

We were happy.

I float on a sea with bangles.

snow peas

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. (This and all quotes in green below are from G.K. Chesterton.)

I had another title for this blog post, something about pollinators, but when I saw the preponderance of green in the images, it made me think of Tuesday’s poem, which could be talking about my own garden that is wild with leaves and flowers popping out at a mad rate. All the glory does make it hard for me to hold a thought, and there are many I should not let go of — starting with all the outdoor tasks that won’t wait: feeding and weeding and trimming and tying….

But going back to the poem, I’ve been thinking about how it describes the way the most common natural occurrences — after all, “the world comes back” in spring year after year — can confuse and even shock us if we really pay attention. In my yard it seems that between the time I walk from the front garden to the back and return again, a new weed has sprouted or an iris has emerged.

Why have I arrived on the path by the salvia? I don’t even take time to ponder, but I immediately start pulling weeds. Then I return to the fountain and see a honeybee on a flower, and must go into the house for my camera and “waste” a few minutes attempting to record one of the thousands of thrilling things happening here, right outside my door.

There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect.

This road leads to the heart from other sensory “gates” as well. My garden seems primarily visual, but also the rich scents of osmanthus and daphne and lavender have their own direct routes to my heart, as do the bird songs. I don’t have to think about them or know their meaning. In the poem about the “Deciduous Spring,” sounds of words are used to mimic the visual symphony or cacophony that all this burgeoning creates.

The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.
It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

This week I will be adding more plants to the mix, and several of them will be of the sort that the hummingbirds and bees and other insects like. Last fall I planted five types of seeds that did not sprout: poppies, milkweed, prairie echinacea… So — I found a native plant nursery where I was able to buy two species of milkweed plants, orange Moroccan poppies, and penstemon. Visions of Monarch butterflies fill my head.

In the picture below of the waiting plants, the milkweed is mostly in the foreground, two types that are native to the western us: Asclepias fascicularis and Asclepias speciosa

The perplexity of life arises from there being too many interesting things in it
for us to be interested properly in any of them.

Three varieties of peas, mostly flowers soon to bloom.

To mention a pair of not-green things: The orioles are back! Not in the group that I am trying to attract with certain flowering plants, their preference is sugar water.They are very shy, so I’m not going to try to take new pictures of them. This one is from my great photographic effort last spring.

The snowballs on the viburnum are little green things so far. Green fruits are on the fig tree. I ran into a Painted Lady butterfly over there, and bumblebees, but their interest was the lithodora blossoms.

Jerusalem sage

Even the tiny flowers of the Euphorbia myrsinites are swallowed up in their green leaves.

Nearly every day I fall in love again and try to capture another poppy with my camera.
This time my toes got in the picture. At least they are not green.

The whole order of things is as outrageous as any miracle
which could presume to violate it.

And below, I used a clever jar-vase that Mrs. Bread gave me for my birthday, and made a colorful bouquet that will give your eyes respite from green. It is like a little canning jar with a ring that screws on the top, but into the ring is set a florist’s frog, making it perfect for arranging odd little blooms with their often short stems that one finds in a garden like mine.

That’s my show-and-tell for today! How does your garden grow?

snowball bush

How gardens are made – or not.

In a way, my gardens have been too successful. I planted tomatoes where they didn’t have gl berries P1040889room to grow, and have had to drastically prune them back so that I could get in there to pick them as they ripen. No pretty picture to show you there.

The fennel grew so lovely – now I realize it was overgrown and woody before I picked it. I’m eating it anyway, and the edible parts are yummy. Next year will be my third growing fennel and it should be the charm.

Rudyard Kipling said,

“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.”

That goes for harvesting, too! But the making I need to do today and next week concerns seeds…. Before my next trip to see grandchildren, I have a few weeks to get seeds planted in flats in the greenhouse, and to water them once or more daily until they are big enough to set out in the garden where they will get automatic watering from then on.P1050162

What seeds? I don’t even know yet. But perhaps these that I received from Prairie Moon. I saw a picture on a blog post, of unidentified coneflowers growing wild on the prairie, and researched to find out what variety it might be, and where to buy seeds. It turns out they are Echinacea pallida. The company sent me milkweed seeds also, as a gift, and I dug out my own milkweed I had collected a couple of years ago.P1050165 I’m not even sure that I can successfully plant them now to have plants to set out in the spring. Probably I should be reading up on that instead of writing and speculating!

My front yard is taking a lot of attention. In July we laid cardboard and mulch thickly all over the lawn (this is called “sheet mulching”) to kill it, and now that that has been done stonemasons are beginning work on a walkway and a wall. gl P1050150

Later we’ll landscape with some plants about which I am still deciding. I had two rosemary bushes in the front, one of which was about 25 years old. Landscape Lady said it looked like a Bristlecone Pine, and at first we were going to keep it around for its venerableness. But it wasn’t that worthy, and would scratch and poke me twice a year when I took the pruners to it, over the years shaping it into its crotchety self. I didn’t want to go through that one more time….so I took parting pictures.

gl P1040918

Now that I have great soil and many options for growing various things, I don’t know if I will ever have a chance of “keeping up” with my garden. But I plan to go on enjoying it, and reporting about it here. Perhaps even while sitting in the shade.

gl bee on rosemary
bee on rosemary in its younger years

milkweed and balloons

While I was at Pippin’s for a few days last week we went to a balloon festival. We had to get up in the dark and drive half an hour to Montague in the Shasta Valley, to see the filling and lift-off of about a dozen hot-air balloons.P1010826 flame balloon

Before the sun came up it was chilly. Pippin managed to get all three car seats in the back seat of her Outback, so we could go in one car. The Professor had to drive the roomier van the opposite direction that morning to get it worked on.

The stars were so bright, it thrilled my heart! But I didn’t have time to gawk – we put on our warm caps and fleecy sweaters and were on our way. Straight ahead was a huge star – ah, but not a star. Probably the planet Venus.

GL IMG_0515 Scout and Ivy balloons

I don’t think I had ever seen balloons filling before. It’s very dramatic the way flames whoosh noisily into the expanding emptiness after simple fans have run for a while to accomplish the initial inflating.P1010851 my fave inflating crp

My favorite was the one at right with a design that included a lot of black, but I soon realized that it looks better on the ground. Once it is in up in the air it is too dark and muted. The gaudier a hot air balloon the better, for complementing the wide open sky. Besides, a giant drifting balloon is a fun and cheerful thing, and maybe a dark blob up there doesn’t agree with that mood, being too reminiscent of a black cloud.

 

P1010875 4 balloons + women

P1010865

Scout wanted to climb up a little hill with his friends, to get a better view. I started up after them but turned back because of the star thistles. Pippin had run into some friends and they were still out on the flats behind me, with Jamie in the BOB stroller. All around me this rosy weed was the only thing easily seen besides those thistles and the sparse and flattened grasses, and it was scattered all over.

Soon all the balloons were up and floating over the hill. Scout is in this picture somewhere.P1010884 many balloons and hill

P1010897 milkweed

Pippin decided to try to find where the balloons were going to land, so she drove around on the bumpy roads, and when I saw a solitary balloon setting down in a field she stopped the car so I could get out to take a picture. At the same time she said, “There’s a nice crop of milkweed,” and Scout said, “Oh, I want some milkweed pods! I know how to plant them!”

I took my picture and then managed to break a sharp-edged pod off a plant that was also tangled up with star thistle — ouch! I got one that hadn’t quite released its feathery seeds. I also don’t think I’d seen milkweed pods before. I gingerly stashed it in my purse.

P1010894

P1010905 deflating

Around another corner we saw from a slight elevation where two balloons were coming down together. One started to deflate, the second one came down and went up again briefly to hop a fence, and then we had to leave and call it a good balloon-watching morning. We came home with lots of pictures and milkweed seeds. Only then did we eat breakfast!

More about my trip in upcoming posts….