Thursday, May 31, 2018

May at Warp Speed

Do you ever have to look back through your pictures to remember what you did during the month?  That's how I am feeling about May.  On the 2nd, we flew back from #1 Daughter's college graduation in Ohio, and tomorrow will be June 1.  Must have gone through a time warp, is all I can say.

So I'm grateful for my camera to jog my memory …


In a previous post, I wrote about Forestoration, the company we hired to beautify the spaces disrupted by the construction process.  We have not been disappointed.  So far, they have completed the hardscape; planting comes next.  Take a look at these before and after shots.

The greenery around this Douglas Fir is all native -
4 weeks from mud to miracles after the snow melted
I know a thing or two about drainage, having helped my Dad install significant piping in our backyard.  So it's saying something when I tell you that I was impressed with the drainage installed by our crew, which now looks like a picturesque creek bed.

Have you ever tried building a set of stone steps on a hillside?  I originally thought we could do it ourselves, but having watched these burly young fellows manhandle these stones, I am pretty sure we would have ended up in the hospital with crushed fingers, at the very least.  The team was so meticulous with the placement and leveling of these stones; the steps will last a lifetime, for sure.


While the crews were busy outside, we turned our creative juices to interior spaces.  Our tasks have ranged from the almost mundane art of hanging pictures, to a full-up design for our lower level guest bedroom and bath.  Spousal Unit gets the design award of the year (in my book) for his real barn wood headboard, which he made from scratch.  Check it out.

Not everything in this room is new to us. The desert picture over the bed was a gift to me from work colleagues when we moved from Arizona to Cleveland back in 1996.

The sewing machine shown in the picture to the right belonged to my mother.  We purchased the chair in the corner in 1992.  My personal contribution to the room is this carousel horse cross-stitch, custom-framed at Michael's with my input on matting and frame.  When I bought the design so many years ago, who knew it would fit so perfectly in this room?  I can't tell you how ecstatic I was when I saw the result hung on the wall!

Lower level guest bathroom

It is so pleasing to create combinations with items we already had, together with new purchases.  We (probably more me and not so much Spousal Unit) thrill to the pursuit in retail and antique stores, for items that will fit our chosen d├ęcor in a given room.

Upper left: birds and leaves candlestick
Upper right: small antique lamp
Bottom: new soap dispenser and vintage Orange Crush bottle 

Just today we located this bench for our entry.
Swap meet treasure - paid $5 (without the candles) for these 
two ornate candlesticks!
And along the way, you find things you weren't expecting, but you really need!
We have had a Stir Crazy as long as I can remember,
and I am (rightfully) concerned it's going to give out
one day.   Imagine my delight when we found a back-up
at a swap meet this month!


If you've been following my blog, you know that the movers were not able to put the upright piano on the lower level due to the snow and mud on moving day.  I am pleased to inform you that this situation was rectified on May 15.  In less than an hour and a half, Byron, Clint and Jimmy maneuvered it from the entry onto a truck and then around the back to its new home.  I am still looking for all my piano books, but I celebrated with a song I remember by heart - the piano actually sounds somewhat in tune!


OK - May hasn't been so crazy that it hasn't offered some down time to catch up on my embroidery (and past episodes of American Idol and Heartland).  The "Thursday" tea towel is complete and "Friday" is underway.  I can even stitch outside, because Spousal Unit was busy …


Earlier in the month, the paint and stain crews returned for the final time to put the last coat of stain on the exterior logs and the decks.  This ultimately allowed us to move the patio furniture into its proper place, and free up the garage for vehicles!!!  Last week, we planted a few pots with annuals; the one on the front porch is a bit of an experiment what with all the deer around here.  So, far, no nibbling has occurred.  We think the ones on the back deck should be pretty safe from hooved critters.
Dusty Miller and Marigolds are typically safe from deer.  Also used Verbena, Ipomoea
Geranium, Lobelia, and Creeping Jenny

With decks on two sides of the house, as well as the front porch, you can always choose a sunny spot, or a shady area, as suits your fancy through the day.  So, when you think of me, just imagine me enjoying a coffee here …

lunch there ...

and a glass of wine … anywhere!!!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Blessed by Nature's Bounty

If I told you that we just saw a pair of beaver 150 yards from our house, would you believe me?  How about a moose?  Maybe turkeys or deer would be more credible.  Well, folks, in the last week or so, it's been all that and more.  Read on!

Since I am a moose nut, I will start there.  Spousal Unit was the first to spot the moose, the evening of Mother's Day!  Casually looking out the window.  "What's that?!" led to a scramble to the spotting scope.  And what should our wondering eyes behold but a cow moose grazing on the far side of the lake.  We took turns at the scope until she trotted into the woods and out of sight.  (I jokingly accused him of 'arranging' for her to be there for Mother's Day.)

Let me remind you that we have been in Montana for just over a year (we arrived May 3, to be precise) and have seen only one other moose, a fleeting glimpse on the side of the road when my younger brother and his wife were visiting.  So, I would be within my rights to think this was another rare encounter, not to be repeated.  Guess again.  The next day, hoping against hope, we strolled to the lake in the early evening.  Before we knew it, she was behind us and approaching.  Check out this video.  (Adrenaline was pumping, folks - don't know how I kept my phone as still as I did.)

Since this video, she has put in an appearance (at least, when we were looking) twice.  We believe we have seen a different moose as well (larger, perhaps a male).  Seems our valley is a good neighborhood for the largest member of the deer family, which requires habitat with adequate edible plants, cover from predators, and protection from extremely hot or cold weather.

Mother's Day was a bonus day, let me tell you.  While scanning the shoreline for the cow moose after she sauntered into the woods, we spotted a couple of sleek bodies sliding on and off a wood platform.  Otter?  Mink?  A closer inspection identified a pair of beaver.  And the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place.
Culvert on April 22
Our lake has a man-made earthen berm with a culvert designed to control water flow out of the lake.  In recent days, when my running route would take me across the berm, I noticed planks of wood, reeds and mud piled in and around the culvert.  I assumed water had drawn these elements to the culvert.  But now we had a different theory: beavers at work, damming the flow.  Since then, we have located the lodge, and last night, the incontrovertible proof: we saw a beaver carrying items to the culvert and climbing upon it.  Eureka!  Meanwhile, the partner stood atop the lodge at the other end of the lake, nibbling at recently cut aspen.  Can you believe it?  I saw it myself, and I can hardly believe it!
Culvert today
The water level has gone up at least three inches due to their efforts.  I know this because we had placed the trail cam on a log at the edge of the lake - accessible without going in the water.  Yesterday morning, to retrieve the cam, I waded into ankle-deep water!!  Nature's engineers, doing what they do best.  The irony in this?  Our HOA was planning to repair the culvert, and perhaps the berm as well.  Maybe our prayers were answered in a way we never expected!
Now our lake is a reflecting pool!!!

So, now that we have all of that excitement out of the way, here are photos retrieved from the cam. 
Upper left - raindrops are falling ...
I am wondering why the beaver did not show up in any of these, but oh, well, you can't have everything!

And a couple of pictures from earlier in the month, when I had the cam in our 'woods'.

And when I don't go to Nature, it comes to me.  This cheeky squirrel is testing out the patio furniture directly outside our dining room sliding doors.

Of course, critters are not the only aspects of Nature around these parts.  I get a real kick walking around our property and the 'neighborhood', breathing in the freshness of Spring.
Lower left: Glacier Lily; Center: Blue Violet; Lower right: Aspen
Upper right: Kinnikinnick

Upper left: Serviceberry; Upper Center: Heartleaf Arnica; Upper right: Wild Strawberry
Lower left: Oregon grape; Lower Center: Not sure; Lower right: Lodgepole pine

Even the clouds get into the act, providing an artist's canvas for the greening larches and leafing-out aspens.
May 5
May 23
Not to be outdone, the Sun touches her brush to the canvas; so ends another day in Paradise.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Garden Glory: (Showing Off a "Small Island" - Part 7)

It is inevitable, when playing tour guide in a familiar place, that you will make repeat visits to certain attractions.  Raby Castle is a case in point.  With its proximity to my in-laws' house, the Castle was an obvious choice to share with my sister and her husband last June.  And so we went, even though Spousal Unit and I had been there the summer before.  But make no mistake, I had no regrets; the Castle has stunning gardens, sweeping panoramas and, of course, a tea shop, that would occupy us while our guests toured the Castle.  Follow me!

My previous posts about this trip (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)) have noted the uncharacteristically warm and sunny weather we'd been having.  Some evening rain put an end to that, and I rejoiced in capturing lingering raindrops on the flowers the next day. 

What is it about brick walls and stone parapets that shape a garden so?  When I first imagined the landscape design for the 'wild' acreage at our log house, I dreamt of the sort of 'rooms' that you see in a quintessential English garden, often created with the use of plantings and hardscape.  To this day I am inspired by this design technique (even if we are not using it in Montana!)

The walls of locally hand-made bricks were constructed with flues which, when heated, enabled sub-tropical fruits such as apricots to be grown on the south terrace.  Of these, only the White Ischia Fig brought to Raby in 1786 by William Harry, Lord Barnard, still survives in its specially built house, fruiting annually.

The gardens surrounding English castles and grand homes are often arboretums in their own right, with a fascinating array of trees, shrubs and flowers.  As a tree lover, I revel in studying the trees - color, texture, shape, placement in the garden - it all has a role to  play in the beauty of the space.

Many of the original features remain in the Raby Castle gardens, including two fine yew hedges, and the ornamental pond, which was originally constructed to provide water for the kitchen garden.
Yew hedges to right and left

Ah, the summer rose - riveting to the eye and tantalizing to the nostrils … below are the best of the bunch.

Occasionally, a garden will surprise.  This day, around a corner, we found a 'higgledy-piggledy' rectangle, populated by a variety of looming plants.  We wondered: could it be a forgotten section?  The head gardener's 'scrap' heap?  Done deliberately to show that an English garden CAN be disorderly?  Whatever the rationale, we loved the riot of textures, shapes and colors.

As I peruse my next set of shots, I am struck with wonder once again at the rolling landscape, dotted with majestic oaks and other aged trees that have seen Kings and Queens come and go.  This setting surrounding the Castle is referred to as the "Park."  Can you imagine anything more marvelous?
Groundskeeper's Cottage in the distance

Well, perhaps the view of the Castle …

Raby Castle is near Staindrop in County Durham, among 200 acres of deer park.  It was built by John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby, between approximately 1367 and 1390.  Cecily Neville, the mother of the Kings Edward IV and Richard III, was born here.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Awesome April

The fact that I am just now getting to my April re-cap means my life is full of blessings, such as a new house that draws on our time to make it a home, and a trip to Ohio for our daughter's graduation.

Sometimes, especially at the change of seasons, it is fascinating to look back at photos from last month - how much Nature has changed in just six short weeks!  As I prepared this post, I found myself whispering 'wow' and squinting through my glasses to make sure I had read the photo dates correctly.  Want to see what I mean?  Let's go look!

These ski resort pictures were taken on April 7, the day before ski season closed.  In Whitefish, the end of the season is set by the Forest Service, to ensure limited encounters between humans and bears as the bears emerge from hibernation.  It's certainly not for lack of snow!!!

Lest you think the Forest Service is being overly cautious .. . thousands of people followed a Glacier National Park web cam for 3 weeks (beginning around March 24), to watch a black bear in a sycamore tree.  Here are some of the screen shots I captured - isn't he an entertaining fellow (from a distance)?

Once warmer temperatures arrive to the lower elevations, the snow disappears quickly.  My trail cam documented not only wildlife, but the receding snow banks around our house.

Speaking of trail cams, I was so delighted last month to capture another coyote picture, this one in the daylight!!!  And a fabulous series with a turkey!

Here are some other pictures documenting snow around our house - now you see it, now you don't!

It may surprise you to see Easter pictures in this post ... but I include them here for 2 reasons - one, Easter was April 1 - so it belongs in the April re-cap!!!  Two- we just ate the last of the Easter candy - does your holiday candy linger, or does it disappear rather quickly in your house? 

Like the Easter candy, some of my 2018 goals are ... lingering.  I haven't done much cooking lately, and I am a little behind on my tea towel embroidery.

And I think I have a reasonable excuse - check out my new blogging studio on the back deck ...

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