Friday, June 26, 2009

Copper Ducks

The highlight of our morning walk: a Common Merganser mother and her brood.

They were swimming in the river at our turn-around point, a cottonwood-shaded park nearby. This is the first time I've seen them here, although I know they do frequent some Sierra lakes and streams.

We camped near French Reservoir years ago and loved the showy "copper ducks" around our campsite. The bird book called them Common Mergansers, but I don't think there's anything common about these showy waterfowl!

What a nice way to start a summer day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Temporarily Stymied

I want to catch up with my endless list of fun projects--specifically I want to get this year's Christmas scrapping done and off our guest bed. NOW. But I need more album pages. And there are no Michaels 40% off coupons this week.

Michaels, what are you thinking?

The economy is shaky, three people on our little cul-de-sac are out of work (us included), money is tight, businesses are still failing. There is no way in aitch-ee-double-toothpicks that I am going to pay full price for those album pages. If you want my business, tempt me with a coupon.

Apparently "now" is being revised to "before next December." I'll just find something else to work on while I wait for the coupon fairy to reappear.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Surprise Ending

I knew it could be reused when I fished this trellis out of the trash last summer. It flopped around my yard for an entire year, blown by the winds, tolerated by my neighbors as it sadly leaned against our mutual fence.
I didn't know I'd paint it apple green on the spur of the moment or that it would reside in the front of our cottage when it proved too tall for the back fence.
I liked the look; the clematis loved the support. I started getting excited when the first buds began to appear.
The final result is even better than my expectations. Soon it will have blossoms all the way up.And each year the clematis will produce more blooms than the year before until the apple green trellis disappears under the lush growth. My optimistic habit of believing treasures can be found in other people's trash doesn't always work out. But once in a while, I surprise even myself!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pond Barley

Barley straw really works at clearing up a pond!

It's magical and mysterious. That's mostly because I'm too lazy to find out how it works--it's enough for me that it does work.

Here we have springtime algae soup. Green, yucky, visibility about six inches.

Of course, if I could have seen down further I would have just seen the black liner.

But eventually I couldn't stand to look at it any more so I drained it and added fresh water. It looked clear for three whole days before it turned into green algae soup again. It looks fairly clear here, although a bit cloudy, and I began collecting rocks to finish it off into the mountain pool of my imagination.(If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because I posted my photos a couple months ago.)

I found time to get the filter working again after the puppy tore up the media. At the very top of the filter is a bundle of barley straw doing its magic...

Behold, this is my pond at the summer solstice.What a change--crystalline! The doggies think this is the best water dish ever, obviously. The robins love to splash in the shallows and every bird in the neighborhood drops by for a sip. The newly-acquired water lilies are flourishing. It's time to sit back with a cold lemonade and just enjoy the ambiance.

Thank you, barley straw!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday Morning News

the beast,
had a feast,
and was then released.

Yep, she was fluttering on Friday, had figured out how to hop out of her box on Saturday and fly across the room (not bad for a maiden voyage either), and was ecstatic when I took her into the front yard on Sunday.

I let her out of her cage and she let me know that she had no intentions of coming back inside with me. (Parents have to know when to let go.) So Miss Independence is out there somewhere fending for herself. One thing I've noticed is that jay and robin fledglings spend a lot of time on the ground, but sparrow babies, I'm happy to say, fly well enough to perch in trees. I wish that I'd been able to video her at feeding time and to get one last photo, alas.

I listen for her "cheep" when I'm outside. I keep hoping that her birth parents will watch out for her along with the siblings.

Fly free, little sparrow, fly free!

Friday, June 19, 2009


I have a new skill to add to my resume: bird mom.

East (or Tweet) is flourishing. She--yes she turned out to be female--ate close to a tablespoon of food today. A week ago I was trying to get her to just open her beak for me, then I cheered when I was able to feed her one morsel. We both have learned. She chirps imperiously when hungry and has all the vigor of a shark when she sees her spoon coming her way. I now feel empathy for bird parents as they try to gather enough sustenance for a growing brood. I'm relieved that I have only one nestling to care for. As it is, I'm tied to her schedule and make no forays lasting longer than an hour.

She's a bit of a messy eater, but is particular about not spoiling her "nest". In fact, we refer to her as the New World Blast-ended Skrewt (for all you fellow Harry Potter fans).

I've thought more than once that there is a strong kinship between a puppy and a nestling sparrow. East wakes up and wants to eat. She eats and predictably poops. She eats dog food. I know, dog food, who would've thunk it? But that's what's recommended and it does seem to work.

I grind up some kibble in the blender and add water until it's absorbed. I keep it refrigerated and spoon out a teaspoon at a time, adding more water till it has a gruel-ish texture and is room temperature ('cause babies need it like that). It slides right down her gullet and I'm amazed at how much she can eat at one feeding: ten tidbits are the currrent record! When she's full, she might still cheep, but she doesn't open her beak in that endearing way young birds have.

She loves her towel-lined box and finds a way to cuddle into the folds of the towel when she naps. She flutters her wings when I need to move her, so I hope that leaving the nest is coming up soon. Her parents never did come to East's box when it was on the roof, but I've been watching them as they come and go to their nest, so that I'll know when it's time for East to leave her "nest" and enter the wide world with her siblings. Will her parents care for her along with the others? I've got my fingers crossed. If not, I have the example my older son set years ago as he and his best friend successfully taught their little fledgling to forage for bugs and seeds before she finally flew away on her own.

She's really been fun to mother. I'm quite fond of her wide hungry yellow beak and it tickles me to see her little tongue. Her eyes are lively, finally, and her feathers are growing nicely. Like most kids, she hates having her mouth cleaned after a meal. She had a rocky start with her double fall off the roof, but she's a survivor!

I'm planning a photo shoot tomorrow. I wish my camera took better closeups; I might have to borrow my sweetie's to get a keeper of a picture.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Starting a Junkee Habit

Was I the last person in Reno to know about Junkee? I'd still be clueless if it wasn't for Tracey aka Tumbleweed Cotillion via Cindy at My Romantic Home. Turns out my summer walking partners go there frequently so we had a little field trip.

This is sterling silver and glass--a perfect place to store my earrings and the occasional hairclip. It polished up like a dream. It makes me smile every time I see it dressing up my vanity.

And this little bunny rabbit has the cutest look on his face. And see, he's waving at you. At two dollars I could afford to add him to the other bunnies that live in Meadowsweet Cottage year round.

The flower plates behind him were a yard sale steal (figuratively). I bought them thinking that I would break them and make four extremely cute stepping stones; then I set them on my hutch temporarily. Big mistake. I think the stepping stone idea is history.

p.s. East update: My baby bird is alive, well, peeping, and a ferocious if messy eater!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Are You My Mother?

Yes, apparently.

This is East. He fell out of his nest under our roof tiles, rolled off the roof below and landed on the brick walkway. I rescued him (or her?) since he was a nestling: fledged, but unable to fly. And I'm not able to get him back into his nest.

He's eating soaked, minced dog food because that's what the Google search told me.

See that tan blob where I spilled some? He's a messy eater and I'm a novice birdmom.(Don't ask what the green pile is.)

I feed him with the rabbit end of the child's spoon. His box is outside an upstairs window, right below his real nest, with birdseed sprinkled around it. Neither he nor the birdseed has enticed his parents to resume feeding him.

I just hate parents that shirk their duties.

He spent last night inside, safe from thunderstorms, cuddled in a cozy blue towel, with my heating pad over him for warmth.

I am his slave.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Scratch an Itch

So after I painted the trellis apple green, I looked around to see what else I could paint.
I dragged the bench out of the garden, grabbed my handsander, loaded some 80-weight sandpaper and in a matter of minutes I had a fairly new wood surface to paint. Primer? Nah, the worst that could happen is "shabby chic" after a winter or two. Besides that would delay the instantaneous gratification I clearly deserve.In less than an hour, an apple green reading bench under the dogwood tree.

One unforeseen outcome--this made me notice my flagstone path had been swallowed up by the white violets (the single most aggressive plant I've ever met, including mint, dames rocket, feverfew and lilies of the valley). As of this afternoon, there isn't a violet leaf to be seen, although the roots are still there, and I have an agreement with Mr. RoundUp for a spray-date the instant they show new leaves.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Front Porch

Come sit awhile. The pillows are out on the wicker chairs for the summer. The end-of-school mum (yellow, naturally!) is watered and the Nelly Moser clematis is blooming. I have a note to tie up that extra long branch that is peeking over the chair. It would look really nice framing the porch instead. Somehow that's one garden chore that keep getting put off.

Just ignore the plastic bags. They're three bottles of radiator fluid from Erkie-pie's truck that need to be recycled. He hasn't taken them yet, so I suppose I'll have to find time next week. My porch will look nicer, of course, but better yet Mother Earth will be happier! We highly recommend to find a location near you to recycle everything from auto fluids to CFL bulbs!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why Meadowsweet?

You may be wondering why "Meadowsweet Cottage"?

  • Meadowsweet sounds so pretty.

  • I love cottage style; it's so unpretentious.

  • I considered Columbine Cottage (my all-time favorite flower), Candytuft Cottage (it's everywhere around here), Coralbell Cottage (it's the first flower I learned the name of when I was little), and Lilypond Cottage (in honor of our pond and its inhabitants).

  • I realized that I couldn't pick from among all my flowers. That would be like choosing a favorite child.

  • So I chose a flower I don't have.

It makes perfect sense to me.

Anyway, here is the entrance to Meadowsweet Cottage--welcome to my own personal corner of heaven!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trash Trellis

I found this trellis on the curb last summer on trash day. I thought the Queen Mother might find it useful for one of her many vines that were fast getting out of hand. Unfortunately, it's so big that it wouldn't fit in my Forester, so it stayed at my house throughout the winter.It had a few issues, the worst being that one of the verticals broke off near the top. And yes, it needed repainting.

So I scrapped off the flaky old paint and painted it a soft apple green. I solved the broken vertical problem by simply cutting off the matching vertical on the other side to make it symmetrical.
Then I nailed it up along my front walk and twined a few branches of the Jackmanii clematis through it. I just love the apple green color I used. It's so much more fun than plain white! The clematis is very happy to finally have a real trellis to climb and I can hardly wait for the buds to open into huge showy purple blossoms.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"Pink" Iris

What a year for iris! They are everywhere we look--whites, yellows, bicolors, purples, blues--it's a short-but-sweet blooming season.

This was supposed to be a pink iris. I guess this is as pink as bearded irises get. I like it even though it's not quite like I had pictured--especially in the morning sun right after a June rainshower. Yum! It looks good enough to eat.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Finally! Summer vacation is here (giant sigh of relief)!

My first summer activity was a walk with Kharma to the pasture, but we'd no sooner stepped out the door than our daily thunderstorm began. We made it all the way to the corner before turning back. We had some rainy-day fun revisiting rusty tricks and working on new behaviors in the garage instead.

So, if I couldn't enjoy a nice long dog-hike and I couldn't play in the garden without getting soaked...hmmmm, must be a craft day! I cut out my dinosaur vest and started sewing, then grabbed some of the sunflower-yellow fabric scraps and began cutting out circles for future yo-yos.

Tomorrow's goals: set up my traditional summer morning walks-with-the-neighbors and grab the batteries from the re-charger so I can start posting photos again.

I feel light-hearted and free. Anything is possible and I get to set my own schedule for the next couple months.

Monday, June 01, 2009


I have not fallen off a cliff, thrown my keyboard into a swimming pool or been kidnapped by aliens. It's just that time of year when blogging for so many of us gets shoved onto the bottom of the priority list.

I have been surviving the last moments of the school year. It's a tough job. Last Friday, we had a picture perfect morning kindergarten graduation. Alas, forty-five minutes into the afternoon festivities (costume malfunctions, stage fright, battery failure), I began thinking about how very nice a frosty margarita would make me feel. And then I was too tired to even bother grabbing the Jose Cuervo when I finally dragged myself home.

One and a half more days. Which translates into Field Day (thunderstorms or sunburn, place your bets now) and Summer Birthdays.

Oh! and saying goodbye to my babies (and their parents) with a smile and a hug and, hopefully, no tears on my part. No guarantees there. Some years I can do it and then some years I get an unexpected hug and I lose it.

Why is it that I can't wait for summer and yet can hardly bear the thought of saying goodbye to the sweet little faces that have greeted me daily. Beginnings and endings, endings and beginnings.