Another Not-So-Famous Garden in my Neighborhood

Walking around my neighborhood, it’s fun to get glimpses of interesting gardens that other people have created in their back yards. There will be a sunflower here, a rose there, and a tomato plant over there. Actually, there are some fantastic gardens hidden here and there near downtown Evansville.

One such garden belongs to Dee. She works at Patchwork and has lived in this neighborhood for a very long time. I saw a small part of her garden earlier this summer and wanted to see more of it so I stopped by last week with my camera.

Dee’s back yard is a lot like mine in that the Victorian family that built her house paved the entire thing. As a result, Dee has narrow raised beds along the edges of the property that are densely packed with vignettes of plants and art.

I love Dee’s quirky combinations of figurines and garden art. I envy some of the weirder pieces in her collection. Some spots in her yard are elegant and then there are the places where her fantastic sense of humor shines.

Here’s a tour:

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Sights and Sounds of Michigan

We’re just back from a vacation in Northern Michigan. This time around, we took a side trip on our way up and stopped in Grand Rapids, Michigan to see the Meijer Sculpture Gardens. They were amazing and there was so much to see. We focused on the main sculpture trails, and I thought they were really well done. The art was interesting, I loved the setting in natural meadows and forests, and I loved the groupings of art and glimpses of pieces through the trees that were clearly well planned. The botanical garden parts were also fantastic. There was so much to do that we left a lot for our next visit.

Our vacation in Northern Michigan was much needed and the weather was fantastic. As usual, we enjoyed the beautiful views of Lake Michigan, time on Crooked Lake near our cottage, and hikes in the wonderful Little Traverse Conservancy nature preserves.

The nature preserves are scattered everywhere and include trails through forests, along rivers and lakes, and Lake Michigan beach fronts. I’m thankful that they mean that the beautiful land is preserved from development. I think they also highlight the role that undeveloped land plays in helping to keep the water and the air cleaner for everyone.

John and I found nice spots along Lake Michigan…

And in forests…

And around Crooked Lake, which is near our cottage…

And this year we went to a place I’d never actually seen before: Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was very beautiful…

I found some good inspiration for future garden art and flower plantings. We just happened to drive by an awesome yard in Cross Village that included the pyramid thing and the rocks with faces below. I think I’ll incorporate the art in an apple picker into my own yard. Cross Village, in general, is full of quirky art, including the Legs Inn, which is where the tepee with weird totems is located.

And we enjoyed good food, from a fresh lunch on the deck of the cottage to a picnic lunch that John and I enjoyed in one of the of the nature preserves near Petoskey. We’d seen that we could get a pre-made picnic box from Petoskey Cheese and it sounded fun and tasty, and it was indeed!


Another new place to visit during this trip was the International Dark Sky Park that is located on the Lake Michigan coast at the very tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula. It is an area with very low light pollution, so you can get a very good look at everything in the night sky. We got there for a beautiful sunset and an impromptu presentation by one park staff member. We got a good look at the sky, but were limited by the moon, which was at least half full. Now that we know where it is, we can look forward to going for a darker night in the future.

 

 

 

Just Look at this Goofball…

Just look at this goofball and try to ignore him…I bet you can’t.

He showed up in our back yard about a month ago. It didn’t seem like anyone was feeding him, so for a few days I shared some of the Ladies’ food on little squares of aluminum foil–I wasn’t going to make too strong of a commitment. But the squares of foil became Shamoo’s discarded travel cup, and I found reasons to spend evenings sitting on the side porch so he’d have company. And then he got some of the Ladies’ flea treatment, too.

He quickly became my little gardening buddy, following me everywhere, observing everything, and convincing the bunnies to invade other gardens (added bonus: I can say, “No, no, I wasn’t talking to myself, I was talking to the cat!”). He also enjoyed “helping” me with my garden art projects.

I’m just not so sure about the company he keeps. 🙂

He loves laps and cuddles, he’ll give you kisses if you let him, and he always purrs. He’s also got a massive amount of energy and he’ll zap your arm or leg good if he gets overstimulated, which happens regularly. He’s a goofball and he’s definitely trouble. He also seems starved for a family to love him and for him to love. Every night for weeks, I’ve had to remove the soundly sleeping cat from my lap so I could go inside to bed, and then he’d sit on the doorstep and stare sadly at the door.

So John and I talked. What do you do. Neither of us wanted three cats. And the Ladies are an absolutely, positively perfect duo. But if we don’t look out for him, who will?

So he got checked out at the vet. No microchip. No infectious cat diseases.

What do you do.

We rearranged the house and made a space for him and a space for the Ladies. Two litter boxes. Two feeding areas. Another set of toys. And two giant cat trees. Today is his first day inside. We’ll see how it goes.

With the Ladies, we visited the Humane Society three times. We met different cats. We thought long and hard about which ones were the right cats for us: two cats would be perfect. Friends who wanted to stay together. Not too young. Not too old. We chose carefully and thoughtfully and shared some heartache over the ones we didn’t choose. It was emotional when we brought them home and let them out of their carrier. We hoped they would grow to trust us and to consider us their people.

And now here’s Larry (that’s what we’re calling him for now). He carefully and thoughtfully chose us.

There is one major obstacle, however, and her name is Ygraine.

She. Is. Not. Amused.

Note to Self

At the end of June, the Southwestern Indiana Master Gardeners hosted their biannual garden tour. Fifteen gardens (14 private gardens plus the Master Gardeners’ display garden) were open to the public. I was glad to be able to go this year. It’s always fun to see what other people come up with and to get ideas from them.  I don’t go to be critical–after all, it’s nice of people to open their personal spaces up to the rambling, judgmental hordes. However, I can’t help but think my own garden is at least as good as at least some of the gardens and I don’t have professionals to do the tough stuff for me! In fact, I decided to start this blog 6 years ago after that year’s garden tours made me think I had something worth sharing.

This year’s tour included some great garden views…

It also included some interesting plants.  There was one little garden full of really interesting miniature hostas (I always love the clever variety names!). There was also a garden that was predominantly day lilies. They’re kind of sprawl-ly for anywhere in my garden, but that garden definitely made me look at them more favorably than I had before…

There were also some nice vegetable support ideas…

My favorite garden surrounded a house built to conserve energy and had the most garden art of all of them. It also had chickens and a long, artistic fence enclosing them. There was a children’s play area above the chicken’s house. And the chickens had a green roof on their house. And many exotic-looking plants. Overall, I really enjoyed the feel of the place.

Updates and Visitors

I’ve been working hard to get several updates made to my garden and yard before a couple groups of friends were scheduled to visit. On top of the usual cleaning, weeding, organizing, and planting, this spring I started on a new raised bed, a new set of perennials on a new side of the house, and a new piece of garden art.

It was a lot of work and things aren’t finished yet, but some new vegetables are already coming up in the raised bed and I’m  enjoying the way it all looks. The highlight is the new bottle tree taking shape on the stump of the apple tree at the front of the side yard. I’ve been thinking about this sculpture for a little while, and I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect piece to go atop it. I found a fantastic concrete raccoon holding an apple. I shaped the stump somewhat so it would look less stumpy, I carved space on top for plants to grow, and I started adding bottles. It’s still a work in progress, but here’s what it looks like now:

I was so excited to find such a trashy good raccoon sculpture. I found it and the rotary hoe blade under it at a local architectural salvage store. The paint job when I found it was pretty uninspiring, so I repainted it. It has such a perfectly gleeful raccoon look on its face that reminds me of the meme:

It’s always great to have garden visitors in real life in addition to my virtual garden visitors, even though I always pressure myself to try to make everything look perfect. If you’re ever in my neighborhood, feel free to stop by, too! Among the things my guests brought was this photogenic magnolia bloom:

For those unable to visit my garden in person, here’s a quick tour of many of my garden beds and plants. The overview: my other concrete raccoon now looks classy in comparison, I added more tree jewelry, the hostas are happy, a hollyhock is blooming, I added a little flapping wind spinner, I’m trying to grow Alpine strawberries, the red hydrangea is blooming, and I picked the garlic scapes. (As always, click on any photo to see the larger version.)

Another bit of art that’s now out is my collection of goofy garden markers created by the kids at Patchwork as part of Art & Company. They learn how to make art and then sell it and get a “company” dividend based on their investment of time and good behavior. I love the misspellings.

Here’s a collection, along with some ceramic fairies and a real fairy from my garden:

And finally, the cats. The back door is their happy, happy place. Lady Ygraine has been enjoying it for well over a month, but it’s been less than two weeks since Lady Morgaine decided to join her. They are very sweet together and even had their tails entwined the other day. Not pictured: the occasional times Ygraine puts her arm around Morgaine, growls, and pushes her daughter off the chair so mommy can have some “me time”. In Ygraine’s defense, Morgaine does tend to get a little too excited sometimes. Twice she’s been so engrossed in what was going on outside that she attempted to jump with all four feet onto the 0.5″ strip of wood framing the window and then fell off it with a bang that scared everyone.

Remembering Shamoo

 

My final portrait of Shamoo taken on Christmas Day 2016

 

Shamoo was born in October, 1997 and died December 28, 2016.

He was a wonderful cat who had a very good life. He was aware of this, and stuck around for 19 years to enjoy as much of it as he could. He spent 18 of his years with his person Amy. John provided staffing for Shamoo for 17 years. Shamoo cared about them very much in the way that cats care about their people.

Shamoo worked hard to be dignified, clean, and proper at all times, commanding the title of “Sir”. As a younger cat, he was a little cheeky, but he mellowed with age. Often things happened around him that left him feeling concerned, but he tried hard to never let anything ruffle his fur too much.

To the very end, Shamoo was a handsome cat. He routinely positioned himself in locations that would complement his dapper black and white coat. He loved the camera. Amy enjoyed taking photographs of him. In the early days of the internet LOLCat, he enjoyed a measure of notoriety, being chosen to appear regularly on the website StuffOnMyCat.com. He was included in the pages of three Stuff on My Cat books and won a Stuff on My Cat online contest with his portrayal of the letter Z.

In his life, Shamoo lived in Evansville, Indiana; Archbold, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; and (again) Evansville, Indiana. He had many roommates and temporary staff in that time who enjoyed his company. During his time in Archbold, Shamoo also shared the house with Josh the dog. The two enjoyed playing tricks on each other, chasing each other, and looking out the window together. Shamoo always felt a little sorry for Josh for being the family pet.

Shamoo enjoyed being petted while he ate fresh crunchies and watching birds. He often talked to the birds excitedly as he watched them. In his younger days, he enjoyed playing with string toys, aggravating his roommates, and jumping into window sills to look outside. In his later years, he enjoyed laying on top of his people, going on walks indoors with John, sleeping in his heated cat bed, and taking short excursions into the outdoors.

Shamoo found new experiences even as an elderly cat. He went on his first vacation to Northern Michigan at the age of 16 and returned to Michigan for two more years. He didn’t mind the car ride and enjoyed the relaxing time with his people.

Shamoo was a very good cat and he will be greatly missed.

 

Paw Print

German Adventures

Europe on the horizon

I’m just back from a week in Germany visiting my sister and her family. The occasion: my youngest niece was being baptized and my sister and her husband asked me to be the godmother. I also got to be part of everyday life for a short time and saw a few sights around Nuremberg. It was a good visit.

my sister's village

My sister and her family live in a village near Nuremberg. Her apartment looks out on a photogenic old garage and a wonderful bakery. The day before the baptism we picked some leaves off the garage to decorate the reception room at a church in a nearby town. Then my older niece and I had to wait together for a ride.

While we waited, she found a green leaf and a red one for me to use as flags. I was supposed to wave them to direct her to go or to stop while she was riding her bike in the driveway. Soon, she started to disobey the traffic signals and told me I needed to be the police and stop her.

Then it was our turn to go to the reception room to help decorate. Along the way we stopped for some pumpkins. I am so envious at the great variety of pumpkins at the little farm near my sister’s house. They were both beautiful and looked tasty. We intentionally chose mostly edible varieties so they could become dinner when they were done being centerpieces.

After setup was over, my niece and I had to wait together again. It was a gorgeous day. I was inspired by the church’s mosaic garden ball. My niece picked a bouquet of red leaves and weeds to give to “the best Mamma.”

The next day was the baptism service at the 600-year-old church in the village where my sister and her family live. The minister was very nice and knew some English, so he incorporated a few things in English to help make it meaningful for me despite my lack of German language skills. It was a nice service and a new experience for me.

At the end of the service a candle was lit for each of the three children who had been baptized. In addition, their siblings had been invited to bring back the candles that were lit at their baptisms.

After the service, we all went to the reception for a big meal, time together, and a walk at the edge of the town. On the walk, we passed an interesting tree with odd apples on it. There was an explanation for what they were, but I didn’t quite follow it.

The next day I had some time by myself, so I took a walk in my sister’s town. It was a misty and atmospheric day. I started at the church and church cemetery, which are located at the highest point in the town. German church cemeteries are interesting because most plots include a stone monument inside a small, personalized garden. I enjoyed seeing all the different kinds of plants. From the church, I walked through the fields just outside of town.

On my last day in Germany, the kids, my sister, and I visited a botanical garden in the town of Erlangen. The kids had voted to go to the zoo instead, but my sister and I were interested to see what the gardens were like. We were afraid that the kids were going to be super bored and would pick everything in sight, but were happy to find that the kids found plenty of interesting things to look at and enjoyed the trip as much as we did.