Herb Bed Progress

As plants go, I have to say that I am a huge fan of herbs. They are hardy and often insect and disease repellent. They smell wonderfully and often produce cute flowers. Of course, they are useful in cooking and crafting. What’s not to love?

One of my greatest delights this summer in reclaiming our ornamental beds from three years of neglect (a process that has made me think numerous times of one of my favorite childhood novels, The Secret Garden) has been the discovery of a variety of herbs that clearly thrive here. In addition to literally armfuls of oregano, I’ve found large quantities of thyme, sage, chives, and to a lesser extent, lavender, all thriving without human interference. Indeed, I’m pretty certain the previous owners encircled the flag pole with a hedge of alternating sage and thyme. (I can’t help but wonder if the parsley and rosemary failed to thrive?)

Flagpole with overgrown herb border.

Flagpole with overgrown herb border.

Closeup of overgrown flagpole border.

Closeup of overgrown flagpole border.

All of these herbs are terribly overgrown, as you can see. While they look healthy on top, layers of dead branches lay underneath that should have been pruned. Unfortunately, my research suggests that they should be pruned when they are dormant in February. So, beyond quite forcibly removing invasive plants like blackberries, stinging nettles and a cedar tree start, I’m leaving this circle alone for the time being.

By the way, I cannot tell you what an invaluable help the Garden Answers phone app has been in identifying the plants (wild and planted) on our property. You use the app to take a picture of the plant in question and moments later it provides photographs of similar plants. Those photos link to information about the given plant. Best of all, the app is free. Genius, I say! Sheer genius!

That said, all of these thriving herbs got my green thumb itching. So, we’ve reclaimed a bed in front of our shed that had gone completely native. In it, we’ve planted English and lemon thyme, lemon verbena, rosemary, lavender, Bergamot bee balm, French tarragon, and dill. I’ve planted seeds and tiny seedlings of several other herbs, but I’m not sure if any will survive. (Note to self: skip seeds. You always fail.) If I’m right and none survive, I’ll be adding echinacea, chamomile, and anise next year.

It will be interesting to see what survives and thrives.

Shed herb bed

Shed herb bed

Oh and if, by chance, you are wondering how I could have missed that most popular of herbs, basil, never fear. We’ve got that covered, too. It is growing quite happily on its own . . . in the lawn.

Basil in the lawn.

Basil in the lawn.

Bird Feeder Update

“And they told two friends. And they told two friends. . . .”

The Nyger seed feeder traffic is definitely picking up. Several times a day, I see one or two finches feeding and one day, we saw a total of six! And they are showing interest in the suet feeder!

Six finches!

Six finches!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And one more, just because. . . .

Gotta love the symmetry.

Gotta love the symmetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finally managed a photo (albeit terrible) of the elusive hummingbird as well.

Hummingbird at front feeder.

Hummingbird at front feeder.

For one brief moment, we saw a small bird resembling a chickadee at the Nyger seed feeder, but I couldn’t get a clear shot. That said, I know he’s out there and would feed if he could!

I am wondering if the finches scare away other birds. They fight pretty intensely among themselves. I’m thinking of redesigning the feeder configuration once the finches empty the Nyger seed to give more feeding stations to the finches and move the other types of feed further away. Most definitely, putting the suet almost under the most active feeder was not my smartest move.

Of course, I am not the only one enjoying this new adventure. Apparently, Stormie, Wiley and Moxie are budding ornithologist. Who knew?

Stormie, Wiley, Moxie observing the feeders.

Stormie, Wiley, Moxie observing the feeders.

First Guests

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Guess who came to dinner! According to Birds of the Puget Sound Region, this is a male and female American Goldfinch. I haven’t seen these birds since we left California, so this is pretty exciting. I’ve also seen a hummingbird at the feeder, but I haven’t been fast enough to photograph it, let alone identify it, but I’m on the hunt.

Progress

This is our third summer of living in Washington. We spent the first two primarily working inside, unpacking and make the house our home. This summer, however, we’ve moved outside, and I am slowly reclaiming the garden beds after three years of neglect.

Here are a couple of before and after shots of the front beds, where I removed wild blackberries and native trees that spring up everywhere, mountains of oregano, and a handful of shrubs and a hosta that didn’t pass aesthetic muster.

Before:

Front Right - Before

Front Right – Before

Front Left - Before

Front Left – Before

After:

Front Left - After

Front Left – After

 

 

Front Right - After

Front Right – After

Now, I’d love to find someone to lay weed block and mulch in these beds to finish them, hold moisture, and prevent that weedy mess again!

New Friend!

We were re-stacking horse fencing panels yesterday when we discovered this little fellow, who, according to my field guide, is a Northwestern Garter Snake.

Northwestern Garter Snake

Northwestern Garter Snake

My middle son, the budding environmental biologist, immediately made a new friend on whom he bestowed the name, Dave.

Dave

Dave

Bird Feeders & Bath

It’s only taken almost three years, but I finally set up my bird feeders and bath. I’m pretty certain that I have too many feeders on one pole, but I’m on a fishing expedition at the moment to see who comes to dinner. The ornamental beds in front of the house provide beneficial cover for the birds who come to feed.

I will note that I designed and built the bird feeder stand, a project I really enjoyed. I also gave the bird bath a new coat of paint to match our front door. I’m pleased with the results.

Bird Feeders

Bird Feeders

Bird Bath

Bird Bath

Book Review: Seasons in My Garden

Product DetailsIn Seasons in My Garden, Sr. Elizabeth Wagner ponders through each season the grounds of her home at the Transfiguration Hermitage in Windsor, Maine to discover thought-provoking meditations and reflections. Sr. Elizabeth often starts with an unexpected observation then gently leads the reader to an equally unanticipated insight. A tree crashing in the road on Christmas Eve leads to questions about human vulnerability and peace. Liturgical ordinary time during summer induces a discovery of the extraordinary in less celebrated moments. Autumn with its final blaze of color provides an opportunity to look inward and see our true selves, or God, as the light begins to diminish. Furthermore, although she encourages readers to follow their own questions to mystery or their dreams, Sr. Elizabeth also provides an interesting account of the daily life and challenges of a contemplative in a semi-eremitical community. In sum, Seasons in My Garden is a lovely book with insights to be savored.

(I received this book through Netgalley.)

Hoya 52mm Close Up Filter Set

For Mother’s Day this past May, my boys gave a set of Hoya close up filters for my Nikon D5000. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a better way to shoot close up shots of nature. This past week, I experimented with the 4+ filter.

African violet

African violet

Begonia

Begonia

So, I think I’m sold on my filters!