The Summer of Rain

I have a postage stamp flower garden out by the mailbox. (It cost more than 49 cents to put in…)

It’s filled with new perennials that decided to be first year bloomers –salvia, rudbeckia, daisies, and a bush honeysuckle. The cosmos self-seeded from last year and is blooming more profusely than ever. A caryopteris I planted last fall is just starting to get little blue fuzzy flowers; the monarda and the echinacea haven’t bloomed — they are just looking green and healthy.

Salvia with the “weeds” — backyard daisies and Queen Anne’s Lace

The daisies were just growing wild in the back yard. I transplanted them so red, yellow, pink, purple, and white flowers will bloom together in one little garden. These are the first flowers I’ve planted since we’ve been here at the cottage; the fruit trees and the berries and the grapes and the vegetables have taken precedence.

Rudbeckia Hirta or Black-eyed Susan

I take so much pleasure from this small triangle of color out my window. Only easy-grow flowers that are on the Deer Don’t Like Me list are planted there; though a rabbit chewed on the coneflower leaves last night.

Diervilla lonicera or Bush Honeysuckle

I’ve been keeping blood meal around the flowers to keep the critters out; perhaps that’s why they are so happy. Or it could be all the rain. The flowers love it; the vegetables do not. That’s why I am writing about the flowers instead of the sad unripe tomatoes; or the peppers with no blossoms and no fruit; or the squash with lots of blossoms but no fruit. Sigh.

The flowers are splendid though, and they cheer my heart when I start to whine about the vegetable garden.

And, this year we have pears! More about that in two weeks or so…

(You will note that the sky in this photo is not blue. Blue skies have been few and far between this summer.)

Just in case you would like to see my “Deer Don’t Like Me” list of deer-resistant plants, shrubs, and flowers, here is the one I’ve compiled:

the beautiful Cosmos bipinnatus…you can never grow too many.

Artemisia Silver Mound, Lamium, Sweet Woodruff, Rocket ligularia, Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), Wood Fern, Oenothera, Lemon Balm, Poppies, Monarda, Peonies, Achillea, Echinacea, Hyssop (Agastache), Iris, Coreopsis, Balloon flower (Platycodon), Daffodils, Lambs Ears, Asparagus, most herbs.

Snapdragons, Zinnias, Cleome, Lantana, Marigolds, Globe Amaranth, Ageratum, Dusty Miller, Larkspur, Nicotiana, Annual Vinca.


And the cheerful volunteer daisies, genus and species unknown…

Shrubs and Small Trees:
Spirea,  Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris clandonensis), Potentilla, Buddleia, Inkberry, Lilac, Korean Boxwood, Northern Bayberry (Myrica Pennsylvanica),  Pieris Japonica, Mountain Pieris (Pieris Floribundas), Summersweet (Clethra Alnifolia), Leatherleaf Mahonia, Red Elderberry (Sambuca racemosa), Russian cypress, Daphne (Carol Mackie), Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus), Hazelnut (Corylus Americana).

This is just my list of what I like and might thrive here in Zone 6A. You might want to check out this site for a more compete list.

But every list will add the disclaimer –Nothing is completely deer proof. Holly is on most every list of plants that deer won’t eat; yet the deer ate my two holly bushes down to almost nothing last winter — and we had a mild winter with almost no snow cover.

Gardeners around Western Pennsylvania are hoping for a sunny August…

18. Gifts of Time

I was sitting on the porch swing this morning feeling wistful
for summer gone and time wasted.
But was summer gone really careless use of time?
Listening to bird song,
Drinking in the green of creation,
Reading, Writing,
Sipping iced tea,
Is all that a time waster?

Busy, busy, busy–we are all too busy. Humming around, making our lists, doing our lists, crossing off the lists, but what IS on the list? Does it matter if I didn’t get the bathroom floor sanded or the rest of the carpet taken up? There is so much to do here… I had a restful summer. It was lovely. I’m thankful to have the summer to enjoy, but the inner listmaker chides me for not getting more accomplished when I had the time off…

Time here at the cottage can be a gift or it can be a devourer–
and sometimes it can be both on the same day, in the same hour…
I’m trying to adjust my attitude on time wasted, time spent, time anxiously appraised, time flying by…
Indeed, I’m trying to try on the attitude of timelessness.

We found this bird clock this spring at a junk shoppe in Tennessee. Each bird sings the hours, so you don’t notice time flying by…

Mr. H.C. and I have differences in how we view time and how we spend time. I am a reader, a dreamer, a time waster,
but I usually know what time it is within a few minutes.
And I usually get where I am going on time,
on the dot,
not early nor late…
Mr. H.C. works hard, works a lot, and when he is done working for other people, he works at home–
car washing, invoice making, calling customers, arranging work for next week, dish washing, fixing broken things, doing house projects, car repair, lawn mowing–
when he is done for the day, he falls asleep after reading two paragraphs.
No wonder! He’s tired!
Mr. H.C. is vague about time:
he works until he’s done, no matter how long it takes.
He’s rarely on the dot…
sometimes he calls me at 7:30 to tell me he will be late for dinner…

It’s been a struggle for me (and undoubtedly for him) to live with a time opposite.

This week is our tenth anniversary. In the past, this was the week we would take our vacation, but for the past six years I have worked as a school librarian, and school always seems to start that next week. Not a good time for lazy vacations!

As I was musing over what little gift I could give my sweetie, I thought back over some others. I have gotten him an electronic organizer (for saving time); a digital camera (for capturing time); an iPhone (for saving more time when the electronic organizer was outdated); a Garmin (for saving time while driving); a lovely leather organizing set from Levenger’s (for organizing time as well as saving it); and some miscellaneous tools (time-savers for sure!) As I looked over this list (!) I felt convicted. Now this is not all I’ve gotten him; I’ve given him some nice shirts and two handsome sports jackets, but…

This year I got him a hammock — for wasting time. (Shhh….it’s still wrapped up in a pretty box with green ribbon under the bed.) I don’t know when he’ll be able to use it, but at least he’ll have it. He can put it up wherever he wants — after all we have a lotta big trees, (but I’m thinking under the catalpa would be perfect!)

What is on your list today? Crumple up that list and throw it in the recycling bin. Take a walk somewhere green, just sit on the porch, or watch a sunset. Waste some time. September will be here soon enough…

Books to read that encourage un-busy-ness:

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp; Jesus Calling by Sarah Young; The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris; The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence; Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton; Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.

17. Meanderings at Apple Hill

The birds have flown, the kitty is skittish, and the lazy days of summer are almost gone. Work on the cottage will continue, I know, but probably not with the same freedom of coming here each weekend, working, dreaming, and sitting on the porch.

20120806-075740.jpgOne of our favorite things to do in the mornings and evenings is to sit on the porch watching and listening to the birds. Our identification skills have improved greatly, thanks to my well-thumbed bird book, Birds of North America . We have seen bluebirds, orioles, finches, wrens, woodpeckers, thrushes — we have watched a mockingbird do a song and dance routine on the nearest telephone pole — we watched baby robins get pushed out of their nest one morning and soon they were hopping around the yard looking for their own worms — and we’ve watched the barn swallows soar and dip, eating insects at dusk. Learning to identify their songs has been such a pleasure. This weekend the bird songs have been replaced by the constant hum of cicadas, and the birds are missing. Not a single robin in the grass; no flash of cardinal red; no wood thrush calling its haunting song from deep in the woods; not even any mournful dove songs. All weekend the only birds we saw were two fat crows walking on the grass, and three unidentifiable birds sitting on the wire. I hope they are all just enjoying a week at the beach…

Friend Beth came to visit on Saturday evening and brought another suggestion for a kitty name — Moe. We’ll have to see if this one sticks… He seems very skittish, especially in the dark. Last night we were looking at the stars, and the shadow of a fox ran across the yard beyond the apple trees. “Look, there’s the fox!” I said excitedly to Michael, and the very same second the kitty took off running for the safety of the porch. There was fear in his eyes. He stays very close to us when we are outside, and he won’t go out on the back porch after dark by himself. He sleeps on the bed all night and snores! All this is most unusual behavior for an independent (ex)tomcat! The wounds on his face have almost healed, but he doesn’t seem to have forgotten. Now we are feeling very responsible for him, and it no longer feels okay to just enjoy him when we’re here. We are thinking he will be our indoor house cat in Pittsburgh this winter…


A face only a mother could love…

We picked and ate our first apples this weekend:


The red ones are Red Delicious — which is disappointing as they are no one’s favorite! The green one is as yet unknown; it wasn’t quite ripe and was a bit sour, but definitely edible. We’re thinking a yellow cooking apple — maybe Grimes Golden.

We went out later today and picked a few more.


They don’t look or taste too bad for an old, unpruned tree.

We aren’t the only ones who think they aren’t too bad…These are two twin fawns we’ve been watching for a month or so; they’ve only recently started losing their spots. There is a groundhog who comes around also, but he’s too fast for my unskilled photography. As long as they don’t start climbing the trees…


Sorry for the blurry shot–I guess National Geographic won’t be calling me for a wildlife photo shoot anytime soon!

We also have about a dozen pears on the young trees we planted this spring. Yes, this is gratification!!!

There were just small projects done this weekend. (It was just too hot for Michael to work in the attic!) I sanded and painted the back porch steps:

I kept thinking of my grandfather’s phrase — like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Oh well…the entry to the back porch isn’t high on the priority list; I was just trying to keep the steps from decomposing over the winter. (Notice that I only showed you a picture of the nicely painted steps — the rest of the entry is just too horrible to photograph.)

And we now have numbers on our mailbox post — can’t have the pizza guy passing us by!


Michael sanded and hung the door we found at the ReStore for ten dollars. This is the door that goes down four steps into the pantry/laundry room. (Clara’s pantry sign will hang at the top of it–see 10. Clara’s Kitsch.) I primed it, and now it will have to wait for its color until we choose red or green. I’m seeing this door as Red Delicious red. Somehow, I just can’t picture this door in Lime Twist… Anyone have thoughts?

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer everyone. I hope the birds get back safely from their vacations, and everyone gets to enjoy a sunset like this one in these last precious days of August…