Monday, May 27, 2013


Does the squirrel baffle work?

Yes it DOES work! 

Climbing up....

"Uh... seems very dark in here..."
Back down he came, and away he went, one baffled maurader! I WIN!

I also let the layer babies out today for the first time into the chicken yard. There was also some baffling going on here, but they adapted brilliantly. As soon as the rooster makes his warning sound, they bolt back into the chicken house wihch is exactly what they need to do to stay safe - and alive. We do have airborne predators, and while a red tail might not be big enough to carry off a full sized laying hen, a baby is a whole other thing.

 Hesitant but curious...
 Baby steps!
 Free for all!!
 One lovely Buckeye boy
 More babies out and about
 Dust bath for Pet and company
 "BUG! I found a BUG!"
 Gratuitous Chick Shot
 Stretching his wings after days of confinement with the babies - who can blame him?
I love my birds! 

We've thrown in some branches, grass clippings, and a few other items. Some are for mental stimulation. Some are for safety. In a pinch, the babies can hide under the things propped against the chicken house if they can't make it inside. We once had a bunch of birds save themselves by cowering under a lilac bush in our yard. Because these guys are not free rangers yet - or maybe ever if Mr. W has his way - the don't have the luxury of shrubs. Actually. There are not any shrubs here for them to hide in. I doubt they'd all fit in the pine tree. So until all my my new plantings grow taller and more broad, maybe inside is the safest place for the birds to be.

(check out the disastrous "rose garden" I inherited with this house and STILL cannot decide what to do with)
Hope you had a memorable Memorial Day - without any snow!! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

WAY Too Stimulating

My life right now is just beyond exciting. I will show you - you might want to sit down, because this is ONE. WILD. RIDE.

I check up on chickens, and make sure the big kids are not killing the little kids.

Luckily the little kids are smart enough to lay low.

I gave them a hiding spot behind the nest boxes, so they can avoid confrontation with their elders. The elders are cranky. I don't let birds out in the rain, and I wanted to give the little kids time to adjust to the space before I let them out into the yard, so they would know where home is. The big birds are acting a lot like seven grown humans might, if trapped in a confined one-room space with 25 "tweens".

I compare meat to baby eggs...

and meat to grown-up eggs.

I check on my pansy bowl...because I love pansies.

and I watched Gene putting in the air conditioner in our bedroom, even though it's in the 50's this weekend.

Very stimulating stuff, right? Let me tell you, I know how to have a wild time. I also watch the baby BLUE eggs to make sure their heat lamp is neither too low nor too high.

And I check on my pond and count my fish, every single day.

If it were any more exciting around here, I'd be watching paint dry.

Today I bought patterns and fabric to make a couple of things for grand "baby" April - mostly in pink because when I called her and asked which she'd prefer, pink or blue, she chose pink. Sale fabric, you know! I am also knitting Owlie socks for daughter in law #1. They are adorable. I love the pattern, and now Girl wants some too. The yarn is Buffalo Wool Co. "Tracks" - love it! 

They're a lot further along than this now. As for Girl, well. We'll see. After this I have some design stuff to take care of; just right now I have been preoccupied with other life stuff (there's a story there, but it's not my story to tell, so you'll just have to wonder) and needed a diversion, so DIL #1 gets socks! 

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. The Y is closed, so no Monday swim, which could cause me to go into some sort of chlorine withdrawal. I hope it's warm and sunny so I can go for a bike ride or something, at least. Yesterday and last night some places in the region had SNOW. I heard there was 34" of it in upstate New York somewhere - you read that right, thirty four inches! I didn't stay up to see if we would get any; it was due after 11pm. I just crawled into bed and whined endlessly about being cold. I was rewarded with extra blankets from Mr. Wonderful - which either indicates empathy, or a desire for me to shut the heck up and go to sleep, and stop howling about my ice-cold nose. Here's hoping this evening brings some warmer temperatures, and maybe tomorrow some sunshine! 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Whole New World

Tonight I enacted phase one of the Chicken Unification Project. I cut a hole in the wall between the layer babies and the big birds. Tomorrow I will add some framing and a little door that latches. That way if the youth become obstreperous, I can give the grown-ups privacy. It will be a few more days before I let them all outside together.

 These things can go well or they can go badly, depending on the birds involved. A too-forward young bird can put himself at risk of life and limb by pecking off more than he can reasonably "chew". 

But a little girl might think more about the possibilities and take her time before rushing in.

There's usually a little awe on both sides.

Well. Maybe more awe on one side than the other...there's a lot to look up to when you're only four inches tall.

I left the babies to their adjusting and took a look about; just a short ramble in the yard. I love pansies and johnny jump-ups. I find them unreasonably cheerful. They never fail to make me smile.

I especially love these little peach and lavender ones.

When I headed back into the "barn", I saw that everyone had discovered the door, and all were jockeying for position. Things look to be going very well, and by morning maybe they won't need a door that latches. This would be good because I need to clean out the meat birds barn. AND I am not sure I have the right scraps to make a frame for a door. And I really don't relish a 7am trip to town for lumber scraps.

When my mother died, Katy's Tribe gave me a gift certificate for a memorial plant from Wanczyk Nursery. I had a really hard time deciding what to get. I went last year in search of something, but came away empty handed. Two weeks ago Gene and I went back, and I found exactly what I wanted. A very mature plain old lilac; Syringa vulgaris


And already it has blooms. My mother loved spring things; forsythia, lilac, and especially lily of the valley which grow in abundance around my front door already. The blooms are a token of good things to come in the ensuing years, I think.

Finally, last but not at all least, on Saturday we enhanced our brood by 6. One did not survive, but here are 5 sweet tiny Ameraucanas who one day will grow big and lay lovely blue-green eggs! 

I love spring. It brings new life, promise and hope. Hope is almost my most favorite thing of all! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Trouble With Blogging

I have no stunning, amazing pictures. I can tell you that I've rearranged the baby chicken space to get ready for incoming Ameraucanas that should be here by Thursday, but do you really want to see a picture of a barn? I could tell you that I expanded the meat birds space because they are huge and filthy, but do you really want to see a picture of big smelly meat chickens?

 (this was a couple of days ago - the meat birds are bigger than this now.)

I could tell you I've planted 7 weeping forsythia and one Bloomerang lilac, and mulched anything that looked like it wanted it, and weeded and trimmed and, last night, covered to protect from frost a wide range of plants. But there's no pictures of me digging holes and trimming back branches.

Don't feel bad - Yoshi's bored, too. I promised him a walk today as compensation for my lack of presence in his space in the last few days. But it's SPRING! Time to dig holes and play in the dirt and rearrange chickens!

(Buff Brahmas and Delawares with a sneaky thing back left)

I wish I could say I've been more productive. I could, for example, post this picture:

And then tell you that I did these in the evenings after all the gardening. The truth is I did these ages ago, and just took a picture to show Girl so she could start her own pile. In the evenings I mostly knit handwarmers. It started with Fetching from Knitty a long time ago. After the first pair I bought 5 more skeins of different colors of RYC Cashsoft Aran, intending to make a plethora of them in 2007. "Great Christmas gifts!" I thought. When we moved it was a bit of stash I could not part with. I just KNEW I would make five more Fetching. And I even have the receipt to prove it - March 1, 2007!

I started the other day and made it through two before I got bored - WAIT! Not bored... well, bored but... I LOVE this pattern, do not get me wrong, but I NEVER reknit things. If I reknit it, it's GOOD. I have made 3 pair of Fetching, which means that's a really good pattern. But after two back to back I needed a change, so I switched them up and changed stitch counts and superimposed different stitch patterns.

I could post a picture of my back yard with ridiculous long grass - it was finally cut yesterday...

Or of a recipe I entered recently in a contest (cross your fingers!)...

(Second time I've ever entered a recipe in something - really hope I do well!)

Or of my favorite hen, Pet, a Jersey Giant of some three or four years old...

Or my favorite rooster, a little Silkie who's adorableness helped him escaped the ax in the last cull...

OR we could play a rousing game of "Guess the Breed" with the grab bag chicks:

Polish - White Crested Black and Silver Laced

Possibly Gold Penciled Hamburg. More will be revealed.

Either the biggest Gold Laced Wyandottes I've ever seen, or who knows!

Or...or I could just head back outdoors again and see what there is to dig or feed or plant or trim or grow. You know, I think that's the best idea I've had all morning!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


There's just no other word to describe what's happened to me in the past six or so months. 

First, I (stupidly) beat my body to extremes by insisting on running at the same time we're moving into this house, and hauling and lifting and doing way too much. I injure myself - or really aggravate an existing problem - to the point that walking is almost unbearable, and sitting, running or biking are impossible. Then I get angry (at God, at myself, and at anyone handy). Really angry. 

Then I see a doctor, because Mr. Wonderful makes me, and then another doctor, and then a physical therapist. And they all say one thing - no more running. No biking. And they all agree on one other thing: you need to swim. But I don't swim. I hate swimming. I hate water. So I water jog during rehab time, and I take water aerobics classes. No impact at first, just like the doctor ordered. But I don't love the classes - they're fun for a while, but I want something else. I want something I can push harder at. Something I can do on my own. Something like...swimming. But I don't swim. And I hate the pool.

The pool. I had a bad experience in the YMCA pool when I was about 5. I don't remember everything. I do remember guards hauling me out, violently coughing a lot of water all over the place, and my mother freaking out, and then not being made to go back any more. I hated it anyway, and by that point I was being bribed weekly with a trip to Brown's Toy Store just for showing up. I am sure it was getting expensive. By letting me quit my parents probably saved a fortune. 

I am - I WAS - terrified of water. Like gasping, clutching, throwing-up, “we’re all gonna die” afraid. The irony is that I love to kayak, and even enjoyed being in the water as long as some criteria were met. First, the water should not be deeper than my shoulders, and should be nowhere near my mouth or nose. Second, it should not move a lot - no waves or wakes or bounces of any kind. And third, there must be absolutely NO splashing, and NO people near me and definitely no people touching me. If all of those criteria were met, I could relax, float, play a LITTLE bit, and pretend to be confident... until I inhaled water and panicked and freaked out. When I was pregnant with my son I did some little breast stroke thing at the local swimming hole in the afternoons because having a baby in August in the full heat of summer will make you do things you're scared of just in sheer desperation. There's even a great family story about my sister Laurie tossing me up in the air at about six months old in our local lake, and failing to catch me when I came back down. Between that story and my experience at the local Y at 5, I decided I was just not a water bug. Looks fun. Feels nice when it sits still and no one makes you swim in it. But just not my thing; not now, not ever.

I come from a swimmy sort of a family on my mother's side. As a child my siblings and cousins all swam. It was just what you did. My cousin Shari even swam competitively. Everyone assumed I would swim, too. Everyone tried to teach me - sort of like my experience with knitting really, only with more water, more crying, and much more terror. Shari was particularly patient, but in the background there were chiding voices – my other cousin, my mother, my aunt.

My Aunt Pat would say "Oh, just leave her alone!" when my mother fussed and reminded everyone that I could not swim, always loudly. One year my mother convinced me - well, ordered me, really - to climb onto her back for a trip across Laurel Lake. She would swim us both over and back, she said, and it would be wonderful, and from this I would learn that the water would hold me up. All the way over she kept saying reassuring things, like: "Melissa Dawn. If you don't RELAX you'll drown us BOTH. See. Isn't this nice? See how fun this is? Melissa Dawn. You HAVE GOT TO relax. You will drown us BOTH!"

Yeah. Fun. Right. 

I am not particularly athletic, but I do enjoy being active. But not in the water. Just give me land. Give me solid ground I can kick and trust, give me pavement that rips the skin off my knees when I fall, but doesn't suffocate me. Give me toe clips that stick to my shoes so I tumble to the ground in a heap of humanity and bike frame. Just give me air - PLEASE give me AIR - and not the suffocating feeling of a chest full of water - not ever, ever again.

But things change. 

Thing is, odd thing it is, too; but when a family member dies, I tend to inherit something from them. I don't know why this happens, and I remember being very shocked the first time it did. Something I hate becomes something I love. The first time it happened was when my Grandma L. died. I hated spicy food before, but suddenly, I loved it. And the hotter the better. When my Aunt B. and Grandma W. died, it was knitting. It was like a world I'd always looked at from the outside opened up before me, and I was suddenly filled with this need to knit all the things. ALL of them. And eventually engage in a strong bid for world 2-at-a-Time Sock domination, just for kicks.

When my mother died... I waited. I hoped it wouldn't be some sick craving for McDonald's Frappes or - God forbid - their creepy burgers. I hoped it would not be the tendency to spill at least one mouthful of food onto my chest at every single meal, or the desire to kill myself. I hoped it would not be a lot of things. I forgot about water.

My mother loved the water. She loved to swim, loved to float, loved to dive. She adored it. She was a polar bear, and loved to talk about those days. She swam at the lake every summer, and in any pool you put her near. She took my kids to the Y for swimming lessons. I said I'd pay the bill, but I was not going to stay there and "watch those people drown my babies". My mother would go on at length about her swimming days, and when she was prescribed rehab after her first heart attack she headed for the pool like a shot. She could swim now - it was required by her doctor, so money was no longer standing between her and the YMCA pool. I dropped her off or picked her up at the Y very often, right to the end of her independence when pushing her walker, barely able to keep herself upright, crazy weird seizures making her space out, she dragged herself up the steps in front of the Y to the door, and made her way to the special needs locker room and then into the pool. It amazed me that they let her even get in. 

The day we found her unresponsive in her room, and her living status forever changed from "assisted living" to "skilled nursing care" I found her swimsuit and YMCA card in a canvas bag with a lighthouse on it dropped in a corner; moldy and forgotten in her decline. I threw it out.

So there I was, in a pool, taking aquatics classes and "jogging" during rehab. I wore a nifty belt, just like my baby bubble from kiddie swim class. No one knew the truth. One day while soaking in the hot tub after class, I came out to my instructor, so to speak, and told her I could not swim. She said we needed to fix that. At the same time, in another class, another woman - younger than I - was also coming out to another instructor. She didn't know how to swim either. We both played a good game, and no one guessed.

So adult learn to swim began. I signed up without a lot of thinking. When I showed up for the first class, I found Girl in the lobby, registering herself for learn to swim classes. Just for moral support, she said. It's a good thing she signed up. I would have run for my car and never gone back if she hadn't been there. One does not back down from a challenge in front of one's daughter. It's bad form. She learns, like we all do, by observing. Whether 2 or 5 or 25, she needed to see me do this thing. So in we went. Thank God for Girl.

I was medicated for the first few visits, and occasionally I'd need to take something after that, but less often as time went on. Now, probably mixing anxiety meds and water isn't a good idea, but it was what I needed to do to get myself in the door some weeks.

Gradually the panic subsided, and I began to feel ... not "in control", because I never am, but more comfortable. We started with the front crawl, or freestyle. I could not go more than a few strokes without feeling like I was going to inhale the whole pool, or like someone was pushing my head down and I was going to drown. That feeling was overwhelming. I learned that I could roll onto my back at any time, and find air. I learned that I could just float until I relaxed and was ready to try again. The front crawl eluded me, but I learned elementary backstroke, and the back crawl. I liked that. Then we learned breast stroke. I liked that, too. And side stroke - that one's ok too. But not the front crawl. 

I learned to trust the water. Not completely - water is a liar at times and will come at you from directions you don't expect, but I learned to trust in what I know of water. The vast majority of the time, it will support you. The times that it won't, you probably should not be in the water anyway.

Eventually I got confident enough to "swim" - and I use that word VERY loosely - during adult lap time. At first it was 5 laps, then 7, then one day I did a quarter mile, 11 laps! Sometimes I had to stop and just float on my back in my lane and breathe and tell myself that I was ok, that I was not going under unless I chose to, that the water would support me. Sometimes there were so many people in the pool that I just couldn't handle it and needed to get out.

I prayed a lot. I prayed on my way down to the Y, that I'd have the guts to get out of the car. I prayed on the way in, that I wouldn't run back. I prayed while I got changed, that I wouldn't put my street clothes back on. I prayed often for no one in the pool, and sometimes that prayer was granted. More often I'd find myself sitting in the hot tub waiting for people to leave, terrified at the idea of swimming in a pool made for 4 people, but actually containing 12. When the number of swimmers exceeds the number of lanes, we "swim circles" - up to six people on each side of the four-lane pool, swimming up the wall and down the lane line. Circles are mentally challenging because there are so many factors in play - lots of other people make the water choppy and rough. Everyone swims at a different pace, so you have to slow down or speed up, or stop and let people go by, or force them to pass you by swimming down the middle, between the two lanes. That's been the hardest thing.

I bought extra small training fins in an attempt to make my legs stronger, and to make me faster. I have stubby little legs and short little feet and a round body not exactly made for swimming. I have the hydrodynamics of an anvil, really. I kept trying. I keep trying. I work on body position and strokes, I watch videos of good swimmers over and over. I study Total Immersion videos endlessly - I would love to spend a week at their studio in New York learning how to do this right. Around my birthday I swam myself into a shoulder strain. Never anything by halves around here.

Last month our Y offered a "Love Your Laps" program, where lap swimmers recorded their laps publicly on a large chart by the pool. At first I wasn't sure I wanted to do it - I was slated to be away for a whole week teaching in Virginia. And I have issues with competitiveness. The youngest of my father's four girls and the only child of my mother, I am the baby/only poster child - spoiled, competitive, and demanding. Demanding of myself most of all. 

I did it anyway; I began posting numbers on the chart. Mr. W reminded me that I only needed to do my best, my personal best, on any given day. No comparisons, no competition - especially since most of the women who swim and post regularly are ten or more years my junior. Yesterday was the final day of Love Your Laps. I didn't swim yesterday, but today I wrote down all of my daily totals and I added them all up. In three weeks (I deducted the week I was in Virginia) I swam 12.2 miles. In November I could not swim a length of the pool without a panic attack. Amazing. God is good. 

So, thank you God for all of this. For letting me break myself last fall, for physical therapy and Dr. F, for Mr. W paying for the Y membership even though he must have thought I'd quit after a week in utter panic, for Girl in the lobby that first day of swim class, for cheap Tyr suits on Sierra Trading when the Lands' End one dissolved, for silicone swim caps with adorable eggs on them, for Pam and Marsha and Kelsey. And please let my mother know I swim. I swam, I swim, and I will swim some more. She may be a little peeved at first because she always thought I was holding out on her, but I think she'll be happy about it in the end. I know I am. 

Anyone wondering what happened to the other girl who couldn't swim? The one back up there who came out to her instructor at the same time I did, prompting the Y to offer adult learn to swim classes again? Well, she just became a lifeguard a few weeks ago. (YAY, KELSEY!!!) From not knowing how to swim a stroke to being a lifeguard between November and April. I'd say we were both ready for a change! 

Oh, and about my nemesis, the front crawl? Did nearly 3/4 of a mile of it this morning. It's rapidly becoming my favorite stroke. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Made in the Shade

Or at least made FOR shade.

Last year it bugged me that no matter where you went around here it was hot. Inside, the ancient windows did nothing to allay the summer heat. If it was 82 outside, it was 82 inside. Outside there was not a spot of shade to be found, unless you wanted to walk out to the bees and sit in their shade - in front of their hives - which is also where Gene brings deer ticks back from. 

When we were in Virginia we saw this really awesome shade thing made by Shade Sail set up at Sea Star. I even made notes on a scrap of paper showing how the sail was attached to the roof of the building and to the 4x4 posts of the deck. We don't have a deck here, but the ground is soft so dropping a couple of 4x4's for some shade would not be a big deal. Then I priced the sails and found out some things. The brand name "Shade Sail" that we'd seen in Virginia was definitely well over our budget. The less expensive versions seemed to be made of inferior materials, and might not last the summer. I hate spending money for something that isn't going to last.

We have a big blue umbrella that I bought two years ago from Lands' End to fit into our deck table. It's proven to be very sturdy over time, and I love it. But we sold the table at a tag sale and really don't want to buy a new one until we have a patio to plunk it on - and that's going to be a while! We looked at patio umbrella stands this weekend - for $9 you get a plastic job that looks like it wouldn't support a toothpick, let alone a big umbrella. For $40 you can get a more substantial stand that looked pretty solid... but at $40, I really thought I could do better. My original plan, forged yesterday in the car between Lowe's and home, involved an empty 5 gallon bucket, some stones, and a drill (drainage for the bucket). When I headed down cellar for the drill and a bit, I saw an old, empty planter pot on the floor. I think it once held my lime tree. I "hmmmm"-d, and dragged it upstairs with me.

Quite the pile, right? Marble chips (two bags at $3 a bag from Home Depot), our old umbrella, an empty stoneware pot, and a chunk of pvc pipe. If I just dropped the umbrella into a 5 gallon bucket full of rocks, it would certainly do the job. But if I wanted to move the umbrella for, say, an impending hurricane, the rocks would just tumble into the space where the umbrella was and I'd have to dump the rocks out and start all over again post-storm. That's when the pipe idea came to me - this morning in the pool, somewhere around lap 30 or so, I saw it. A pipe, stuck in the center of the pot, slightly larger than the diameter of the umbrella stick, would allow me to remove the umbrella at will if wind threatened.

I dug around the basement and found a piece of pvc pipe. I cut it taller than the planter because I was concerned about the stability of the umbrella with only a foot or so of rock around it. I really wanted some extra height to control the potential sway. I dumped one bag of rock into the planter. For a moment I debated returning the second bag ($3 refund!!) but then I pushed on the pipe a bit, and decided to open the second bag and fill the planter to the top.

"What's that dear? You had a hard day at the office? Let me pour you something cool and you can sit in the shade and overlook your back....4."

I slid the umbrella into the pipe, popped it open and voila! El Rancho Em N' Gee O shady spot! You may have noticed that we are a rather traditional family around here. Mr. W goes off to the factory and makes the donuts, while I... swim, dig holes, plant things, make ponds and occasionally watch soap operas and eat bon bons (No. Not. Seriously? Me? No. Iced coffee and old movies, maybe.)

I also get into something that can only be called "wikkid trouble" with all these DIY things.  Sometimes things work, and I save a fortune. Sometimes they almost work and I swear a lot, and save slightly less. Sometimes they totally fail and I spend a day or so thinking I am utterly stupid. Then I bounce back with NEW ridiculous schemes, visions of grandeur, and indomitable enthusiasm. (This is because I am a slow learner...)

Bird baths, squirrel baffles, ponds...and new baby chicken spaces. The layers had really outgrown their stock tank space, and it was time for new digs. I can't mix them with the big birds just yet, but they really need room to grow. Sometimes I think they are like carp - give them room and they fill it. I expanded the meat birds space earlier in the weekend and I think they've doubled in size. For them it's simple - move bales of shavings around in an open 8 x 10 foot shed to make their brood space a bit bigger every week or so until eventually I am down to a tiny space to get into the shed and they own the remainder. For the layers it's not as easy. About half of the layers shed has been walled off for the adult chickens; 5 x 8 or so. The other half, also about 5 x 8, holds feed, shavings, and the babies in a stock tank. It's important that they have as much space as they can have, while still keeping the size manageable from a heat perspective. With temperatures in the high 30's this week overnight, they still need their heat lamp from dusk until mid-morning.

Using a homemade interior door from the old shed (we're talking years ago, before we built the barn at the old house) I created a new space for the babies. I can still get into the shed for feed and water changes, although I have to go around to the back door to feed and water the big birds for a while, but that's minor. The babies space more than doubled in a matter of minutes. When I moved them into their new, expanded space they were, as always, hesitant at first...

but then they get a little more bold...

and eventually they own the room!

I think the fluffy footed partridge Cochins are the most brave. They are also the most personable. The older they get the more I can see who they will be when they're grown. The Cochins run to my hands, and a couple hop up and sit on my palm and look down on their siblings. I love the grab bag nature of assortments. It's like an endless quest to discover what these babies are. Combs start to take shape, feathers grow in certain ways, behavior and size indicates a lot as well... I can see a couple of roosters already. Delawares, two colors of Polish, then Spitzhauben, Hamburgs and possibly Campines...and a few I am not sure of yet.

I was very excited the other day to see that my peonies are coming up. These are from "the aunts' house" - the house we had Christmas and Thanksgiving at almost every year of my childhood, the house my mother bought when the last of the aunts had died - and then lost to unscrupulous mortgage brokers before any presidents bailed out any old people who got taken advantage of. The house was foreclosed on, and I took a few reminders away with me. They mean a lot to me, and I've moved them twice now, and on each move they seem to get bigger, faster than the move before. These were just bits of woody nothing when I planted them last year. In a couple of years they will be huge and will fill the space, at this rate!

I also have loveage, which I love. The last two times I have planted it, it's died. Here it seems to thrive.

My replacements for the tidy, orderly evergreen shrubs are growing, as well.

All of these - a dwarf forsythia (who knew?!), some potentilla, and an ornamental quince were bought on clearance. The deader the shrub, the more likely I am to buy it. Sometimes that doesn't work out so well, and other times I get really lucky. There's also elderberry at the end; three bushes that wrap around the corner of the house. Those are food, so I am willing to buy good stock. These are from St. Lawrence Nursery, which is also where we get the majority of our fruit trees and bushes, and our nuts.

Spring has sprung, with a vengeance. It's getting harder and harder to apply myself to yarn and needles. But soon it will be arid, hot, horrible summer - and with a little air conditioning, I will be back to work!