Showing posts from December, 2019

365 Posts for 2019

Today marks the 365th post on the blog - one per day - that spans the entirety of 2019.  And this marks the seventh year since I started counting that I've done that very thing: post online once per day, every day.  This also marks five straight years of posting on the blog - dating back to December 31st, 2014 when I posted from Coloma, Michigan.   Loved spending New Year's Eve there.

This year, I'm posting from the "new" Lake - in a different state.   And I love spending NYE here, too!

I posted 136 times (the first one this year was February 20th) in the [Garden Diary].  Means that the garden diary accounted for almost 40% of the total posts here. 

If I've hit five years, why not go for six, right?  Here's to a great 2020 in the garden.  And on the blog. 

For those keeping track at home, here are the years that I hit a post-a-day:

2019 (here's last year's post)
2016 (366 posts due to Leap Year)
2015 2012 - posted 354 times.  Just short!

Winter Grass Damage From Snow Removal - Winter 2019

We had a weird Fall this year - with some warm temperatures then cold temperatures then back to warm.  And then there was the early November snow event that came when many of the trees in our neighborhood still had almost all of their leaves on the limbs.  That caused a bunch of snow damage including taking down a good-sized major limb from one of the big Oak trees in our backyard.  When I say 'good-size', I'm talking about 40+ years old.  Check out the photos in the post to see the growth rings.

But that tree damage was just one part of the lasting impact on the yard.  The other you can see in this photo above.  When the snow arrived, I did like I do pretty often:  created a little path out back for Lizzie.  If I don't make her a little path, she doesn't get out in the yard to do her business very easily.  Yes...she's a wimp.  Through and through.

And...I also normally cut or shovel a path that gets us to our bird feeder so we can fill it in the mornings.  I&…

From Tree To Firewood - Ash Firewood December 2019

This is the fourth in the series of posts about the Ash trees that were taken down next door that I've been processing with what they call CSS (cutting, splitting and stacking).  And this post brings us full-circle.  From tree to firewood.  Well....I guess, technically, "full-circle" will be when I actually burn this piece.  But...for now, let's call this 'full-circle'.

Back in November, I posted a photo of my neighbor's Ash tree with a pattern under the bark.  In that post, I remarked that because they were planning on tearing down the house right next door, I wondered if I could scavenge any of the wood.  After talking to the crew taking down the trees, I ended up with 45-or-so Ash tree rounds.   After a few days of splitting and stacking, I have about 2/3rd of the wood processed and just about a Face Cord of wood put up.

And in that post from a few days ago, I mentioned that there were a few pieces that showed off that same pattern we saw on the tree.…

Garden Chair Building - Inspiration and Dreaming for Our Backyard

Back earlier this year - after a trip to Paris with Nat - I went on and on and on about our visit(s) to Luxembourg Gardens.  It was really the highlight of our trip together.  I posted about how they were (as the French do!) using cocoa bean hull mulch, their tree boxes, growing vines between mature trees, their special metal path edging, how they have enormous stands of Chestnut trees that they prune in a special way, and their pretty spectacular espalier garden. addition to swooning over all of those items, I posted about the chairs at the gardens.  Those chairs.  Really quite special.  There are a couple of worthwhile 'histories of the Luxembourg Garden Chairs' posts on the web, but this one from Fermob - the distributor of the chairs - is the one I'd spend my time on.

It is interesting to me to think about how a garden like Luxembourg Gardens really sets their *place* with their chairs.  But, they're not the only garden to do so.

Wave Hill Gardens - in the…

Front Yard And Parkway Tree Planning - 2019/2020

As part of my 2020 prep for the yard, my mind has started to wandering to tree planting and specifically thinking about tree planting in the front yard and parkway.   Above is a schematic that shows off some of the existing trees and my current (aspirational) thinking of what sort of moves I could make in 2020.  But, before I jump into the specifics of that drawing up above, let's look at the current situation.

Let's start with our parkway tree situation.  Below is a shot from Google Streetview that shows off our one large Norway Maple parkway tree, the location of the 'old driveway' and this other tree that is just behind the sidewalk that I'm pretty sure is a Mulberry tree.  This Streetview image is a few years old and is of the house that was on site BEFORE we built, but the driveway location is pretty close to where the current driveway is located.  You can see the stretch of parkway between the driveway and the large Maple tree.  Keep that thought for a momen…

Ash Firewood Rounds Update - Processing Started - 2019

A few days ago, I posted a photo showing the newly acquired Ash tree firewood rounds that the tree service left me from the teardown next door.  Today, a quick update on the progress I've made on the pile.  You can see quite a few of the rounds have disappeared.  In that post, I counted 45 or so rounds.  In the photo above, I count 13 Ash rounds and six Mulberry pieces.

Where did they go?

The answer:  To this new processed firewood stack against the fence in the back part of our yard.  You can see the stack in the photo below.  The firewood is bright and light-colored.

I used a combination of a 4# yard axe and a 5# splitting wedge to process these pieces.  Here's a close-up of some of the wood that I split - and you can see few pieces of Mulberry wood (it is the yellowish stuff) in here.  I'll watch and monitor all of this wood for color (and checking) over the next 10 or so months and will post them in here in the garden diary.

I picked this spot against the fence in the…

Merry + Joyful This Christmas - 2019

That's us in the photo up top - this year in San Diego at Nat's brother's wedding.  And that's us on the front of our Christmas card for 2019.  If you received one, you can find the url of our family blog on the back and come visit all of the things we did this year.  I've successfully kept it out of being indexed - and a link from here to there - isn't going to happen.  Hope you can ignore the big blurred boxes on top of the kids and appreciate the wonderfulness that is happening in the photo.  All because of one person:  My dearest Natalie.  Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year.  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Festivus!  Happy Solstice!  Whatever it is that brings you together with your family today, I hope you enjoy it.  I know I will. 

2019 has certainly been Merry + Joyful.  This marks the 359th post of the year - and I'm on pace for another year of 365 posts - one a day.  But, that's for another day. 

Today, let's enjoy the company of our little ones.  A…

Another Columnar Flowering Japanese Cherry Tree - For Zone 5B

My love of columnar trees and what are often called Fastigiata form in trees is well-established.  I've posted about them many times here and have posted photos of my travels to Tokyo where they, too, seem to have been drawn to the columnar form

I've planted a few different columnar trees in our yard including a *somewhat* columnar shaped Chanticleer Pear tree in a few spots.  But, the list of columnar or narrow trees and shrubs is pretty deep here on the blog:

made the largest tree investment in our yard in a series of eight Columnar European Hornbeams as a screen.  I planted a hedge of small Hicks Yews - which are upright in nature - in the far back of our lot.We have a columnar Weeping White Spruce conifer near our fenceline in the back.This past Summer, we added a Dwarf Alberta Spruce to the backyard. I planted - and lost - a Weeping Cedar tree a few years back. 
After looking around for some other Columnar trees, I came across - and shared - this list of Columnar trees…

Our Blowmold Santa And His Sleigh and Reindeer - Flying for 2019

For the first time , our blowmold1 Santa Claus - sitting in his sleigh - has his three blowmold reindeer up and flying up, up and away.   He's in our front yard and all lit up with a brand new set of reins that are made of 30' of rope light from Menards.  
I have been trying to think about how to get the reindeer to 'fly' for a number of years.  We didn't even put this set out last Christmas because I was caught in 'planning mode' too long and never got around to getting them to fly.  My initial design called for them to be 'wired up' between the ground and the large Maple tree in our front yard.  I went so far as to install two large metal eyelets directly in the trunk of the tree about 12 feet up in the air.  I was contemplating running some wire (kind of like the wire I used on the espalier system in the back) from the eyelets down to some sort of grounding mechanism.  My initial thought was to buy one of those spiral metal things that they sell…

Happy Festivus - 2019 Edition

I'm posting this Festivus-related post here on the blog one day *before* Festivus.  Why?  Because a bunch of people who read these things happen to read them in their email inboxes. And those emails get delivered in the morning and include links to the blog post that I posted the previous day.  Hence...this post going up on the blog with a date of 12/22/19, but being delivered on Festivus - 12/23/19 - and we all can rejoice around the aluminum pole together. 

Via Seinfeld Scripts, we can all see how the gif above is slightly off.  No mention of Harry in the first screen!

KRAMER: No. (To manager of H&H) Ah, listen, Harry, I need the 23rd off.

MANAGER: Hey! I hired you to work during the holidays. This is the holidays.

KRAMER: But it's Festivus.


KRAMER: You know you're infringing on my right to celebrate new holidays..

MANAGER: That's not a right.

KRAMER: Well, it's going to be! Because I'm going back on strike. Come on Elaine. (Takes of his apron, a…

Other Three Amaryllis Bulbs - Pre-Christmas 2019

Yesterday, I posted some photos of the four-bloom Star of Holland Christmas Amaryllis and how it has given us some really nice red and white color flowers in the week leading up to Christmas.  Today, you can see the other three bulbs.

This is now the fifth post1 on these bulbs as a group for the season.  Starting with the original post in this year's (2019) series of Amaryllis bulbs that shows off all four of the containers. 

Then, by the end of November this Star of Holland had gone far ahead of the other ones.  Once the bud emerged, I switched to a diluted alcohol/water mixture to try to stunt the height on the stalk(s).

And, on December 11th of this year, I shared photos of the Star of Holland about to unfurl and show off for the Christmas season.

And yesterday (as I mentioned in the lede here), was the full-show of the Star of Holland.

As for the other three bulbs, let's look at where they are in the photo at the top of the post.

The tall stem in the middle of the photo …

Star of Holland Amaryllis - 5 Days Out Look - 2019

Almost two weeks after my last update and this Star of Holland Amaryllis bulb from Menards just keeps powering on.  It has put on a show that has lasted more than 10 days and we're now - I think - at peak flower.

In the photo at the top of the post you can see a more "top-down" view of the flower that includes the oldest bloom on the back that is just starting to fade.  That first bloom is now complemented by these three blooms that have emerged just in time for Christmas.  There are two, distinct stalks that have emerged from the bulb that you can see in the photo below.  No real 'leafs' or other green shoots coming out of the bulb at this point.

Here's the original post in this year's (2019) series of Amaryllis bulbs that shows off all four of the containers.   This Star of Holland bulb is on the far right of that original photo.

Then, by the end of November this Star of Holland had gone far ahead of the other ones.  Once the bud emerged, I switched to …

Overwintering Juniper Bonsai In The Ground - 2019

Earlier this year, I bought a couple of small (less than $10) junipers at the Home Depot and began to prune them a little bit to make them into a shape that would be more bonsai-like.  This year, I just started my bonsai-journey with a small Cypress - and overpruned it.  It ended up dying.  I think it was a combination of OVER-pruning and putting it into a bonsai pot prematurely so it dried out.  I decided to learn my lesson with these two other junipers:  A Youngstown Juniper.  And a Chinese Juniper

With both of those, I cleaned up some of the limbs and established a clear leader.  I didn't do any wiring or cleaning up of the roots.  But, instead left them in their nursery containers. 

We live in Zone 5B - in Northern Illinois - so we have a couple of choices with Winter coming:

1. Overwinter bonsai in climate controlled environment. Ideally in a place that keeps the temperature right at 34 degrees. Greenhouse or quonset hut that is heated and vented to keep the temperature…

Ash Firewood Rounds (Firewood Hoarding) - December 2019

Remember the post from back in November when I showed off one of my neighbor's poor Ash trees that had been ravaged by the Emerald Ash Borer?  When I posted the photos (with patterns caused by the larvae), I mentioned that since we burn so much wood (and I buy it all!), it might be interesting to see if I could score any of it for free.

From that post:
Maybe I should go talk to the builders and see if we can harvest some of it for firewood? I have to think that the larvae are long gone, right? We're only moving it 100 feet (so no cross-border movement!) and I would be seasoning it for the better part of a year before we got to burning it next year. Maybe it is something we could burn in out outdoor fireplace exclusively? All wishful/hopeful thinking of course. Welp, wishing and hoping turned into some reality recently.  I happened to be home on the day that the tree company was on site cleaning up the dead trees and managed to talk the crew into dropping some of the wood ov…

A Figure-Four From Our Elf On The Shelf - Goldie Vs. Hulk Hogan

Over the years, I've shared a couple of creative situations that our very own Elf on the Shelf named Goldie has gotten himself into in the overnight hours.  Last year (well...actually in January of *this* year), I posted a photo of him having a little breakfast croissants with a little dollhouse doll.   And in 2016, Goldie got a little confused and didn't end up enjoying the dog treats.  What a ham.  
But this year?  He's leaning way into the fun by applying what I'd call an unconventional figure-four wrestling move on the Hulkster - Hulk Hogan.   I'm sure that the Elf did this to entertain the kids, but I also was the benefactor of my childhood memories being used to build shared memories.
I've posted a few of my childhood WWF LJN wrestlers here on the blog over the years including Nikoli Volkoff (in his USSR red sweatshirt), as well as a Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake MOC LJN wrestling figure and a Jake "The Snake" Roberts LJN wrestling fig…

Our Christmas Tree - Green Room Tree - 2019

This is the second Christmas Tree in our house this season.  I covered the first one - in our family room - here on the blog.  This one is in the green room.  Or 'quiet room'.  Or library.  Or front room.  Whatever you'd like to call it.  (We call it all of those things, btw.)

This is a small Fraser Fir and this is very much Nat's tree.  I put it in the stand and keep it watered.  But that's it.  She dressed it up with ornaments and her special spherical lights.  And then keeps this room as her room for the season.  It is a special place at night when the lights shine and warm up the room.  There's a little couch on the opposite wall that you can (if you're invited!) sit and take it all in.

Compare the tree to last year.  The carpet is new, but the tree is just about the same size.  Looks great. 

As I mentioned in the post about our Family Room tree, I've posted about our Christmas trees since 2010.
This post is on our 2019 (small) Green Room Tree.

Another 2020 To-Do List Item: Aeration In Compost Pile

With Winter setting in hard, my mind continues to be on the yard and garden and things that I would like to do in 2020.  In my 2019 Yard and Garden To-Do List Scorecard, I included some items in the bottom of the post that are a starting point for my 2020 list.  This post is to remind myself of another item that should be on that list:  adding a pvc pipe to aid in aeration of our compost pile. 

From this post - comes this idea of adding a piece of PVC pipe with holes bore into it to add air flow (and even water flow to keep the pile wet) to a compost pile.  That image at the top of this post isn't my image - it is from that very post.  
The last time I looked at my compost pile (we have a 3 bin system) was when I had thrown in about half of our Fall leaves and began to use the second bin for storage of carbon (leaves).  To speed up the decomposition, I'm going to try to add some nitrogen (likely Milorganite) this Winter and try to turn it a couple of tim…

A Couple of Vintage Christmas Santas - Destined For Others

My collecting mantra is codified.  I've created this post on the blog outlining the details of that very mantra.  It came from an Instagram post from Imagineer Joe Rhode and is something that I've tried to remember whenever I go to an Estate Sale, Garage Sale or an Antique Mall.  Over the years, I've bought dozens of little vintage Christmas items including these three Santas.  The first one - at the top of this post - is a little guy with pipe cleaner arms in a gold glitter sleigh.

I bring up the mantra because last year these three weren't chosen to be part of our Christmas decorations.  They were left behind in the tub.  That means that this year, they're going to have to find a new home.

Below are two more:  the one on the right has a green glass ornament as his belly and he, too, has pipe cleaner arms (and beard!).  The guy on the left might be Mrs. Claus?  There's that white trim below his/her chin, but it isn't necessarily a beard, right?

Say it wit…

Considering Eze-Breeze Windows For Our Screened Porch

The favorite spot of Natalie each morning during the late Spring, Summer and early Fall is in one place in our house:  our screened porch.  I can find her out there most of the time enjoying a cup of coffee, reading her kindle or sorting through her email.

But the season isn't too terribly long.  In fact, it has been more than a month that she's been out there and that's too bad.  However, our neighbors have seemed to solve this and made their screened porch a lot more like a real 3 season room and less like a screened porch.

They installed these things called Eze-Breeze windows.  They are these '4 track' windows that are made up of what I'd call something akin to shower curtains.  You can move the panels up and down and have the screens open to the rest of the space.  Here's a shot from the Eze Breeze website that shows how far you can push the windows:

These windows really cut down the wind in a big way.  They don't quite seal the whole place up weath…

Spreading Hardwood Ash As Tree Fertilizer

'Tis the season for fireplace burning in our house - and likely in yours.  That means that you'll have to deal with the ash that gets left behind after the wood burns.  We burn hardwoods exclusively (so far this year, we've burned Cherry and Birch) and that means we end up with hardwood ash.  Turns out, it has value in the garden as a soil conditioner and fertilizer.    According to the Oregon State University (Notice...I did include *the* for those other OSU lunatics) Extension office, hardwood ash can aid in making the soil an environment that supports plant and tree growth. 

From the OSU Extension article:
Because wood ash is derived from plant material, it contains most of the 13 essential nutrients the soil supplies for plant growth, according to Dan Sullivan, OSU Extension soil scientist.  "When wood burns, nitrogen and sulfur are lost as gas," Sullivan said, "but calcium, potassium, magnesium and other trace elements remain. The carbonates and oxides …

Amaryllis Bulb Update - 2019 Winter Flowers

Time to check in our our Winter flowering bulb project: our planted amaryllis for Christmas flowers.  All of them are at different stages and provide a nice contrast between the set of four bulbs in pots. You can see the three Menards bulbs in the photo at the top here with the Star of Holland bulb being the one that has shot up the furthest and is starting to have a flower emerge.

For reference: This is the full set of four from November 23rd - three weeks ago - that shows all four of the bulbs including a few of the Menards ones that had some early (and pale green) growth from the bulb. 

And here's a set of photos from the end of November that shows how far these have come in a couple of weeks

I also tracked our bulb last year - here's a look at it on Christmas Day - no bloom

Back to this year, we have a clear leader: The Star of Holland - a red flower with white stripes.  Here's a closer look at the Star of Holland:

The bloom is right around 10" in height and …