Winter Hike

I went for a hike today on the wooded trails in Robinson Nature Center. I like the open feeling in the December woods. The sparse surroundings relieve my stress from the busy holiday season. There is less confusion and congestion and more simplicity and space in the bare woods. Only single sounds and single sights. No canopy of leafy trees to crowd me. A single bird song to listen to and try to memorize for later identification. Was it a “creekataw” or “creekachee”? A clear sound without competition. Easy to be mindful and slow down in this place. One crunching sound leads to one squirrel racing up and over a tree trunk on the ground. I could see the squirrel carrying a round orange colored object the size of its head in its mouth. I wondered if I could see where he would hide it. Less is hidden between the exposed trees and on the crunchy leaf covered ground. The evergreen trees stand unchanged and bold among the greys and browns. Everlasting and eternal things is where to focus. My stress melts when I do.

Peaches

Our garden plot had a peach explosion in June.  Early June, small peaches lined our peach tree’s thin branches like strings of beads. It was bittersweet to pick the immature fruit, but necessary to allow growing space and branch support for some peaches to reach full size. By mid June many small peaches dropped on their own. The picked peaches were fed to our compost bin.

The dropped peaches were nibbled by mystery critters. I had to step around pits and half eaten peaches to pick the peaches off our tree. Many were too high to reach without standing on a ladder or bending a branch.  By the end of June, we had many ripe peaches that dripped sweet juice with each bite or slice. We are amazed that our once scrawny peach tree purchased on clearance at Home Depot a couple years ago was so productive this year.

 

 

 

The Nest

Robin's Nest

In mid April we found a new nest on the rafters under our deck. We felt like expectant parents the day our son announced he saw a Robin sitting in the nest.  We tried to limit our activity around the nest.    But one evening my husband and I assembled a shed on our patio while our Robin sat still in her nest the whole time.  The Robin even tolerated us standing on the deck and looking through the narrow space between deck boards into her nest. We glimpsed the transformation – three bright blue eggs to black and pink squiggles to feather balls.  From our basement slider window we watched the Robin fly to her nest with a worm hanging from her beak.  The chicks greeted her with wobbly bobbleheads and open funnel-like beaks.  Space is tight in the nest, now. See the two beaks?

Two beaks
Two beaks

Welcome Spring

Edible Garden BeginsToday thin green spinach seedlings popped out of the seed starter soil, a perfect start to Spring. During our late winter snowfall last week,  I planted seeds for our summer kitchen garden.  I found this wire rack at the Goodwill and thought it perfect to hold our seedlings.  This year I plan to make our raised beds more visually appealing with a mix of flowers planted among vegetable plants.  I picked attractive vegetable plants including peppers, eggplants and spinach for our garden below the deck.  I will grow patio tomatoes in pots on the deck to keep them from getting unruly.  I learned my lesson from last year.  My son requested his favorite flower, Forget-Me-Not, so we started those from seed, too. My husband planted garlic last fall, and tall green stalks are appearing around the raised beds already.  They will be harvested in July, so I am hoping they will not detract from the plan to have a more beautiful garden that invites relaxation.  The snow in this photo has melted.  Spring is here bringing many garden dreams!

Walking sticks

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We found a lovely canopy of Japanese Maple trees on a late November walk in North Carolina. I found a little refuge, a reminder that God is our refuge and shelter. My son found walking sticks.  He brought them home, removed the  bark with a pocket knife and rubbed the bare wood smooth with fine grit sandpaper. “It feels like velvet now,” he said, sliding his hand along its surface.  He looked proud of his uncovered treasure. At Christmas, he gave one of his carved walking sticks to a friend who hikes long distances. Nature uncovers gifts…comfort and awareness of God’s protection; a child’s perseverance and generosity; and a mom’s pride in her son.

Autumn Aliens

We visited a farm in Penwp-image-1536863450jpg.jpgnsylvania to pick some pumpkins and gourds to bring home.   My son was intrigued by their funny shapes and bright colors.  They reminded me of the silly monsters he draws – cute alien creatures with round or oval bodies filled in by swirls or dots and topped with one to three eyes; each creature has a name like,  Dingle, Yugi, Ygug, Hithy, Hicamawiks, Hallywak and Dotty-Spot.  They make us laugh.

These alien-like squashes make us smile, too.  Any names come to mind for them?  I will ask my son, he will have some ideas.

Can you guess who he named, Backhoe, Emerald,  and Pouty?

Hens and Chicks 

The Hens and Chicks in clay pots on our front steps are flourishing in the cool fall weather. Each day I see new tiny chicks emerging. Close and cozy, growing in a tight space. It is counter-intuitive for a gardener.  I want to re-pot and give more space, but these succulents actually grow better in crowded conditions.

When my townhouse seems too small, traffic congested, time limited and life crowded with responsibilities and demands, I will think of these plants. They grow under the pressure of limited space.  Too often my thoughts are rooted in the “not enoughs.”  I need more time. I can’t. I need to pull out. What if I snuggled into the pressure and my limitations, stayed grounded and calm?  I might be surprised by unexpected space and new growth.

Tomatoes gone wild

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Tomatoes (left) and Peppers (right)

Plants with branches slumped and sticky hold plump cherry and grape tomatoes in our kitchen garden.  The full sunny days and shower refreshed evenings kept all growing. Over four feet in two months!  Our tomato plants grew beyond their cages and almost touched the deck before they toppled on themselves as vines will do.  We gave string and stake support a little late.  We did not anticipate such rapid growth so they kind of went a little wild beyond their cages.  They needed a supported space – a ring of rope to grow up into.

A reminder for me to anticipate growth as I seek to provide an effective supportive space for my preteen son. He is growing fast, almost as tall as me now.  How will I support him as he looks beyond our home to friends and middle school?  What kind of support can a give to him as he reaches beyond?

A prayer:  Lord, I need your wisdom and guidance to show me how to provide structure and support suitable to the unique talents You gave my son.  May He reach His full potential and grow into a courageous, kind, faithful, loving and fruitful young man. 

Never underestimate the potential for growth in all that you nurture and care for.  You will be amazed!

First Peach 2016

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Our two year old peach tree produced fruit for the first time.  The two peaches we picked tasted amazing!  Juicy and sweet.  When I cut through the soft skin fuzz, the peaches nearly fell apart.  Juice squirted.  The peach flesh slipped through my fingers.  I gathered it up with a spoon and offered some to my son. Yummy and sugary!  There is nothing better than growing and eating fruit from your own yard.

In June, there were many small peaches on the tree, but by July we could only find two.  There were no peaches on the ground around the tree. The little peaches completely vanished.  It is a mystery.   Did birds pick the peaches off the branches? Did the peaches drop prematurely and a rabbit, squirrel or other fortunate critter eat them up from under the tree?

Now our peach tree has beetles eating through the leaves.  I shook the tree and several beetles fell to the ground.  The beetles are munching leaves beyond my reach.  What kind of beetles eat peach tree leaves? What is the best way to get rid of the beetles?  Did the beetles eat the little peaches?

I know our gardening season 2016 is off to a great start when both juicy fruit and questions are produced.