Recent Entries to this Blog not gardening rocks no more!
Posted: 07 Jan 2012
wildlife garden!
Posted: 17 May 2010
long absence!
Posted: 12 Mar 2010
I'm replacing a floor... soon... really...
Posted: 02 Mar 2009
A Valentine for the Stewbies
Posted: 12 Feb 2009

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CritterPainter's Blog

Various ramblings of a country gal

wildlife garden!

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Mon May 17, 2010 5:32 pm

I know I've posted in the past about the wonderful tiny pond my sweetie surprised me with some time ago. I've planted and rearranged rocks and tried my hack-handed best to landscape a sort of "japanese garden" around it. But I'm such an ADD gardener, popping from the veggies to the pond to the flowerbeds to pruning the trees to whatever caught my eye that moment, it's all rather luxuriously shaggy. And the two little ponds haven't been properly cleaned in about a year.
In a (rare these days) sunny moment, I took my teacup down to evaluate what was happening around the ponds. And spotted the nose, eyes, and toes of a little winter-brown tree frog poking up from the water and resting on a rock. So I've been making a point to go visit him, and complement him on the fine job he's doing keeping my pool free from mosquito larvae. This weekend, I discovered that the other pool had a frog too! She's a bit different in size and color from the Mr., but also quite willing to sit still on a lilly pad & listen to me ramble on about how lovely it is to have her there. A shaft of sunlight was illuminating the depths (all 2 or so feet of them) of the pool. I noticed movement. At least 3 juvenile forms of insect were happily patrolling the muck at the bottom, I suspect at least four of what I saw might be dragonfly nymphs? Need to look into that. What was more wonderfully distracting was discovering that my froggy is a mommy! I was able to see about half a dozen wiggly tadpoles, hind legs already forming, darting about in the shaft of light. No wonder Mrs. Froggy has been so attentive! Mr. was chirruping to her last night, but she was wisely holding her peace. No sense letting unfriendlies know who is living in the pond. So now I'm going to read up on wildlife gardening- I think my "style" is much more suited to that than it is to the very-meticulous Japanese form (and my Japanese friends would probably faint away if I ever dared call my garden that anyways)
BTW, for Stewies who live in the area of Tacoma, Wa., do be sure to track down and visit Kubota Gardens. It's a little hard to find, but it'll take your breath away.

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long absence!

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:42 pm

wow, has it really been two years since I blogged here???? Well, that was when the computer hassles peaked so I guess so. Our internet connection is metered, but with DS off in school that really isn't a problem anymore. I just avoid video/music downloads.
Other than utterly crazy weather, which I'm certain some other washington gardener has spoken of, things have been pretty quiet on the prairie. Trying to slowly replace the cedar boards on my raised beds. A friend and I are headed to an all-day workshop tomorrow that, hopefully, will help me figure out why my poor plants are struggling. It seems almost cruel to plant anything at this point!
I'm in the process of rebuilding my chicken run. For some reason, the crowing of my rooster really angers my neighbor (their house is quite a ways from his singing but who knows...) so I designed a run with a solid-board wall to muffle the sound on the end that faces them. There are some really fun websites dedicated to people who live in town but raise chickens, go figure! Good thing, I suppose, that I don't have more noisy animals on my 5 acres. In the middle of nowhere. The folks on the other side liked visiting with my goat so much that they finally got a couple of their own. Lucy Belle is very happy now that she can visit other goaties through the fence.
I need to spend some time checking out the new stuff here, see if the old names are still around...

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I'm replacing a floor... soon... really...

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 4:42 pm

The scent of jasmine tea wafts up to me as I take a moment to sit in my disheveled dining room. After years of battling with my carpet, I am finally getting ready to replace it with wood-laminate flooring and the prep work is almost overwhelming!
10 years ago, right after a stroke nearly ended me and while still in the grip of not being able to think well, I somehow convinced my haggard husband that we needed to replace our worn-out brown carpet with an airy cream-color berber. Have I mentioned that I live in the country and am a tad obsessed about gardening? And need I mention that within a very short time said carpet was no longer creamy white but grey! My wonderfully rich soil, what there is of it between the rocks, is very black. Add to that one Very Bad Dog (now gone) who disrespected the carpet with impunity ( no amount of sanitizing carpet steaming could undo the damage) and well, I'm jolly tired of scrubbing this thankless floor!
So I've cleared the book cases; the complete James Whitcomb Riley, several Kiplings, and my grandmother's collection of school books from the turn of the last century are resting in a closet with scores of gardening, painting, and other just-plain-good-reading books. It's amazing the number of fiddly little things I own, considering I'm not into buying fiddly little things. But, my wonderfully practical grandmother never threw anything away, inherited things from her mother, and often had tea parties, so away I pack the little figurines of kittens, flowery Victorian china cups (with the odd chip here and there because Grandma actually *gasp* Used them) and the cameras from my great-uncle's foray into photography.
I suppose my "dining room" more closely resembles a "library" of sorts, with two book cases, a woodstove, and a corner just for reading- that suits me fine. Wood-laminate floors go rather well in a library. It is rather tedious to pack up, though, and taking quite a long time. But since it's raining out, guess I can't complain too much. Back to work then...

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short and sad

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:56 pm

So Lucy Bell was out in the pasture, crying her panicky cry that we hear only when her lifelong buddy, Cecil, is having a seizure. (there's pictures of them somewhere in my blog) The seizures had been getting worse, a neighbor on the far side of the pasture even climbed the fence and ran to my back door, frightened that something had happened. So at least I had some tiny bit of warning when I went into the barn and found him... dang, I'm still crying and it's been days...

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A little hope of spring

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:01 pm

It had been a rough winter for the little Washington chickadee. Winter here was usually pretty predictable, cold with lots of rain. Sometimes a little snow, not much though. But snow so deep that a little bird's usual forage was covered completely for days, or rain that left his favorite places underwater, well, that was a bit much. So he just focused on getting through each day, some of which ended with him hungrier than when he'd started. Then, when it seemed the dismal weather would never end, a sudden downpour of icewater forced the little chickadee into a hollow beneath a crooked old fir tree. There, in the sheltered space, was a miracle, a hint of the promise of spring, of blackberries and sunshine. The chickadee opened his beak wide, and rejoiced in song.

2.5"X3.5" ATC mixed-media

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raking oak leaves

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Sat Nov 08, 2008 2:21 am

As I was scooping my fifth pile of soggy oak leaves into the wheelbarrow today, I heard through the trees the distinct sound of my neighbor starting up a leaf blower. My lower spine was intensely jealous. My senses, unbiased by pain, just laughed.
Why is it that oak leaves that have fallen to the ground have such a warm, spicy smell to them? I'm certain they never do when they are green. It arrives somehow with the cold and damp, perfectly complementing a cup of hot cider, with it's sweet-sour bite, sipped on a break. I'd never trade that rich smell for the stench of gas exhaust.
The leathery, crisp feel of autumn leaves has no match for conjuring up memories. One armload of leaves and I'm transported back to a vacant lot near where I grew up, a lot with a huge old tree in the middle. The nuns who lived next door had raked all the leaves into a pile then gone in, for tea I suppose. My 8 year old self took full advantage of the situation. One never touches leaves with a blower.
My neighbor wears safety goggles while leaf blowing. Pity. One has to get really close to oak leaves to see the incredible variety of browns there, the speckles of deepest umber, the streaks of near-yellow, the last brave tints of green.
Even when they are soggy-wet, as they were today, freshly fallen oak leaves have a very satisfying crackle to them as they are crushed down into the wheelbarrow. Or swept across the grass. My but the leaf blower was deafening when she moved closer to my edge of the property.
Don't get me wrong, if I'd been using a blower my yard would be leaf-free by now so I do see the advantage. I have miles to go before I am finished raking, and liniment only does so much for a sore back. But raking does so much for my soul, I think I'll stick with that.

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Tomato woe

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 4:22 pm

I meant to get my tomatoes in, I really did. I started them from hopeful little seed, babied them on every spare windowsill as they grew, fertilized them loyally, turned them and pinched back and rotated the trays. I prepared their new homes with great care, padded with bunny-poo mulch, amended with just the right amount of fluffy perlite, and removed every invading weed from site. And they grew large and lush. But, like other gardens in my area, they were late to put on their crop of wonderful fruit. It seemed quite happy to remain varied viridian hues. So I put them out of my mind; let the rain water them, I thought, I will tend to other things and stop making myself mad checking for signs of red.
So off I went on another hike through the forest with DH and DS. Last winter's storms had washed out a footbridge and apparently the economic difficulties around here didn't allow for a rebuild. My industrious DH found a log to jockey across the icy stream, and I got to use my new/refurbished trekking poles (given to me by a friend after my Ellinor hike) to balance my way across from log to rocky island to another log and finally to the steep slope- only one wet pantleg and foot! Later, in a fog-enclosed clearing, DS discovered a most amazing echo. I think we must have been between hilltops, but couldn't see-for the sake of my son, I resisted the temptation to yodel. It was a great hike until the gunfire started and we, shouting "I am not an animal, I am a human being!" ran the last few hundred yards to the pickup. I guess hiking in the fog without orange vests in October isn't the wisest thing to do, but still...
I digress. The tomatoes. So I was settled in with my tea and fuzzy slipper-socks to watch the last bit of late-evening news. In concerned but cheerful tones the weather lady pointed to a map that showed our area getting as low as 27F. It was all good until she slipped in, no kidding, "better get your tomatoes in". I mean, !!!!!!. So on with the slippers, out with the flashlight, and with my VERY longsuffering DH in tow with a paper bag we headed to the garden to gather up all the green tomatoes we could, finally settling on only the ones with a faint blush to them. Not easy to spot by flashlight beam. They are now tucked in their paper bag under my kitchen sink. I'll check them every few days and hopefully I'll have tomato sandwiches, cacciatore with big chunks of tomato, and tomato-filled chili for my wonderful and very patient family by the end of the month.

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Mt. Ellinor

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 5:29 pm

A chilly start to the day this time. Low, clinging clouds greet us as we start to climb up Mt. Ellinor, elev. 5944 in the Olympic Mt. range on the peninsula. And as the stabbing pain in my legs will soon attest to, it's all straight up!
A surprising number of cars greeted us when we arrived at the parking area, and the folks we meet range from Mountaineers with full survival gear to a young couple, new to the area, who just decided to go up on a lark (they didn't get to the first half of the trail).
We pause partway up to get some pictures-these are the clearest

(besides, it took an hour & a half just to get these loaded up on my computer!)
The whispy clouds climbed up the slopes, advancing and retreating on a whim. In places, they wrapped themselves around us, muffling all sound, and we were not just the only people on the mountain, we were on another planet altogether. Then suddenly, the clouds would open and reveal small groups of hikers above and below and, once, a brief startling view of Puget Sound and Seattle far in the distance.
DH was here back in April, and at that time the avalanche slide was still buried in snow. Now it's snow-free briefly, revealing that someone long ago built stone steps up the slide. The slope to either side is dotted with wildflowers and we are very surprised to see many of the same species that dot our prairie in early spring- bluebells, yarrow, daisies, the ubiquitous thistle, and unlike home, indian paintbrush.
The fog plays peek-a-boo with us until we pass out of the tree line. Now we turn around and see the clouds stretched out below us like an undulating blanket of seafoam. We press slowly onward- I cannot climb quickly because of the beta blockers the doc has me on. But moving slowly means taking in more of the fleeting views.
Finally we reach the summit. As we sit down to our apples-and-gorp (ok, trendy people call it "trail mix" but I'm an old-school hiker) (oh, gorp is an acronym for "Good Old Raisins and Peanuts") we are joined by two chipmunks!
One seems to be older than the other, larger and with a fuller tail. Here's junior At one point I was holding my hand down to scatter some peanuts for him; the impatient little fellow ran up to me and Put His Paw In My Hand to take a peanut! *melt*
Here's DH doing a victory pose at the peak, my pic is in the "post a picture of yourself" thread
A few things I learned from this trip: always check your hiking boots to ensure that the padding won't give way halfway up a mountain (I hiked barefoot part of the way down), take along unsalted nuts for the locals, and I must consult with my doc about BP med that doesn't sap my energy so much!

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ran away from my garden

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 11:16 pm

Been doing that a bit, lately. Running away from home, I mean. More fun than scraping paint off the house (which I really need to get after). DH had a trade-off day yesterday so we ran away to one of our local beaches, at Tolmie park. Good heavens, the name actually made it into Wikipedia. Do some folks just have too much time on their hands or how does that work? Anyway...
It was supposed to be blazing hot, and when we got home the news said it was. But not at this little bit of seashore (It actually faces onto Puget sound). A soft overcast kept a gauzy screen overhead, creating a filtered and comparatively cool sunshine.
We started out with a hike, only a couple of miles or so. The thick, fern-studded woods were laced with tiny-wild-blackberry vines. My hands were perfectly purple before long, as were DD's chin and one cheek. We don't want her to get the idea that it's ok to pick and eat things in the wild, so I fill my hands with whatever is good and let her choose what she wants from there. Saves quite a bit of worry! The berries that lie in pools of sunshine were fat and sweet. The ones in the shade, well, not so much. But they were all good. The wild huckleberries are ripe too, but we left them for the chipmunks. DH and DD were sitting on a bench while I raided a patch of vines when my back was literally brushed by birdwing, and a pileated woodpecker landed on a stump directly behind my D's! DH scrambled to get the camera setup (our point-and-click is hopelessly broken, and neither of us is very fast yet with the SLR camera). The woodpecker headed off into the trees, alas. But it did make me look up, and realize that some of the trees we were passing were actually Madrona, evidenced by the orange wood exposed up where the sun hit and peeled the outer bark.
At the end of our hike we had a picnic on the beach then spent the rest of the afternoon sketching and playing in the water. This beach is Loaded with sand dollars- they are actually purple and fuzzy when they are still alive. Lots of little crabs, too, little fish, and at one point DH spooked up a tiny flounder that proceeded to smack right into my leg, poor little guy! Added a few shells to my stash on the back porch, waiting for me to sketch them. Well it's jolly hot in here so I'll go do that!

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August- no month for this gardener

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Mon Aug 04, 2008 6:28 pm

It's August, when this woman's fancy turns to thoughts of moving to a more garden-friendly locale. In August, I find out that the noxious dormant spray that I spread around in the fall has done nothing. August reveals blight on my lilacs, disease on my plum, weird red lumps covering my maples. Huge areas of blank, unwelcoming bareness stare at me from where the optimistic blooms of Spring have faded, gone to seed, and retreated into slumber. Instead of reveling in new things blooming, I spend my time in the garden deadheading old, withered blooms. The cheery birds are sticking to friendlier terraine, replaced by cranky, incessant yellowjackets, with their all-too-ready poison-filled stingers try to take up residence anywhere there is bare wood; the even more vicious bald hornets have build their underground vaults, a base from which to swarm over anyone who tries to mow near them. Biting red ants try to fill my painting studio.
All the wildflowers are done blooming, and the fields must be mowed or they will be overrun by invasive, persistent Scotch Broom. It's all about patching now. Trying to keep things alive in an environment unfriendly to life; the prairie wants to rest and be dormant. I insist on my small patches of greenness and life-the things that want to be green are invasive weeds.
At least this year I'm not too worried about drought. DH and some buddies went hiking up in the Olympics on Saturday, and there was a pretty good snow pack even at their relatively low elevation. Here's where he went
and here's a website that will show why there are so many hikers (and artists, photographers & bicyclists) in Washington

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