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Ah, Home Sweet Home!

This is my front door. I took the left side photos May 30th and the right, June 20th.
     

Most of April and all of May was a rain-out. We had 10 inches (25cm) of rain in those 8 weeks. Even when it wasn’t raining, Sweet Sol was hiding behind her fluffy, white shawl. There’s not even a trace of her shadow on the wall. At least, the foliage looks green and lush in this light!

June 9th it got hot… like Hell Hot. I’m not complaining… Yet.

Things grew very well until the heat. Things were looking really sad and I even had to water my established perennials.

      

We don’t use our front door. It’s too awkward to enter here. No overhang. No space. No where for shoes… It’s so much easier to enter from the garage. It’s like having a huge foyer! So, this year we finally decided to embrace our inner Red Neck and start sitting on the porch. It’s so nice to enjoy all the beautiful things that fill our senses. The flowers smell so sweet, the fountain sounds so melodic, the birds look so joyful and the chipmunks make us smile.

Ah, Home Sweet Home!

 

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Ah, the Weekend, a First-Time Coffee Share…

I follow a Wonder Woman from Australia named Rowena. Why is she Wonder Woman on top of being a Wonderful Woman? Read her about page on: Beyond the Flow.

Every Saturday, Rowena participates in the Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Nerd in the Brain, where her and others discuss their week over coffee and many other beverages. This weekend, I’ve decided to join them.

It has been a pretty good week, my hours at work this week went down to 53. I’m starting to see some headway, as the piles on my desk are getting thinner. By July, I may be down to 47 hours 😉 I’m not here to complain about work, tho.

Like we did for the Memorial Day weekend, we’ve decided to take the day following the Forth of July holiday off also. The stress of driving home with everyone else, on the same day, has turned us bonkers. We have always had a good drive leaving for our destination, as we leave a couple of days before the long weekend. Our bosses may not be happy with us, however I don’t give a rat’s ass!

We’re going to Door County, Wisconsin again. Specifically, Sister Bay. We’re normally pretty fickle and don’t go to a location twice, however there were so many things to see here, we didn’t get to them all in one trip. We most likely won’t even finish the list this trip, either! It’s super beautiful there, and I highly recommend it. It’s dubbed, ‘The Cape Cod of the Midwest’. Hopefully, we will be able to participate in an art class or two. For whatever reason, many artists have settled here and open their doors to teach their talents.

Before we leave on our trip, we both have to go to the dentist for some work. I thought I was the sissy-la-la of the relationship when it came to going to the DDS…. Au contraire mon frère!! My husband wears that hat! I only need two teeth pulled, unless they are able to talk me into implants. Let’s see… a $500 bill or a $10,000 bill? I’m so over spending a mint on my mouth. From childhood to now, I’m guessing I’ve dumped at least $125,000 into my mouth. I know teeth are important, however all the rest of mine are in great shape, these are the farthest back and don’t effect the opposite ones on top.

I’m here in The States and I often feel like we put too heavy of a worth on looks (cosmetic surgery), including dental work. Please don’t take offense to this running joke in the U.S., British folks, but we always poke fun at your crooked teeth. I’m sure this poke was dreamed up by a DDS marketing team for them to justify the advertisements for many, unnecessary dental procedures… Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is, do other counties, especially with publicly funded healthcare systems, push for dental implants or do they opt to pull the tooth? I’d love input. Research here tells me I need to opt for the $10,000 method. I’m just not sold. Sadly, my husband is in a worse boat than I am, due to smoking and having not gone to a DDS in years. PS – We do not have dental insurance.

Otherwise, I’m living the dream here in the Midwest! May’s rains are over and we’re finally enjoying some heat. The saying used to be, “April showers, bring May flowers”. I’ve changed that to, “May’s doom and gloom, brings June blooms”!! Flowers have been a bit early this year compared to the recent past. If you don’t know my blog, I post blooming flower photos by date (phenology) and compare them to previous years. The next two months will be a blur of color, as it’s the bloomiest time of the year, here. =-D

I thank you for taking the time to share a cup of Joe with me! I look forward to joining you more often.

Enjoy your weekend!! Ilex

Macrame Plant Hanger

Way back in the day… The days before cable TV, Game Stations and other unpractical entertainment, you had fun using practical techniques and turning them into art.

My Mother loved to knit and crochet. Her fingers flew and knots were fashioned at a speed I was surprised didn’t start a friction fire! I, on the other hand, couldn’t figure out where I had dropped all my stitches and became very good at knitting triangles. At least they were good trivets. 😛

One year at summer camp, they offered a macrame class on making an owl. Owls were my Mother’s favorite, so I hopped on board. I was hooked! I liked the slower, more precise work of macrame. If you tied something wrong, it was easily undone and redone. All of these knots are taken from different, practical needs of many professions including, arborists, boaters, business men (ties), climbers and even S&M fetish folks!

When I was thinking about getting a hanging plant for the corner up front, I remembered how much fun I had making these simple, plant hangers. I ran off to the local hardware store looking for supplies. I bought a ring for the top and the rope, which was a thick, cotton laundry line. It has been awhile since I have had to tie any kind of decorative knots, however I’ve always had a good memory for these things. I did take a quick, 5-minute course from YouTube University on some basic knots, and off I went!

I decided to use a couple of the four basic knots I learned from the video below. On top I used the spiral knots and at the sides and bottom a slip knot. I wasn’t going to get too fancy on the sides, as the plant will quickly cover my hard work.

I was a bit rusty, however I was proud of my creation! My Black-Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata) looks pretty happy in her cotton hammock.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

 

New Doggy Bling

Last week, we ordered new collars for the boys. They were from Four Black Paws. These are beautifully, hand-made and well constructed. We got cute hearts for Oreo and a grayscale pattern for Breck. Oreo needs a thicker collar at 1″ wide, whereas Breck doesn’t need a thick collar, and we got him the 3/4 inch size. Both were size large.

The super cool part about these collars, is that their names and contact phone numbers are etched onto the clasp. No more jingle, jingle.

     

So cute!!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Illinois State Beach Park ~ What a View!!

Last weekend we went to Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois State Beach Park to camp. We got right in since many folks weren’t thinking about swimming in May… at least not here. Lake Michigan doesn’t get warm enough for swimming until early July. We did walk by the beach and I could walk with my toes in the water, for a short time. No more of me was going in! Brrr.

This is a IDNR (Illinois Deptment of Natural Resources) park, one of the most protected areas in Illinois. I love coming here, as there is such a diversity of plants, animals, birds and insects. We also had a great view of the dormant Zion nuclear plant. Awesome…?

General Information and History

This area is 4,160 acres and has a recorded 650 plus different plant species. Long recognized for its unique geological features, native flora and unmatched beauty, the Lake Michigan dunes area originally was, in the 1700s, part of the “Three Fires” of the Algonquin Nation: the Potawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa.

This area was slated to be a preserve as early as 1888, when Robert Douglas, a Waukegan nurseryman, and Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect (If you live/visit Chicago, you’ve seen a lot of his work), worked together to make the area a regional park. With the threat of industry progressing from the south and sand mining ravaging nearby dunes, legislative efforts to save the area finally began in the 1920s.

In 1948, the state obtained the first parcels of what is now known as Illinois Beach State Park. The Illinois Dunes Preservation Society was established in 1950 to protect the area. Through its efforts and the determinations of the Department of Conservation, in 1964 the area south of Beach Road was dedicated as the first Illinois Nature Preserve.

This area is unique, as it is a sand dune area and the rest of Illinois is nothing like it. I was on the hunt for Opuntia – Prickly pear & Juniperus horizontalis – Trailing juniper, both of these are native to this area. In 1804, explorers Lewis and Clark noted that trailing juniper “would make a handsome edging to the borders of a garden”.

Our bedroom is in the back of the camper and furnished with a large window to gaze out of. You can barely see it to the right of the photo, however there is a small window right where my head is. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a window less than 3″ inches from your face. The fresh, night air is wonderful to sleep by.

The real view, not through the window. Lake Michigan.

     

We were back to balancing rocks. Here’s a simple one that took a bit of patience.  ||  I don’t think anyone was home.

This is the coolest thing. It’s an ice fishing house, that’s also a travel trailer! It’s on hydraulics and lowers to the ground / ice for fishing. So neat.

As far back as 1982, the federal government began collecting a nuclear-waste fee, paid by electricity users through fees tacked on to their bills and earmarked to pay for disposal of the radioactive spent fuel rods. Starting in 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy was supposed to start picking up spent fuel rods and taking them for storage, according to Everett Redmond, senior director of fuel cycle and technology policy for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a power industry trade group. But there was no ready storage option to hold them. So power companies were forced to store more and more of them at their own facilities and eventually successfully sued to recover costs for this storage.  Chicago Sun-Times 2017

Someone likes to dig.

     

We keep trying to outdo each other on the rock stacking. Well played husband, well played.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Build a Pondless Fountain, On the Cheap

We had to rebuild our pond when the original 5 gallon bucket we used proved not to hold enough water for us to leave for a weekend before it splashed out. Many times the Robins would sit on the fountain and during their bathing would flap a good portion of water out of the system. We decided a larger basin was needed. However, many of the basins that are specifically made for pondless fountains are very expensive. What is expensive? Anywhere between $400. and $700. dollars. I feel that cost places these fountains out of many folks price-points. I’d rather use that money towards the ‘art’ part. The part everyone sees… The fountain!

We dug-up everything that was buried and set it out for re-installation. We decided we were going to try a plastic storage container and see how well the $20. dollar bin would hold up. We dug the hole about 4″ inches larger than the bin and back-filled that area with pea gravel. We hoped it would allow the bin to freeze (expand) and thaw without cracking. So far, this fountain has been through one winter with no issue.

    

So the lid wouldn’t cave in, we set the central weight of the fountain on top of a 6″ piece of PVC pipe. The pump (with its filter) sat just outside the PVC pipe. We placed holes in the lid to drain the water back into the basin, however not enough to compromise its integrity.

After everything was installed in the basin, but before the fountain was assembled above, we checked if the pump was working correctly. Better to check now than to stack the fountain and realize there’s an issue. DoH!!

    

Everything was running well, so we continued to finish the installation by adding the grate, the pond membrane and returning the stone to the area. We then carefully stacked the fountain on the copper pipe. We plugged it in and stepped back to admire our work.

If you want to see other pondless fountain ideas, click here!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Twin Tuesday ~ Easy Weimaraner

Bon Chew-y… nugget bars!

I didn’t have to go to Google translate to translate what ‘Bon Chew’ meant… Most of my two semesters of French have stuck in my head. Of course I remember the swear words 😉 Or an insult… Vous êtes une tête de merde!

I can’t remember how long I’ve been following the antics of the Weimaraners here at Easy Blog*. Yes, that was plural. Easy the Weimaraner had me following him at the first post I laid eyes on. I laughed my ass off!! He was so smart and wise as he taught class on his very own king-sized bed-classroom. His students may not have been able to hear, see or smell Easy’s class, due to MIA body parts caused by a bon chew… butt that’s neither here nor there… Easy also loved to help the staff do chores around the house. Most of the time this consisted of opening packages from the post (wo)man, sometimes not in the most gentle way… Letting the woman know that it was time to get rid of some shoes… And many times he tried to guide the staff in DIY projects, however they usually ended in disaster, whether it be the woman’s fault or the man trying to cut his own parts off.

Sadly, Easy the Weimaraner had to go to the Rainbow Bridge last year. It was unexpected and very sad for all of us. 😦

However, there is a new kid in town named Da Phenny, and he’s not far behind his beloved brother Easy in his style and grace!! Da Phenny has already proven himself worthy of opening packages, directing the staff on DIY projects, digging to America and other chores around the pad.

As the new kid in town, Da Phenny is still a bit wet-behind-the-ears… He still as to learn a few things about cohabitation with the staff. This is where the pad of shame comes in. Sadly, it seems Da Phenny tends to land here many times. Many, many times.  Even the woman gets a dose of the pad of shame! Although I’m sure the Weim did probably have something to do with it!!!

I’ve come to learn about the pad of shame at my own house. Here I am trying to explain to Breck that it wasn’t my fault that the Dog store was out of Liver treats!!!

  • I think it’s been 4 years!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Chippy Chipmunk ~ Tamias striatus

These guys are my adorable little bird seed removers. No one likes weeds  under the feeders 🙂

The genus name of Tamias is Greek for treasurer, steward, or housekeeper, surely because of how this little critter cleans up all the seeds on the ground, storing them for winter dining. The common name may have been spelled chitmunk from the native Odawa (Ottawa) word jidmoonh, meaning “red squirrel”.

Their average size is 2-6″ inches long, with a 3″ inch tail and weigh less than a pound. Chipmunks will live to an average of 2 – 3 years in the wild, however can easily double that in captivity. Sadly, these cuties are on the bottom of the food chain. Chipmunks will gather food along the ground, most times staying out of wide open spaces. They prefer areas with underbrush, evergreens, and downed trees, where they can hide from predators like bird of prey, foxes, coyotes, and snakes.

        

Clearly, this is a little boy chipmunk 😉  ||  A group of chipmunks is called a scurry.

These little engineers like to dig two types of burrows: shallow burrows for fast get-aways while foraging, and deeper burrows where the entrance can be up to 20′ feet long, where they nest, store food and hibernate. Chipmunks rarely venture further than 1,000 feet from their burrows at any time.

They feed on insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, they also eat other creatures such as insects, baby birds, frogs and bird eggs, which they stuff into their stretchy cheek pouches and and bring back to their burrows to store.

I used to hear these chirps and think they were birds.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

 

 

Burn the Fields!

Since I was focusing on my front foundation plant bed for the past two years, I passed on doing my veggie garden. We tried to keep it weed free, however weeds won the battle. Late last fall, we just cut it down to a few inches tall. We are planning to have the veggie garden back this season. To prepare for this, we needed to get rid of these weeds! An easy way for us to do this was to burn them. I’m a bit of a pyro. In my younger years, I would have loved to be the firefighter that battles the wildfires. I’m too old for that, however I am certified to work prairie fires. Of course, I can still have my fun in my own yard!! 

In lieu of using the normal fire starter method used for prairie fires (diesel) we opted for a harder method, however our method would not taint the soil. We used a propane torch. It got the fire started, however because we weren’t dropping drips of fuel, which would fuel a fire so many ways better, our method relied on the dryness of the plant matter and wind. We chose a 10 MPH wind, and used it to ‘push’ the fire along the bed. It wasn’t perfect, but it got the job done.

I’m not sure where my hubby got that pink firehat. They were being given out somewhere and it had somehow got placed on the shelf near the propane torch. He thought it was apropos for the situation. I just thought it made him look cute.

Like I said, this was not exactly a wildfire! This was as good as it got. I think those flames are reaching waist height.

In case you’re wondering why we are burning our fields, in short, our area “The Great Plains”, requires a burning now and then to cleanse the non-natives from the native lands. Non-native plants and seeds usually can’t survive the heat of the fires like our natives can. Ancient Native Americans learned this long ago. If you’d like to learn more, click here.

Burn, baby, burn!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl