L is for . . .

Oh, I don’t know.  In like a Lion, out like a Lamb.  In like a Lamb, out like a Lion.  Here it is, the first day of Spring 2018, so Let it Snow!  Makes sense on some level, I guess.

lions n lambs

Get ready, friends!  It’s time for the annual Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge!  Every day in April (except Sundays), join the fun and create a post based on a letter of the alphabet for each day.  Are you up for the challenge?  I’m not sure that I am, but I will try!

I plan to blog in the ‘Nature/Outdoors’ category, with the theme of Gardening (surprise!)  I will try to stick with flowers in my garden but may have to slip into the realm of vegetables in my garden.  Or maybe weeds . . .

Grab a month of April calendar, map out the alphabet on each day, then choose your topics for each day.  That’s the fun part!

Now get writing – that may be the hard part!


A brief walk

I decided to dodge a few raindrops and take a walk down the side yard today to visit the late winter flower patch. I have seen so many snaps of snow drops and helebores these past few weeks. So many of my blog friends live in climates that are just a bit warmer and ahead of mine, I always know what to look forward to in a few weeks.

I trimmed away some of the old leaves from last year, and look what I found hidden underneath!

Peppermint Ruffles

Peppermint Ruffles Helebore

I’m glad the tag survived again so I know these little flowers are called Peppermint Ruffles, and I’m glad I decided to move these helebores a couple summers back. They weren’t blooming, and were in a very shady spot. They are still in a shady area, but now get partial sun. They really responded to the new location.

My snow drops have not spread much. I get the same two blooms but it’s still very exciting. I’ve seen some established snow drop gardens that look spectacular, truly look like fields of snow on grass. I’m going to have to get a few more bulbs, or really amend the soil they live in. It’s all about that soil, you know!

The crocuses have been blooming for about 2 weeks now. My favorite February blooms. I’m always surprised by them, but my TimeHop has proven that these guys arrive every February. They are still a very nice surprise.


Early Bloomers

Along with the flowers were plenty of hairy bittercress. This weed appeared a couple of years ago and have been popping up very reliably. Seems early this year, but we have had a few balmy weeks. These guys are itchin’ to grow. Best to get out there and pull them up before the blooms go to seed.

Hairy Bittercress

The seed pods snap and let those seeds fly everywhere. Really quite a nuisance.

It did feel good to get out there and pull some weeds. There has been so much rain this year, the ground is very sloggy (is that a word?), so those weeds come right out!

The Homeless Have Pets, Too

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday, a small video of a homeless man and his dog.  The dog caught my attention first as there is a special place in my heart for pit bulls.  So misunderstood.

The video took me back to a hot summer day just a few weeks ago.  On my way home from work.  He caught me so off guard, he was situated right in the middle of a traffic island.  The dog lay right beside him and he (the man, not the dog) was playing a banjo.  A banjo!  His case was open, ready to accept the loose change that might buy him a burger at the McDonald’s right there.

It was the dog that really got me thinking.  I never really considered that the homeless might have pets.  But of course they do.  And with the little that this man had, that dog did not look to be starving.

The light turned green before I had a chance to think of something I could have done.  I think I had a $10 bill in my wallet, but the light was green and I had to move on.  All the way home, I thought of how I could go home, grab a baggie of MilkBones, and take that $10 to him.

I thought of the dog a few more times that evening.  After checking on my own dog, I drove back up to the stop light.

But he was gone.  I haven’t seen him since.

I hope his dog likes listening to banjo music.  I know I do.

PS – When I visit with the dogs at the shelter, it’s always so wonderful to find an empty kennel and a sign proclaiming “adoption pending” – last week Irma and Maria found their furever home!  Congratulations, ladies!!

Harvey, Irma, and Maria

Three names of three storms that hit the US this past year, 2017.  Storms so intense that those in the path either board up to ride it out, or run.

The pets in the path of these storms were also in peril.  I cannot imagine the anguish that must be felt, the desperation that has to be lived, the utter unthinkable thoughts of leaving a pet behind when faced with the challenge of survival.  How?  I don’t ever want to know.

But what I have learned is that there are people who are willing to do whatever they can to help these helpless souls who become victims through no fault of their own.

Speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.  It’s the motto of our local animal shelter that put out the call.  Who answered the call.

The Facebook page allowed us followers to witness the rescue of 12 little souls who were transported to the Pittsburgh area in the hopes that our shelter could take them in and find them temporary if not furever homes.

The shelters in Florida were packed as a result of taking in extra dogs from Texas and Hurricane Harvey.  Then came Hurricane Irma, and more room was needed for the inevitable influx of abandoned pets in the wake of this natural disaster.

The shelter volunteers loaded the van with crates and took off to the county airport to meet the 12 dogs they promised to rescue.  And they were met with 16.  How could they turn away 4?

The Southern 16.  A story of survival.  And with these extra 16 dogs to care for, the word was out that the shelter needed help.  It was something I had thought of doing so many times, but for one reason or another, just never did.  Timing is everything, a friend once said.  And the timing was now right.  I found 2 hours of my week to help out at the shelter.

I have to tell you that those two hours a week are some of my favorite.  Walking into the shelter on Thursday mornings, knowing those pups are so happy to see me, if not just for the opportunity to empty their bladders from the long night!  They know they are getting a nice long walk, and then back to the shelter for breakfast!

This shelter is a no-kill, and I’m amazed at how quickly some of these dogs get adopted out.  Animal Friends is very particular and careful to adopt the dogs out to the perfect homes.  There are still 3 pups from the Southern 16 hopeful to find their families soon.  Until that time, we will continue to love them while they are here.

Oh, and the dogs that find their way to the shelter seldom tell us their names.  We give them temporary names.  Three of the Southern 16 were given names of Irma, Maria, and Harvey.

Irma and Maria are still waiting.

Irma n Maria

My name is Maria, and this is my pal Irma.


Elaine’s View

It’s been quite awhile since I spent any time in the garden that I call Elaine’s View.  Elaine lives in the house next door.  A few years back, I gave her a hard time (in a teasing way) for letting the garden on her side of the driveway pretty much go to pot.  I reminded her that I stand in the kitchen looking out at her driveway while I do the dishes.  It would be nice if I had something colorful to look at!  She obliged, and really got that plot in order.

I haven’t really returned the favor lately.

Our houses are side by side, facing west.  So the way the shadows fall, my side of the driveway is north-facing, and extremely shady.  Her side of the driveway is south-facing, and very conducive to lovely flowers.

I finally decided to investigate some shade loving plants, and I put some effort into creating what turned out to be a very nice shade garden.

I found some Jacob’s ladder, some Solomon’s Seal, a few hostas, a few ferns.

And just when I thought the border looked pretty darn good, the new A/C unit was moved and now sits right smack in the middle of the plot, and I have to start all over again.


Any suggestions on how to mask that beast?  It looks like a focal point of Elaine’s View.

I don’t want to impede the work it does to cool our house, but if it this unit can be fenced in or blocked somehow, I’d be a very happy camper . . . er, gardener!

Any thoughts?


It’s a Wild Life

I’m going to take it as a compliment that wildlife seems to be exploding in my yard this year.  Just a few weeks ago, my wisteria became a temporary housing development for a family of robins.  I can’t believe how quickly this little nest of eggs became a little nest of baby birds.  And they are on their own, not 3 weeks in total.

Last evening I was out tending to a border along my fence when Willis discovered a family of baby bunnies right on the edge of the lawn.  I had no time to teach him to be gentle, that these little creatures were not playtoys.  They did sound like little squeaky toys.  I prefer never to hear that again.

It’s not unusual for rabbits to make their homes right out in the open like that.  The more I thought of this location, the more I realized that predators usually won’t attempt an attack right out in the middle of a yard.  At least that’s the excuse Mr. Google gives for this seemingly careless choice of location, Mama Bunny.

It was surprisingly well hidden right in plain sight!

This isn’t the first time that Willis has brought my attention to some bunny friends.  However, mama moved that nest shortly after his last discovery, or so I choose to believe.

Speaking of that wisteria, I really need to get that vine under control.  Here’s hoping there’s not another family hiding within!

Postscript:  Our little family of bunnies got flooded out of their home shortly after this post was penned.   Thanks to our local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for the quick call back (on a Friday evening, well after regular hours.  These people are the best!)  They guided us through a rescue effort, and I know that we did all we could to provide these little guys shelter until the Mama Bunny came back to take care.  We tried to save them, but Mother Nature had other plans.


Organic Fertilizer

I recently spent time with my Garden Club friends.  The Master Gardener presentation was “Fertilizer – Organic or Not” and was very informative.

Her first question to the group got us all talking about what we currently use for fertilizer in our own gardens.  I have never really tried a fertilizer.  My attempt at compost lasted about as long as Springtime in Pittsburgh – not very.  And I’m now convinced that is most likely the reason I’m not so thrilled with the production of my plots as of late.

There are many types of fertilizer available, from the not so expensive garden variety ones that can be found at the big box stores, to the organic assortments available at specialty garden shops.  All personal preference of course.

The idea that struck me about organic is that you truly amend the soil with these types.  Organic means it comes from once living sources.  Blood, bone, dung.  Gross.  But effective and truly life-giving!  The non-organic types are great for instant satisfaction but don’t add any value to the soil – sort of a one-shot deal.

One of the garden club ladies shared her recipe for great soil in her gardens.  We live in an area that has much clay in the soil.  In fact, I could probably make pottery out of my soil, but that’s a story for another time.  On her suggestion, I purchased a huge block of “garden mix” and a large (and extremely heavy) bag of garden soil.

fertilizerGarden mix is mostly peat moss and perlite (white pellet things that help with aeration).  Garden soil purchased in a bag can be just about anything.  I opted for a bag of Miracle Grow, which was slightly more expensive than the store brand.  But I’ve had horrible experiences with soil in bags that smelled suspiciously like road finishing asphalt.  You never know what is behind that mysterious label.

Mix equal parts well in my 5-gallon bucket, add some water, and amend as I weed and plant the borders.  I’m sure the plants will respond well.  But this is one of those “non-organic” solutions.

We have been tossing the grass clippings behind the fence for years.  The thought has crossed my mind every so often to just take a peek under the mound and see what is there.

Unimaginable rich black soil matter (and earthworms!), that is what is under there!  I was so excited to discover this.  My husband thought I found actual gold.  I call it garden gold!

He just doesn’t quite get it!

So now, I’m mixing some of the garden gold with the garden mix and adding that to the borders.

We also learned about the numbers on those fertilizer packages.

fert analysis

Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium.  5-10-5.

A fertilizer with a 18-24-6 analysis means that there is 18% Nitrogen (by weight) in the mix.  Now I know you are adding that up in your head – am I right?  That’s only 48%.  So what about the rest?  Filler.  And it’s OK because too much of a good thing can burn your plants.  So the manufacturers use a good filler to temper the mix.

A high Nitrogen mix is good for greens – grass, leafy foliage.  Higher Phosphorus content is good for root development, new plants, and blooms.  Potassium helps guard against disease, temperature extremes, and helps if your plants have been attacked by insects.

Did you know gardening could be so scientific!


Gardening by the Moon

Ever wonder about those full moon names?  Harvest Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon . . .

The full moon in June is called the Strawberry Moon.  Sorry to say, it won’t be pink.  But it represents the peak season of this favorite summer fruit.

I refer to the Farmer’s Almanac periodically, and there is an Astronomy tab, giving much information on the moon phases.  Here’s the link on Gardening by the Moon.

strawberry moon

A friend once informed me that there is a particular time each moon phase when it’s better to apply for a job.  Much better to make introductions after the New Moon but before the Full Moon.  Use the energy of the new moon for new ventures and new beginnings.  This strategy actually worked out very well for me on a few of my many job interviews.

So it came as little surprise to realize that the moon’s phases could have something to do with success in planting.

Plant annual flowers and vegetables that bear crops above ground during the light, or Waxing of the moon – from the day the moon is new to the day it is full.


Plant flowering bulbs, biennial and perennial flowers and vegetables that bear crops below ground during the dark, or Waning of the Moon – from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again.

Sounds a little superstitious, but the power of the moon is magical and mysterious!

I’m adding a moon phases chart to my collection of widgets here on g4t.  Just in case.

Holey Hosta Leaves, Batman!

Out in the yard last evening, finishing up some mulching, when I took a look at the gerber daisy that Brittany had planted.  The leaves were looking suspiciously lacy, and I spotted 3 large slugs enjoying the lovely plant.  Smaller slugs were attached to the centers of the flowers.  I quickly plucked them from their dinner and threw them on the street.

We have had a lot of rain lately, and the ground is pretty wet.  Perfect conditions for my least favorite garden creature.

How do you control slugs?

I have heard of a few remedies, but the first one that came to mind last night was beer.  My dad used to set out small butter dishes of beer to trap slugs.  So I found a small shallow dish, dug a small hole next to the gerber, and filled it half way up with beer.

Slug Bait

Heading to the watering hole . . .

This morning, I discovered six large slugs had drowned themselves in yellow gold!

There are other methods to controlling slugs, but I can honestly say I have never tried them.  When I looked for info on the topic, Mr. Google shared a few methods that make sense.  Here are a few:

  1.  Keep a dryer garden. Well, no kidding.  Let me just confer with Mother Nature on this one.  However, in dryer times, limit the watering to early morning.  That will give the ground and plants all day to dry.  Those slugs come out at dusk and dine through the night.
  2. Spread mulch from certain plants that deter.  Oak leaves can be shredded with a lawn mower and used as mulch.  Something called wormwood tea is also a good deterrent.  From what I gather, you can brew dried leaves and flowers from the wormwood plant and spray the ground and foliage of slug-favored plants.  Wormwood is used as a remedy for parasite worms, so I guess this makes sense.


    Wormwood (photo credit – DavesGarden.com)

  3. Copper strip barrier – form a ring out of a thin copper strip and place it on the soil around plants that are susceptible.
  4. Sprinkle salt directly on any predators you see.
  5. Coffee grounds, coarse sand, seaweed meal all have properties that repel these slimy pests. These items create an uncomfortable path which makes slithering impossible.

Every year I vow to control slugs before they ruin my hostas.


And every year, I’m reminded that I waited just a bit too long.




Braddock’s Trail

This Easter break I was fortunate enough to spend some time with one of my favorite people.  She was receptive to exploring nearby Braddock’s Trail.  I had no idea this path existed, but I’m so glad to know it now.



The sun was shining when we arrived, and Britt kept asking if I was sure I wanted to do this.  It was about 80F, a surprisingly warm mid April day.  I kept thinking that we were going to be in the woods, but the canopy really hadn’t sprouted yet.  It was decidedly warm.

The trail we chose (there are 5) was the wildflower trail.  It did not disappoint.

We were hiking mostly downhill, the map reminding us of how steep some of the terrain is.  “We will have to climb back up,” she reminded me.  We kept going.

And this was at the end of the trail.


So peaceful.

I tried not to panic on the way back up.  Every so often, I would recognize a long boulder, a carved tree, a painted rock.  It did seem to take much longer to climb back up than it did to climb down.


But we did make it back to the car just before the thunderstorm struck.