Not Even Gonna Use the “R” Word

Frosty Morning 4

You know, the “R” word.

Those things people make around New Years and seldom keep.

I’m not making any of those. Nope. No thank you. I can’t even be trusted to do something I planned to do ten minutes ago, let alone keep a —> insert “R” word here<— for the rest of 2018. There are however, a few things I would like to do this year, so I thought I might share them:

1. I want to be a better witness for Jesus. I prayed about this a lot in 2017 and it is something I believe God is working with me on. I want to be more comfortable talking with others about Him, letting them know what an enormous difference He has made in my life, and that He would be more than happy to do the same for them.

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 KJV

2. I want to bring my container gardening skills to a new level. Please pardon the tired cliche, but I don’t know how else to say it. Gardening has become a great passion of mine, and although we live in a condo and only have a deck, balcony, and porch on which to grow things, I am becoming more and more convinced that if used wisely, that space can, Lord willing, bring us a significant harvest, not to mention a great deal of joy.

3. I Want to keep our home in better shape. With all of my health and physical problems during 2017, I often didn’t have the energy or the strength to do basic housework, and when I did I was so moody I just didn’t care. I want to get back into my stride. This obviously also applies to the bird room.

4. I want to exercise more and lose about 20 pounds. I mean, who doesn’t?

5. I want to read more. It is a sad fact that the tablet has rather taken over the place of the printed page in my life, and I find myself sometimes having difficulty sitting still and “just” reading. Technology is great sometimes, but one has to wonder if the over-stimulation of a digital screen isn’t more of a curse than a blessing.

6. I want to be more diligent in making and switching out the birds’ toys. This is something I have been failing in terribly. I want to make sure both birds are stimulated, happy, and interested. DIY toys are cheap and often the most fun for them, I just need to take the time to make them and refill the ones they have.

How about you? Any.. eh hem… goals?

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Needy

But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.

– Psalm 70:5 KJV

The last few weeks have been rough.

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Since early spring we have been waiting and watching to see what direction Mr. Awesome’s current job situation would take, but we are now in the final hour as it were, and we are still waiting and watching, wondering where God will lead us next.

Arthur’s recovery continues to be slow. At one point during his round of antibiotics he lost a lot of his mobility. He is unable to perch, so we keep him in the hospital tub, which we eventually moved back out into the bird room so he could be near Robin and not feel ostracized from the flock. It seems to have helped a bit, but Arthur’s progress continues to be a one step forward, two steps back affair, and we are wondering if he will have special needs for the remainder of his life.

Being stuck in a tub, Arthur needs cleaning twice daily. He was having trouble getting his head up to eat and drink from his normal food and water dishes so we picked up containers that would be easier for him to access, but being smaller and lower to the ground they need to be changed more often. With the current setup we can’t leave him alone for more than a few hours, making even overnight trips to visit family problematic.

Throughout Arthur’s illness, poor Robin has had to take a back seat to Arthur’s needing special care and Willow’s insistence on being the center of attention. Still, he appears to be quite content not having to share his toys, and I believe having Arthur back beside him has helped him a bit too. If nothing, it gives him something new to investigate.

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Willow continues to be Willow, and that’s a good thing.

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And so, with all of the stresses and unknowns of our immediate future (I have to add the looming presidential election to the list), what do Mr. Awesome and I do? We pray. And we wait. Because even though it feels like the world is crumbling beneath our feet, we know there is a Rock underneath that will remain solid for us.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

– Matthew 7:24-25 KJV

I have been through enough rough times with Jesus to know that no matter how dark everything gets, His light will pierce through it. I don’t know what His plan is for Mr. Awesome and I, but I know it’s going to be great when it gets here.

Rose: Bill Reid

Of the roses I received this year, Bill Reid was one that really bloomed its heart out for me, and I praise God for that because this rose carries special sentiment for me.

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Bill Reid in front, not long after planting

This spring  I was scrolling through the High Country Roses online catalog (something, I must confess, that occupied a good bit of my time early in the year…), when to my great surprise, I came across a rose that carried the same name as one of my grandmother’s brothers. Confused, I tried to mentally page through what little I knew of the man (now passed on), and could not come up with any connection he would have had to roses. I called my mother and we laughed over such a strange coincidence which was only deepened by the fact that my grandmother’s favorite color of rose is yellow, as was her mother’s.

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The rose, of course, has no connection to my great-uncle, and neither did the artist whom this rose is named after. Still, my grandmother thought enough of it to ask to see the rose, and when I showed her the picture in the HCR catalog, she very kindly offered to get me one for my birthday.

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Bill Reid is part of the Canadian Artists series; a compact, repeat flowering floribunda that can handle temperatures down to zone 3. My young plant doesn’t appear to be very thorny, but that may change as it matures. It has a very light (citrus?) sent which isn’t all that impressive but what it doesn’t do for the nose Bill Reid does for the eyes.

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I have more pictures of Bill Reid than any of the other roses that bloomed this season, as I wanted my grandmother to see how lovely the rose she gave me turned out. She was delighted, and I am thankful to have a rose that will always remind me of her.

 

 

 

Introducing the Roses

I went rose crazy this spring.

When I first became interested in gardening I thought I would be focusing mostly on edibles, as the whole homesteading/self-sufficiency thing is very appealing to myself and Mr. Awesome, who comes from an agrarian family. But then catalogs and library books happened, and suddenly I was entranced by the idea of having a rose garden, albeit a potted one. I prayed that I would be able to get three rose bushes by the end of the 2016 growing season. I ended the year with fourteen, praise God! Most of the roses were an early 30th birthday present from Mr. Awesome and my grandmother.

The majority of the roses came mail order via High Country Roses out in Colorado. I really can’t recommend them enough if you are looking for young, own root roses. Their selection is great, shipping costs are reasonable, and the customer service is very good. One wet April morning, I received one of each of the following:

  • Cardinal de Richelieu
  • The Fairy
  • Gruss An Aachen
  • Buff Beauty
  • Marchesa Boccella
  • Ballerina
  • Zephirine Drouhin
  • Mountain Mignonette
  • Distant Drums
  • Madame Pierre Oger
  • Bill Reid
  • Awakening
  • Honorine de Brabant
  • Reine des Violettes
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Rose order before being taken out of the box. The bloom you see above is the Gruss An Aachen. Though the petals were not at their peak, it smelled wonderful.

Before their arrival, I made sure I had all I needed for my new charges. I had found enough good sized pots to house them in in the recycling bin of a local nursery, which cost me nothing (if you have a nearby nursery or home improvement store that lets you raid their recycle bin, this is a great way to get plastic containers for free). I had also picked up a bag or two of Dairy Doo and some cedar mulch.

The instructions High Country Roses sent along with their order recommended hardening the little plants off before planting them out. Since they were going into pots and I could stick them under our balcony until they were more comfortable with their surroundings, I called HCR and asked if that would be an adequate hardening off period. The gentleman said it would be fine, so I geared up to plant.

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The Fairy, planted and ready to grow.

All of the HCR roses got the same treatment. I made a mix of some soil I had left over from the year before, peat moss, homemade compost, Dairy Doo, and a bit of Espoma’s Rose-tone. After planting them in their containers, I surrounded them with a thin layer of Dairy Doo, mulched them with the cedar, and gave them a drink.

The two climbers, Awakening and Zephirine Drouhin, got the largest containers (at least 20 in. and probably close to 20 gallons of space) as well as a couple of homemade trellises I DIYed.

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Awakening with the bamboo trellis I made by tying poles together with fishing line. May not hold up for long, but at least it’s light weight.

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Zephirine Drouhin with the much heavier trellis I made by screwing together 1 1/2 x 3/4 in. untreated pine lumber. Much heavier but more professional looking.

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Buff Beauty

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Honorine de Brabant up on our balcony.

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I believe the rose in front is Bill Reid. I think that’s The Fairy behind it.

Overall, everything went in just fine. In hindsight I think I should have been a bit more conservative with the amount of compost I put in with them, and perhaps left off the Espoma as Buff Beauty and Reine des Violettes ended up quite leggy. I also regret a couple of my container choices. A few simply did not drain well and with the unusually wet summer we had, it was a bit of a shuffle to keep the roses from drowning.

A few weeks later I was looking through the discount section at a local nursery and saw that they had a few David Austin roses there with mildew ravaging their leaves. Despite the mildew and the fact that they were grafted, I couldn’t resist the price tag of $10 each and brought home a Harlow Carr and a Wollerton Old Hall. I tried to keep them away from the other roses to keep the mildew from spreading and treat them as best I could. Eventually I just defoliated them both. Harlow Carr Survived by Wollerton Old Hall did not. That week  Zephirine Drouhin showed up with mildew. I don’t know if it was a coincidence or if I had infected her by bringing in the new comers, but if I had to do it over again I think I would have left the discounted roses where they were. Still, Harlow Carr gave me some very lovely blooms this season, even if it is a bit of a thorny monster.

Poor Distant Drums had a bit of a struggle. It ended up on our balcony where I think it simply got too hot and eventually expired. A big bummer considering the lovely coffee fading to lavender color of its blooms.

It is amazing how quickly roses grow though, and I was very happy that Awakening, The Fairy, Gruss an Aachen, Marchesa Boccella, Ballerina, Mountain Mignonette, Distant Drums, Bill Reid and Harlow Carr all bloomed at least once.

I’m very thankful to have the roses around, and am excited to see how they do next season (assuming I don’t kill any more of them before then). I look forward to them becoming big, mature plants. Most if not all of them will be overwintering in our garage (a perk of growing them in pots). Most should safely grow in our zone, but I see no reason to take the chance. We had a mild winter last year, but the two years before that were quite brutal.

Eventually I plan to re-pot them into larger, more stately containers, but for now they should have plenty of room to stretch their legs, at least until spring arrives.

2016 Growing Season: What I Learned

Last year the gardening bug bit me in the worst way, and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. Living in a condo, Mr. Awesome and I don’t have property of our own to plant on, but what we do have is roughly 516 square feet of porch, deck, and balcony space. You can grow just about anything in a container provided it’s large enough.

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Winter-sown seeds germinating

I had just enough success during the growing season of 2015 to get me wholeheartedly curious and moderately obsessed with gardening. Thanks to a slew of mouth-watering seed catalogs and a number of library books, I was determined to plan 2016 down to the minutest detail and have an epic year. But once the leaves began changing their colors and fluttering to the ground and the days cooled down, the realizations that I had not fulfilled half my plans for this growing season, that I would have to wait another six months to try again, and that what I could do this time of year I probably shouldn’t be spending money on, threw me into a full fledged pity party.

Ungrateful much?

Saturday morning I sat in bed with my journal. As I sipped my cup of coffee, I thought about all that had gone on this past spring and summer, and I realized that, far from having wasted the year, a good deal had been accomplished and I had plenty to thank Jesus for:

  • God answered my prayers about our light situation. Our condo is in a fairly wooded area and our deck is shrouded by several large walnut trees. This caused me considerable worries as most of the things I’ve been dying to grow do best in full sun. After praying for some help in the matter (“Lord, would you please just get rid of that tree… and that tree?”), I decided to go ahead and experiment, and praise God, the tomatoes ripened and roses bloomed in places I had some serious doubts about. I now have a better idea of what will grow where.
  • I end this season with fourteen rose bushes and three ferns I didn’t have last season. The ferns came from a kind neighbor and the rose bushes were mostly birthday presents from Mr. Awesome and my grandmother. I became fairly rose obsessed early this year and prayed that Jesus would let me have three roses by the end of the year, which He more than answered.  A subject, no doubt, for another post…
  • This past winter I discovered I could compost in plastic totes in our garage with few issues.
  • I made my first seed order by mail, the result being I purchased entirely too many varieties. But now I have a large mason jar full of seeds, most of which should be viable next year.
  • I gave winter sowing a try and had a good bit of success with it, though I think I will  make some changes to my method if I try it again.
  • I grew enough tomato plants from seed that I had more than enough seedlings to give away to family and friends.
  • I discovered Dave’s Garden and the Garden Watchdog, which have proven to be very valuable resources when choosing mail order seed and plant companies to order from.
  • I improved the soil in our containers by adding our homemade compost as well as Dairy Doo.
  • I attended a garden expo at a local nursery and took in several seminars. It was a joy to be in such a contagious gardening atmosphere.
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The Bill Reid rose

So, I didn’t grow all forty-some varieties of seed I purchased, and many of the ones I tried to grow didn’t make it, but some things did. Two of the sixteen rose bushes I bought expired, and the others had mildew and cabbage worm problems, but some gave us beautiful blooms. I didn’t entirely cover our deck with  pots and raised beds as I had fantasized, but through the kindness of others I received many plants that should last for years.

As six months of winter race towards us, I thank the Lord for all He has given me this growing season and for all He’s taught me.  And I still have much to look forward to. While the earth rests and snow piles up outside, I can armchair garden, sating myself with gardening books and seed catalogs. I can continue to learn, dream, and plan; praying that 2017 will be my best gardening season yet.

Hanging On

When the phone rang Wednesday afternoon and the woman on the other end asked if she could speak with me, I responded,

“This is she.”

“This is So-and-So with Such-and-Such Animal Clinic. Arthur’s chlamydia test results came back and they’re negative”

“Oh praise God! Thank you.”

“Have a nice day.”

“You too.”

“Bye.”

Not an exact quote, but you get the idea. After I hung up I felt wobbly and a little ill. I don’t think I quite realized how much waiting to see if we were all infected with psittacosis was burdening my emotions or how much relief that one bit of news would bring. Nearly to the point of breaking, I’d prayed for something good to happen that day. Jesus answered.

Few things in life make you feel like a clumsy buffoon as does having a sick budgie in the house who needs a daily dose of antibiotics. You towel him as best you can, worried you’ll break him, smother him, or stress him to death. You hold him with one hand while in the other you finagle a syringe which you have to use to gently pry open the microscopic beak he insists on clamping shut. When you finally do get an open window, you hope your reflexes are quick enough, aim, and fire. Some of it makes it in and some of it just oozes down his little face, and as you set him back into his makeshift hospital room, exhausted and weak, you feel rather like a brontosaurus doing brain surgery.

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Mr. Awesome chose to name him Arthur because he was so brave when we brought him home. Over the last week he has lived up to his name. There were times I was certain he wasn’t going to make it through the night and watched as my husband cradled his little, limp body in his hand. But each morning Arthur would still be there, hanging on. We realized Wednesday evening that I had been measuring incorrectly and giving him too much of the antibiotic, something I should have known, should have erred on the side of caution. Little can make you feel so low as to realize you’ve been hurting the very thing you are trying to help.

It’s been a long week, and I thank Jesus for pulling us through it. In reflection it makes me thankful for so much. Thankful Arthur is still here. Thankful the other birds don’t seem to have caught what he has. Thankful for a husband with a big heart and gentle hands who has compassion for tiny birds. Thankful for getting to see a few rays of sun peaking out from behind proverbial clouds.

Thankful Jesus keeps us hanging on.

Insert Cliche Blog Title About Feeling Overwhelmed By Life Here -> <-

Sorry, but the only other title I could come up with for this post was, “When It Rains, It Pours”, and that just felt much too overused.

But still appropriate.

Late Wednesday evening I noticed Arthur was clearly not feeling well. I relayed as much to Mr. Awesome and after a quick phone call to my mother we removed him to the guest room and put him in the “hospital cage”, a clear plastic tote lined with towels and topped by a screen, then plugged in a space heater to warm him up a bit. Thinking there was probably little the 24 hour emergency vet could do for him other than tell us to keep him warm and call the avian vet in the morning, we watched over him for a couple of hours and prayed.

When we looked in on Arthur the next morning it was clear he was still not well and I made an appointment with the avian vet, who said he was underweight but his heart and lungs sounded good. She ordered a gram stain and chlamydia(psittacosis) test. The gram stain came back with lots of bacteria in it. We wont know the result of the chlamydia test for several days. The vet prescribed an antibiotic and tube fed Arthur so he could regain some of his strength.

Arthur seems to be improving slightly. He’s been eating millet and Mr. Awesome has been able to get him to drink a couple of times. I’m doing my best to towel him each day and dribble antibiotic into his mouth with a syringe, but he isn’t exactly cooperative, and clearly doesn’t appreciate it.

After all that has happened in the last six months with our birds, I feel toasted… and worried. Worried that the psittacosis test will come back positive and all of the birds have it.  Worried Arthur isn’t going to make it through this. Worried I made a bad decision, did something wrong, and this is my fault. My mind keeps replaying all of the “I should’ves”.

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The Scream by Edvard Munch

I need to remember that right now, in all of the craziness, to just focus on today and not worry about what is going to happen tomorrow. There’s too much to do right now without adding hypothetical scenarios of what may or may not happen. And deep down inside, underneath all of the fear, worry, and questions, I know Jesus is going to get us through this, and that someday, things are going to feel better. So I suppose another cliche title for this post could easily be, “This Too Shall Pass”.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

-Matthew 6:33-34