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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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.

Weekend Project: DIY Plant Stand

A little over a year ago I decided I needed houseplants.

All of the houseplants.

Over the next several months I dumped a couple hundred dollars into living greenery and dispersed it about the condo with glee, Mr. Awesome no doubt thinking I’d gone a bit mad.

Long story short, some of the plants lived, some met early deaths, but I did manage to keep a few favorites alive through the winter with the help of a good deal of praying and the two humidifiers we were constantly filling. When spring gets here, I thought to myself, I can unplug the humidifiers, do a bit of fertilizing, and the plants will take off. I spent many spare moments fantasizing of the verdant jungle Mr. Awesome and I would be living in come summer.

Boy, was I wrong.

I over watered, over or under fertilized, moved them to locations they didn’t appreciate, chilled them with air conditioning, and generally neglected them throughout what should have been their season of glory. The result being now most of them look down right awful.

Not really being in the position to throw down another $65 on another fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) if the one I have fizzles out, I decided it might be a good idea to see if I couldn’t take some cuttings to make my own baby fiddle leaf figs. But where would I put them once I did?

Also, I was praying for a project on Saturday to keep me from brooding over Arthur’s situation and life in general. Thank You, Lord, for some inspiration.

The previous owners of our condo left an old, wooden ladder behind which I had painted a while ago and used as a place to hang throws and an old quilt my grandmother gave me. Seeing as ladders are all the rage in blogs and Pinterest boards, it wasn’t hard to know  what to do with it. Said previous owners also left behind some sturdy glass shelves, God bless them.

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I dug out just about all of the vases we had, filled them, and made my fiddle leaf fig cuttings. The plant in the silver pot is a young Monstera deliciosa I started a while ago.

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Mr. Awesome said he liked the way the shelves looked (win!). I agree with him, though it will need some tweaking to level the shelves. I’m also not a huge fan of where it is located, but if I want the cuttings to send out roots they will need plenty of light, so their location near a pair of south facing sliders is where they will stay for the time being.

 

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If all of these cuttings take off, I’m going to have to adopt out baby fiddle leaf figs.

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Now would perhaps be a good point to mention the potential dangers houseplants can pose to parrots. There are currently no plants in our bird room, and we make sure the birds aren’t munching on the plants outside of their room. From what I can see Monstera deliciosa is toxic to parrots, and Ficus lyrata most likely is as well. If you have parrots (or other pets) and houseplants, be sure to research whether or not they are dangerous for your birds. It would probably be wise to check a few different sources while you are at it, just to be sure. If in doubt, keep the two apart. Below I’ve listed some links of places to research whether or not a particular plant is bird safe. Also, please note, just because a plant is not toxic to dogs, cats, or other animals does not necessarily mean it will not hurt your bird:

The ASPCA’s list

Parrot Products Picture Library’s list

Bird Channel’s list

peteducation.com (Doctors Foster and Smith)’s list

Human Error

Mr. Awesome and I went to visit his mother and stepdad on the shores of Lake Michigan over the weekend. We had a lovely time: did a little shopping, had ice cream, and watched the sunset on the lake. Sunday we were able to attend the church Mr. Awesome’s grandmother called home for many years and Mr. Awesome got to go fishing with his uncle and stepdad. It was a fabulous 30 hours of relaxation.

As we pulled into our driveway yesterday evening, I mentally prepared myself for what would meet us bird-wise when we walked through the door and climbed the stairs. No doubt they would all be good and ready to come out of their cages and quite happy to see us.

What I found was frightening.

As I made my way up the stairs the first thing I noticed was that there was a light on. If we are gone more than a few hours I leave the lights off and the curtains open so the birds can have some darkness when the sun goes down. I was sure I had turned that light off. I always turned that light off. Well that’s weird, I thought. Guess we must’ve forgot. Oh well, no worries.

But then I rounded the corner and looked into Willow’s cage. I couldn’t find her. For half a second I thought my eyes were just having trouble focusing in the dim light. Then I began to worry I was going to find her on the bottom of the cage, dead, struck down by some sudden or unnoticed ailment. Then my eyes moved to the top of the cage…

There she was, perched in her usual place, ruffling her feathers and giving me her best “It’s about time you lot showed up!” face. The cage door was wide open, and there were mounds of parrot doo on the nearby bathroom floor.

My stunned brain swirled and tumbled to find an explanation for what I was looking at. A number of possibilities presented themselves in split second increments to my addled mind. Landing on one I turned to Mr. Awesome (who had followed me up the stairs) and asked,

“Who’s in our house!?”

Mr. Awesome looked a bit quizzical.

“Check the doors!” I exclaimed, and pushed past him to inspect all points of entry.

I’ve watched plenty of true crime and fake crime television programs in my day, so I knew what had happened. Clearly, some deranged psycho had broken into our home, turned on the hall light, and let just one of the birds out. They were no doubt waiting in a closet with an ax to dispatch us in our sleep.

I raced around the condo checking every door to make sure it was secure. All locked! The fiend must have slithered through the basement window. Nope, that was locked too.

I returned to Mr. Awesome and the scene of the crime.

“I have a hard time believing someone would break into our house, let the bird out, and not take anything.” he pointed out sagely. Once again I ran off. My jewelry was still there. We hadn’t noticed anything missing. Not a robbery then.

I padded back to the crime scene and began to rethink things. If a crazed, parrot-loving psychopath hadn’t snuck into our home and let Willow out of her cage… then she must have escaped! I stared at her in awe, considering what kind of genius, feathered Houdini our bird must be to have figured out how to manipulate the latch on the cage door AND swing the safety catch at the same time.

“I think it’s much more likely you just didn’t latch the door properly, or got distracted in getting everything ready and forgot to shut it all the way.” repeated Mr. Awesome, or something to that effect.

How annoying that he couldn’t see we had a bird prodigy. Me forget to lock the door? How could I be that stupid? How could I miss something like that? Put Them In Their Cages When You Are Going To Be Gone For A While was the first subject of Parrot Owning 101.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18

But as I gazed at the piles of poop and shredded trim in our guest bathroom, I finally had to concede that at some point in my haste to get on the road, I had neglected to latch Willow’s door, the result being she had quite the party while we were away. Heartily displeased with my own stupidity, I thanked the Lord that it hadn’t been worse. Willow was fine, the budgies were still cozy in their cages, no electrical cords had been gnawed on, and the bathroom trim could always be replaced. Humbled and flabbergasted at the fallibility of my own mind, I grabbed the vinegar spray and broom and started cleaning up.

And so boys and girls, what’s the moral of today’s story? Double and triple check your animals before you leave the house, and don’t rely on your memory to serve you properly in these situations. I think in future Mr. Awesome and I need to create a buddy system: I check, you check. Two sets of eyes are better than one.

I suppose there is one small consolation to this unpleasant event. At least, while we were away, Willow wasn’t bored.

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A Return Visit

It’s raining.

It feels as though it’s been raining for all of June.

The stream behind our condo is doing it’s best to keep up with the downpour, but it’s struggling.

So you can imagine my surprise when I opened the vertical blinds in our guest bedroom this morning to find that our little visitor was back in the exact same spot he was before.

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He wasn’t stuck, didn’t seem injured, but he didn’t look happy either. Most of the time he gazed into the trees, hopeful, waiting I assume for his mother to come collect him.

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And apparently she did, because there is no sign of him.

I’m flattered Mamma Deer seems to think we are suitable baby sitters for her little one, but on days like this I wish she would find someone with a slightly less…. soggy backyard.

A Little Visitor

Mr. Awesome and I live in the city. He was in the final stages of purchasing the condo when we met.

For the majority of my life I’ve lived either in suburbia or what you might call rural suburbia. Smaller towns, some with surrounding countryside. You get the picture.

If you had told me years ago that I would one day be living just off of one of the major roads of (what I consider to be) a good sized Midwestern city, I would have either laughed or despaired.

But Mr. Awesome is Mr. Awesome for a reason, and when he chose a nest, he chose well.

We live in an urban oasis. I’m within a couple miles of just about every store, restaurant, and office I could possibly need, yet I can look out our windows and see what you see above. And we get plenty of wildlife.

I opened the blinds in our guest room this morning to see this little guy resting by the stream:

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He stayed for about an hour and a half, but Mom must have come to fetch him, as there is no sign of him except the imprint left in the leaves, and the little bit of joy left on my morning. God truly can use the littlest things to put a smile on your face, brighten up your day, and remind you that He is on His throne.