What’s Going On Here and What is This Blog About!?

When I first started Budgie Makes Three, I think I intended it to be a sort of “mommy blog”, only the creature I was “mothering” was a white budgie named Giacomo. I thought I’d write about marriage, life with birds, my faith, and maybe share a couple of recipes. It didn’t take long before I ran out of material… and interest. Not long after, Giacomo passed away and our household was down to two humans with no budgie to make it “three”.

My interest in the blog was renewed when we brought home Robin and Tuck. I had a bit more to write about, having the two birds, but I once again lost steam. Then Willow came into our lives, and I thought I’d have plenty to write about sharing life with an African grey.

But somehow that didn’t last long either, and while life with Willow and Robin continues to be an amazing blessing full of joyful hilarity (I am writing this sitting on the bathroom floor as Willow does a bit of exploring, the same location I’ve written a few other blog posts), I find myself wanting more and more to write about the other great blessing Jesus has brought into my life: gardening.

The truth of the matter is I’m a homesteader wannabe living in a lovely city condo. Someday Mr. Awesome and I want to, Lord willing, acquire a few acres and move to the country. That could happen this year. It could happen in five years. We don’t know. Part of me is very happy and content where we are. The other part of me thinks that I’m not getting any younger, and setting up a large garden, orchard, etc. takes time. I keep praying that God will let us know when the time is right to make such a move.

And part of me is deliciously happy seeing just how far I can push the homesteading concept here at the condo. Can I grow enough fresh produce in containers on our deck to make a large contribution to our diets? What DIY skills can I acquire that will help us save money? I’ll never get the condo association to approve chickens, but I did string a clothesline in our basement and learned to do embroidery. And if embroidery doesn’t sound like a useful skill to you, two words: Christmas presents.

I started blogging again at the beginning of the year because I very much wanted to write, and not just for myself. For a long time journaling had satisfied the itch, but as time went on it felt less and less like enough. I was diving deeper into the whole gardening thing, and I wanted to share what I was doing. Perhaps someone might benefit from it. And of course, I hope and pray God is honored through all of this somehow.

But now that I’ve rambled on and on, I find myself back at the title of this post: what’s going on here and what is this blog about? I had considered starting another blog that was garden specific, but I’ve scattered so many blogs across the blogosphere and subsequently abandoned them that it’s positively embarrassing, and I’ve found pigeon holing one’s self too strictly is a surefire way to get blog burnout. Besides, God has given us two lovely psittacids who really should have their photos posted from time to time.

Perhaps one day I will change the name of the blog, or the address, or even stop being so cheap and shell out a bit of cash to actually purchase a WordPress plan. I still haven’t found a look for Budgie I’m super in love with either. I suppose this post is a bit of a warning that gardening will very likely become an increasingly prevalent subject here, with a couple of feathered miscreants thrown in, and you’ll probably see aesthetic changes from time to time. I appreciate all of you who take the time to read and like my posts. I hope you wont be disappointed in what the future holds for Budgie Makes Three.

God bless!

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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?

A New Year. Maybe Blog Again?

By this time I’ve become good and tired of writing those “I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon, but here I am to try again!” posts. There’s just been too many of them over the years and I have little doubt there will be more. So I am going to just skip it, as I don’t believe there is a blogger existing who can not relate to the fact that life happens and when things get busy the blog is oftentimes the first thing to get chucked. That said, I hope anyone reading this had a truly blessed Christmas and is excited for the prospects of 2018. May God give you all much peace and joy in the year to come!

I have to admit, I am thankful 2017 is over. It was a rough year for Mr. Awesome and I, though also full of many blessings. There were times when we didn’t know if Mr. Awesome would have a job in a week, or even a couple of days. I struggled with illness and medication issues for most of the year, not to mention three protruding disks in my neck. These things combined brought about a lot of worry over finances, and our one and only vehicle gave us some rather expensive problems. But, praise God, good things happened too.

We welcomed a new sister-in-law into our family. Our newest niece celebrated her first birthday in style. The garden was a bigger success this year than any other, and our two birds are doing well.

Yes, two birds. We lost poor little Arthur a couple of weeks after he became ill. Willow and Robin continue to do well, though Robin has good days and bad days with his heart condition. We thank Jesus for whatever time we get with him.

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Bathrooms are still her favorite places

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“Daddy” rigged him up a new play gym that gets him even closer to The Budgie In the Mirror

And with that, I’d like to once again wish you all a very bright, Happy New Year, which, Lord willing, will be filled with plenty of consistent blogging.

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.

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.