Autumn Impressions

Got the camera out this morning.

During summer and winter I often chide myself for not taking a few minutes to grab the camera and capture some images of spring and autumn. The seasons are so fleeting, and it’s easy to be complacent and miss them.

I love photography because it forces you to pause and focus on the beauty of something you may otherwise have appreciated for only a fraction of a second then moved away from. It helps you revel in the beauty of Christ’s creation a little longer before becoming distracted.

I thank Him for it.

 

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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.

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.

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

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

 

 

Sunset On Lake Michigan: No Filter

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Mr. Awesome and I spent a little time on the shores of Lake Michigan this past weekend. The view, as usual, was impressive.

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The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. -Psalm 50:1

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