Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Flower Power

With the hot summer bearing down upon us, I thought I'd give you a pictorial tour of all the plants I have growing here in my yard, so you can see how they are faring with the heat of the summer upon them. 

This year has been a learning experience for me, learning which type of plants do well here in northern Idaho, and which plants struggle, and all the different needs that each plant has.  Many of these plants I started from seeds I bought in the dead of winter, with great hopes of the spring and summer to come. Some have fared well.  Some have not.  Some plants need full shade, some need full sun, and some that say on the seed package "partial shade" really should be interpreted to mean "full shade", at least with the hot kind of summer we've had.  Unfortunately, I have no "full shade" place here, with no nice large trees in my flower garden area, and so many of the plants I thought would do okay with partial shade have just withered in the heat of the sun, even if it was the morning sun. 

Pansies are supposed to like some sun, but with the heat of the summer as its been this year, they have needed the partial shade areas. 

Unfortunately, these pansies haven't done so well since the temps rose into the 90s+.  They absolutely were outgrowing the basket up until the end of June and then they have just withered up ever since.  I plan on digging them up sometime today and finding a new home for them... in the shade, and replacing them with some sun loving petunias. 

My broccoli amazingly is doing pretty well, even despite the high heat. 

I planted these gladiolas back in early May, and they are just now beginning to bud out, and they are gloriously beautiful!  This year I planted them in pots.  I plan on digging them up out of the pots this fall, and hopefully planting them in a more permanent spot next year.

Isn't this color absolutely glorious! I am so excited that the gladiolas are finally blooming in such magnificent colors! I can't wait for the rest of them to begin to bloom.  I planted quite a few.  This is the first one to arrive! 

These pansies started out in a full sun area, but when I saw the damage the sun was doing to them, I moved them to a more shaded area, and they are just as happy as can be on the shaded north side of the house.

I brought this hosta all the way from Texas with me, and it is one of the few plants that I brought from Texas that has survived the harsh cold conditions up here.  Somehow a petunia got started in with the hosta, and now I have these lovely petunias growing around the hosta. 

These pansies were also in the heat of the sun, and started to wilt on me. They also moved recently to a new home in the northern more shaded part of the house, and seem much more happier here too.

This is one of the flowers that I started from seed.  I received a seed packet from a dear friend in Texas, my dear friend RH, and this is one of the lovely flowers that has bloomed from this seed packet. 

This is one of the loveliest of the flowers I started from seed.  It is called "Cosmos" and the first time I have ever planted this flower.  I absolutely LOVE it.  It is so gorgeous, and blooms in a rainbow array of colors.  They are just now beginning to bloom, and I can't wait to see the rest.  Hummingbirds and butterflies love cosmos too.  The one thing I didn't realize about cosmos when I planted them in the ground is that they grow REALLY tall! Like almost as tall as me!  So, because of this factor, where I have planted some of the cosmos, I have had to replant them, because they were blocking the sun from the rest of the plants.  Cosmos need to be planted at the back of the flower garden, or given their very own space, preferably next to a hummingbird feeder, as the hummingbirds absolutely love these flowers! They are easy to grow, are heat tolerant, and are just beautiful.  I have fallen in love with cosmos, and will be planting more of them next year!

Who doesn't love marigolds! Their bright cheery yellow colors dazzle no matter where they're planted, and a big plus with marigolds is that they attract unwanted pests, which helps protects other plants around them.  They are marvelous to plant in your garden to help keep unwanted pests away.

Another close-up of a beautiful rosy hued cosmos.

Bachelor buttons are right up there next to cosmos as a favorite flower to plant here.  They bloom most of the summer, and have the most beautiful shades of blue you've ever seen.  Planting cosmos, and bachelor buttons together is a great combination, absolutely magnificent! Make sure you plant them in a place where you don't mind them growing at least 3-4 feet high though!  That is one thing I didn't realize when I planted them this year.

Another shot of the lovely zinnas... that one small packet of seed from my friend in Texas has filled quite a few of my flower pots around the yard!

This is a weed that is growing in the field behind our house.  It has literally taken over the field, and is also growing in our back yard. I have done some research and discovered it is probably knapweed.  Upon doing some research I found out something interesting.  There is a law on the books in Idaho that requires property owners to actively fight and kill what they term invasive, noxious weeds.  Knapweed is on that list.  Hmm.  So after doing my research, I called the local county extension office to ask them about this weed, and they suggested mowing it down, and hitting it with some weed killer called 2-4-D, and then this fall planting a fast growing grass seed to help kill this weed off.  Interesting.  I had no idea I had such a nasty weed growing all over my backyard.  According to the extension office, this weed can cause horses to develop brain, respiratory, or liver damage due to the carcinogenic compounds found it.  Wow. 

If you'd like to know more about the noxious weeds that grow here in northern Idaho, here is a link to the 68-page booklet with all the information you need to find out if you have noxious weeds growing around you!  Bonner County Noxious Weed Handbook

That brings us to the end of my plant update for today.  We are on schedule to get some much needed rain this weekend, as we have not had any rain at all since the middle of June.  This rain should perk things up for sure, as long as we don't get a deluge! Hard to believe that we are already in the month of August... where has time flown!  Seems like we wait all year for summer to get here, and then when it does, it just zooms by, and soon we will be back into the school routine, setting the alarm clock, and having a regular routine again.  Such is life!

The War is Raging!

We have been waging a battle

I hope we win

We are mightily outnumbered. 

Indeed our numbers are few
Against their crew.

We have a few weapons
That we have got to use
If only we could find
Just where their nest is
I know we'd win.

Sorry... I'm not much of a poet, but we have been waging a war lately, against all the yellow jackets, hornets, and wasps that have been tormenting us recently. 

 I am talking about a war with these fellows...

But not this fellow.  I love this kind of bee.  He keeps my plants happy.  He is welcome anytime!

I am talking about all the wasps, hornets, yellow jackets... that have have simply begun to swarm just outside our door in wake of the recent heat wave we've had, in search of water. And since they're just smart enough to figure out that I water every morning and sometimes in the evening, they have swarmed our house in search of the water that we keep available for the dogs, as well as the overflow trays for the plants to hold extra water.

And I've learned that.... wasps can smell water better than a bee can smell a flower.  In fact, wasps are more determined to find water than a bee is to find a flower.  They will hunt you down if they suspect you are a source of water.  If I was afraid of wasps, my plants would simply curl up in a ball and die.  I have to fight my fear of these miserable creatures each and every day to take care of all the plants and vegetables in my care.  I hope they appreciate the war that is being waged on their behalf!

So, yes, we've been fighting the wasps, and it hasn't been fun.  My dear husband carried one, albeit unknowingly, into the house on his shirt just the other day, and after sitting down to enjoy a nice cool glass of iced tea, and a noontime meal, he was shocked to feel that nasty wasp place a stinger firmly into his arm. 

That wasp's life met an untimely death, and the fight was on.

Now, it was time to get rid of these pesky creatures once and for all. Armed with a can of gasoline, and several large cans of wasp spray, we ventured out into the yard later on in the evening, determined to put a stop to this nonsense once and for all.

We found several nests of wasps in the horse shed, close to the horse trough where they could easily get a drink.  There were several huge ones in our lawnmower shed as well.  After spending several hours dishing up some lovely medicine for them to drink, we felt that we had won the war, and settled the score. 

I also moved the dog's water bowl to a different location, away from the water faucet and dumped out any standing water in my plants.  Surely now they would move on and find somewhere else to get their water.


Nope.  I went outside early this morning to check my garden, greenhouse and plants, and discovered.... just as many wasps and hornets as before.  Now, we had just killed a LOT of them.  Where the rest of them are coming from, I do not know, but.... the war shall go on!

And just so you know... Annie is in on this war.  If one of them gets close to her... this is what happens!

One by one, we may win this war yet! Bug spray, or dog bite... either way... any wasps, hornets, or mosquitoes around our yard are not safe any more ... the war is on! 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Way A Garden Grows...

Slow.... very slow!  At least here in North Idaho!

I've learned that gardening here in North Idaho requires a LOT of patience!  Coming from Texas with warm days and warm nights, we had double the growing season there, and it seems you would plant something into the ground, and a few days later, you would see results quickly, and within a month even be eating the fruit of your labor.

I've been learning that is not quite the case here in north Idaho.  Here in the summer the days do get quite hot, with a few days marching up to the 100-degree mark... but for the most part, the temperatures stay in the high 80s-90s, but then at night, cool down to the low 40s, which means there is no growing season at night, only during the day, which translates to mean, that fruit/vegetables take a lot longer to mature. 

Of course most of my northern gardener friends have long been working under these conditions for several years, and are used to this.

For me, I am still learning how to be patient!  I've done all I can do, but now is the time to sit back and wait for all those tomatoes to finish their business, turn red, and find their place in a canning jar!

These were the first tomatoes I picked from our garden, and I've slowly been having 1-2 tomatoes ripen a day.  There is nothing like a freshly ripened tomato on a sandwich!  There are no store bought tomatoes that come anywhere close to the taste you get from a fresh homegrown tomato!

I planted some okra seeds that I had brought with me from Texas.  Silly me!  These poor okra are struggling with all they are worth to deal with the tough weather conditions they have been faced with.  They love the hot days, but the cool nights have stunted their growth.  After growing for over a month now, I only have one okra that is just about as big as my thumb growing, and the rest are about the size of your fingernail... But I am hoping that with the month of August still to go that perhaps I will get a few okra to fry.

I planted a few parsnip this year, and you can see that they seem to be doing just fine!  I am going to give them a bit longer in the ground before pulling them out to see how big they've gotten.

While I was in the greenhouse taking some pictures, I heard quite a racket, and at first I was wondering who was in the greenhouse with me.  I spotted this poor little hummingbird who was flying frantically around in the greenhouse.  I quickly snapped a picture of him, before I moved towards him hoping to "shoo" him towards the open door, as it seemed he had become confused on how to get back out.  As I moved towards him, and got very close, all of a sudden, it seemed he had a burst of energy, and "zoom" ... out the door he went.  I'm sure he was breathing a huge sigh of relief, as I was also for the poor little guy. 

I've been fighting blossom rot with my squash this year.  I've done some research into why squash develop blossom rot, and there can be several things... ground too wet, ground too dry, lack of calcium, nights too cool... so.. not really a firm answer as to why some of my squash develop blossom rot, and others are doing just fine. I've treated my squash with a tablespoon of Epsom salt per gallon in hopes that would help.  While it did seem to help, with most of the squash now seeming to be fine, I am still seeing a fair share of the squash develop blossom rot. 

I planted some calendula in the garden as it has tremendous medicinal properties, and also it is a magnet for bugs... to keep the bad bugs away from my good plants.

It is definitely doing its job!  There were a lot of these little black bugs crawling around on the calendula plant.

 A quick peek at some of my Roma tomatoes growing on the vine... I am patiently waiting for these lovely beauties to begin to turn red!

I planted several different varieties of tomatoes in the garden, and most I started from seed indoors.  I am so excited to see these tomatoes beginning to grow, slowly but surely!

A close-up of my yellow squash growing.  The squash has really just taken over the greenhouse, and overshadowed my peas and beans. But because a lot of the squash have developed blossom rot, I am hoping that this batch of squash will actually go on to finish growing without developing the blossom rot!

You may remember that I planted some corn and sunflowers outside the greenhouse, and because I had a visitor or two, I had to replant them several times.  Finally, we got this fence in place around the corn and sunflowers to keep out unwanted visitors. Finally the corn and sunflowers were free to grow, and they have really taken off too.

My sunflowers are starting to bud!

And my corn has tassels!  Yeah! We might, just might, get a taste of our own home-grown corn this year.

Well, that just about sums up the garden update around here.  I am learning the art of patience, while everything takes its time to continue growing.  I am sure the end of August will be a busy time as we will be trying to harvest the garden before the frost and cooler weather show up.  With any luck, perhaps we will be able to extend the growing time into September. 

Until then... I will be patiently waiting and watching each day to see how my garden is growing, and I'll keep you posted on any new developments!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Beary Much Fun Camping Trip

We took a camping trip this past weekend to one of the northernmost camping sites in the area.  It was in big animal country, with signs posted everywhere of it being grizzly and black bear country, along with the moose, elk, and deer.  We camped at a US Forest Service campground with the only facility being a vault toilet, and central water.  It was a remote campsite tucked in a corner of the Priest Lake that really felt like we were next to heaven. 

When we first left to go camping, we had no idea if there was a campsite available.  All reservable sites were taken, and this particular campsite has 40% of their campsites available only by walk-in or arrival at the campsite to see what is available.  So, we decided to pack up, and take our chances there.

When we arrived, the lovely camp host gave us a choice of two campsites for that night, and then for the rest of the weekend, she said that her favorite campsite in the campground was available.  We were thrilled that taking our chances had worked out in our favor. 

We pulled into the campsite that was ours for one night.

First out were the dogs, who were ready to explore the camp area, and of course, Annie's top priority was security, and she was on high alert. 

 Cosmo was more concerned about getting a drink, and finding a nice comfortable place to lie down.

Our kids had just attended a 4H survival class where they learned how to start a fire without any help except a match.  They learned that cedar shavings made the best kindling.  Both of them got busy with getting the fire going, without any help from us. They were excited to show us the skills they had learned in their survival class. 

I'd say they had learned something!  Within a few minutes, they had a huge fire going without any help except one match.  They had learned which trees had the best firewood to get a fire going, how to blow on the fire to keep it going, how to search for dead wood, and how to build a roaring fire.  It wasn't long until we had roasted some hot dogs for a late supper (I think it was around 10:00 p.m.).  We didn't bother unpacking anything tonight, except for our lawn chairs to sit around the fire, as we would have to pack up and move in the morning. 

The next morning, we arrived at the campsite that would be ours for the weekend, and began to get things set up for a wonderful weekend of camping and relaxation.

Soon after we unpacked, we headed down to the lake to check it out.  It was absolutely amazing. We relaxed around the camp site for the rest of the day, unpacking everything, and checking out the campground. 

Soon it was getting dusk, and we headed back down to the lake to watch the sunset.

A sunset silhouette of my husband and I.  The moon was making its entrance in the background.

Annie wasn't too thrilled about the water.  She enjoyed sniffing the sand, and staying well away from the waves.  It became obvious that she could care less about the water.

Cosmo liked the water better than Annie, although, it really isn't his favorite thing either.  His favorite thing to do was to get in as far as his belly, and get a good drink, and then turn around and head for dry ground, and the sunshine. 

We watched a small wooden boat out on the lake.  We found out later he was about a 10-year-old boy who loved to fish. We saw him out there morning and night every day we were there.

Back at the campsite, we built a roaring fire to try to keep the mosquitoes away.  The temperature was cool, but not too cold.  Perfect weather for camping!

The next morning, we were up bright and early.  Our plans were to hike to the very tip of the Upper Priest Lake.  They dogs heard the word "walk" and they were anxiously pacing the campsite, waiting for us to hurry up and get ready.  We packed a picnic lunch and filled our water bottles, sprayed on some bug spray, gathered up our walking sticks, and secured our bear spray and off we went!

The Navigation trail is absolutely gorgeous.  It is a very well maintained trail in a gorgeous setting of old cedar trees.  Most of the trail is shaded, with a very few meadows and streams with beaver dams.  We were expecting to get a glimpse of some wildlife as we traversed into the back woods of this area, but... we saw absolutely nothing.  Not even a deer or a chipmunk!  We saw no animal poo either, which is usually a good sign that big animals are around.  We met quite a few hikers on the trail as we went, some coming, some going, and lots of bikers too. 

The cedars were huge through here, as you can see by this upturned tree stump.  This cedar had gone over quite a while ago, and just was left where it fell.

We stopped to look at the remains of an old trapping cabin, with a rusty bed spring left behind.  There wasn't much left of the cabin at all.  

Views of the Upper Priest River became available after about 3 miles out on the trail.  The river was shining in majestic loveliness with the water glistening. It was so beautiful to walk beside the river on this trail, and to listen to the cadence of the waves crashing onto the shoreline as we walked. 

Then the trail began to slope ever upwards, and away from the shoreline...

... until we were far up on the mountain looking down toward the lake.

Finally we had reached our destination, the Navigation campground, which is on the very tip end of Upper Priest Lake... six miles later!

It was pretty amazing to finally arrive at the tip of Upper Priest Lake!  There were a group of 90 youth at the campground when we arrived.  They were all part of a Russian Baptist church in Spokane, and had hiked up here for a youth outing. We talked to quite a few of them, and they were all very friendly, and looked like they were having a great time.  They were preparing to pack up and head back home, and it looked like quite a big deal to have that many kids camped out in one small campground!

We found a quiet spot on the beach, and kicked back and enjoyed our picnic that we had brought, along with the majestic views of the water and mountains.

 Annie even got in the water to cool off...

As did Cosmo! They were glad to have a nice cook drink, and bath after the long 6 miles we had just walked!

We enjoyed a few more minutes of just relaxing in the beauty of the mountains and water around us, before it was time for us to head back to camp. Knowing that there were six long miles ahead of us, we weren't real eager to leave and begin the trek, especially since we had just eaten a big picnic lunch, and the temperatures had hit the high 90s. 

But, back on the trail, it wasn't so bad.  The trees provided a wonderful shade from the hot sun, and we had fun on the way back singing songs, making up songs, and just laughing, and enjoying our time together.  The miles passed by fairly quickly.  Every so often we would meet other hikers and ask visit with them a while.  We met several bikers who had been almost to Canada and back that morning.  We met several couples out walking their dogs, and several families with children on the hike too.  We met one guy who had walked out the three miles to the Plowboy Campground to go fishing, and then we met him coming back, saying it wasn't worth the walk, as the fish weren't biting there anymore than they were at camp, and so he was headed back to camp to be with his family. 

Before long, we were back at the trail head.  We averaged 3 miles an hour... not bad! 

After getting back to camp, and relaxing a bit around the camp, we were getting ready to head to the beach for a swim, when my daughter got stung by one of the hundreds of yellow jackets that were hanging around our campsite.  I cut an onion in half, and she held it to her hand, and the onion pulled all the poison out from the sting, and within 15 minutes, she was good to go. 

Did you know that a freshly cut onion is the best way (that we've found) to deal with bee/wasp/hornet stings?  Just cut open an onion, and hold the cut end of the onion to the sting for about 15 minutes, and most of the poison from the sting will be pulled out of the body into the onion.  When we get a fresh onion on a sting, we don't experience any swelling, or residual pain or itching from the sting.  It really works!

This was the sight that greeted us as we headed down to the beach... it almost felt like we were in the tropics! The water was glistening, with the hazy mountains in the background, and the white sandy beach was dotted with colorful umbrellas, beach towels, and people relaxing and enjoying the sunshine and warm water, as well as all the kayaks...

This area is very popular for kayaking.  We saw a lot of kayakers making their way into Upper Priest Lake.  

The water was absolutely beautiful today, sparkling and inviting us in!

We floated on our tubes and floaties until about 5:30 or so, when the sun dipped behind the trees.  As soon as the sun was gone, the beach was emptied.  The water feels about 10 degrees colder when the sun disappears.  Our stomachs were growling anyway, so we headed out of the water back up to our campsite for a steak dinner.

We got a nice fire going with some great coals, and cooked up some steaks, with fresh squash from our garden, and fire roasted potatoes.  It was a meal fit for a king!

We headed back down to the beach after dinner to watch the sun go down, and the moon rise over the mountains.  It was absolutely breaktaking to watch.

Our little friend was out on his wooden dingy fishing away.  He told us he had caught three fish that morning, but was having no luck tonight.  But it wasn't for lack of trying!

The moon was casting a soft glow over the whole lake that was fascinating to watch.

Before long, as the moon began to rise higher in the sky, the boy's mother and sister showed up in kayaks to check on him.  He assured them that he was still having fun, and hoping to catch a fish.  After checking on him, they headed back to shore.

The next morning we spent the day swimming and relaxing around the campfire, and had some friends come up and join us.  We had a wonderful day together. We cooked hamburgers over the fire ate watermelon, and roasted some marshmallows... no better way to relax than this!

Our final day at the campsite had arrived, and it was time for us to pack up and head back home.  We sat down by the beach for a while and drank our coffee, enjoying the beauty of the early morning sun. 

Packing up and going home is never fun, but always lots of work!  Today was no exception.  We really hated to leave this beautiful place. It was definitely a camping trip that our family will always remember as beautiful, relaxing, and our little piece of heaven!  We are looking forward to our next opportunity to come back here and camp again.  I think I have to say that out of all the camping trips we've been on, this weekend was at the top of our list as the most beautiful and relaxing place of all to camp!