Sunday, January 31, 2010

Whaddya Mean 'Gone'? Perches Don't Just Get Up and Walk Away!

Since we've ripped apart the Old Veggie Garden fence, the bluebirds have been feeling, well, blue.

This little guy's looking wistfully at the place where his fence perch used to be, as he settles for the tomato cage...

He thinks, "Nah, this isn't right. Let me move over to the finch feeder hanger..."

Then he thinks, "These people put this perch awfully close to the firepit, maybe this isn't a good place either...."

He just isn't satisfied, and flies away :(

I LOVE bluebirds in the winter. Their brightness just cheers me up. And by the way, that isn't the permanent spot for the finch feeder lol. Mr. A stuck it there temporarily while he tore up the garden. :) Just in case you were wondering...;)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

African Spoon Daisy

I'm all about the Osteospermum :)

African daisies seem to love my back porch garden. Full sun, and crummy soil. It's hard to find pretty plants that tolerate these conditions. They do better in rich soil however, so maybe they'll flourish even more this year after I amend the brick that masquerades as my back garden....

My favourite African daisy is this Osteospermum hybrid, colloquially (you can tell I've had my morning coffee when I start using fancy words) known as the spoon daisy. I took this photo of one in my garden two years ago.

I think I love them because they seem to reflect my personality. Bizarre, colourful and spiky, but with soft edges ;)

I discovered these beauties at Lowe's garden center about 3 years ago, and I've gotten them every year since. If I lived just a little more to the south, I'm sure they would last all winter. But the late frosts in January and February seem to do them in at the last minute. *cue funeral march*

However, they're not too expensive so I don't mind re-buying them every year. They're very low-maintenence plants. You don't have to deadhead them to keep them reblooming. In my area, the flowering tapers off drasically in our sweltering summers, but comes back in the fall for a show :) The foliage is very nice, and they stay low to the ground to show off what you have in the back of your garden.

I highly recommend this plant if you can get your hands on one :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

4 and 20 Blackbirds, Baked in a Pie

Well, the Red-winged Blackbirds are too pretty to eat ;)

Had a huge flock swing by the yard this morning...I took this pic as they were vacating the premises. I wish I would have taken it a couple of seconds sooner, but you can still see the few patches of that bright red wing colour in the flock as it is flying away! :) Especially with the bird at the bottom of the frame.

Maybe they're trying to get all the food they can before the new cold snap sets in here in North Carolina (at this point, I can HEAR my Canadian friends' eyes rolling at the words 'North Carolina cold snap' lol).

We're supposed to have overnight temperatures of below freezing for at least the next week. Daytime temps won't be much better. Most parts of the state are going to be under a snowfall advisory, but I'm not sure yet if we'll see any being so near to the coast. It would be the only snow we've had this winter if it did happen. I wouldn't mind so much if I wasn't so eager to start gardening! My plants all got fooled, and started budding early. It'll be back to the drawing board! :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paging Dr. Biv, Dr. Roy G Biv....

Because a rainbow of colour is just what the doctor ordered :D

Thanks to Rebecca for the idea :) Everyone's posted such nice 'rainbows' in the last couple of days.

Red tulips that were one of the first things this novice gardener planted when I moved here. Unfortunately, I found out that tulips don't survive very well from year to year in this wet climate, so they are there no more. :(

Orange tiger lilies in my back garden.

Yellow 'Rainbow Sorbet' tulips, leaning after a light frost.

Green beginnings of a tomato plant.

Blue, the colour that seems to be absent from my store of garden pictures. This is the closest I can get to capturing blue tones, but it isn't really blue...sorry. Next year I'll take pics of my ageratum plants :)

Indigo is the colour of my bearded irises turn when photographed. Maybe I should have used this for 'blue'? lol

Violet is the colour of my favourite vine. One I won't plant, because it is extremely invasive in this area, and would crush everything around it. Wisteria....a HUGE mass of this grows down the street from where I live, and I took this photo of it last spring. You wouldn't believe the fragrance that wafts in this area...I could spend all day there. The neighbours would be

Thank you to Diana @ Elephant's Eye for being kind enough to use my Rainbow post link in her own Rainbow contribution! :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Eat This Mushroom, You're Gonna See Flying Purple Elephants

....or die more likely :P

I stopped by the Curbstone Valley Farm blog, and saw that they did a weekly feature called 'Mushroom Monday'. I'm not going steal their idea and do this every week or anything, but it reminded me of a weird mushroom that Mr. A and I snapped a picture of.

We were on a weekend excursion to Raleigh, NC for my birthday last May. If we see that there's a cool state/national park in an area we're visiting, we always have to stop and look around or go for a hike. Nothin' like sweatin' on your birthday lol.

This is William Umstead State Park, in the Northern Raleigh area.

Beautiful place, we've been twice. They have such nice, soft walking trails that are so clean and pristine, you almost feel like you're in a movie set forest :)

We were walking along, and I spotted this mushroom. Most toxic looking mushroom I've ever seen! lol

The first picture shows more of a true-life colour than this one, but you can see what I like to call the cluster-mush. :)

Has anyone else seen this one before, or know what it's called?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Return of the Tufted Titmouse!

Last year, my bird feeder seemed to always have a tufted titmouse or a cardinal on it. Through the winter, they just sort of disappeared from my yard.

I kept hearing their song taunting me from the woods or my neighbour's trees. :(

We had been using a certain brand of bird feed. I thought they had just changed the bag on us, but I swear they changed the mix on us. The other day I decided to pick up a bag of black oil sunflower seed, to see if that would bring them back.

And behold!

I'm so happy. Anyone remember the T.V. show 'Perfect Strangers'? I did Balki's 'Dance of Joy' LOL

AND Mr. A said that he spotted a female cardinal on the feeder while I was at work.

The lunch counter was busy with other bird patrons as well. The chickadees were enjoying themselves, and I believe those are female purple finches having a snack...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Love, Cancer and Good Friends

One of the questions I get a lot when I tell people I'm from Canada, is "How did you end up in Jacksonville?"

The place where I live is next to the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. it's backyard. You can hear bombs and guns going off all day and at night. Sometimes it rattles the pictures on the wall.

Everyone assumes that I met a Marine, and that's how I ended up here. Women end up in this town in one of two ways: their boyfriend/husband is a Marine and brought them here, or their dads are Marines and they came here that way. I guess there's a third option, that the women came here as Marines themselves. How archaic is my thinking? ;)

Anyway, I'd like to use this post to tell the story about how I ended up here. I know that this is a gardening blog, but maybe this will help my readers to understand the author better. :) I love reading blogs about people's gardens, but my favourites are where you can also follow the life of the gardener. Makes a blog seem less impersonal, and I can see where the garden style influences come from.

Alright. Let's try this again, since it got deleted yesterday :)

Way back in 2004, I was a happy-go-lucky, 23 year old woman in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This was before I discovered my love of gardening, and I spent most of my time playing an Irish sport called Gaelic Football. My teammates were not only good friends, but they were my family.
If you haven't ever heard of GF, you should check this out, very cool sport:

I'm #17 :)

I also am a huge lover of music (right now I'm the manager of a music department). When I wasn't playing GF, I was online checking out music forums. I met Mr. A on a Led Zeppelin message board in late November 2004. He had made a comment about a sports injury that I mentioned I had received, and we talked on from there.

We talked on the phone every day, for two months before we met. He bought me a ticket for Christmas, to come down and see him. My family and friends were a bit worried I think. He not only lived 2500 miles away in a different country, but he also is 19 years older than I am (gasp!). My mum said, 'Maybe he's online in prison, and he's trying to lure you down there'. lol

But I came down anyway, and I saw that he hadn't been lying about himself, and we had a great time!

Just after we met face to face:

In May of that year, he came up to visit in Canada for my 24th birthday. I picked him up in Calgary, and we drove through the mountains for two days. Mr. A was in total awe of the Canadian Rockies. He had never been out of his EST timezone before, let alone in a different country. Let me share the scenery with you:

We took this picture over a cliff, and right after that we saw a bear cub climbing up another cliff right above us. Amazing!

In Banff, Alberta (major ski resort town)

In Edmonton on my birthday

Things were going along well, and then in December of 2005, some bad things started happening. Mr. A started coughing up blood. We were both very freaked out. He had been a 3 pack a day smoker for 30 years, but quit entirely before I first came down to visit. He's also been a drywaller for 25 years, and breathes in all sorts of nasty things at work.

Mr. A put off going to the doctor, and everyone that cared about him nagged him till he went. They put him through all sorts of tests, and finally near the end of January the doctors told him he had lung cancer. A 'garden variety smoker's cancer', said the doctors. He had to have the bottom 2/3 of his right lung removed ASAP.

I was back at home in Edmonton this whole time, and I was an absolute wreck. I had been crying so much that my face looked like a truck backed over it a few times. My excellent, excellent roommates/teammates Carlin and Sky convinced me to fly down to North Carolina and be with him through his surgery. They told me not to worry about the rent, or taking leave from work, or stupid bills, because those things aren't as important as they seem. My brother and sister-in-law paid for my plane ticket to come down here. I'm very grateful to a lot of people, more than words can say.

Mr. A didn't want to put me through any of this, and begged me not to put my life on hold. But I'm stubborn and came down anyway. I arrived here on February 7, 2006.

Surgery was performed on Valentine's Day. :) That was the longest wait of my entire life. I had company in the waiting room: my husband's two daughters, Lindsay (who was 20) and Desiree (who was 10), and Mr. A's ex-wife (she came to comfort the little one).

When the doctor came out to tell us that everything had gone ok, he asked what our relationship was to the patient. We told him, "Daughter, daughter, girlfriend, and ex-wife" and he answered 'I don't even want to know...' LOL!

This is a pic of Lindsay and Desiree, taken on Lindsay's birthday after Mr. A got out of the hospital:

Mr A. was in the hospital for 10 days. For most of those days, the hospital was accomodating enough to set up a cot for me next to his bed. Originally, they thought the cancer was caught early enough to not receive chemotherapy. The doctors removed some lymph nodes along with the lung. They found cancer cells in two of them. Chemo was now on the itinerary.

Originally, I was supposed to go back to Canada after Mr. A was finished recovering. But now, I was scheduled to go home three days after his second round of intense chemo. I had seen the effects of the first round...not pretty.

We talked it over, and both decided that we wanted me to stay. We got married on May 3, 2006. It was a Courthouse Special, with Lindsay and her cousin as our witnesses. We went out for breakfast afterwards, and took some wedding photos in the park by the water:

The next day we spent our honeymoon in the chemo bay at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, NC. The doctors and nurses at that hospital are amazing people.

Mr. A has now been in cancer remission for 4 years, and we're coming up on our 4th wedding anniversary. During that time I became a permanent resident of the US of A, and we're very happy. We both love being outdoors, and going on all sorts of adventures. Our best time spent together is tag-teaming the yardwork :)

I'm glad all of you Patient Readers got to 'meet' Mr. A, and to share in the story of how a Zone 3 Canadian ended up in Zone 8a :)

Thank you very much for reading! Tomorrow, we'll be back to your regular, gardening schedule.

Friday, January 22, 2010


For anyone who took a look at the post I had made earlier, and wondered why it cut off in mid-sentence, I was as suprised as you. And very upset, since it took awhile to write.

I must leave for work now, but will repost tomorrow, and this time, the whole thing will be there. Sorry :(

Hope you will come back to read it tomorrow. It was a post that means a lot to me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Alfred Hitchcock Would Need a Double Scotch After This

I was working all day today. But luckily Mr. A had a day off, and was on the lookout for "The Birds"-esque action!!

I was talking to him on the phone on my lunchtime, and he was freaking out about all the birds in the farmer's field behind our house. He grabbed the camera and snapped a couple of great pics :D

Get a load of this. THOUSANDS of grackles...I wish I had been here to see it. These snapshots are only a small part of the bird frenzy....Mr. A said they were all the way across the whole field to the left, to the road on the other side of it. That's a huge area, even though you can't tell from the pics.

This is the wide angle. Doesn't look like much, until you realize all the dark spots in the field and trees are birds...

But these are the cool shots...

This one is my favourite. AWESOME!

Look at all the birds! They're filling the trees, as well as the field. The size of these flocks amaze me. It's almost like a gang of 50 grackles could come and scoop up my husband at any time :D

Wow. That blew my mind. I think I need an aspirin.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Vegetable Garden's Lament


*cue funeral march*

The Old Veggie Garden as we know it, is no more! :)

This is a good thing, by the way.

Mr. A surprised me yesterday afternoon when he told me that he spent the whole of it pulling up stakes and old edging.

Our soil is mainly clay, so I can't believe he actually got all those stakes up so easily. That garden's been there for 7 years.

Mr. A admitted that he had made the garden way too large. It was fun at first, and then he couldn't keep up with it, and let it go.

When I came down to live here and started gardening, I had my own delusions of grandeur. But re-breaking down the soil was a nightmare! We rented a tiller, and poor Mr. A looked like he was trying to wrangle a bull at times...

It would be so hard to keep up with the weeding, and by the following spring it would be all grass again and he'd have to mow it.

I mainly used the left end of the garden for sunflowers, rosemary and pepper plants. This is from 2007, look how little and cute my rosemary was compared to the first pic I posted!

Mr. A would use the right end for tomatoes and cucumbers.

The sunflowers were the plants that did the best in it, they didn't need prime soil to grow. And the rosemary is a shrub now. But the veggies always seemed a little peaked...only one or two small cucumbers would be squeezed out, and one of them always looked like a circus freak.

The edging was also a nightmare. Mr. A took the cheap way out, and bought some wood edging from Wal-Mart. I don't blame him, since he made the garden so huge. But it started rotting about 3 years ago, and falling apart.

When he ripped the edging out yesterday, he found that it was infested with termites.


The same edging is around the garden that adjoins the back porch. Needless to say, one of my first priorities this spring will be replacing that edging before the same thing happens.

So we must say farewell to Old Veggie Garden, goodbye Friend. wasn't really a friend. More like a troublesome houseguest that had overstayed it's welcome.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bird Nerd

I love finches! We get so many kinds of finches, but I think my favourites are the purple finches. The have such lively little personalities...I love watching them splashing around in the bird bath like little motorboats :)

And the males always bring their wives along with them, I like that ;)

And this little red-headed devil showed up yesterday. Hadn't seen him in awhile...

I fuss over birds the way that some women fuss over babies...what does that say about me? lol

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kyna's Winter Landscape

I decided that since my blog is quite new, I would post some pics of my yard and gardens in their winter state.

I use the term 'winter' loosely, as most of the time the temps are mild and there is no snow. My old Canadian friends have resorted to name calling when I use the term 'winter', and therefore I resort to smugness. :)

I believe my smug look is quite formidable, yes?

Mr. A had this house built in winter of 2002/2003, and the gardens were a clean slate. There was only one existing tree on the property, and it was a Sweet Gum tree.

Behold the Sweet Gum!

Sweet Gums are nice looking trees, but extremely messy trees. They drop a carpet of spiky balls in the growing season. This random resourceful person has turned them into a Martha Stewart-esque holiday delight:

My husband has a stepson from his previous marriage, Michael. When the boy was little, Mr. A would make him clean up the Sweet Gum balls as punishment. Michael is now 32 years old, and I find that story highly amusing :)

But I digress. Mr. A quickly removed that tree from the front yard. Which gave us a grand total of zero trees. He says he loves trees, as long as they're in someone else's yard. :P

When I arrived from Canada 4 years ago (which is a crazy story in and of itself), I wasn't able to work until the immigration people told me I could. I decided to fill my time with gardening, something I had never dabbled in before. I couldn't stand the treelessness and flowerlessness of the landscape any longer!

I was so amazed that I could plant a bulb, and in the spring, a daffodil would magically appear.

The only thing is, I haven't had a lot of money to make my garden and yard everything I want it to be. It seems like the project is forever 'in progress', which is probably a good thing. :)

Anyway, here are the winter pics (I took them two weeks ago). That way you can see the transition of my yard from winter to spring to summer to fall and then winter again. And hopefully, some of you will be helpful and give me some great ideas for what to do with the place as I go :)

Our yard is completely fenceless, the only barrier between us and the neighbours being a hedgerow (which the neighbour planted).

The front of my house (east side):

The rear of my house (west side):

The master bedroom windowbox and 'Endless Summer Hydrangea' (west side)

'Goldflame Honeysuckle' (west side)

The back vegetable garden. My husband made this way too huge for our needs...we're planning on overhauling the thing this spring. Maybe making it into a smaller, raised bed. This thing gets blazing, full day North Carolina sunshine:

The south wing:

I don't have anything planted on the north side. I'd like to remedy that this year, and take advantage of some of the day's shadow for a part-shade tree. And maybe a hosta garden :) If they can handle all the slugs....O_O