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The Requirements of Age: Updating

The photo I add when I have nothing else to add (placeholder photo?)

This is an old blog, as blogs go.

I find it has been in dire need of updating, as I try to replace missing photos for the related links feature. Many of the older links had no pictures, an early complaint of some of my readers, and this has proven to be a great liability in modern blogging practice.

So updating has been my main blog occupation lately.

It is no surprise to many that have been online for awhile, that many blogs have simply gone missing, too. Promising writers and photographers simply closed up shop, which left me with dead and empty links. Sometimes I simply need to rewrite things to make sense.

As in the blog, so in life. I've been personally in need of updating, as I age and lack maintenance. My home and certainly the garden have befallen into some neglect over the years, and they too, are the recipients of makeovers and outright renovations.

It is a tiresome process, sometimes. I'd much rather have a new project... and oh, if only I could get a "new me". But I believe it will all be perfectly worthwhile in the longrun.

I tend to be hopeful that way.

I guess it is a good thing that I have always had an affection for old things, for their history and the fact that they lived through interesting times. Old houses, garden, artifacts... visits to museums... reading of times long past, imagining the stories from remnants of landforms and scars left behind, carved into the surface of the soil.

I delight in uncovering a long buried sidewalk after my shovel hit an unforgiving surface. I marvel at old marbles or pottery shards left from former residents. Sometimes there is a laugh on me as I dig up a half-rotten sock that I know a dog, long gone from this earth now, had buried by instinct. (Nikki, your habits outlasted you!)

And so it takes me forever to sort through and update these old pages. I can't help going into a mesmerized reverie as I reread old posts, remembering their purpose once upon a time or the notes I took on my gardening. I search for the photos. I get lost on google. It is all something of an adventure....this exercise in updating.

See, this is what you have to look forward to, when you get old.
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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Jan 17, 2015

New Year, New Look, New Plans

What's Ahead

Christmas Roses

More Video in 2015 

The blog has a new look. In keeping with the changes of the internet,i.e. more mobile users, I attempt to create a more functional design.

 You may notice the emphasis on including a video gallery. That is the direction I hope to go this year- always choosing the most challenging option possible, I guess.

The important thing for me is to not worry about how amateur I look in the process of the learning curve, but producing something useful and helpful to other gardeners.

Why would I want to make more videos? Probably because I like to learn in that way, and figure that this is true of many others. It is a variation on the "a picture is worth a thousand words" maxim.

While I genuinely love to write how-to and information based posts, perhaps writing is better for musings, inspirations, etc.

Right now, if there is a choice of watching a one minute example of pruning lavender, or reading an article that tries to implement visual aids of clumsy graphics and a few photos... I believe I would rather have the video.

Clean Look

We are all talking about "clean". Clean eating, clean living, and a clean experience. I am trying to pare down all the junk, in my home environment, my garden, and this blog.

The aim, of course, it to clarify thinking, increase calm ( just like those ubiquitous posters???), become lighter weight in life. We carry so much in the form of belongings, obligations, and distractions, it seems.

Garden Plans

I am so much slower and have less physical resources, so "slow gardening" is a necessity for me. No more big plans that I can slap out in a couple days of exhausting work. Last time I tried that, I injured my knee with long term consequences.

No, now I will garden with deliberation and a smaller scope of goals in tow. My plan is to enjoy my gardening and not allow the work of it to drive me... yet still expand parts of it.

I think I mentioned my gardening partnership. I will expand the food gardening (and hopefully master the harvesting part of it) by working alongside a friend who is going to "community garden" here. 

Her enthusiasm is contagious and I could use the motivation to get back to cooking and eating a better diet this summer.

Becoming Calm

I want my garden to be a place of reflection and complement my spiritual direction. I have plenty of space and like the idea of setting up a prayer/exercise walk. The idea is one of encouraging a daily morning excursion around the yard. 


If I accomplish these two main projects:
  • Food garden
  • Prayer walk path
I believe it will balance the tension I often feel between blogging, creative work and the practical daily tasks that tug at me. Sometimes one side tugs and prods, sometimes the other.

I end up inefficient and often dissatisfied. But the balance achieved by changing how I start my days and the time given to fueling my inner being promises to lessen regret and confusion. I think it will help center me, which is my best weapon against distraction.

Plus I will have some nice vegetables on my plate!

The Declutter Lifestyle

Yes, I think it is becoming my lifestyle, now. God knows I need to head in that direction!

While continuing to sort through my home life, decluttering the garden will be next.

Severing Old Links

When I was working on changing the design of this blog over the past week, I found I had linked to many things that no longer were there. Worse than 404's are the parked domains with spam ads and links.

I severed those links, taking them off the site. I know I will have to continue to sort through even those of some benefit, just to streamline the experience here into one where the utmost of "time well spent" is the aim.

This is so much like my life, in general. I have many "old links" that don't go where they were originally meant to, or which have minimal benefit to either of us. Something about those links must change. Otherwise they anchor too much of my energy and thinking to what drains me, instead of invigorating or nurturing me. Or allowing me to become that for others.

So this is a window into the year of 2015. 

I might name it "consolidating".

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Jan 6, 2015

2014 Garden Retrospective

American Meadows had sent me some seeds. They bloomed well, but I didn't get many pictures of them. I was neglectful of the garden, while visiting family for almost 2 months.
In many ways, the garden season of 2014 was challenging. The losses were probably the result of cumulative stresses, but I am sure that the very hard winter contributed to the vulnerability and subsequent losses.

 I hope my Hinoki cypress survives another year, but it lost its top portion to disease.

 I lost an Arborvitae to the worst bagworm infestation I have ever seen. Nothing I did stemmed the ultimate denuding and death of the young tree.
On the plus side of my year, the cucumber crop was spectacular.

Flowers planted in the vegetable garden flourished, and my herbs did well. I learned that Cilantro springs up readily, reseeding itself.

This time, I'll let some photos tell their own story.

Little Princess Spirea, blooms reliably every year. Looks best at the beginning of the season, then stays in the background.

One of my pink peonies.

I loved these geraniums and Swedish ivy on the porch. Trying to keep them alive through the winter.

Last winter was so long and so cold. Here, the garden has scant snow cover.
My cucumbers were delicious, thanks to regular rain throughout the summer.

This summer was unusual,too. I wonder if Ohio has "normal" anymore! Our grass stayed green and needed mowing clear through to fall, none of the usual dormant, dried brown period that we usually experience in late summer. This may have contributed to fungal disease on the Chamecyparis obtusa.

The Beauty Bush, 'Dreamcatcher' bloomed in keeping with its name this year.

Some pink petunias in a pot by the driveway.

Surprised by the self seeded black "sweet potato" vine. 

My purple leaved fennel reseeds every year, and it comes up strongly in the areas where it has established itself, but the burnished leaves of the Sweet potato vine were a surprise. Perhaps snow cover made the difference?

 I picked up some pink petunias and put them in a broken pot with Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix. They bloomed like crazy all summer. We had more rain than usual and I didn't have to water the pot at all. I wouldn't normally expect to get away with that, but this year was different. Even though I had bought some "Flexable" hoses that made watering a cinch. I loved them.

Brunnera 'Jack Frost' begins to look tatty later in the season

I love variegated leaves- to a fault, but in the semi-shade, Jack Frost Brunnera gives a good show, long after the forget-me-not blue flowers are gone.

As I look forward to the coming year, I hope to divide some of my favorite plants, like this one, and make a few more.

Looking forward to the spring and a new gardening year.
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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Jan 3, 2015

Rural Landscape

Shepherds from my nativity set

I've been in the middle of my Christmas devotions on my Advent blog.

 While writing about the shepherds watching their flocks (from the Christmas story), I thought about the fact that while sheep were once a common sight in fields around here, there has not been a flock in recent years, now that I think about it.

 I know that agriculture business changes quite a bit and sheep raising in Ohio was once big business, before it all moved out West. Then some years ago there seemed to be a resurgence of flocks, so that they were a common, if not ubiquitous sight in my "neighborhood".

 I once thought about raising a few sheep myself, but that is yet another dream that didn't materialize. There was never the money for simply satisfying my personal curiosity and love of sheep.

 Now, I must be contented with a "Sheep" Pinterest board!
From my Pinterest collection

 It Has All Changed 

Some Natural Changes

 It makes me think of the many changes I have observed in the rural landscape over the years. I'm sorry to say that most has been to the detriment.

Windstorms, ice storms, the entry of Emerald borers, Japanese beetles, Stinkbugs, and Asian ladybugs... all are changes in my history here. But it is the manmade changes that most trouble me, as they are those which we could exercise some control over.

I actually saw the last deep economic recession as having a silver lining, in that it put a damper on the mindless development that is steadily creeping into our county.

We have some of the best farming soils in the world, but the greed of people who must 'develop' as they call it, and destroy those lands is disheartening. People are not generally long-sighted, and the voice of money has shut up many of the reasonable voices for environmental stewardship.

Are there people who value the production and quiet of the rural countryside left? I mean those who value it enough to preserve it?

We depend on laws and regulations to somehow control the greed, but I really think we need a mindset change. For people generally to be introduced to the beauty, the needs, and the cultivation of the land.

All the shilling about education, and little thought given for education of this kind.
The back field, Alfalfa growing on the right

Except From Passionate Gardeners

No Pesticides in my Garden

This is the one light I see shining in this dismal picture.

I see hope in gardeners who carry their love of nature, of growing things and what that inspires, in encouraging responsibility to the environment.

I am so happy when I see people who advocate for sustainable gardens, organic foods and cultivation methods, green tips that are made generally known, and all the many avenues that individual gardeners take as they band together to make a difference.

In their gardens and in society...

I hope that it will extend to create less demand for "people who want to live in the country" - those who then complain about animals, fence off their properties, pour chemicals into their suburban style lawns, and generally make a city out of the once open country.

Instead I wish citizens and homeowners throughout the country would give thought , money, time, and effort to creating places of production, of green spaces, of even the "village green" of old in their own venues and choices of living.

Give some green, space, and quiet in the midst of the cities and suburbs. Make them more "country". Or at least large swathes of them.

That is a worthy, if lofty and impractical goal.

What is most attainable, however, is our value system. We can fend for that. 

"Love for country" takes on a whole new connotation in that case.
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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Dec 12, 2014

Winter Arrived Early

Blustery Day, Past Year's Losses

Today is briefly warmer and blustery with high winds and rain, but it is more like a January thaw than the beige autumn Indian summer that we might normally expect.

 I don't know that there is a clear sense of "normal" in our gardens anymore. Still, the patterns of the seasons are not so far off that they would be unrecognizable.

Ignore those weeds.... I do
 The winds have blown the dawdling leaves off the trees, so I asked my helpers (grown children) to rake up the yard again. The Red Oak still is loathe to let go of his leaves. Despite the fact that part of a gutter and a large branch from a Norway spruce was blown loose.

Nothing compared to the damage from past wind storms which emptied out the Arborvitae of many of its branches, or the bagworm infestation which destroyed a younger Arborvitae elsewhere in the yard. Then there was the peach which blew over this summer, and the Japanese maples which died, and the top part of the Hinoki cypress which was lost. It is still unsure whether this favorite dwarf evergreen will make it through this winter.

So many garden troubles in the past few years.

Oops, there goes the gutter pipe
 There is still garden work to do if I can catch a break. Like trimming the pyracantha from the window, weeding and cleaning up the driveway beds- they look a mess! Still, the exchange between an organized life inside and a "Better Homes and Gardens" yard is worth it.
Actually, though, I wish I could manage it all.

"Maybe next year", I say to myself once again.

Nasty Stinkbugs

One of the new normals in my area is the additions of stinkbugs to the previous years influx of Japanese beetles, and prior to that the invasion of Asian ladybugs, and we mustn't forget the notorious Emerald borers. These are the norm for us now, and so I read up on how to control the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug.

 Turns out I have the ideal environment for them. I grow tomatoes and some years have been less than tidy in how I leave my garden. That needs to change.

 I also have apples, including a self seeded MacIntosh type that drops apples in the backyard. Now I will have to be assiduous about cleaning up the leavings of those, as well as messy landscape leaves around the foundation of the house. All those places are a drawing card for an infestation.

 The bug I found on my lampshade? Carefully scooped onto a napkin, carried outside the door and unceremoniously squashed with the handle of the handy snow shovel.

Just as a warning for other lurkers looking to come into the house from that avenue.

 We must adjust to new challenges all the time in life, and the garden is a powerful teacher of such lessons.

 Changing The Subject

I am transitioning to the celebration of the Christmas holidays. Way behind schedule, of course, but ahead of where I usually am by this time.

Still cleaning- I had hoped to be done by Thanksgiving, but that doesn't look possible. 

I brought out all the Christmas decor and am sorting through to decide what goes where. We stuck a few of the outside lights around the lantern, but I need to get something on the front porch. We usually wait until the weather is freezing and the tape won't stick (sometime about the second week of December). I was really hoping to avoid that this year.

To get in the festive mood,  I wrote a little post on Christmas Greenery. Wanted to get out to the stores to snap some pictures of seasonal garlands and bunches of evergreens, but that will have to be added later. Still it turned out to be a nice page and did the trick: I am officially in the mood to decorate.

Also working on a Christmas projects page, but not nearly done with that yet.

No, I'm not rushing the season. A nice celebration takes preparation. My grandparents made Christmas fruitcakes for gifting in October. I think we forget how the past was full of preparations for the coming seasons.

I don't make fruitcake- only my Dad and I ate it, and my hips aren't lying when I say that I should not have any extra calories!

Well, that is enough chit-chat for now... if I want to write more of that stuff I should get a newsletter out!

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Nov 25, 2014

The De-clutter Journey

Specifically, How Did You Do It?

For those who are struggling, like I have, here are some of the practical steps of getting rid of clutter and the whole lifestyle that goes with it.

Like some physical maladies, this one might have a different root for some people than it has for others. It might be the result of more than one contributing factor.

What causes our messiness and proclivity to collect clutter?

  1. Perhaps we just don't know how to organize and sort, with the additional problem of not wanting to throw away something useful or which holds sentimental value.
  2. Along with that second factor: we might know how to keep house if we wanted to, but we have the frugality gene gone awry. Everything seems important and valuable; we can't throw anything away. We can't give it away. And then that stuff starts to accumulate.
  3. Some of us are lazy and we have a prejudice against housekeeping. Our time is too important, we have better things to do. Yeah, right. If it were only that, wouldn't we hire someone to take care of these onerous tasks for us?
  4. It got away from us, pure and simple. Now, we have to take charge of our lives again.
  5. We are "messies" who get distracted, who never finish anything and we box up stuff willy nilly until there isn't room any more. Every time we want to go through the boxes... we get caught up reading some magazine articles we cut out seven years ago....

Photo credit: sideshowmom

So, now that we identify our challenge, and we have come to the place where we are serious about doing something about it, what else is to be realized to move forward? Here is my own story of what I've been doing lately and what it took to get me there.

Why You?

You might ask why it had to be me that did all the "heavy lifting" of sorting through everything and making order in my home. My husband also has a problem with being disorganized and sloppy, a fact that was hidden by my layers of collecting, and making do attitude.

I was the one most invested in curating, sentimental about my grandmother's lace hankies, or the worth of some china bric a brac.  For years, everyone around me advised to throw away, burn, or otherwise divest the world of things that I believed had value.

Only I could do the sorting and saving.

However, I could ask for help lifting, carrying something up the stairs, removing and moving. And I did. I also drafted some help in washing, etc.

Organizing Thinking

Though not challenged with organized thinking, the nitty gritty of taking the physical steps of buying organizing containers, walking up and down stairs in and out of the house...whatever it took to place something in its rightful home, required energy and self discipline.

Also, when newly organized it is maddening to remember the old, nonsensical place you had something... rubber bands, safety pins, furniture casters, and forget the newly organized and "logical" place for that item. Be patient with yourself, it takes a few times to remember to put it back and go there (without racking your brain).

Use Boxes

These are simply cardboard boxes for sorting purposes.

Years ago I learned of a system that really helps me move through mental barriers. I use a box for things that I know I want to keep, another for "unsure, I'll think about it later", and a third for "oh, hell no". Sorry for the breach of good language, but sometimes you have to shake yourself and just throw things away. 

I use a couple IKEA matching boxes for photos and memory items  (I just cannot get rid of my once 4 yr. old's Mother's day card, for example). Just exercise control on that kind of thing... you know how you get.

I fill giveaway bags and get them right out to the car with items that I know someone would buy at a tag sale. 

I used to save things to have garage sales, etc. But they were more trouble than they are worth in my rural area. Not like the alley setup my mom used to have in the city. So I stopped kidding myself and just got rid of those things. 

How many years do you save stuffed toys or outgrown overcoats? Stop the madness, let someone else deal with it.


Stop kidding yourself. That is exactly what is happening when you believe your children will want used clothes for their children...from thirty years ago. C'mon.

Refuse to hide things in the attic, or to even have a "junk room".  Refuse to let "junk drawers" proliferate. 

You get one, that's all.

I extend the same mercy to you that I give myself. You are welcome!

Of course, next I must help my husband reform. Oh, I know he is going to love that. ( but the secret is that the more he enjoys a clutter free house that I am working on, the more he is inspired to tackle his own spaces). I guess I will have to report in an update sometime next year. 
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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Nov 20, 2014

And Now It Is Arctic, But My Home Is Cozy

Bookcases, boxes, magazines -I can't get rid of everything!

While it was a personally productive fall for me, the blogging and the garden had to take a back seat. I made good on decades of promises to de-clutter and come to grips with the pile of life's detritus and accumulation.

 You see, I come from a line of "collectors" on my mother's side. My dad was spare in his living and his spending, but I inherited the idea that everything is good for something... someday from my mother.

 Then the fact that I had ten children kind of caught up with me. The economics of those days meant saving old clothes as "pass me downs".  I believe I was a bit over optimistic in what actually constituted a worthwhile saved item. And was worse when it came to my own clothing.

I finally got rid of all the size 6-8 apparel of my thirties and forties. A certain realistic attitude must take hold. I hauled excess sheets, and perfectly good clothes to the nearest thrift center.  Baby clothes? Out.

 While we had some warm, lovely gardening weeks, I was delving into the dusty innards of old boxes. Washing and sorting the bric a brac of a lifetime in the same old house. A roomy house, inviting storage of the most unnecessary, never-to-be tackled mending, repairing, and crafting projects. I don't even have that many years in me, if I started tomorrow.

Yet, I still couldn't give up at least one attic box of "craft doodads", just in case the muse and the time should magically appear together. Not totally reformed, I still must be able to find that thing that "I know I have somewhere". At least, now, I know where to find it.

 The Awakening

During said nice weather of just a couple weeks ago, I awoke at dawn to view the most beautiful sunrise. As if the world had become encased in the sphere of a fiery opal, so intense were the colors of blue, scarlet, and golden apricot, sparkled with streaks of an ethereal, incomparable green.

I mentally contrasted that rich visual treat with the dusty, dim world I had been inhabiting all fall;the parts that I had not traveled elsewhere.

That world of dust shrouded objects, incomprehensible jumbles of precious memories with trash heap junk, that had been moved around from room to room for years. The realms of cobweb encased dungeon of the basement and back porches to webhung neglected rooms of the attic and "junk room" bedroom. 
Recorded on Instagram

I am finally seeing my way through this tunnel of clutter, The light, free feeling is worth the sacrifice of a season of bulb planting, and putting off the pyracantha pruning.

The days spent inside mucking through the many years of "Mañana" were well worth it to me, and to my family. I hope to host most of them this Christmas in my newly decluttered home. 

It Was A Long Time Coming

How did I arrive at the place where action finally caught up with good intent? I was like a slow train. Making resolutions about two to three years ago, in which I made tiny steps of progress, helped. Teaming with my husband to finally finish off the last couple remodeling projects inspired and motivated. After all, I had to clear the attic and the "junk room" to get started with those.

Ceiling of the junkroom removed and replaced; view of attic above

The outside needed new siding, added the upper window for good measure (a project that had waited, oh, about 15 to 20 years)

Perhaps you will forgive me for not writing, not posting, not taking photographs, or making video (although I find it hard to forgive myself- why can't I do more?) However, I do not regret the progress I have made (though at this late date) in life, despite those pesky guilt trips.

Next year, though, If still in the land of the living, I hope to find myself happily puttering around in the garden.  Writing the musings such pursuits inspire, and maybe even rationalizing buying a new camera, or at least making some of the planned garden videos that didn't materialize yet.

Until then my family and I will enjoy the simplified spaces that allow me to think and actually use and enjoy the things that I own. ...Ahhhh... such peace of mind.

My cluttered, disorganized life always interfered with that endeavor. It feels so good to take something from the dimension of wishful thinking and bring it into the now of experience. It cost sweat equity, a little blood, and yes, some tears here and there, but after months of steady determination to be "at it",  the end is now in sight.

Thank You

  • I have a list of thankful mentions in this... God, who daily gives me strength,
  •  the encouragement of husband and children, their hands-on, down and dirty, physical help in the work; 
  • the many organizational self-help books I read through the years,  
  • Target, IKEA, and other stores that had containers and bookcases and boxes...magazine holders...well, you get the idea.

Then there is the inspiration of people who organize and get a handle on this part of life who made role models for me.

The philosophical takeaway is that everything is so inter-related and we can't do everything on our own. And maybe, too, that we don't need as much stuff as we think we do.

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Nov 18, 2014

Word To The Wise

Do you wait around for the last minute to put your gardens to bed for the winter? That may not be the best thing to do this year. Winter seems to be fast approaching in many areas, and Ohio might get cold quickly. In 2013, the deep cold came with the Thanksgiving holiday, and in 2014 many gardeners are complaining that the temperatures are dropping earlier than usual.

What sort of delays did I rue in the past?

  1. I especially regret leaving out a large pot all winter a couple years ago. It filled with water and froze. Made of resin, I was lulled into believing it would be immune to frost cracking. Not so.  I will be putting all my large pots in a frost free garage environment in the next couple weeks.
  2. Most years I forget until too late to strike starts from some of my tender pot plants. It is already late in the season, but hard frost hasn't impacted the garden quite yet. I hope to preserve some of the geraniums in a sunny window this year. I might have some Swedish ivy, too.
  3. Forgetting to collect some seed, thinking the plants would reseed themselves. They don't always.
  4. Picking up the leaves completely. Well. I don't seem to be able to do that perfectly in this very large yard, but the better I do this job, the better I feel in January. That is the time when loose leaves are matted under snow, sometimes getting free and blowing about the yard, but mostly making problems around my plants.
  5. Cutting back the Pyracantha. I like to keep the berries for the birds, but the branches have gotten out of hand from delaying the proper pruning. I need to remember that.
Those are some of the top five delays I am personally guilty of, but if you leave out hoses until they freeze to to ground, forget to put away outdoor furniture and cushions, or find frozen leftover bulbs on the back porch (I have done that one too!) you may want to compile your own list of fall chores.

Planting Bulbs

I haven't planted any bulbs this year because I have been away so much. Some years I buy loads of them and then it seems I go into a frenzy of planting.

The fact that this job can be delayed until the ground freezes hard sometimes creates complacency. But when I think of the miserable weather that I have sometimes endured to accomodate my procrastination, I shudder. Shudder with memories of cold and wet.

Contrast that with thoughts of the crisp and sunny days of mid-October, when it is a delight to sit in the yard, leisurely putting the bulbs to bed for winter, awaiting a burst of spring bloom.

Now that is the way to plant bulbs!

So Much To Do

This year I need to ready my bird feeders, gather up the fallen apples, perhaps build a better compost area. I decided I want to store my tools the right way this winter: cleaned, sharpened, oiled, and hanging in their places.

A word to the wise is to get busy on all these things... because soon the cold will settle in to stay. And I do believe it will be early this year.

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Oct 6, 2014

The Growing Season Review

July looked best

You know how people like to summarize their year during December and especially at the turn of the year? Well, this is that time for Gardeners.

Premature you say? For me, I will yet again be absent from my garden and al that remains for me to do this year is planting and preparing for the next spring. The vegetable gardening will consist mainly of cleanup, and for some reason I am anticipating an early frost and onset of cold.

Every year for the past 7 or 8, I have been saying, promising, vowing to stay with my garden during the growing season. To be there when it most needs me, during planting in the spring, early summer weeding, and late summer harvest, and early fall planting.

I said that, and planned it in this year, 2014, as well.

What happened? I have little to report on except for what I didn't do during the last part of the summer. My raised vegetable beds went to seed, the self seeded tomatoes took over the kitchen garden. And thistle invaded and made itself at home in the driveway beds.

Everywhere in my garden, the signs of neglect mock and jeer at my former promise of taking care of my garden plots this year.

Again, far more than any previous year, I put priority on spending my time in Atlanta with children and grandchildren. Not sorry, but having to pay the piper when it comes to many of my own plans. I have been there for more than two months over the summertime, in two visits.

The determination to make final headway in decluttering had also pushed aside the call of the flower beds, tending to trees and shrubs, and tidying the garden. And oh, I had started so enthusiastically, so diligently.

Yet, the inside of the house received far more of my time and efforts this summer. I managed to make real progress, and that is something I can't regret! Cleared and renovated two bedrooms, cleared half the attic and assorted other spaces were given a lick and a promise.
Overgrown canes of Scotch roses and poison ivy were removed from the side of the house. what you don't see are the piles of branches removed for the burn pile and the strands of poison ivy that was removed to what I call the "rot pile".

What Do You Consider Success?

  • Are you happy to make headway on resolutions, or do you give up after giving it the old college try?
  • Do you need to attain perfection?   Does all else bow to the demand of this perfect accomplishment?
  • Do you tailor your life to smaller goals, so that the final results look better and the work is easier?
We probably all fluctuate between these three perspectives on success. Where we camp probably makes the finished picture.

In The Garden

Nature does not wait for our convenience, and fills in our absence with plantings and growth of its own making.

I would call this a year of mixed results and outcomes, in the garden and in life. But being an individual of rosy far-sighted vision,  I tend to make my decisions and priorities based on my belief that the short term sacrifices for long term goals will make the best choices. A year of weeds or even a decade of second class gardening is worth the exchange of showing the people in my life that they matter.

We each live with the choices we make, and spend the resources we have. The way that balances out in measurable benefit is not always discernable to those outside our own experience. I believe we must make our peace with that fact.

....And there is always next year.

Successes in My Garden

  • Cucumbers! I grew lovely, delicious cukes this year.
  • Sunflowers and wildflowers. The sunflowers reseeded, and american Meadows supplied seed for some pretty wildflower patches.
  • Trimmed and kept a few areas of the garden well, they will be easy to renovate this fall.
  • Had pretty Spring flowers.
  • Cleared long neglected side garden of poison ivy and overgrowth this past June/July
  • Enjoyed some of the loveliest summer weather in memory, here in Ohio.
  • Removed winter losses without too much sorrow.
Failures are many. Most are of the omission type.

The Beauty Bush came into its own in June
There were small joys here and there, heucheras!

pink petunias by the driveway

loved the pinks

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© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Sep 20, 2014

The Down And Dirty Weeding Tool List

The Bare Essentials

Some essentials when brand new
I've done a lot of tweeting and writing about weeding this season. There are a couple of reasons for that including the unusually wonderful weather (from my perspective, anyway), and my desire to have my yard look like I actually garden, despite many trips to visit the children and grandchildren.

The weather: It has been a cool summer with plenty of rain. That means everything stayed in growth mode and I was able to continue working outside. When heat and humidity skyrocket I hide in my airconditioned room ( we have 1) and write. 

The desire: For years I said I would declutter and renovate my gardens. This has been the year it is happening.

So I thought that would record in my blog the essential tools I drag around with me when doing a marathon of weeding. I have many, many specialized weeding tools, but there are a few that are the most useful for certain jobs.

Before The List

Weather conditions make a difference in how easy it is to tackle certain weeds. Some are best hoed out when the days are hot and dry, others pull easiest after a rain, some cling to clay soil that is damp. Take notes on times when weeding is easiest in your garden. Days been dry and sunny? Grass pulls out easier, small weeds are best scuffle hoed (cut just below the surface). Rain yesterday? Many roots are loosening and can more easily be pulled.

The List Of Best Weeding Tools

Cape Cod Weeder

  1. Almost always, I want my Cape Cod Weeder . It is wonderful for tight spaces between plants or cracks in the walk, etc. sharp blade makes quick work of dislodging roots.
  2. Garden gloves are  more important to me than I ever realized. I have many pairs now, and can grab thistles, rose canes, and grub out hand pulled weeds better than I  possibly could if without them.
  3. I keep pruners close by, and if I think I will have to grub out an overlooked Mulberry tree- I have loppers with me. but always haul along a cutting tool of some sort. Have poke weed? Cut the cane off at the ground level.
  4. Nurseryman spade. Admittedly I don't always grab this particular tool, but if I don't I usually end up going back to the shed for it. Any shovel will do, but a narrow Nurseryman spade will work better in perennial beds and get just the roots you wish to dislodge. This is best for removing Burdock, and other deeply rooted weeds. Simply scoop out the crown of the Burdock- no need to get all of the taproot.
  5. Dutch hoe is a hand hoe that works like the big one, but with more finesse and sharp tip can hack out stubborn weeds. When I don't need the Cape Cod-der for tight spaces I often go for the Dutch hoe. (Seen in the beginning photo).

For Clean-up

I try to keep the garden cart and a leaf rake nearby, so that when finished with the mad weeding I can tidy up right then and there. If put off, a pile of weeds can smother grass, and it delays the feeling of satisfaction from getting your flower beds all cleared away.

What I Did Today

Every once in awhile you need to take care of your tools to keep them in good working order, especially cutting tools.

After viewing some tutorials (yes, my Dad taught me how to sharpen tools, but I needed a refresher), I followed some of the advice. Today I got out the isopropyl alcohol to clean off the blades, and used a Bastard file to sharpen my loppers, pruners, and hedge shears.

The alcohol cleaned the surface and sterilized the edges, the file sharpened the edges quickly. I simply followed the manufacturers edge to know where to sharpen.

It made a world of difference in the pruning and trimming results.

Another thing that is new for my gardening this summer was a solution for my most hated garden task: watering during hot and dry periods. Sure, this is not the year which best tests my new found FAV garden tool, but I am ready for those years when the weather is more normal with late summer droughts. I loved it so much I couldn't wait to write a review on it. Enough suspense...what is it? One of those "advertised on TV" garden hoses that are so light that even wimpy, aging me is able to water the containers and the borders with ease. I am so happy!

Here is the review for the Flexable Pocket Garden Hose . It isn't very expensive, and the amount of grief and work it saves is so worth it. I have no idea how long it lasts, since this is the first year I have bought and used one, but I am loving the ease of use.

Do you have tips to share? How do you handle weeds or what way do you sharpen your tools?

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.
Aug 9, 2014

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