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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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