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This blog has moved.

I'm in the middle of making big changes.

This blog has been at this place for more than ten years. I hemmed and hawed about whether to change to a wordpress blog, whether to try to have a new domain... all sorts of decisions that seemed to run up against the brick wall of my tech limitations.

I have liked Blogger for its ease, but I find balancing lots of blogs flung out over different platforms, etc to become very burdensome (you can imagine).

I paid for a new domain (the one that would have been connected with this blogspot address was long ago taken up, before I started Notice the added "s" that had to be inserted.

Now, long down the pike, it was challenging to find a domain that included the dual interests that result from continuing the DIY blog that my husband and I had written in. He wants to write again, after a hiatus, and I want to combine our house and garden posts.

Enter stage right ....

I am making the changeover to a wordpress blog, at a new address. This is all so hard since this blog is so old and it will be impossible to gain as much of a reputation on my new one. Without my readers help.

So I hope you will bookmark and share the new place. Any advice from others who have done this process of moving their blog would be most welcome.
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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.
Apr 25, 2015

Here Is Hope For A Beautiful Spring

From a previous year

It turned the corner here in the Central Ohio area. Patches of snow are all that are left after the warming temperatures and rains. I will have to post some of my older, but still beautiful, spring photos in celebration.

 Outside it is a bit dreary and I need to pick up the remainder of the hot tub canvas cover, etc. I will, as soon as I am done working on what seems to be mushrooming work both on the computer and inside the house.

That is where we get that old saying: "When it rains, it pours". Everything is building up and can just wait so long before it takes on its irresistible power and momentum.

 Get ready for it, because that is the nature of Spring!

Lenten Roses from previous years

The Inside Garden

I didn't mind the cold as much as most people because it is always my time for reflection, for puttering on the internet, for getting into the insides of code and gain understanding and facility with computer work.

I also wrote a bit more than usual.

Example is this post on Evernote, a really useful app for alll your devices, from phone to Pc to iPad.
I reactivated the TrueGrit blog, which is one of my oldest blogging projects. Where I learned to use Wordpress (and Movable type before that). It isn't ready for prime time yet, though, since I just learned how to make the domain name go to the proper place, import old posts ( over 2000) and am now updating their structure, editing, deleting, and trying to get the posts and photos to find each other!

But I find I do want to write on some of the topics that I used to. The spiritual ones, not the political ones.

I am also thinking about moving this entire blog to a new home on wordpress with a new domain name. I haven't committed to it yet.

I wrote about those tulips I planted a couple years ago.

The Actual Garden

Outside I have my work cut out for me. The vegetable beds were left in disarray last year, so I have lots to do before I can plant this season.

There is plenty of pruning to do, since I couldn't manage to face the frigid temperatures. Not healthy for me, either. But my sabbatical from gardening now means it is time to make the outdoors one of my regularly scheduled activities.

Such a wimp, that is what I've become.

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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.
Mar 10, 2015

It Is Still Freezing, Cold, And Snowing

Yes, playing with Picmonkey. What else on the rainy/snowy/frozen days we are having? Housework, you say? What is that?

Yes, the weather again. We are still in the throes of winter. Throes I say! Everyone says they are tired of it, but we really don't have any say in the weather, do we? It will affect how soon we will be able to plant out our seeds and new plants.

The ground will stay frozen for longer than we are used to in this part of the country.

That is my prediction.

Vegetable plants like peppers, and most especially tomatoes, need warm soil to thrive. This will be one year to not rush the season.

Weighty Snow

One year I had some of my globe arborvitae damaged, but this year it was the canopy and its frame that sheltered the hot tub that collapsed under the weight of wet snow.

That was a first.

I am finding it hard to think about growing things when the world outside looks like midwinter instead of like March.

Normally we would be headed into the mud season. Not likely when the temperatures will dip below zero. Again.

Frozen earth for another few weeks.

Hit The Ground Running

One effect of the prolonged wintry conditions is that a gardener can prepare to get started as soon as the weather breaks. If our tools are ready, plans made, we can get started without delay.

If we have raised beds, we are one step ahead in warming up the soil. I'm glad I made some raised beds a couple years ago. They dry out quicker in the spring, which is a boon in this clay-loam, high water table area.

 Have you ever used floating row covers? I haven't, but this would be a great year to begin. There are a few things to remember, as Colorado State cautions:
"Thwart weeds that may thrive in a covered environment by using a mulch such as black plastic before planting."

Do We Have Garden Tips For March? 

Maybe later in the month we can use the usual tips, but for now, backtrack into February chore suggestions. 

  • We can safely start early indoor crops, plants started now should be ready to plant out after the last frost date without becoming too leggy.
  • A late winter means that dormant plants can still be pruned.
  • It will eventually warm up, and when it does remove the old stuff that is still left from last years garden.
  • Don't pull back mulch from your plants, especially the roses, too early.
  • Check for winter damage- there is bound to be something 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.
Mar 4, 2015

Everyone Talks About The Weather

I ventured out between the pine and the spirea

Wherever I go (the few times I can venture out), everyone is talking about the weather, how cold it is, how tired they are of it, etc, etc. Depending on just how cold it is I either find lots to do on my computer, or I have an excuse to sit and watch a favorite show with a hot cup of something.

Watched plenty of the British detective shows I like so well - I've watched most all of them. All of "Vikings", caught up with "Grimm", "Walking Dead" ...  I won't bore you with the long list of why my seat is spreading into the legend of song.


 I try not to think about spring too much.

 One reason for that, is the fact that the last time my garden was this frozen I lost plenty of plants.

Sometimes it seems my garden is more of a plant cemetery. I have long lists of what I used to grow. But at this point I have no desire to complain or think about the negative side of weather aberrations.

Life has ebbs and flows and nowhere is that more obvious than in a garden that one cares for for a long period of time.

 Having put all my efforts this past fall into the family holiday celebration, I neglected to mulch my garden.

That is another reason I am sure that those cold spells without snow cover will probably result in loss of my variegated lavenders, among other new plants that are marginally hardy here.

 Well, I plant geraniums every year, and this might be a similar experience. I hope I find them in the nursery this spring.

 Speaking of geraniums... I saved a couple that I actually kept living all winter so far! Not only that, but took cuttings that have rooted and are waiting for me to pot up. I think I should go ahead and do that.

Maybe I'll start some seeds when I have the starting soil supplies out.

 Actually this weather makes me in no hurry to start seeds. The ground is frozen so late this season that I don't think it will warm up as early as it normally would. We'll see.

 I'm pretty sure I won't be planting sweet peas on St. Patrick's Day. I am often late for that anyway.

 How are your gardens, seed starting, etc. activities going? On Facebook I see some people in other climate zones who have green and budding, even flowering in their yards, instead of crunchy white stuff.

Oh yes, I spent lots of time on Facebook lately. What do you do when the house is cold and you don't go out on icy streets... or do you?

My Winter Sunflowers

Not that I'm a slacker... I learned some new software, made some new video, started organizing my life via the new organizer book my daughter bought for me, gone to Dr. appts, upgraded my phone and am learning to use that... did some planning. You know, life.

Here is something weird from the extra cold winter: ants have been invading. Don't you think that is strange for this time of year? I do.

Asian ladybugs make appearances all winter.

 I managed to steer the conversation from the weather, and am prone to do that.

But the deep freeze has impacted my desire to write the newsletter this month, too. That isn't such a good thing I suppose. There just wasn't much gardening going on.

Spring is edging closer, however, so I want to concentrate on the timely send-off of good tips, reminders and news next month.

 I am sure it has plenty to do with my personal bias against February.

 This is my least favorite month. chocolate and Valentine's Day notwithstanding.

 I always love blustery March for some reason... so looking forward to it- only a week more, albeit one of those frozen, cold ones (yes, circled back to the weather:)

 Til next time Friends,
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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.
Feb 25, 2015

Late Winter Is Time To Prune

Visualizing how to cut tree branches
If we get a break in the weather (which we will, eventually), it will be ideal time to get the pruning tools out and clean up winter damage, trim out fruit trees, and cut back many clematis vines.

Those that bloom on new wood are prime candidates for pruning, although those which are scrubby looking, like quince bushes or other shrubs benefit from some pruning. I know we are supposed to wait until after bloom on many of our shrubs, but I have had some problems with some of them, and when a tree or shrub is dormant is one of the best times to prune, no matter when the bloom time.

That is my opinion anyway. Then there are situations such as my Pyracantha. It blooms in the spring and berries in the fall, but its growth gets out of hand, so to keep it in bounds, I may have to lose one or the other, and I simply have to shape it.

February/March, when I am doing the work anyway (tools out, bucket of water with bleach, proper clothing, etc) seems to be as good a time as any.

What Tools To Use?

I always grab my bypass pruning shears, or secateurs as the British wisely call them ('shears' could be a number of tools). Usually, if trees or big shrubs are on the agenda, the loppers and a pruning saw is included.

I have learned the hard way to have a bucket of water with some bleach added for sterilizing between cuts... mostly between different plants, so not to spread disease.

I always use garden gloves, unlike in my youth. That way, I won't be afraid to grab thorny stems, gather up lots of shrubs, or even the occasional poison ivy. 

No worries about poison ivy in the dormant season, though, which is another reason to use this time to clean up the tree and shrub areas during these months.

A cart or wheel barrow to gather together the removed branches etc.

Sometimes a garden tote is handy for keeping tools together.

Those are the basics... specialized instruments in the garden are part of an arsenal that a gardener eventually accumulates is often part of the later forays into the garden. 

I use hedge shears, sometime's garden snips, and one tool I have never used, but believe would be highly useful is a pruning knife. Might buy one this year.

How To Prune?

Someone once said certain activities are best described by viewing an example than by describing with words or illustrations. I think pruning is one of those. I might make my own video (just because there are some gizmos I can't wait to try out), but today you can watch a few I dug up for you :

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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.
Feb 17, 2015

Update, Philosophical Distractions, Life

My instagram pic from last week

We have only a coating of snow.

Yes, I know. I should post more often.

It is one of those winters that see-saw between normal temperatures and deep cold. I hate the deep cold.

All our snow has melted away during the January thaws and now February has some very unusual near zero temperatures. Boston took all our snow! I'm sure they would share with us if only they could. But nature isn't like that, is it? The one place we get a regular "come-uppance" on just how much poer and control we humans actually wield.

Making Video

I've been tinkering around with new projects. Everything seems to have a learning curve for me lately, and the venture into video is at the top of that list.

I went ahead and created a trailer, you can see here. And a new channel for topics other than gardening. Ilona's Chalkboard Talks. No actual chalk boards involved....yet.

Since I'm learning more about how to create videos that I hope won't bore people to death, or worse, annoy... I found one I really enjoyed lately. It isn't polished, but it is very interesting for nature buffs.

Waxing Philosophical

Life is fun, at least it is for me at the moment. The whiteout outside my window is the backdrop for my cozy inside activities of writing this, planning, and drinking a nice hot cup of chai. What a life!

Really, so many of us have it so good. Sure, there are difficulties and disappointments, but these are the good times for so many of us. We aren't going hungry, we are sheltered from the cold, we eat well, our children are living reasonably well with only the normal challenges.

Enjoy the good times while you have them, treasure up those memories against the trials that must come in life. Take the good with the bad. Those admonitions are cliches because they express the pattern.

Perhaps they are more truisms than mere cliches.

Right now, today, I'm enjoying the good. Each day has something to enjoy, something to challenge us, and certain seasons are harsh, like winter's unforgiving cold. If we have a cozy fire, we are blessed. the season of winter can be endured, and it will give way to the next season.

There is a spring ahead, and this is only a time to ready ourselves for it. When we are in the crush of work and the demands of that time, there will be sanctuaries of rest and reflection.... it is all a part of the weave, if only we will see it.

A particularly pretty winter day of the past

I don't think we should rush our seasons, either in life or in our gardens. Think about immersing fully in the one at hand, take notice of what is characteristic of the one you find yourself within, now, and give it its full expression.

I think this brings out the richness of what life has to offer.

-just a few thoughts before I rush off to my next big distraction....

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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.
Feb 14, 2015

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

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