Garden Flower Zen

dahlia blossoms

Garden flower zen. A stroll through the garden provides bright colors and fragrant discoveries painted by blooming flowers planted throughout. I may be weeding but my ears are soothed to hear the song of many birds and bees buzzing by. The time spent is full of surprises like an occasional ladybug, butterfly, or dragonfly! Flowers are an essential part of an artist’s garden. I cut flowers almost every day to make our house feel alive in summer.

The work seems easier…

…as my eyes feast on the beauty surrounding me in the garden.

It is amazing what you discover when writing a blog. Looking through the photography of the garden, I see that we plant 20+ types of flowers in the garden on a regular basis. No wonder, the bees like our garden so much. I could probably write a post about each variety from the various pictures shot over the years that show the growth progress, colors, and best angles. But don’t worry, that is not the intention of this post. The goal of this post is to show you what flowers we grow in the garden as an introduction to further articles that show more intense information about each variety.

  1. Alyssum, a ground cover that I like to plant around other bigger guys.white alyssum ground cover blossoms
  2. Bachelor Button, a frequent bloomer gives a touch of color wherever they are.bachelor button blossoms
  3. Baby’s Breath, a small white flower used in bouquets.white baby's breath blossoms
  4. Bleeding Heart, the bush springs up just as the snow melts with heart-shaped blossoms appearing as we are ready for planting. Notice Mr. Butterfly on the top right.bleeding heart blossoms
  5. Carnation, the cinnamon scent of these blossoms make it a pleasure to snuggle them with your face every time you pass by.red pink and white carnation blossoms
  6. Coneflower, a hardy bush that grows up tall and spreads arms wide showering the garden with yellow blossoms all summer long. yellow cone flower bush
  7. Cosmos, a favorite wildflower blooming throughout summer.lavender cosmos blossoms
  8. Crocus & Daffodil, 2 short-time early spring guys who pop their heads out of the snow, with heads that turn to follow the sun.purple crocus blossomsyellow daffodill
  9. Dahlia, comes in a multitude of bright colors, shapes, and sizes.pink dahlias
  10. Daisy. We had daisies and red roses at our wedding.shasta daisy blossoms
  11. Geranium, I have to take into the house over winter.red geranium
  12. Gladiola, a flower that I love but so do all the gophers, an ongoing war.red gladiola
  13. Iris, is planted all around in and out of the garden. The deer seem to leave it alone, most of the time.bearded iris blossoms
  14. Lilac, lavender spring bush blossoms with a heavenly fragrance.lavendar lilac blossoms
  15. Marigold, 2 years ago I scattered a coffee can of dried flower seeds. Wrongfully, thinking were no good. But, they were just fine, notice the height of those marigolds.tall marigolds
  16. Poppy, a wildflower self-seeder.pink poppy blossoms
  17. Roses, one of my favorite flowers.pink rose
  18. Snapdragons are very fragrant and colorful blossoms.snapdragon blossoms
  19. Sunflower, pale yellow, orange, to brown. Check out the bee zooming in for a landing here.golden brown sunflower
  20. Zinnia, splashes of color all summer long.

Our Garden Apothecary

garden apothecary mullein 01Apothecary

Our herb garden apothecary keeps me busy all summer long. Above is a typical day of herbal drying on our deck table. There is mullein blossoms on the upper left, hyssop blossoms on the right top rack, and then chamomile blossoms in the tray upfront. Anything blooming gets picked and dried throughout summer. Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling book series, Outlander did a good job of introducing me to the role herbs play in human medicine. She is responsible for the intense interest I have in the herb section of our garden.

Saturday, I had an earache and sore throat requiring a visit to urgent care in town. They tested for COVID (negative) and then prescribed an antibiotic for which I am so very grateful. It is Tuesday, and I am doing so much better but the earache has not fully resolved yet.

What does a gardener that believes in herbal remedies do?

Rosemary Gladstar

Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal RecipesI get out one of many handy books by Rosemary Gladstar, an Amerian herbalist. You should really check this author on YouTube) if you are considering getting into healing herbs because her books are full of helpful real-life solutions. I find that the indexes in her books make looking up info easy.

mullein 04
I knew some mullein was blooming outside the garden fenceline.

This book is entitled “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” and the recipe I tried was on page 82 Garlic-Mullein Flower Oil for ear infections.

mullein 03I made up this recipe in less than half an hour, and after putting three drops in each ear, got immediate relief.

mullein 02BTW, did you know that the pioneers used to call the mullein blossom the torch flower? Well, they did. Why? Because they’d dry the blossom stems and later fasten them to sticks and soak them in oil and use them as torches to light their way at night. Wow. Did you think of that while you gazed at the yellow blossoms on a stick?

The definition of Apothecary is (noun), a person who prepared and sold medicines and drugs. Peter and I have become somewhat our own pharmacy. We use the information from reputable herbalist’s books with herbs we grow in the garden and the medicinal weeds growing around us.

Canning Berries

After Pickin’

strawberry 46Canning Berries. Ever wondered how you go about it? After a strawberry picking morning in the garden, comes a lot of prep work. Cleaning, sorting, coring the harvest. I am lucky to have a sweet husband who stands at the kitchen counter coring and sorting with me. This batch, after prep work, measured 36 cups ready to be processed.

Syrup

canning Strawberry 00724 cups are split into 2 pans on the stove. Pete’s Mom gave me the recipe and I remember Dorothy every time I make it. 12 cups fruit to 8 cups sugar, brought to a boil then immediately add 1 tsp of butter & turn down to simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, add 3 Tbls lemon juice. This image shows it ready to foam over the top on the stove.

canning Strawberry 008Cooking Berries

Beware, boiling it is where it gets a little tricky. Only fill the pans about halfway full, Be careful to turn the temp down quickly when they boil, it can very easily and quickly boil right over the top. Have a teaspoon of butter ready and drop it into the foamy rising syrup. You’ll see the level recede back down into the pan rather quickly.

canning colander 05I place a colander cone in the sink with a bowl below it. The sink is lower and easier to reach, and spills are no problem. Pour through the colander to strain the fruit pulp out and put aside to make fruit roll-ups later. Then, pour the syrup into the jars and proceed with seal steps.

I know syrup makes a sticky mess on everything including all your utensils and pans. Clean up is a challenge, but remember, you don’t have to fight with it. Soak everything in warm soapy water, and it will soften, allowing really easy cleanup.

Fruit Roll-ups

canning Strawberry RU 003Making fruit roll-ups with the already sweetened pulp is easy cause you have already done all the work. I line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap that can be microwaved. Then, spread the pulp 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick on the sheets.

canning Strawberry RU 004Place them in a 150º oven overnight to dehydrate. In the morning, it is done if it is not sticky to touch. If it is still sticky, put it back in and let it go longer.canning Strawberry RU 006

Juice

Okay, I got too tired to process the remaining 12 cups of fresh strawberries. Instead of staying up late into the night, I freeze the remaining 12 cups in a zip lock bag. I’ll make strawberry juice later.

History to this Berry Patch

Strawberry Patch History

strawberry 01aThere is a history to this berry patch. Growing strawberries for the family took us a little while to get right. Pete and I started seriously growing them in 2015 at our place in Elk, WA. Beginning with seed, because of budget restrictions gave me very little success, but I didn’t give up and kept planting for 3 years. Looking at this picture they look pretty scraggly. Finally, we determined that the location they were put in the garden was not good for them.

Moving

strawberry 02aWhen we expanded our garden in 2018, I decided to move the strawberry patch to the other side. First, building an 8″ raised bed approx 16 ft long x 2.5 ft wide using old concrete blocks and then transplanting the plants. We were blessed with a gift of more starts from my friend’s beautiful patch, and she also showed me how to pull the runners as I picked. Even though this was a new patch, because of the move, these 2 suggestions really made a noticeable improvement to the strawberry harvest and fruit size.

Bigger

strawberry 12In the spring of 2019, my strawberries were overcrowded and desperately needing thinning. I removed the concrete blocks (CMU) surrounding the raised bed. Then we tilled the area around the original raised patch and lowered the soil level to be equal with the surrounding garden. We could disc the soil with our tractor then.

strawberry 19Thinning the overgrown area, I transplanted them to the newly tilled area in rows about 4-6 inches apart. The strawberry area became a 20 ft x 8 ft patch.

strawberry 42This is what it looks like this year and now this old gardening-girl is beginning to wonder, “What was I thinking?” We are already harvesting a lot of berries this summer. Sometimes my body talks to me about it and I am making friends with Tylenol and Aspirin in the evenings.

Strawberry Heaven

strawberry 41Strawberry heaven is anytime you are able to pick fresh strawberries and pop them into your mouth. Heaven for sure. A couple of days ago was my first time picking this year. It amounted to 1-1/2 gallons, which isn’t all that impressive, but it is still strawberry heaven in my book.

strawberry 44I picked 5 gallons of fresh strawberries in the garden this morning. So, it looks like I am going to be really busy with these berries this year, picking, eating, processing and canning.

strawberry 47If you are in need, call us and we will share. Or, you can get permission to come to pick yourself. We are considering selling at a minimal price at a farmer’s market if the COVID 19 insanity ever ends. We will probably have quite a nice harvest this year nonetheless.

strawberry 46We do love these beautiful red berries. Today, I plan on making syrup, juice, and fruit roll-ups after it cools a little more this evening. There is no need to fire up the stove during the hottest part of the day right?

 

Life Drawing in Summer

Life Drawing in summer is one of the best ways to work on those old drawing skills. Here are 2 of my attempts at portrait drawings (25-minute sessions) from this Monday night’s “life drawing” class. We did portraits of a beautiful high school volleyball player who sat real still, which makes the drawing or painting much easier on all of us.life drawing 2

When I started going in January 2021, I was terrible. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get a likeness of the model. Now, things are improving. It is amazing what a little practice can do.

figure drawing 1This class is an artist date night for me. I get to see fellow artists and visit with what is important to us. We are a fun group of artists and we have all become friends. We meet for a three-hour life drawing session with a live model every Monday evening at Terry Lee’s studio in Coeur d’Alene, ID. However thanks to good old COVID, attendance dropped, so we changed to 2 Mondays each month for the rest of the summer. You can contact Terry at the link above or me anytime if you’d like to come to join us. There is nothing more challenging to draw than the human form.

Dogs & Sprinklers

Max Sprinkler 001Fun with dogs & sprinklers. We have discovered an entertaining sprinkler fascination for one of our dogs. Max goes crazy playing with any sprinkler as he takes off running, jumping, and trying to snatch droplets out of the sky. Here is his serious face as he notices that I have the sprinkler ready to spray in my hand.

Max Sprinkler 002Of our two children in retirement, “Max” is our tri-color guy who is a running child, and the more sedentary redhead is “Hurley” who is more elderly. Hurley likes to sit in pools of water or mud instead of chasing a sprinkler around. Hurley sits in the background watching as Max sprints to catch the water.

Max Sprinkler 008 Max Sprinkler 007Max Sprinkler 005 Max Sprinkler 004 Max Sprinkler 003 Max Sprinkler 002 Max Sprinkler 010 Max Sprinkler 009 Max Sprinkler 006

Max loves to play in the water and we love to be able to enjoy this with him.

Playground Rock

playground rock Placing 008Pete discovered a playground rock, during rock wall adventures in the landscaping project. Sometimes run into a really large boulder that asks to be made into a piece of solid playground equipment. That is what happened this week. This giant had to be moved so we could cut a dead tree down which is where we are going to build a rock wall in front of our house. Etc Etc Etc.

rock Placing 011How many tires are actually on the ground as Pete moves it around with the Kubota? As we move this heavy rock, notice the squished front tires when the rock is being pushed. Do you think it just maybe a little beyond this piece of equipment’s capacity? Sure hope this little tractor is up to the test.

rock Placing 022 rock Placing 028 rock Placing 031Roll, roll, roll. Push, then tilt.

rock Placing 034This granite guy has a flat top just perfect for climbing on, and two stairs on one side with a single stair on the other, it’s perfect for the lawn area. It is truly a climbing piece of playground equipment. The grandkids have already tried all the surfaces out for us.

Rock Movers

rock Pile 02The rock movers union has a new member here at the Woelks in Elk. All it takes is to be an expert “operator” of equipment or be a rock mover by trade. Really, just ask Pete!  You too can become a member of the Rock mover’s union and learn how to make a Ph. D pile of rock just like this. Are you wondering what a Ph. D pile is? Here is a quote from Pete, “It is a stack of rock Piled Higher and Deeper!”

Kubota Repair 001BTW. Expert, as defined by my father, is a drip under extreme pressure.

Kubota Repair 002

Besides, if Peter breaks the tractor he knows how to order the parts and fix them himself. What is the problem?

It takes real talent to move rocks while using equipment that is lighter than the object that you are trying to pick up or move. Just last week Pete had to re-weld the shift lever twice for this poor little tractor. It broke while doing “the impossible”. I wonder what this Kubota tells all the other pieces of equipment in the yard… after the moon comes up each night. It would be interesting to put a baby monitor down there at night to see what the tractor tells the lawnmower, and rototiller when we are not there.

rock Moving 01Here is a pictorial sequence of hooking up to move a big rock with a tiny garden tractor and a chain. Simple, really! Sometimes you have to start with digging a little to be able to reach underneath and put the chain around it.

rock Moving 03Then you hook the chain to the bucket and start to back up real slow and pulllllllll.

rock Moving 07I can see this little orange Kubota sweating as it strains.

rock Moving 05Look at how interested Max is in seeing the rock move. Not even a little bit.

rock Moving 08When it reaches where it is going to rest, for now, placing a rock under one edge allows us to easily hook a chain around it next time without having to dig under it.

rock Moving 10Okay, now imagine doing that all day long. Fun!

Trumpet Honeysuckle Vines

trumpet honeysuckle 21The wild trumpet honeysuckle vines are blossoming here in the Inland Northwest, this is the variety that grows in the wild around here. The way it creates a little “cup leaf” with a group of blossoms appearing in trumpet shapes before springing open is fascinating. Hence the name “trumpet honeysuckle“, here is more information from www.garden.org, if you are interested. It may be simply be an orange celebration in honor of the hummingbird population returning, but, none-the-less it is beautiful to witness.

honeysuckle 08While clearing the slope outside my kitchen window last year, we discovered two small pines totally engulfed in the vine. They were goners! Honeysuckle is a ferocious vine striving to climb any tree or bush till it eventually chokes them out. The hummingbirds love these flowers and deer tend to leave them alone. So, we took the time to carefully unwind and transplant the vines into the landscaping off the kitchen deck last year.

honeysuckle 22This area is beginning to look good with plants beginning to take shape from the transplants last year. The two trellises covered with honeysuckle serve as bookends to the iris planted between. Hurley seems to enjoy his little yard by the kitchen.