Tuesday, April 28, 2015

From this window - April 28, 2015

Lots happening with spring in the midwest.  All the crab apple trees are blooming, one is white with pale pink centers and one is a dark pink.  The apply tree has blossoms on it.  The tulips were spectacular.  The fish have laid eggs and for the first time I've actually seen the eggs.  Night temperatures are still in the 30s so the toads haven't bred yet.  Seeds have been planted and are in the greenhouse with the tropical pond plants that were moved outside last week.  We have been running two small heaters at night which keeps the temperature about 60.  Yesterday's shopping trip for plants yielded a new Viburnum, a baby butterfly bush, several new pond plants, a fancy Datura, a pot of Virginia bluebells and another really pretty shade plant for the woods.  I've already purchased my Sweet 100 and Celebrity tomato plants; they are residing in the greenhouse awaiting good weather.  No sign of the hummingbirds or orioles although the feeders have been out for over a week.  The chipping sparrows are here along with the grackles.  I watched a white-crowned sparrow bathe in the pond yesterday.  He was in and out of the pond ten times before he considered himself clean enough.  The first water lilies have broken the surface and I've treated the pond twice with algaecide because of the string algae.

We've not seen the bluebirds but we did find a potential aid to keeping the house sparrows out of the house.  My husband saw a design that involved string fish line around the entrance hole.  One bluebird house actually had the start of a house sparrow nest inside which we cleaned out and after the fish line was installed, the house sparrows did not return.  The nest box in the back yard had some wren sticks in it.  We found last year that a wren guard works really well, but you can't put it up until the bluebirds lay their first egg.  Still waiting for the bluebirds to come back.

We had a local carpenter build a pergola over our deck.  We had a canopy on a frame that was put up every spring and taken down in the fall.  In the course of handling, several rips appeared and it wasn't very attractive.  The pergola isn't waterproof but it's lovely and provides wonderful shade.  The carpenter did a fabulous job, we're very pleased and will be eating our first family dinner on the deck tomorrow.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it but there is a new house going up right across the street from our driveway.  Piles of dirt, heavy equipment, lots of noise.  Luckily, the only view of the mess is from our living room bay window and that's the room we spend the least amount of time in.  The view from our deck is blocked by both the greenhouse and a 30' blue spruce.  All day long it's beep beep beep from large trucks backing up and pound pound pound from the hammers and nail guns.  Since work just started last week, we have a long time to go.  And to add to this, our new neighbors are bikers with 3 big dogs that only bark once in a while and loads of friends that will be coming for parties.  We know this because they told us.   The turkeys, deer and coyotes that used to cross that field must be really confused now.

If you like birds, and you crochet, don't throw away your yarn scraps.  Cut them in 4" portions and drop them on your grass.  Watch the robins scoop them up and use them for their nests.  You can see them carry the bits to where they are building.  If you have cats that need to be brushed, save the fur, put it out on the lawn in late April, early May, birds love fur because it's soft and dries quickly.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Let's hear it for puppy pads...

Today is Monday, April 20th.  Sassy has been using the box with the puppy pad religiously since Friday and last night for the first time in several weeks, she spent the night out.  Carl said she pooped in the box before he went to bed but we had planned to leave her out.  So, this morning, I pulled the litter box out of the cabinet in the laundry room and put the box with the puppy pad in.  A half an hour later, she had used the litter box in the cabinet.  We do leave the door to the cabinet open.  We'll do that for a few weeks assuming she keeps using the box with the pad.  Then we will try with the box closed.  We do change the pad immediately after we notice she's used it. 

Sadie is on one pill every three days on her way to being weaned off of them.  This morning we had a cat spat in the family room.  I'm not sure who started it but Sadie ended up back up upstairs and Sassy stayed in the family room.  While we worry about their interaction, they need to work it out themselves.  We will break it up if it gets vicious, but for now we're just watching.  That's the update for now.  Fingers crossed.

Friday, April 17, 2015

An idea forms...

As you know, Sassy has been on lockup at night for several weeks.  Carl scoops her up when he goes to bed and locks her in the laundry room.  She can't come out until she poops.  She's good with this.  She's in and out of the laundry room all day proving that the room doesn't bother her.  The last week, however, she's been pooping in the litter box and peeing on the floor.  Not every night but several times.  Frustrating.  Tuesday night I had a dream about litter boxes (I know, right?).  I dreamed that we put a puppy training pad in the bottom of one of the litter boxes and Sassy loved it.   So, we thoroughly cleaned a box (it isn't like we don't have a bunch of them), put a large puppy pad in it and locked her up with her regular box and the new one with the puppy pad.  She used the box with the puppy pad, both poop and pee.  Not a great leap forward, but encouraging.  If she uses it during the day we might have reason to celebrate.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

From this window, April 9th, 2015

First let's update Sassy and Sadie.  Sassy hasn't had an accident since we let her stay out of the laundry room all night - that was three nights ago.  Although she doesn't always use the same box, she has been using the box.  We aren't holding our breath but three days with no clean up is refreshing.  Sadie has learned to climb to the top of the cat tree.  First time.  Sassy lays on the first level once in a while but hasn't liked the top yet.  Sadie watched the young men clean our pond yesterday from the top of the tree which is positioned in front of the sliding door going to the deck.  You can see the pond from her perch and she watched intently.  Today was rainy so we had to open and shut the windows which drives Sadie crazy.  Get in the window, get out of the window...

Now for the garden...  With the pond up and running the birds have been drinking from the pond so we put up the heated birdbath.  Anson and Eric brought softball size stones and pebbles to build up an area on a shelf in the pond so the birds could bathe.  They like to duck out of the cedar, fly to the pond, drink, bathe and fly back to the cedar so we established a bathing area close to the cedar.  Hopefully this will make them comfortable.  The pond water is clear, all the fish survived but we had one frog casualty, our leopard frog didn't make it.  It will be May before the tropical plants get into the pond, they are currently in the greenhouse.

We purchased seeds today for planting and Carl is finishing the trays I will use to put my plants in.  I bought Cosmos, Zinnia, Tithonia, Red Milkweed and Orange Milkweed, Cleome, Sweet William, Mammoth Sunflower, Moonflower, Flax-Linum, Cardinal Climber, and Giant Nicotiana.  I always grow enough Cardinal Climber and Moonflower to sell at the neighborhood garage sale.

We saw our first American Toad this afternoon, a little male.  It won't be long before they are singing and laying eggs.  The tree frogs will be singing soon also.  I saw the first male Chipping sparrows yesterday also but the hummingbirds and wrens are not here yet.

Monday, April 6, 2015

From this window, April 5th, 2015

Last fall Carl mulched a few bags of leaves using the push power mower with the bag.  Then we dumped the mulched leaves on several of the flower beds in lieu of purchased mulch.  Leaves add lots of organic material to the soil as well as preserving water but in some places we got it a little deep.  So, I spent part of the day cutting back the butterfly bushes (both large and miniarture) and uncovering the iris rhizomes.  While I was fluffing up some of the leaves mashed down by the snow it was evident lots of plants are coming up.  The Meadow Sage, Yarrow, Catmint, Clematis, Honeysuckle, Iris, Tulips, Daffodils, Black-Eyed Susans, Coneflowers, Autumn Joy Sedum, Candytuft, and Veronica are all coming up through the leaves.  That's just in the two raised beds.  Since we cleaned the debris from most of the gardens last fall, this spring was a piece of cake.  In years past, my daughter, SIL and grandchildren used to come out and help us open the garden beds as a Mother's Day gift to me but somehow we lost that tradition.  Carl was saying yesterday how much he missed it.  While we aren't ancient by any means, each year takes a little longer and it's a little harder to get up after having gotten down.  The new raised bed that was built is my favorite because I can sit on the side of it and work in that bed.  Consequently, it's the nicest bed because of the ease of weeding.

While taking a break and sitting in the swing on the shed porch, we glanced up and saw half a dozen white pelicans circling the house.  Their color changes as they turn into and out of the sun, from pure snow white to greyish with black on the end of their wings.  It's mesmerizing to watch them.  There has been no evidence of our juncos for several days, we assume they have left for the north to breed.  The beautiful male Towhee has been gone for several weeks.  The chipping sparrows are not here yet nor are the hummingbirds.  According the Journey North, the hummingbirds were in Southern Illinois a week ago so they are coming.  The bluebirds were on the north box several days ago but I haven't seen them since.  We put out a feeder that holds whole peanuts but filled it with accumulated cat fur from a winter's brushing of the Persian.  We will know when nesting season starts; the birds will be pulling fur from the feeder and it will drift across the yard.  Titmice will fight over it.  Cat hair is soft and dries quickly so it's perfect for lining a nest.  I keep the brushed fur in empty tissue boxes and store it in the garage until it's needed.  In a good winter, I can fill four or five boxes.

We had a good rain four days ago and the grass started greening up immediately.  The crab apple tree outside my 'studio' (craft room) is showing leaves now.  All the maple trees around our house as well as the two river birches have either big buds or actual leaves showing.  The forecast for our area is rain this week so by the weekend, our world will be fresh and green.  We have miniature daffodils blooming in the front yard and the day lilies are up several inches.  A good rain will be a big boost to growth.

I moved the house plants into the greenhouse yesterday.  With rain and clouds the weather is perfect for them.  They need to be eased into being outdoors and with a heater for chilly nights, a week or two in the greenhouse is just what the doctor ordered.  The pond plants that have wintered over in the bay window in buckets of water should perk up being outside.  Carl will have the water barrels up soon so I can use rain water to keep the buckets filled.  It will be many weeks before the temperatures at night are stable enough for the fragile tropical plants to go in the pond.  Soon, I will be out shopping for the plants that always sell out because they can be stored in the greenhouse as well.  Black and Blue Salvia is hard to find, it's a hummingbird magnet.  Coral Nymph Salvia is also a wonderful hummingbird plant along with Gartenmeister Fuchsia.  I need two tomato plants - Celebrity and Sweet 100s, both for salads and burgers.  Celebrity is a smaller tomato but very prolific and has a wonderful flavor.  I pick the Sweet 100s and eat them right off the plant.  I used to grow Romas but found I didn't use them all so now I just grow the two types in the little courtyard off the gazebo.  It's fenced in so the animals can't get the the veggies.  This year we will reduce the pots there to allow room for a cat run outside our family room window.  This will allow our two cats access to the outside without really being free.  Our black cat, Sadie, wants to go out badly.  Our Persian, Sassy, likes the window but doesn't try to make a break for it every time the door is open.  We hope this will keep Sadie happy.

I also need seeds.  Zinnia, Cosmos and Tithonia.  The Zinnias and Cosmos will provide flowers for the bees and butterflies and seeds for the birds in the fall.  Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) will attract butterflies from everywhere.  Our Monarchs have fallen off in recent years.  Last year we only saw a couple of caterpillars and we plant milkweed specifically for them, both the orange and swamp varieties.  I need to purchase both kinds as they tend to die out after several years.  They also grow in the worst possible places, in between bricks that line the beds and outside the beds where mowing takes place.  Of course, we are careful to avoid damaging those plants but sometimes accidents happen.  Our gardens are design for nature.  If a plant can't feed something or provide a nest site, we aren't interested in cultivating it.  New this year was a screech owl box in the woods behind the house.  We saw one last year, what a thrill.  Hoping we will get a tenant.  And a Pileated Woodpecker was on the kitchen suet feeder last week, I got a picture but my hand was shaking so bad it's not a good one.  Hoping like crazy he/she will be back now that he/she knows where the suet is.  Carl bought an extra box of 12 cakes just to make sure we had it on hand.  Well, that's life in the midwest in early April, I hope where ever you are, nature is good to you.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Here a cat, there a cat....

Everyday is a new adventure here.  Spring has given us a few warm days and no matter where Sadie is in the house, awake or asleep, if there is a whisper of a window going up, she's right there.  Sassy likes the window but Sadie is obsessed and if the weather is nice we try to make up for the years she had no access to a window by providing as many open windows and sliding doors as she can handle.

Sadie is still taking her meds every other day but I don't see her temperament changing.  She's still aggressive on occasion and we still bleed now and then.  I'm better at recognizing the quickly changing emotions than Carl is and can usually get out of the way, so I bleed less, but when she catches you with a claw, she digs deep. 

Sassy is still on bathroom lockup at night but as soon as she potties she's out of there.  We say "poop will set you free".  We've only had two accidents since we started locking her up in the laundry room and they've only been when we've relented and let her out before we see evidence in the litter box.  Yesterday we left early in the morning and only Carl came home (I was at a craft show all day).  She hadn't done anything in the box so Carl left her there for another hour, finally he took pity on her and let her out and later he found she'd used the box in the laundry room - go, Sassy.  This morning she had already gone.  She's a smart cat, she knows what "potty" means and if she wants out she needs to go potty.  She can do it on command if she has to go, she's so excited when she poops in the box, so we just don't get it when she doesn't.  I fear it will always be a mystery to us.