Category Archives: Country Life

Beat the Heat

Patio view

This is how I beat the heat after working outside.

In the morning I worked in the vegetable garden, removed Japanese beetles from my roses and fruit trees, watered hanging baskets, and hauled one of the dog crate pans outside to clean it with the hose.

After lunch, I pruned the bad grapes from our vines and went on my second round of Japanese beetle patrol of the day.

Then I decided it was too hot for any more foolishness of this nature. Ie.: Working. So I went for a dip in the pool where the water was a pleasant 79 degrees. Refreshing!

Patio view

Then I spent the rest of the afternoon on a lounge chair in the shade and read while enjoying the company of some of our dogs.

My pup

Zekie is my constant companion. He is rarely more than a few feet away from me. This is just as well. Otherwise I have to keep looking for him to see what trouble he is getting into.

Shetland Sheepdog

Claire likes to be outside. She has made it her job to keep track of all squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. She also barks at loud motorcycles and cars that she deems to be going too fast. Her true bliss seems to be keeping an eye on rodents residing in the rock pile.

Greyhound Cassius is a momma’s boy too!

Cassius likes to hang out near to wherever I happen to be. He was supposed to be my husband’s dog, but it turns out he is a momma’s boy. Wherever I go, there he is. He especially likes to lay in the middle of the kitchen floor as I attempt to work around him while preparing meals.

This is a typical summer day here at Sanctuary Acres. And once again, life is good!

A Summertime Walk

Pink sweet peas
Pink Sweetpeas

We haven’t been walking much lately because, well, there’s just so much to do around here in the summer time. After weeding, planting, deadheading plants, fertilizing, going on bug patrol (hello Japanese beetles), transplanting, trimming bushes and trees, not to mention mowing, there are not a lot of hours left in the day.

Black eyed Susan’s
Black-eyed Susan’s

However this afternoon, the dogs were so insistent and hopeful, that we couldn’t bear to refuse them a walk. And they really needed the exercise after being cooped up from yesterday’s rains.

Day lilies
Day lilies

So, we loaded the dogs up in the car and went to one of our regular trails at West Branch State Park. It is interesting to see how the plants along the trail side change with the seasons. I took pictures of a few of the wildflowers that we saw today as walked.

Wild rose
Wild Rose

It was a cool day, so the flies weren’t even too bad. It was nice to enjoy an outing with the pups.

Sweetpeas
White/light pink Sweetpeas

Being a weekday afternoon, we had the trail to ourselves which made for a relaxing time.

Yarrow
White Yarrow

There were many more types of wildflowers in bloom than what I am sharing here. This means we also saw lots of bees, and my favorite, a hummingbird moth!

Sheltie
Claire and me, on the ride home

Here is a selfie of Claire and me on the ride back home. She always sits on my lap in the car. It is the only way I know of to keep her from getting carsick!

A Recipe for Fresh Turnip Sauté

A turnip, just minutes out of the soil

I came up with this recipe a few years ago when we were inundated with turnips from the garden. There must have been 50 turnips, all ready for harvest at the same time. I learned my lesson. Now, I plant a short row of turnips and replant as I use them, so we have only a few turnips needing to be used at any one time.

Sautéed Turnip with Greens

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium turnip with greens,

Cut the end and top from the turnip. Discard end and set the greens aside. Peel the turnip and cut into slivers, or do a fine dice. Cut the greens from the turnip top and discard the top. Strip the tender greens from the tough part of the stems. You can just pull and strip them off with your hand in one fluid motion. Discard the stems. Hold the greens in a bunch on the cutting board and cut into long strips.

In a medium size skillet, heat the oil on medium heat until it swirls freely in the pan.* Add the garlic and cook until golden brown and crispy. Add the white part of the turnip and cook until tender and edges are browned. This only takes a few minutes. Add the greens to the pan and cook until partially wilted. Add more oil if needed. Be sure to flip the greens and stir in the garlic and turnip so they don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.

Add the salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the greens are fully wilted. They are especially tasty if you let the greens brown slightly. At this point, the dish is ready to serve. It holds well if you need to prepare other courses. Just turn the burner off and cover the pan. Let it sit on the burner to stay warm.

Serves 2-3 people.

Finished turnip dish.

*You may have noticed that I always mention heating the oil in the pan before adding the ingredients. This is an important step. Foods cook differently if they heat up along with the oil and it will change how the dish turns out. Also, some foods make stick to the bottom of the pan if they heat up along with the oil. You must, however, not let the oil get so hot that it smokes or it will burn your ingredients. Oil at the preferred temperature has a nice glossy flowing look to it as it swirls around the pan. It will also easily move around the pan and cover the entire bottom with ease.

Bluebirds vs. Sparrows!

My husband made this bluebird nest box in the spring and mounted it on a pole that is easily visible from our kitchen window. We had a pair of bluebirds move in within a couple weeks. We took joy in watching them fly in and out, first bringing grasses to build a nest. Later they laid eggs and raised a clutch. We saw them spend a lot of time flying around, going in and out, carrying insects and other delicacies, presumably for their young chicks. This went on for a few weeks.

Recently, we experienced just how cruel nature can be. House sparrows and wrens started hazing the bluebirds. It was rather traumatic watching the bluebirds come under attack after watching them raise a family.

I did some on-line research and discovered that this is quite a common occurrence. House sparrows and wrens frequently chase off bluebirds. They will even break the eggs, or kill chicks, and sometimes kill adult bluebirds, so they can take over the nest. They are even known to build their nest right on top of the bluebird bodies.

House sparrows are an invasive species. That means not native to the United States. Hence, they are not protected by the Migratory Bird Act. Wrens are native and so are protected. I immediately employed some of the deterrents that I read about to help our bluebird friends. I found instructions for something called a “sparrow spooker” and constructed and installed one right away. This consists of the metal strips hung from a strip of wood or twine. It can be seen in the photo above.

The sparrow spooker seemed to confuse the sparrows for a bit. I did see them or the wrens enter the house a few times afterwards, but other times they shied away. I was back the next day ready to continue battle with the avian invaders after doing further research. Apparently, if you install monofilament fishing line vertically along either side of the entrance to the nest box, sparrows, and hopefully wrens, do not like it. The sparrows and wrens cannot see the line and when they bump into it, it confuses and upsets them. Hopefully, enough so that it will keep them away. I did see a wren bump into the line and sit in a branch nearby tilting his head and staring at the offending area. Bluebirds, being insectivores, are thought to have better eye sight and can avoid the fishing line. That installation is also visible in the photo above.

Bird activity in general is less at the nest box today. I haven’t seen the bluebirds since yesterday, and the number of sparrow and wrens sightings is less too. I am hopeful that the clutch of bluebird babies grew up and fledged before the interlopers showed up. We did not find any baby bluebird bodies in the nest, nor did we find any on the ground in the surrounding area. My research says that bluebird babies fledge in 17-21 days. We had been watching the box for some time so it is possible that the young left to live out their lives elsewhere.

There is one last thing to try at some point in the future. My delving into sparrow habits unearthed the fact that they are territorial. They will not allow other house sparrows in the immediate area of their nest. It’s not the bluebirds per se that the sparrows take issue with. They just want the nesting site. I read that if you install two of the “bluebird houses” within 10 feet of each other, the sparrows will use one and bluebirds can nest in the other. The resident sparrows will not allow other sparrows to use it, leaving it open for the bluebirds.

This experience gave us pause to think. We put up a birdhouse, but who are we to say it is a bluebird house? The sparrows and wrens do not see it that way. And although it was upsetting when “our” bluebirds were driven off, it was nature at work. Should we be allowed to specify who lives in a birdhouse just because it is our whim? Tough choices.

And following, is a photo of one of our flowerbeds that was recently enlarged. Just so there is something positive to report today. I planted gladioli in it, so it should be bright and cheery soon!

Garden Views

Rhododendron and Siberian Irises
Rhododendron and Siberian Irises

I thought I would use this post to show you some of what I have been working on that is keeping me so busy I haven’t had time for regular posts lately. Gardening, of course!

Another bed of Siberian irises

The perennial beds all require weeding. And then there are plants to be split and moved to other flowerbeds or even new ones to start.

Sunblaze Rose

And the roses are plants that have needs all their own. They need regular fertilizing, treating for pests and diseases and frequent pruning.

Sunblaze Rose with multiple blooms
Climbing Rose, America
Red Knockout Rose
Red Knockout Roses and Pink Drift Rose
Foxglove (Digitalis)

The foxglove, I started from seed. As finicky as they were to get started, they don’t require much upkeep now. And they reseed!

There is also much to do that I haven’t seen the pay off for yet. This week I planted 80 gladiolus bulbs and several dahlia tubers. These are all ones that I dug up last fall and wintered over in the basement. I planted seedlings that I started on the enclosed porch last month. And there were seeds and seedlings to get started in the vegetable garden too.

I’m no where caught up and don’t expect to be again until the first frost. Plants have the ability to grow faster than I can keep up with them. Even so, I vow to do better at keeping up with regular blogging!

Follow My Facebook Page to Keep Up to Date on This Busy Time!

Heirloom Peony

You may have noticed that I haven’t published many blog posts in the past couple of weeks. Time has been getting away from me. There is so much to do in the summer months that before I know it, it is time to cook dinner, hang out with my husband, and then off to sleep.

We have switched our hikes from the afternoon to the mornings. As it has gotten warmer (today excepted, rain and temperatures in the 50’s as June approaches!), it has been too warm for the dogs, and me!, to walk in the afternoons. Getting our walks in early has been good for several reasons. Besides it being cooler, it also helps the dogs burn off excess energy early in the day, so they are better behaved for the rest of it. Another plus is, there are less other walkers out and about when we go earlier. This is handy when you are trying to socially distance from people. It is also helpful when walking a reactive dog. There are less encounters that end with Zekie snarling and lunging at passersby which makes the whole adventure more peaceful.

And last but not least, walking in the morning has given us an opportunity to see birds and wildlife that we haven’t seen later in the day. Recently, we have sited a pair of scarlet tanagers, some orioles, some unspecified warblers, and heard birdsong that we hadn’t noticed before. I remember going birdwatching for ornithology class in college. We always left at 7:15 a.m. because that’s when you saw the most birds. Many birds are early risers. Silly birds!

We tend to get up earlier these days too. Claire the sheltie starts barking at first light and attempts at continued sleep become futile. It’s actually the cats’ fault. They know that as soon as one of us comes downstairs, they will get their breakfasts. So, when dawn breaks, the cats start tearing around the downstairs, chasing each other and wreaking havoc. This makes the dogs start barking, which was the cats’ plan all along. Once the barking starts, Claire continues until someone comes downstairs and puts her and the other dogs outside. Then all the dogs decide they are up and want their breakfasts too. No point in trying to sleep after all that.

Clematis

Once every member of the household, including humans, have had breakfast and a hike, it is at least mid-morning. That means it is now time for watering plants which takes up to an hour and a half. One of us does that and the other does some weeding, fertilizing, planting, or other plant maintenance. This takes us up to lunch time.

After lunch time, there may be errands to run. Going to the store for groceries, seeds, bedding plants and such. If there are no errands, we spend the afternoons on various projects such as moving or planting flowers, shrubs, greenery, or small trees. There is always something that needs weeding, and more gardening or mowing to be done.

Before I know what has happened, it is time for making and eating supper. We watch a bit of television and do some reading or crossword puzzles until bedtime. The days fly by so quickly that I wonder where they went and how I ever had time to work a 9 to 5 (or 6:30 to 3:00!) job. Occasionally, I miss that professional work life, but mostly having the freedom to do what I want without it, is great!

All these activities explain why I have been remiss in posting regular updates on the blog. In the end they will provide more subject matter for posts when I start taking photos of all those plants growing and blooming and share them here. If you want another way to keep up with what is going on here at Sanctuary Acres, you can also “Like” the page Sanctuary Acres | Facebook or follow us on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/sanctuary_acres/ . It is easier for me to take a moment to post a photo or two during the day than to write a blog post, so you will find more updates there. The blog posts also publish to my Facebook page so if you follow it, you will be sure not to miss any!

Thanks for reading!

Roses and clematis currently blooming.

Did You Know There Are Many Types of Trilliums?

Great White Trillium

I find trilliums to be fascinating. I learned long ago that they were endangered, so I get excited whenever I see one. I had them growing in the woods behind my first home and I have one clump of them at the home I have now.

The type that grows here at Sanctuary Acres is the Great White Trillium. It is startlingly white and blooms faithfully each year. It doesn’t spread or reproduce, we just always have the one clump.

I learned on-line that there are 43 species of trillium known worldwide, with 38 of them occurring in North America. The majority of these are found in the Eastern States. All trilliums belong to the Lily family. This information is from the U.S. Forest Service.

Large groups of trilliums at a nearby park

My husband and I and the dogs were out hiking earlier this week. I was busy watching where I put my feet so I didn’t trip on a tree root or rock, when my husband pointed along the side of the trail. There were beds of trillium for about 200 feet along both sides of the trail. We just stopped and stared at them, soaking in the beauty. (Even though we hiked a different trail the next day, we hiked a short spur up this same trail again to see them.)

Pink (?) Trillium?

My husband pointed out that these trilliums are different than the ones we have at home. I’m not sure of the type. Possibly a pink trillium? I discovered that the types can hybridize, so it’s hard to be sure. Whatever type they are, they are beautiful. Apparently, trillium do not have true leaves. What looks like a leaf, is actually a bract, or part of the rhizome that grows above the ground. It does have chlorophyll and functions as a leaf.

Isn’t nature great?

In Honor of Earth Day

Ice at West Branch State Park
Lake Shoreline

I started this post on Earth Day, but got sidetracked because we were working on starting a fruit orchard just outside the back door. We now have five blueberry bushes and a plum tree there. Two of the blueberries went in last year and we just added three more, plus the plum tree. We still want to buy two peach trees and add those to the mix. Elsewhere on our property we already have serviceberries, plums, a pear tree, heirloom cherries, and black raspberries.

Blueberry Bush

So, although I missed publishing this post on Earth Day, we did honor the day by planting and that benefits the planet. Yay!

Newly transplanted plum tree

And this post is a two-fer, a two for one if you will. It includes below, what I wrote with the intention of posting on Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22, with its inception in 1970. Earth Day started in the United States, but has grown to be acknowledged worldwide. It’s goal is to make people aware of environmental issues. That is also the year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came into being, so focus then was obviously on our environment.

It can be a bit frightening to look around our world and see the state it is in. So many animal species are extinct, endangered, or threatened. Even some of our favorites, rhinoceroses, gorillas, lions and tigers, to name a few , are in danger of leaving this world forever. Many plant species and ecosystems such as the rainforests, seem to be on their way out of this world too.

The outlook feels grim. But, it is not too late. Most of these changes have occurred because of man and his impact on our small blue sphere. Men (and by this I mean Homo sapiens, men and women, humans. Us!) have behaved in a very egocentric way. For generations, we have thought only about what is good for us. Our immediate selves. We didn’t consider plants, animals, or the planet as a whole. Heck, we rarely even thought about other humans unless we knew them.

We can no longer afford the luxury of this way of thinking. The planet will soon no longer be able to sustain us in the way we have become accustomed to, or eventually, at all. But as I said, it is not too late. One of the heroes of my adult life is Jane Goodall. She was one of the first female field researchers of modern times. I suspect everyone is familiar with her story. She studied chimpanzees in Africa, fulfilling a childhood dream. She went on to be a spokesperson for saving our world and the environment. She has made it her life’s work. And after devoting a lifetime studying these things, she still has hope. And I believe her! She is after all, a scientist.

Jane has programs, works, books, and teams with the goal of helping our world. She has programs for children, conservation, primates, and even one to promote hope. Home – Jane Goodall’s Good For All News You can check out what she has to say at the link. My point is, if she believes it is not to late to save our world with all she knows about it, let us do what we can too.

I realize that we can’t all do historic acts like Jane. But, we can all do something!

A Disjointed Morning

Zekie assisting momma during her on-line college class.

Today is one of those days. My activities are varied and unrelated. Do you have those days too? There is no flow and they don’t make any sense.

View of our burning bushes over the dog yard fence.

First off, remember how I said Mother Nature was confused? Mother Nature Is Confused Well, was she ever! I woke up to three inches of snow this morning. On April twenty first. In Ohio.

Azalea blanketed in snow.

We were more fortunate than others. I saw on my Facebook feed this morning that some of my friends who live closer to Lake Erie had seven inches of snow. Ours’ is mostly melted now that it is mid-afternoon. So far, our plants don’t seem to have sustained a lot of damage. We will be better able to tell when things have thawed out again tomorrow.

View out the back door this morning.

So, more about my morning. Since I didn’t want to go outside, I thought it would be a fine day to our our dog rescue’s taxes, so I did. I worked on the filing and figures for a bit the previous days. Non-profit taxes are due on May 15th, so don’t worry, I wasn’t late. And non-profits don’t actually pay taxes, at least for smaller groups. There may be a filing fee on a sliding scale, but mostly the filing is to make sure you are legitimate.

After that was out of the way, I moved on to baking. We were out of sweets, except for ice cream, which is nearly always in the freezer and it is too cold to eat that today. I baked cranberry-orange scones with maple icing. They turned out to be very tasty. I will provide that recipe another day. I also baked lime-ginger cookies made with spelt flour because hubby is on a low-gluten kick. The cookies taste good, but they are very flat and dark in color because of the spelt flour. Not the best thing I have ever made but they serve the purpose.

Refer back to the first photo in this post. This is how Zekie decided that I should attend a portion of my college course on The Science of Well-Being this morning. It’s ok, the lectures are pre-recorded so no one knew. Apparently, I was paying too much attention to the computer for too long to suit Zekie. I get a kick out of this dog. He is so interactive. After I petted him on my lap for a while, he got down and went back to sleep. A few other dogs nosed me for pets throughout the class too, but none are as insistent as Zekie. This is the major benefit of working from home. There are dogs.

And that is how I passed my morning. Once again, life is good.