Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spring Wildflowers 2016 & Backyards Matter Conference

Spring is here in Ohio and we are loving it! The wildflowers, tree buds swelling and bursting, all the new growth on our kale and chives, germinating veggie seeds and singing toads all tell us we made it through winter (though it was quite easy this year) and we are on our way to the season of over-the-top abundance. Yes!

We visited Fort Hill Earthworks and Nature Preserve, one of our favorite places in Ohio, and greeted each of these wildflowers with such joy. 


Blue Cohosh...

Trout Lily....


 Large-flowered Bellwort...

Spicebush (soooo many trees and shrubs were flowering and all seemed to have many pollinators visiting)....

Ever observant Steve...

spotted this super cool egg sac! Anyone know who it belongs to? We checked our Tracks and Signs of Insects and didn't see a match. I posted the picture on bugguide.net as well so hopefully we will get an ID. The strap goes from one side of the sac, over the beech branch and attaches on the other side of the sac in the same way. We marveled over this home for quite some time.

We hope you all are getting out and are enjoying this beautiful weather, too. Fort Hill is a fabulous place to visit to celebrate spring and we are just certain wherever you live, there is a beautiful natural area to visit.

There is a fun gardening conference happening this weekend focusing on our favorite pastime - making our backyards matter! We are presenting and vending so if you attend, please come say hi. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Full Bathroom Renovation Complete!

Before our winter trip to southern CA, Steve finished our full bath! We celebrated this moment in a big way with our trip and he now feels so relieved and free to do other things. One thing after another took precedence over this project as evidenced by our first and second post about it in February 2015....yes, an entire year before its completion. (There are many reasons why, but who cares now.) Thanks to this persistent man we no longer shower amongst black plastic. Way to go Stephen!

This excellent ceiling fan really helps the humidity in the bathroom and gives us a nice bright light overhead.

Steve, of course, new exactly where to cut the roof opening for the fan.

Other than helping paint the walls, feed the laboring man and offer moral support, this is about all I did with this project...look around - ooh and ahh. The bathroom is so far out of my league so I really appreciate all you DIYers that tackle a project like this!

Drywalling is not fun in our opinion (the dust!), but was very necessary in this room because of some weird stucco stuff put on by past owners...a cover up gone awry for sure.

The trim for the bathroom windows and floor boards came from pallets destined for the landfill. This sort of wastefulness only comes amidst abundance and we consider this such a poor reflection on our society.

Alas, though, we do the best we can and salvage as much as we can. Ta-dah! Another colorful room in the home of Jennifer & Steve.

The sink, tub, and toilet are new. We replaced the old, water guzzling, leaky toilet with a water efficient one. We got estimates on refurbishing the sink and tub and couldn't afford the price so we found the best made and least expensive units we could find.  The sink light is used. I made the circular rug; we found the woven rug at an antique store when we lived in Carlsbad, NM. The toilet paper holder, trash can, towel and most of the knick knacks are from the thrift store. The floor is the old subfloor, which Steve stained and varnished.

Steve pulled the mirror from someone's trash...it's old with beveled glass and though it's just a bit cloudy, it's a fabulous find. He started sanding the wood and found all these layers of different colors of paint from years gone by. You know what we did...we left them and all the old hardware holes.

Besides the windows, the mirrow is my most favorite part of the bathroom.

We kept all the original cabinetry and hardware, which Steve made look fantastic.

The original bathroom had one window to allow humidity to escape into the back stairwell since there is a door there that allows fresh air to enter the house. When Steve opened up the wall he found three other windows that were walled over so he kept them open, trimmed them out and voila, the natural light in the bathroom is fantastic, even though this is an interior room.

There are a few minor used things we are looking for, but we don't rush and what we need always finds us. Part of the charm of this house is letting it evolve and turn into the creative, thoughtful space we desire.

Now, we are completely switching gears to the growing season. Yes!

For all you plant lovers, a little update: we don't have a greenhouse here so won't have early plants, but we will have lots later. Watch here for updates as the season progresses. Thanks for your inquiries everyone...they make our hearts happy knowing all of you want plants for wildlife.

Happy, happy spring to you all!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mojave National Preserve, CA 2016

Deciding to leave the crowds of Death Valley National Park and skip the certain crowds at Joshua Tree National Park we headed to 1.6 million acre Mojave National Preserve where we found flowers, Joshua Trees, expansive views, singing frogs (YES!), solitude and cool people. A map and an adventurous spirit is all one needs to find the best places.

Cactus Wren...beautiful and faithful feathered friend. How we missed you!

Rocks and sky - I'm one happy hiker.

Flocks of white-crowned sparrows greeted us at every trail bend and are a winter visitor here in southern CA just like in our Midwestern homeland.

Steve loved the "densest, largest Joshua Tree forest" found in the U.S, yes, here at Mojave National Preserve. Can you believe it? He swore this was a Dr. Seuss forest and it did indeed feel as though we were in a storybook.

Beavertail cactus, if you didn't have such prickly bristles, I would certainly hug your cute little pads.

Exploring in nature, finding joy in the present moment, experiencing a clear mind and honed senses, not thinking about technology or the To Do list - just BEING - is why we are transitioning our lives and just so happens to do this to us:

The beautiful, sunshiny Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea) required a slam on brakes and a reverse in our rental car to meet this incredible member of the Caper Family. Who could leave without a formal introduction? So many oohs and ahhs showered this perennial shrub that surely she opened a couple more blossoms just for us.

Bristly Fiddleneck (Amsinckia tessellata), a member of the Borage Family, welcomed us in the same section of desert roadway and made us fall in love with orange all over again. Those of you that know us, know our house is painted in many colors and this is where we find our inspiration...flowers, blue skies, rocks - Nature.

A Phainopepla greeting us graciously after we interrupted...

his daily consumption of at least 1,100 Mistletoe berries (Sandalwood Family - fascinating). This parasitic plant's berries just so happens to be where the phainopepla gets its water too. Read about this bird...it's cool!

Zzyzx is a cool and bizarre part of Mojave National Preserve that's well worth a visit. There are springs in the area utilized by all sorts of plants and animals including the Pacific Treefrog that may have been introduced (though it is native to the Mojave river system) when several of these springs were utilized for a health spa. Sedges, water, salt flats and mountains...what a mind boggling landscape.

Travel note for all you adventurers: Las Vegas is a pretty cheap airport to fly into for many SW explorations. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is very close to town and offers scenic red rocks, hiking, climbing and camping to faciliate local exploration or as a pitstop on your way elsewhere. We used it coming and going to southern CA and it worked quite well.

This is our first of two FREE flying trips for both of us booked this year thanks to information from Extra Pack of Peanuts. We're planting oodles and oodles of trees and shrubs again this year to help offset our travel carbon emissions. You know what that means...lots more tree tubes! We are thinking of renaming The Common Milkweed - The Tube Farm. Ha!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Death Valley National Park, CA

The Super Bloom occuring in Death Valley National Park right now was underway when we visited in February. Woo hoo! If you are into desert wildflowers, check out Desert USA for updates. Here's just a few of the blooms we admired...

Desert Sunflower (Geraea canescens)

How could we not take multiple pictures with this spectacular flower - the definite show stopper?

Don't pass up smelling Desert Sunflower (Desert Gold)...it's enchanting!

Brown-eyed Evening Primrose (Camissonia clavaeformis)

Mohave Desert Star (Monoptilon bellioides)

Purple Mat (Nama demissum)

Caltha-leaf Phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia)

Gravel Ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla)

Panamint Cryptantha (Cryptantha angustifolia)

The scale and grandeur of the scenery is humbling, inspiring and tends to provoke many thoughts difficult to articulate. Truly. The beauty of each small flower, each small piece is made that much grander by its place in the vast landscape.

Charcoal Kilns- wow, what a treat to see! These are some big, impressive ovens.

Death Valley is quite a mix of climates due to its lowest elevation (-279') and its highest point at Telescope Peak (11,331').  Climb a bit higher and you find cooler temperatures and snow in February.

Here we are happy atop Wildrose Peak (9,064') with the Sierra Nevadas in the background.

We opted out of Telescope Peak due to the snow and inappropriate gear, but you can see it in the background. Next time!

Thank you volcanoes for depositing such an array of minerals and ash to provide us with such a paint pot of color.

Our final bloom to end our exploration of Death Valley - the quintessential desert plant: Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata).

Next up: Mojave National Preserve