Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Taking the spring cleaning outdoors

Wow, I'm still tired from hours spent working in our Ozarks gardens.

It was time to move the nesting instinct closer to where nests usually are--outside.

Our toil involved raking, leaf blowing, burning, digging, mulching, weeding, cleaning, planting, mowing, and lots of other things.

 Pictured here, was our biggest accomplishment. At left, my husband John is trying to coax down a branch that had fallen during the ice storm in January, 2009. For the past three years, the huge branch that had broken off has just been hanging there teasing us into trying to pull it down. Unfortunately, all our attempts only succeeded in wedging it more tightly into the fork of two branches. Last winter, we decided to just wait until Mother Nature took care of it, finishing the job she started three years ago.

Piece by piece, the old branch weakened. Pieces of it would fall here and there--until this week. With a little coaxing, we are finally rid that old oak tree of this hideous reminder of that horrible storm when the power was out for five days and so many trees were damaged, not just on our property but in the whole southern portion of the country. Arkansas was hit hard; so were Missouri and Kentucky.

I'm so happy the thing is finally gone!

One of our other accomplishments was rejuvenating the magnolia garden next to the porch, so named by its most prominent occupant.

It may not look like much, but getting this garden back into shape is always  a chore! When we created the garden, we got rid of as much Bermuda grass as we could. We pulled, tilled, burned and mulched. It was like a never-ending task to keep this garden weeded. But this year, after our seven-plus inches of rain, the weeding was fairly easy. The soil amendments we have been adding for years seems to have finally paid off too. We now have a nice little bed in which to plant more perennials and perhaps a few herbs. A few are coming back from previous plantings.

John cleaned the barrel and got the pump running in the little water feature on the left. It is always nice to hear water run while while sitting on my wicker rocker and sipping iced tea. In the late afternoon, while taking one of my many and final breaks, I watched a frog hop all the way from near the road to the garden to claim his place. Last night I heard him croaking, so he is apparently doing a little spring nesting of his own.

I brought most my house plants outdoors for the season. My aged spider plant is visible in the above picture. We moved Lady Spider here with us eight years ago. She sits on the rusty old milk can next to the house in the shade garden alongside the house. She seems perfectly happy there. That is probably because there are no cats lying in her pot or eating her leaves. For some reason, the cats just love to nibble on her leaves.
Another chore that we undertook was the decision
to turn an overgrown garden area near the road into a wildflower garden. We had only briefly touched this area. It is just a bit too far to reach with the hose. Note to self: We will need to work on that. There are two peonies, a clump of irises and a few daffodils that were planted by previous owners of the property. We may move the peonies, but the rest can stay.

Part of that project involved one of my favorite springtime chores--burning leaves and brush. The before and after pictures show the world of difference.

Fire is exciting, but very scary. During my days as a journalist, I followed too many fire trucks to grass and field fires to ever take fire for granted. I certainly didn't want to cause an innocent burn to get out of control. I'm very cognizant of what can happen.

Needless to say, that was a pretty hard days work for a couch potato like me. I spent yesterday recuperating--deciding to work on my quilt instead of venturing out into the great pollen-filled outdoors.

There is still lots to of work left to do. In fact, I think it is never ending. It is such good work though. Gardens is so satisfying. Just one of the rewards came that very afternoon. At about the same time I watched the frog claim its place, I also watched this butterfly sipping the nectar of these lilacs.

After it was all over, I wondered if there could be anything more refreshing than a hot shower and a good night's sleep to end our beautiful day in the Ozarks.