The Beauty Around Us

TruckLife has been crazy busy recently.  Tequila had knee surgery which required a change in schedules for the Hubs and I.  Summer is the busy season for my photography business with weddings, seniors and families visiting Alaska.  My department at work is about to move offices and I’ve had a couple new projects assigned to me.  The garden is growing like crazy and in constant need of attention for weeding, pruning and training.  And of course we still have a puppy at home who is learning what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.

With so much going on it’s rare that I get more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night during the week and I feel a bit like I’m burning the candle at both ends.  I had grand ideas about enjoying some down time this summer enjoying our yard and hitting the trails in our side-by-side but schedules and injuries haven’t cooperated and with fall just around the corner I’m realizing there’s not much time left to squeeze those things in.  So rather than have a pity party about it, I’m looking for little pockets of adventure and relaxation in between all the day-to-day stuff.

The first came when I was driving home from a wedding last weekend and spotted this old truck in a field just off the road.  I’d seen it before but am not often in this area of town so despite the rain – which had thankfully held off until just after we finished up at the wedding – I turned around, found a spot to pull over and jumped out to snap a few frames.  There’s something about this simple scene that speaks to me.  Maybe it’s the wildflowers, maybe it’s the rusty old truck that’s similar to my own, maybe it’s the vision of rural life it creates.  Whatever it is I like it and I’m glad I have a visual of that ‘feeling’.

The second opportunity came last weekend when I was again returning home from a photography session.  This time we’d been rained out, but I have other sessions in this area coming up so I decided to scout a few spots as I made my way back.  It was rainy and chilly, but the rushing of the river was amazing.

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This is one of my favorite local areas and luckily it’s just a few minutes drive from our home, but we often get caught up in other plans and don’t make it over here on a regular basis.  Having a little extra time to explore a few corners of the area was just what I needed.  It recharged my creativity and reminded me how blessed I am to have the life I do.

There’s always room for improvement, but for the afternoon I was content to simply enjoy the beauty around me and have a little adventure.  I hope you find inspiration in these two images to take a few moments here and there to enjoy the beauty in your daily life as well.

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Urban Junktion

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I recently attended another local pop-up “junk show” and thought I’d share a quick recap.  This one was called Urban Junktion and was held at a sports complex which was much larger than the fairgrounds building where the Alaska Chick’s Vintage Market was hosted.  Several of the same vendors from that event were here, but had different items for the summer season.

Although I wasn’t able to commit a whole weekend to have a booth at the show, Anne-tiques who has done several furniture projects for us did and offered to let me put some of my smaller pieces at her booth to accessorize her furniture.   That arrangement worked out pretty well since I still made more than I spent at the show and I was able to get in before the doors opened to the public to help her set up.  Once we had things pretty set I made a quick lap of the other booths to earmark which items I was interested in checking out since I had limited shopping time due to photographing a wedding that afternoon.

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There were lots of rustic home decor vendors with a variety of items from furniture, to signs and vintage or re-purposed items.  The host of the show had an amazing booth that I was so busy shopping I didn’t take any photos of the set up, although I did snap a few of the cool display on the backside of her booth with this wonderfully styled mannequin and little soldiers with a great message.

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I also spotted a basket of shoe horns at her booth that look quite similar to the ones I just inherited from my grand father!  I’m not sure what I’ll do with mine just yet but it was cool to see someone else appreciate these types of items.

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This jerry can bench also caught my interest since we have one jerry can already from my unplanned picking adventure earlier this summer.  I’d considered making mine a lamp but if I could find a matching one this would be a fun option.

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One of my favorite vendors, The Alaska Picker was there with awesome unique builds and vintage finds.  I love the truck beds they have been making and wanted this awesome cart for my deck so bad, but just couldn’t justify the $200+ price tag on my current budget.

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Another piece I was lusting after was this metal John Deere tractor and trailer.  I could just envision it in a garden with flowers hanging over the sides of the little trailer, but at $300 it was out of my “garden art” price range.

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I almost bought this fun pendant light made from an old funnel neck can.  It was priced right at $35, but I couldn’t think of where I’d use it in our house so I decided to leave it for someone else to treasure.

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But here’s what I did buy.  A cool wooden wheel, a metal scroll piece and a fun birdhouse garden stake.  I’m still not sure where I’ll use the wheel and scroll piece but the birdhouse has already found a spot in the garden, which I’ll reveal once that area is finished.

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BIRDHS

It was a great experience for both the shoppers and the vendors, even though it was hard to compete with Alaska’s summer time activities.  It’s definitely a perfect showcase of the talent and creativity in our region and it’s makes you realize it’s a community all it’s own.  Check out the Urban Junktion Facebook page to see more photos of the event and all the cool little details I wasn’t able to capture in my quick visit.  Hopefully, there will be more events like this in our area so I can shop and photograph more great set-ups!

Garden Art From the Faire

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Today I’m sharing the fun new pieces of garden art I picked up at the Palmer Midsummer Garden & Art Faire I told you about yesterday.  One of my favorites is this little rusty flying pig stake.  At $10 he wasn’t a bargain, but I couldn’t say no to his cuteness.  He’s a perfect fit for our farmhouse style, but his wings give him just the right amount of whimsy for the garden.  I put him in the watering can planter which provides the perfect launching point for him over the pink lobelia.

Pig

If you were paying close attention last week when I shared our septic pipe disguise project you probably already saw the willow and birch dragon fly I added to the wheelbarrow planter.  I’ve got a few other dragon flies around the garden – including some very large live ones! – so he fits right in.  The vendor making them had larger versions available for $15, but I spotted this guy as part of an arrangement and knew he’d be better sized for where I wanted him.  Luckily, I was able to get the vendor to agree to break up the arrangement and sell him separately for just $5, which I thought was a fantastic price!

DragonFly

This glass crow is probably my favorite find from the faire and was also the first I bought that day.  I absolutely love the iridescent colors on his wing and tail that catch the sunlight.  He was only $20, which I thought was an amazing price, knowing the skill and time glass work take. The vendor also had other designs as yard stakes and wall hangings.  I told him if he makes puffins and salmon as yard stakes in the future I want to add them to my garden.  I may eventually paint Mr. Crow’s stake a dark color so it blends in a bit more, but for now I love how he’s perched over top of the dianthus.  Even the Hubs commented on how he looks good there!

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Crow

And lastly was this sweet metal wheelbarrow planter I scored for just $16.  It turned out to be a perfect fit for the crock I already had on the deck.  Now that I know it gives the crock good height, I’ll pick something that trails down the sides for this planter next season!

Wheelbarrow

Notice that little rusty bee in the crock?  That’s a bit of garden art I DIY’d.  I did a few others as well which I’ll be sharing soon, so watch for that.  Until then, I’d love to hear what you think of my garden art haul from the faire, so leave a comment below.

The Palmer Garden & Art Faire

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Today I’m sharing a little recap of the Palmer Midsummer Garden & Art Faire.  Although this was the 6th annual faire, this was the first time I’d attended the event and I had an amazing time!  We had perfect weather, a wonderful variety of vendors and a plethora of workshops, as well as entertainment. The photo above only shows one small section of all that was going on!

The first thing I did was join a workshop on Alpine hypertufa container gardens.  Our instructor was Jamie, a local alpine plant expert who owns the Alpine Nursery in town.  He reviewed his recipe for making hypertufa containers (1 part Portland cement, 1 part perlite, 1 part pete moss and water mixed with latex additive and a tablespoon of fiberglass fibers for strength) and explained the process for forming the container using various common garden or household items as molds.  He showed us how to plug the hole at the bottom of the container with embroidery mesh before he started filling it with dirt to plant.

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He added his own special blend of soil, which includes native top soil, pea gravel and sand.  This provides a consistency similar to what alpine plants are used to growing in in their natural environments.  He added two interesting rocks to create various pockets for the different plants, including a rare specimen he acquired from a fellow nursery owner.

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Once he had everything planted how he wanted, he added crushed hypertufa from a mold that cracked while curing on top to replicate the gravel topsoil of the native habitat of these plants.  Here’s how it looked when it was all done.

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As the class was wrapping up I noticed these ladies at the instructor’s booth.  They were definitely channeling their garden spirit with their outfits!  I’m pretty sure they were part of one the many performances during the faire, but it was fun to see them milling about in the crowd.

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I also browsed Jaime’s plants before heading out to see the other vendors and spotted the impatients my neighbor had gifted me last summer!

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Next door to Jaime’s booth was a very talented bonsai gardener.  I admired the creativity and patience it took to create these beautiful container gardens.  Here are two of my favorites, which I was surprised included one crafted from a birch tree!

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A little way down the vendor trail I found this fun photo op booth from one of my favorite local thrift shops, Thrifter’s Rock.  Their booth was just as fun with unique display racks and quirky wares.

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Another nearby vendor had this bright and happy chair planter.  I’ve got an old chair frame that I’ve been holding on to so I can create something similar!

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I was madly in love with these gorgeous hand made bird houses!  The copper roof was a fantastic compliment to the cedar carved steeples and the rustic branch on the front made it just perfect.  Unfortunately they were out of my budget for now, but I did note the vendor’s business name so I can contact him to get one when I do have some extra funds for garden décor.

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Speaking of garden décor, you might have noticed this cutie in my last post!  This vendor had several tall willow dragonflies available but I liked this little one.  Although they had planned to sell this as part of the arrangement it was displayed in they agreed to separate them and I got the perfect addition to my wheelbarrow planter for just $5!  They assured me that this little guy will weather the winter fine, but I’ll probably put him up in the shed just to extend his overall lifespan.

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There was lots to see and do at the faire, including this selfie photo op for the Visitor Center.  These tall mushrooms and hanging blooms were so cute I just had to take a picture, even though it’s not a selfie!

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The Hubs joined me at the event and we decided to get some lunch from one of the food trailers.  The salmon egg roll we ordered was definitely unique but the caprese sandwich I selected was AWESOME!  And the strawberry rhubarb lemonade I had to go with it was just as wonderful.  It was the perfect lunch on a warm summer day.

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While we were enjoying lunch I noticed this unique bike contraption nearby and soon discovered it was part of a demonstration some pretty ingenious youth were doing on how to use human power to make smoothies!

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After I’d seen all there was to see I headed back to the truck enjoying the fun little displays in front of the downtown Palmer shops.  I really liked this garden box which used fishing gear as part of the display!

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Before heading home I stopped to check out a possible photo location which turned out to a great spot, although it didn’t have many options beyond this vantage point.

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The neighbors were sure adorable too!  Look at those big floppy ears and spots!  I wonder if I could sweet talk the property owner in to letting me borrow one or two for a shoot! 🙂

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It was the perfect end to a fun day.  I’ll definitely be attending the faire again next year and already have the tentative date flagged on my calendar.  Check back tomorrow to see all the fun garden art I found at the faire!

Hiding Those Ugly Septic Pipes

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It’s been another crazy busy week here at the DB&DT household.  Tequila went in for surgery on her torn ACL yesterday so we’ve been out of our normal routines to make arrangements for that which hasn’t left much time for editing photos.  So although I planned to share my experience at this weekend’s Palmer Garden & Art Faire today, I haven’t had a chance to prep all the photos.  Don’t worry the Garden Faire recap will still be coming, along with all the fun art I found, so stay tuned for that but today I’m sharing a quick project we did in the yard this weekend!

Remember those two ugly septic tank pipes near the chicken run?  Well, they’re looking much better now.  Check out how we disguised them!

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We started with some reclaimed bricks that we got for free on a local buy/sell page.  I leveled the ground around the pipe and stacked the bricks to create a column.

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Here’s how it was looking once I got them stacked all the way to the top.  That huge rock in front of the bricks is one I discovered while leveling the ground and had to take out!

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I originally planned to have a stack of bricks around one pipe topped with a large paver stone and a pretty bird house, the place a faux rock shell over the other pipe, but when the plastic rock arrived I didn’t love it.  It works fine from a distance but since this is an area that we are IN daily and is near the deck it wasn’t realistic enough.  That’s when the hubs suggested we stack bricks around the second pipe as well and create an arch from the two bases then place a bench below!

I was definitely on board with that idea, but wanted to make sure we could have something that looked good but was still easy to remove for when we do need to service the tank.  He assures me his plan will work, so I’m now on the hunt for a bench.

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He removed the existing caps and replaced them with these removable ones.  They tighten on with a metal clamp band.  I placed the bricks on the edge of the pipe so we could get the widest area possible between the two stacks for the bench.

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The hubs also had the brilliant idea to use a board across the entire space while stacking to make sure we had the two stacks parallel to each other so things will line up when we build the arch.

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And here’s how the spot is looking today!  Since the bricks and wheelbarrow were all free the only cost so far is the new pipe caps, two top pavers, flowers in the wheelbarrow and my fun new garden art sticking up out of them.   But we’re still less than $50 for everything so far.

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I’ll find a new spot for the wheelbarrow once we have a bench, but for now it brings much needed color to this corner of the yard.  I plan to relocate two lilac bushes to the wheel bed next season so when they bloom this will be a fabulous spot to sit and enjoy their fragrance, while visiting the chickens.  Plus it will be just off the gravel pathway we plan to put around the chicken yard next season so it flows nicely too.

Since everything is dry stacked, it’s easy to move out of the way when we need to access the tank pipes and it can then be reassembled quickly when we’re done.  I’ll share how we create the arch over top when we get that part done.  Even if it takes a while I’d be happy to put some pretty lanterns or potted plants on top of the pillars once we get a bench and call it good for this season!

I’d love to hear what you think about our septic tank pipe disguise, so please leave a comment below.

Shared on Knick of Time’s Talk of the Town #29.

Shared on Stone Gable’s Scoop.

TDC Before and After

Appreciating Progress

Summer is flying by and my list of projects is still pretty long.  I’ve been super busy with photography clients recently thanks to wedding season, which is a good thing but it doesn’t leave much time to work on my gardens and I was getting frustrated by the slow progress of things.  But then I realized I need to remember we’ve only been in the house three years and have made some big improvements in that time.  So today I thought we’d take a look back at just how far we’ve come!

The biggest change is the back yard.  This is what it looked like during the final stages of construction before we moved in after winter had hit.  It was a completely blank slate.

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And here’s what it was looking like about a week ago. Some of this is just temporary as we add other features in stages, but it’s filled in pretty well for our weekend and evening DIY efforts.

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This was the main area of the back yard the first spring we were in the house.  A big field of bare dirt and gravel with the hideous chain link dog run we patched together until we could get the fence in and the yard hydroseeded.

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Now it’s functional and pretty. Eventually the grass will grow back in where we tilled to do the rock garden, and it will look seamless.

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And just look at how many of the projects I had planned that have already been done!  The gravel patio, fire pit, egg table, raised garden box and deck landscaping are all done or in progress.  And a few of these ideas ended up being changed in favor of a better idea, like putting the strawberries in the gutters around the corner and switching the sectional seating on the deck for a dining table.  There’s definitely some fine tuning and clean up to do, but it’s a space we can enjoy now rather than a bare patch of dirt.

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The raised garden box used to be surrounded by dirt and had a few measly little plants in it that eventually drowned from the rain off the roof.  Now it’s surrounded by pea gravel for a finished look and has a healthy crop growing thanks to the new gutter we had installed.

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The biggest change is the landscaping around the deck.  It looked like a wild patch of weeds at the beginning of this season.   Now its something you actually want to look at!  And it will only get better and better as the seasons continue and the plants fill in more.

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Last season we had the new sectional seating on the deck which was nice, but the change to a dining table works so much better for this spot and has gotten a lot more use.  Plus the dogs appreciate being able to “look out” from the edge of the deck this season and the Hubs and I enjoy the shorter walk to the chicken coop from that side of the deck thanks to the stairs he put in.

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Deck

I had planted these two bushes on the side of the deck at the end of last season and was extremely frustrated when the dogs ripped out the bush on the right before it could establish new roots.  But it ended up being a blessing in disguise because it made a spot for the new steps and rain barrel for the gutter.

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Around the corner we’ve gone from an awkward cubby to a defined planting space and chicken run.  I had planned for a large garden in this space but soon realized that the exposure wasn’t right for that plan so it became the chicken space instead and it’s perfect for that.

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The revised plan for this side cubby has mostly come to pass.  We did add a storage shed, although it’s more for the chicken equipment than the yard tools I’d imagined but again it works for our needs.  And I’ve decided that I won’t ever use a potting bench so I don’t need one, although I’m sure the Hubs would still love to find a spot to install a smoker!  I’ve started on a plan to disguise those not so lovely septic pipes which are inconveniently in the middle of this space so watch for that update soon.

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Even the chicken space itself has seen improvement.  Going from the original run to a full on chicken yard that’s super secure.  Plus it gave me another little spot to plant.  The lobelia I planted along the side met destruction thanks to Brinley’s rapt interest in the chickens so I pulled them out and put in grass seed so I can pull up the curtains and let the chickens enjoy sections a little at a time.

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Chick BlocksThe new strawberry gutters are doing well too.  It seemed like the strawberries had a slow start, but pretty much all of them now have buds, which should soon be yummy desserts or garnishes for my sangrias!

 

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Along the fence the giant wheel the Hubs brought home for me has finally found a purpose with the new planting bed.  I think next year I’ll just have flowers in this spot so I’m not worrying about the dogs getting into edible crops, which will all be raised and together over by the garden box.  I’ll probably need to do some weed control in this spot come fall since I was in a hurry to install the bed and didn’t kill the grass underneath before hand, but some newspaper and another layer of dirt should do the trick.

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On the other side of the house the gifted garden is starting to fill in.  It looked pretty full when we put it in that first summer, but adding the grass next to the rock border became tedious to maintain so I’ve appropriated all of those rocks for the deck landscaping and have begun the switch to the same block edgers we used over by the wheel bed.  I need to figure out what I’ll do around the deck we plan to add on the back corner of the house next year since I’ll need to tie that into this bed somehow so I’m moving slowly on changes over here for now.

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This is how the bed looked at the beginning of last season.  Just a few things coming back and lots of holes to fill in.  Now I’ve got a good base of plants to create the cottage style garden I want over here.

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Out front we’ve went from construction city to looking like a home.  It still isn’t where I want it to be but at least there’s landscaping to welcome guests and dirt isn’t splattered against the house every time it rains.  I’m working through several ideas to change things up out here next season so I can decide on one and start some of the prep work this fall.

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The front bed was the first space I planted around the house and I was so excited to have any kind of landscaping that I didn’t plan much ahead when selecting or placing the plants.  Several didn’t survive the first winter, and those that did took a while to come back in the second season.  This season I’ve fill in some of the holes and am starting to figure out what works best out here.  I’m planning to revamp this whole area next season but need to finalize the plan before I do anything else.  For now I’m just enjoying the colors the different flowers bring.

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FrontBed

This little cubby in the front has been an awkward spot since the beginning.  It at least gave the house a bit of finishing when we first set up the space, but it had the same issue as the other side where several of the plants didn’t survive the first winter and the rest didn’t show much last season.  This season I’ve filled in a few spots and called it good until I can figure out the best way to make this spot function better.

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Our freebie raspberries looked quite spindly when they first went in last year, but produced a fantastic harvest well into the fall.  This year they’ve come back even fuller and are budding like crazy.  We added a haskap bush in front of them and moved the water tank over by the shed so the hose can gravity feed when we need to water.

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Raspberries

Even the view from the driveway has improved.  The Hubs massive shed hides the ugly meters on the side of the house and the rain garden has become a nice focal point as you approach.  I’m still waiting for my clematis to grow in over the tire wall but when it does I will be amazing.  I’m hoping to get fireweed to fill in behind the tires and dwarf dogwood to cover the ground in front, but those are both low priority projects.

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This garden has become my home for “lost” plants who need to winter over or no longer have a spot when I change things elsewhere.  This casual approach has created a nice variety and the foundation of what will one day be a very lush space.

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And lastly, the spirea bush I planted just outside the fence when I got the ones on the side of the deck was looking quite dead earlier this season.  I was planning to tear it out, but luckily hadn’t gotten around to doing it because a few weeks ago I noticed green on it’s branches.  I pruned it back to encourage the new growth and that seemed to work because now it has one stalk of blooms!  Hopefully next season it comes in even more full and completely fills this spot, blocking the view of the leech field pipe just out of the photo from the laundry room window.

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As you can see there’s been some pretty good progress since we started this little adventure.   I’m trying my best to appreciate how things are now and enjoy the little bits of joy I find when out in the yard.  If I hadn’t been so busy I would have ripped that spirea out weeks ago and wouldn’t be blessed with these pretty little blooms now.  So I’ll continue to tinker and tweak, which is what every gardener will tell you they are always doing. 🙂
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Peony Picking

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I’m back from my unplanned hiatus from posting with a fun little adventure the Hubs and I took over the holiday weekend.  I learned of a local peony farm on Facebook and discovered they were hosting a “U-Pick” event with amazing prices for two days only.  Although I hadn’t planned to leave the house during the long weekend it was an opportunity too unique to pass up and I wanted to see if it might be a possible photo shoot location.  By the time I heard about the event, the first day had already concluded so we made plans to go check things out the next afternoon.

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Although it had rained on and off all day, we hit the road to make the 20 minute trek to Willow where the farm was located.  There was a light drizzle when we arrived, but we only had another half hour to enjoy the event before it ended so we checked in with the owners to get the basics on how to cut and what was off limits, then headed out into the field.  There were several varieties to choose from with colors ranging from white to dark pink.  We made a good team – I had the clippers and the Hubs carried the bucket for cut stems.

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The bushes were full of blooms, causing many of them to topple over from the weight.  We wandered the different rows selecting a variety of colors to create a pretty bouquet.  The rain became heavier after a few minutes and the raindrops that landed on my lens created artistic blurs to some of my images.

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As you can see, he had neglected to wear a jacket and was getting pretty wet, so he wasn’t very pleased with my tendency to get distracted every few steps.  So he pulled out the spare set of clippers and started picking a few stems on his own.  This guy must love me like crazy to be out in the rain, cutting flowers on his holiday weekend. 🙂

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While he picked the second half of the stems for our bouquet I took the opportunity to snap a few more shots of the blooms.  I love how the rain sat on the petals and made all of the colors so vibrant.

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I also snuck in a few shots with a unique perspective while I was at it.  Wouldn’t this just be a fantastic backdrop for portraits of a little girl, high school senior gal or a maternity shoot?!  My mind is already turning with pose ideas!  Luckily I chatted with the owners a bit about doing a trade of photos for their website to use the location for a session next summer, so that just might happen.

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As we were leaving the farm we came across two ladies in need of a bit of help with their vehicle.  The air guard under the front bumper had come unclipped on one side and was dragging so they were trying to get the other side undone but didn’t have the proper tools on hand so the Hubs pulled out some manly gear, got down on the muddy road and made it happen while I chatted with the ladies.  It was a sweet way to end the adventure, even though we were all quite wet by the time it was over.

I’ll share a picture of our finished bouquet over on the Facebook page so be sure to stop by and see it!