It’s State Fair Time!

The approach of fall means it’s state fair time.  The last time we went to the fair was 2 years ago, when we went to attend a concert.  That was our motivation to attend this year as well, this time to see Josh Turner – one of my favorite country artists.

We arrived a little early so we could experience the fair before the concert and I made a bee-line for the livestock pens like I usually do, with a pause to check out this year’s garden display in the center of the fairgrounds.  This year’s design used simple plant types to create an amazing bear family and a stream of salmon.

Inside the livestock barn we spotted this unique art entry that took top honors.  You can see why!  I’d love to have something similar in my garden!  We wandered the rows of livestock stopping to talk with the 4-H and FFA exhibitors to encourage them in their upcoming time in the ring.  Of course I had to stop and visit every goat!  There were several breeds represented, but my favorites have always been Nubians, with their big floppy ears.  There were a couple of groups of sleepy goats all curled up together that were pretty adorable as well.

After watching a few of the livestock classes in the ring, I made a quick stop in one of the large halls nearby before heading to the concert to support a local vendor I’ll be working with soon.  On the way I spotted this great totem pole, which I’ve never noticed before.

We also stopped to get my fair must-have – funnel cake with raspberry topping!  Even thought it was messy to eat, and the developing breeze kept blowing the powdered sugar all over my outfit, it was delicious and so worth the mess.  The Hubs chose a steak taco, which he shared a bite of.  It was pretty yummy too.

Then it was time for the main attraction – the concert.  The opening act was The Last Bandoleros, who had a Tejano style mixed with rock.  I didn’t know any of their songs but now that I’ve heard of them I’ll have to learn a bit more about them.

And then that gorgeous country crooner put on quite a show. Unfortunately they don’t allow DSLR cameras at the concert, so I had to make do with my camera phone – but I wasn’t the only one.  How many camera phones do you spot in the picture below?

Mr. Turner and his velvety voice put on an amazing show.  The weather turned chilly and windy during the concert and both the Hubs and I had been fooled by the nice weather earlier in the day and had foregone jackets.  That just gave us a reason to snuggle and keep moving to the beat to stay warm.  It was pretty funny to watch Josh and his band rub their hands together to try to ward off the chill between sets.  They even commented how this was quite a change from the heat of the deep south they are used to, but they didn’t let that keep them from keeping us all entertained.

While we’re not typically fond of big crowds, parking was a nightmare and everything was expensive, it was all worth it to hear that wonderful voice in person – and yes it sounds as good in person as it does on the radio ladies! 😉

Have you made it out to your local county or state fair?  Leave me a comment to share what your favorite fair activity is!

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Adding Chippy Charm to the Deck

Is anyone else still coming to terms with the fact that it’s already mid-August?  While blog land and Pinterest fill with everything fall, I’m clinging to the last bits of summer.  It’s been a rainy one here and while that’s great for my plants I’d prefer more sunshine during summertime.  Luckily, I’ve had plenty of projects to distract me, including this spot on our deck where I created an extra seating and planting area with an old bench that I picked up at the Junk Bonaza show last fall.

It was a steal at just $30 and I knew it would look great on the deck – plus it can double as a photo prop for large families!  It’s the perfect amount of chippy paint and classic lines for my style.  I placed it under the dining room windows and flanked it with our whiskey barrel fountain and a wooden barrel we picked up on our last trip to Portland.  Then I added in plants and a bird house to finish off the look.

This arrangement brings so much color and life to this side of the deck.  Most of the plants I used are in pots with minimal or no drainage so being under the eave of the house is a smart choice, plus they all have a rustic vibe to them so they pair well with the worn bench.

I’ll be enjoying this pretty set up as much as possible for the rest of the summer, even if that’s only until the end of the month.  I can’t wait to figure out similar areas on the new deck off our Master bedroom next summer.  That deck is almost done, so I should be sharing it with you soon!

 

Herb Rack Update

I promised to provide an update on our indoor herb planter once we got some real plants in it, which proved to a be a bit more difficult than I anticipated.  It took a while to find what I was looking for at the various stores in town and then several of the plants didn’t do well so I replaced them.  As you can see below that still didn’t keep a few of the plants from failing again.

I think they just weren’t getting enough full or direct sun to thrive.  There were a few that seemed to do ok.  The bay plant did pretty well and the sweet basil did better than the spicy basil.

After replacing several of the plants 2-3 times I gave up deciding that the location just wasn’t getting enough light for herbs.  I moved the remaining viable plants outside on the deck to a raised planter (which you may remember from last season) so they are still nearby for use when cooking or grilling, but stay out of reach of the dogs.

They seem to be doing pretty well out here, and both varieties of oregano have grown since I moved them out here.  The basil and bay have stayed about the same, I think just from the shock of transplant.

I’m a little bummed that the indoor option didn’t work out as I was pretty excited about having fresh herbs all year long, but I’ll be sure to preserve some of these so they can be used throughout the winter instead.  I’ve already got a new plan for the space in the dining room where the rack was – but I’ll have to wait until after our trip back east this fall to put it together.  I’ll be sure to share that once I do.  In the meantime I’ve filled the rack with faux succulents left over from another project since all the IKEA plants are now in use in other spots.  Find me on Instagram to see how it looks today.

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Garden Touring

Today I’m sharing a recap of the fantastic garden tour I did last weekend.  Grab something to drink and get comfy because there are going to a LOT of pictures in this post!  The tour started off at the Willow library where the Willow Garden Club maintains this lovely display garden.  I wandered through and enjoyed the flowers while waiting for the maps for the tour to be handed out.  There were several varieties of columbines that were doing quite well.

There was also a Monkshead plant tucked between the columbines.  I was surprised to see how clumped it’s foliage was as when I spot these growing in the woods on our property it’s usually a single stem with just a few ‘hoods’ on it.  I’m going to have to research them a bit more to see if this is a different variety or if it’s just that it is in full sun, versus the shade ours have under the trees.  I’m aware that they can be poisonous so  I won’t be adding them to the flower beds, but I’d still like to know.

The tour organizers gave a brief welcome and introduction to the event, then handed out the maps to the four gardens and lunch location with a short write up about each, which I’ll include in my descriptions below.  Most of the gardens were open for the entire time of the tours so you could visit them in any order.

I decided to visit the two gardens closest to the lunch spot to get started.  The first garden I visited was Janet & Lee Thibert’s Garden on Nancy Lake.  They’ve done a lot of work to the property since purchasing it as a cabin property in 1989.  They tore down the cabin and built a lovely home with a verity of landscaping, including peonies, forsythia, dogwood, bleeding heart, roses and many ground cover plants.  Part of their property has gorgeous rock work that creates a very manicured feeling.  Also situation around their home are many cherry, birch, larch, maple and spruce trees.

The first part of the garden that tour visitors saw is an adjoining property they purchased a few years ago where they created an idyllic terraced grass and flower beds.  The first two beds as you descend the walkway were full of strawberries, which Janet said she uses as ground cover more than a harvest crop, although she did say she will sometimes pick a few to enjoy.  The third bed had a mix of bell flowers and other perennials.  The bottom beds were still under construction but had recently been planted with peonies and poppies that should fill in the space as they grow.

Off to the side there was a small trail through the trees that led to their home on the property next door.

It was a lovely wood style home surrounded by a lush green lawn.  Off to the side they had created a rock retaining wall and raised deck for their hot tub.  The top of the wall was adorned with pretty annuals and several cool rock sculpture ants.

Following the lawn down the opposite hillside led to a beautiful open area with more rock work that reached well above my head before the trail narrowed and led to a dock on the lake.

The front of the house was just as stunning, with more grass pathways and and rock work.  There was a water feature in the top section of the year and a few raised beds off to the side in an area that looked like it was still being developed.

The next garden was “The Birches” on Long Lake.  When I arrived I followed others down this amazing tree lined driveway which opened to an amazing country style garden packed with a variety of ferns, iris, currants, rhododendrons, a massive mock orange and other perennials planted many years ago.  The design of the garden encourages walking through the groupings of plants on several paths.

I followed a main path around the house to find this lovely view of the lake accented with more beds of wildflowers along the shore.

Off to the side was a pathway that ran along the shore.  On the other side of the lakeside lawn was a smaller path that curved around the other edge of the shore.  This area had several areas still in development including a fun boat and trellis planter in the making!

It was time for the lunch stop so I headed a few streets over to the Nuss home on Little Lost Lake.  They had a great open lawn area next to the lake where you could see their boat dock and arbor.  They had set out a large tent which was decorated with fun paper lanterns.

They even had a cute little spread of treats on the deck where they did raffle drawings for plants from several of the host gardens, including several unique and rare varieties.

While enjoying my lunch under the tent I spotted this amazing bird house.  I’m now on the hunt for something similar to add to my yard.  And I got a chuckle out of this guy’s shirt.  I need to find one for the Hubs!

After lunch I spotted this fun little fairy garden out near the driveway as I made my way back to the truck to head to the next garden – the world famous Coyote Garden.!  It was the one I was really excited to see and I knew our neighbor friend would be there helping out!

On the way to the next garden I spotted Denali in the distance and just had to pull over to get a shot considering.  It’s still amazing that we can see “the great one” hundreds of miles away.

This is Coyote Garden’s 25th year of garden tours!  Created by Les Brake and his partner Jerry Conrad, the garden has been featured in numerous magazines over the years.  It continues to receive kudos from well-respected garden publications all over the U.S. and was featured in last year’s fall issue of Garden Design with an article written by Dan Hinkley.  This year the garden will be profiled in the summer issue of a new magazine for the northwest – Northwest Travel and Life.

Our neighbor, Debra took a break from her duties greeting guests to walk through the garden with me and show me around.  She also introduced me to both Les and Jerry who are good friends of hers.  We started the tour on the deck of the house, which featured several pieces of Jerry’s amazing willow furniture.

The deck leads to a stone walkway along the side of the house where a variety of perennials were blooming.

This is the view from the deck, down the stone walkway.  That’s Les chatting with some ladies from the Anchorage Botanical Garden about – of course – garden stuff.  I enjoyed listening in for a bit until they started talking above my head. 🙂

Near where Les was standing was this amazing poppy.  I’ve never seen one with this coloring or pattern and it was the only one I saw there.

Looking from the pathway toward the house there is a small area of grass which leads to a narrow trail back around to the front of the house.  I’ll share more on that side in a moment.

At the end of the stone walkway you go through this curved structure that Jerry built, which leads out to an open lawn area.  This is the center of the garden as there is more beyond the grassy area that I’ll show shortly.

to the left of the grassy area is a small pathway to the lake.

Across from the curved structure is this newer back section of the garden.  It holds quite a few surprises.

As you enter this area a small gazebo structure is down another stone walkway off to the right.  It was created by Jerry using the same methods he makes the willow furniture from.  It just begs for you to sit and enjoy the garden.

Across from the gazebo is this stunning moss meadow!  I just wanted to lay down on it and pretend I was in a fairy tale movie.  It would be an unbelievable photo session location!

And here’s the view looking back from the moss meadow toward the house to give you a sense of the depth of the gardens.

We made our way back up to the original stone path off the deck and wandered behind the house on the narrow trail I mentioned before that leads around the other side of the house.  Debra told me that this large structure is new.  It replaced an older willow structure that was deteriorating after decades in the garden.

Les was also having a plant sale during the tour and thanks to Debra I already had a pink peony on reserve when I arrived.  I opted to add another to my pile since they were well priced and something I’ve been planning to add to our garden for a while now anyway.  I’ll share where they end up before the end of the season. 🙂

The last garden was Dream a Dream Dog Farm.  Veterinarian Susan Whiton, and Iditarod musher Vern Halter have combined businesses, pleasure and beauty when they decided to create this lovely bed & breakfast with a garden area to complement a bustling dog kennel.  Dream a Dream hosts many visitors every year who wish to savor the true Alaskan experience.  I was quite impressed with the spread as I walked up the driveway from the sign at the road.

Just past the house and kennel building are the main dogs’ quarters.  They were actually very quiet, napping in the sun until one saw my camera and sounded the alarm.  Luckily Vern was nearby and told them to pipe down so they all went back to napping.

Behind the house is this lovely little garden, which was well laid out to contain a lot of crops, yet still feel wide open.

The green house was cram packed and getting good use.

They had a gutter running along the side of the green house that drained into a barrel for rain water collection.  We’re setting up a similar option along our shed which will stock the water tank for the raspberries.

There were several raised beds, some with edible crops and others with flowers.  This one was cram packed with a variety of poppies mixed with a few other perennial wildflowers.

Here’s the view from the far corner at the front of the garden.  It’s amazing how much they’ve fit into this small area.

Down the hill from the garden were more raised beds and this monster rhubarb plant.  I hope the one I just adopted from a co-worker is this healthy after acclimating to our yard!

Beyond the gardens was a small enclosure for some of the older puppies.  They were so stinkin cute and super friendly.

Next to their enclosure was this Iditarod sign, which I’m sure is authentic!

This area of the property opened up to a mushing trail, which is perfect placement for training the dogs.

After exploring the gardens I visited the kennel’s building which was set up to entertain tourists and showcase Vern’s mushing career accomplishments.  The mural on the wall was a great depiction of him and it was pretty cool to stand under the bibs he’s worn on the trail.  The inside of the large bay doors also had a mural of Alaskan scenery and wildflowers.

It was a perfect day for touring gardens and it was so much fun to see the different styles and methods used by each host.  I’ll be putting a few of the ideas I got during the tours in reserve for our property and look forward to attending again next year and seeing some new gardens!

 

A Day Trip to Kenai

Over the weekend the Hubs and I made a quick trip down to Kenai to visit family who come up from Arizona each year to fish for salmon.  This year we were blessed with fantastic weather and a few extra familiar faces as additional family friends were in the area too.

The fishing was quite slow the day we were there, but it made time for conversation between those fishing and those of us watching from the walkway above.  The Hubs caught up with his uncle and cousins as they cast.

I enjoyed the sunshine and the view of the river which was full of others fishing on the opposite bank and boats making their way up and down the river.

It was quite calming to watch them all cast and reel repeatedly with patience as they joked about prior visits to the river, shared old stories from their childhood days together and caught up on each other’s lives.

Eventually the fish did start to bite and it was a team effort to make sure they were reeled in successfully.  It’s a great example of why we love Alaska – its a place where others willingly stop what they are doing to help you out, knowing that you’ll do the same for them when the tables turn.

The Hub’s cousin seemed to have the best luck with the fish, although several played hard to get.  One even jumped back out of the net after being scooped up – prompting some interesting net wielding!

Several fish teased the anglers by brushing by their legs in the water.  Another decided to give the cousin a good splash when he was running the net for someone else, but that he didn’t complain too much and quickly got back to helping out.

There were a few surprise catches too, including this rainbow trout that we all thought was a dolly at first.

During one of the lulls I spotted this dog napping on a boat drifting down the river.  A little while later they were heading upstream and the same dog was standing at the bow, tail wagging like it was the best day ever. 🙂

I took a break to relax in the sun on a nearby bench which was apparently the good luck charm for the group, because that’s when the fish finally started biting.  Although they still played jokes on the guys, swimming into their stringer of other fish or along the shoreline that was covered in tree branches and sticks, making it likely to tear the nets.  But with every fish that was caught the smiles got bigger and bigger.

And every time I sat back to relax I’d hear “Fish On!” and jump up to see who had a taunt line.

As the day wore on the other fishermen in the area left to go home for dinner so we soon had the area to ourselves and it was just our group in the water.

Another friend of the cousins’ stopped by to chat and ended up running the net for them several times.

It seemed their luck had turned and they were all happy to show off their handiwork as a team.

The Hubs and I had to head out to make the 4+ hour drive back home for the work-week, but we left the guys to fish under Alaska’s midnight sun and share more stories – or create new ones.  Several of them will head back to the lower 48 this week, but we’ll see them again next year when they return.

The Hubs will head back down this weekend to join those still here in the river and catch fish of our own, so hopefully soon our freezer will be well stocked for the colder months to come. 🙂

Garden Art Refresh with Spray Paint

My sister and I hit the Palmer Garden & Art Faire while she was here visiting and got in a bit of browsing (and shopping) before the rain let loose.  I’ll share some of those finds soon but today I wanted to show you some quick updates I did to other pieces of garden art.

The first is Mr. Froggy.  I’ve had him for ages and adore him to pieces but he was looking pretty worn from his many seasons in the garden.  While I loved his coloring I knew I wouldn’t be able to recreate something similar with my painting skills and honestly didn’t have a lot of extra time to give him a makeover.  So I picked up some textured spray paint to give him a simple neutral stone look.

It took a couple coats and he’s still not perfect, but he’s looking much better.  He looks rather handsome in my flower bed this year next to a big piece of driftwood as the flowers slowly encroach around him.

The second piece is this artichoke shaped finial I snagged at the thrift store over the winter for a couple bucks.  It’s SUPER heavy so at least it will hold up to the dogs on the deck, but the color was pretty blah.  I dug through our paint cabinet and found some simple grey, which gave it a nice updated look.

I’m still not super crazy about it so it may still see another paint job for a different look – perhaps a little ORB to make it look cast iron, but for now it looks pretty nice next to the pots on the deck.  I’d love to hear what you think about both make-overs!

Revamping the Deck

One of the biggest projects we tackled during May and June was updating our deck with a new Trex top.  The pressure treated boards the builder had used to top our deck were already starting to look very worn and since we are building a second new deck on the other end of the house this summer we wanted them both to match.  The Hubs researched quite a few materials and decided on Trex both for the ability to be shipped to Alaska in the quantities we needed and it’s reviews.

He started at the outside of the deck, removing the old boards and replacing them with the new Trex, section by section.  It was slow going getting the 20′ boards up and making sure all the nails and screws were out so the Trex had a flat surface to attach to.

The dogs were quite intrigued by this process and kept coming outside to check on the progress.  That is until we got to the last section next to the house, which made using the doggy door a bit more difficult than usual.

Tequila wasn’t sure what to do when she realized there wasn’t a solid surface outside the door other than the single board we had to pry out from the trim.  She kept looking out the door and considering the options.

Eventually she decided to give it a try and gingerly worked her way out onto the ledge before jumping between the deck joists and scurrying under the deck frame to get to the yard.

The Trex boards have the special little fasteners that also act as spacers to keep the deck uniform and allow for a gap for water to drain out.  They slide into a little groove on the side of the boards and are then screwed into place on the joists.

Here’s a look at the spacer/fastener from the side so you can see the little track they slide into.

We ran into a bit of a snafu when he got closer to the house and realized the frame of the deck wasn’t square, so the boards weren’t lining up on either side of the deck.  Rather than re-do the whole deck we opted to work with the frame as is lining up one side and trimming the boards that hung over too much on the other end to match the others.  It worked out pretty good and I doubt anyone will ever even notice the difference unless they are really looking for it.  Here’s the finished deck before I added all the potted plants and other yard decor.  It looks so great and is a perfect extension of the colors of our floors inside.

The darker color provides a nice backdrop for the new deck rugs I got this season!  I’ve got a matching one for the new deck which is under construction right now.  I plan to paint the sides of the frame white for contrast once the other deck is done so I can do them at the same time.

I have a plan to reuse some of the old deck boards for another project and the Hubs may use some for a bit of the framing on the new deck so they won’t be going to waste. I’ll share those projects once they are completed. The vision we had for the yard when we moved in 4 years ago is starting to become more and more a reality and I couldn’t be more excited to get it all done and enjoy it!