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Ummm, yeah. About that...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sooo I didn't exactly make it to an actual post this week either, BUT I do have something to share (at least you know I thought about you this week, right? ;o) School hit the ground running full tilt this year; we're all still trying to catch our breath. Okay, maybe it's more like we're hyperventilating... I got the brilliant (?) idea to share the rest of my zoo trip photos via slideshow. Ha. Why does this stuff always turn into a federal production? I've used up all my freebies through Cincopa, and now I find that Google has killed off the best feature of Picasa: The embeddable slideshow. So if, bright and early this morning, you happened to hear someone bellowing ugly sentiments at their computer in the distance... well... it was probably me. Sometimes I really hate technology. *sigh* So, we learned (I hope, I hope!) how to use the slideshow feature in Photoshop Elements. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully. Here goes nothing:

Aaaand nothing was what we got. So, we tried again:

Nope, didn't quite make it that time either. Okay, let's try this:

Clearly the third time was NOT the charm. What about this:

That would be a NO. Four? Anybody? Anybody at all. Do I hear four?

After several hours of unbelievable aggravation, the ditching Photoshop altogether (I couldn't get the file size low enough to appease Blogger), saying 3,482 bad words, wasting an additional 45 minutes on Smilebox only to throw my arms up in disgust, this is what I came up with:


*snarl*

Signed,

MUD


Post? Post? What Post?!?

Saturday, August 13, 2016


So, well....yeah. Um, summer suddenly just wasn't anymore and I had to go back to work. Please excuse me for swearing. Caught me a little off guard (okay, a LOT off guard) this year. Anyhoo, it's been a very hectic couple of weeks since my last post. I offer my profound apologies to all of you who are scratching your head and looking for me in the dairy department (via milk carton). What can I say? Oh, right. Sorry. Already said it ;o) 

To CLASS-ify (haha) my recent reality check, I am adding a visual summary from last month's zoo trip. I'll be the buffalo and you can be the peacock ('cause they're so pretty). Here you go:

Peacock: "Dude. You snore."
Buffalo: "MMMMPH"

Have a big hug (and a bigger smile!). I'll be back just as soon as I can figure out exactly which end is supposed to be up. At the moment, I can't quite seem to find the end...

*facepalm* :oP


Katy gets her comeuppance and commencing countdown

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Now that I have a phone with a well-functioning camera, (the overly touted Galaxy S4 having been a crushing disappointment) I have been thoroughly enjoying the ability to take actual photos with my phone. My sister-in-law introduced me to the LG V10 (earlier this year when I was searching for a replacement phone) and I absolutely love it! I have to say that it's nice to always have a camera on hand. Although the OIS (optical image stabilization) is not of the same caliber as my still camera (a Canon), it is enough for me to take decent pictures fairly consistently (though no selfies, thank you). Even macro shots (which I love!) have come out pretty darn well (photo below). The Lord has blessed with some amazing photo opportunities over the past week or two, likely because I started asking what He would have me share each time I venture out. Most of the recent photos have been in the garden, since that's where I've been working. Occasionally, when I snap a picture, it takes me a minute to figure out exactly what it is I'm looking at. The other day, however, it took me several. Photo inset: A tiny baby Anole lizard looking up at me from the Chocolate Mint; the leaf he's sitting on is only about an inch long. Isn't he just too cute?

I was outside one afternoon lamenting the recent decimation of my Ageratum, (clearly, Katy had passed along our address) when I spotted a tiny white (?) something on the Garlic Chives. I whipped out my cell, squatted down, and took a picture. I blew it up and looked at it, scratched my head, and looked again. Initially, I thought it had to be the strangest looking bug I'd ever seen. I couldn't quite figure out the coloration and conformation, though it sort of looked like some kind of spider. It appeared to have a pair of "googly eyes" on top of its head, and some sort of green something-or-other sticking out in multiple directions from both sides of its middle. I could even swear I saw a tiny fang, but I couldn't be sure. Imagine my surprise (and delight ;o) when I realized that the green that was sticking out on both sides belonged to none other than Katy - or one of her evil kinfolk (this post). If you click on the photo to blow it up, you can just barely see the edge of the brown stripe; that and those knobby knees are what helped me finally figure out exactly what I was seeing.  One evil beastie snack coming right up. At least I'm 99.999% sure that's what it is. After that? Well. Then it was Ah-HA. Ha, HA, HA!! Take that, you greedy heifer! And I saw it with my own eyes, I thought with malicious glee. Not to mention managed to capture it for posterity; what a great day in the garden, eh? ;o) Gosh I sure hope he decides to stay awhile... Ooooh, maybe he'll give his friends our address. Evil beasties beware!

I've recently learned, while thinking about "takeaways" for our visitors (e.g. handouts, fun sheets, our website, this blog, and the Facebook page) that Instagram actually has people over the age of 15 that post real photos. While I don't mind things like family photos, a well-taken shot of a delectable dinner, a decorative dessert, or a cute pic of a couple (G-rated anyway), I find the perpetual "selfies" to be annoying and utterly ridiculous. I get the profile picture thing, I even understand that you might want to change it once in awhile, maybe you got a new haircut or neat glasses. I can even see taking one or two while trying on hats for fun and the like. What I just don't get, are all those [attempted] sultry moues. Really people? The new term is "duck lips" (and ew). I put it in the search bar awhile ago. I was curious to see just how rampant it really was: would you believe there are 810,976 photos with that hashtag?!? That's only those that were spelled correctly; there were 7,000+ more who forgot to add the "s", not to mention all the other variations on the theme. I did find a photo or two with actual ducks, but most were more foul than fowl (and ACK my eyes! ;o) I know for a fact I would look like an idiot, and I have exactly zero interest in verifying that with a camera; not to mention plastering it on a digital billboard that would probably haunt me for all eternity. For every person that can actually pull that sexy pout off (e.g. Marilyn Monroe), there are countless attempts plastered all over social media that leave people looking like they either got their lips caught in a shop vac hose, smashed in the mammogram machine (because they were way shorter than the tech realized), or maybe had some sort of freak botox accident. Not trying to be ugly here, and I certainly hope I didn't offend anyone, but I just don't get the selfie craze. Do you?

Okay, okay that's enough. End quasi-rant and apologies all around. *wince* The point (which I totally missed by having that soapbox moment) is that I am now posting fairly regularly on Instagram and have gotten some really neat photos (in addition to the two posted above) that I want to share. I planted some Rue (in the bed from this post) to attract butterflies, and boy-oh-boy did it work! At last count, there were six - insert excited SQUEE here - Black Swallowtail caterpillars eating their way around in the Rue. I'm hoping I can keep taking photos as they develop; only one has matured to the last instar so far (photo inset - taken with my fabulous phone). I'm also hoping the Rue holds out, since it's still a pretty young plant. Isn't he just too cool? The caterpillars are all in various stages of development. I even found a couple of tiny eggs underneath the leaves; though they've hatched. So awesome. I can hardly wait; I sure do hope we get to see the butterflies! If you'd like to see more of the cell phone photos, you can either look for Epic Farms on Instagram (it's epic_farms), click on the "view on Instagram" button (right-hand side of this blog; click here for email friends), or, if you've "liked" us on Facebook I've added the Instagram feed there (just don't ask me how ;o)

I have quite a few more photos (from the regular camera) I'd like to share too, if time allows. I have an awful lot left to do, and precious little time left in which to do it. There are now less than two weeks until the start of a new school year: Let the countdown begin. Oh, I'm sooo not ready yet. *sniffle* Have a blessed week, and (as always) thank you so much for reading this far!


Infatuation, Irrigation and a DIY Extravaganza

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pinterest is a VERY dangerous place. It's one of those sites that's like a ginormous black hole in cyberspace. First comes the infatuation, then the gravitation; and once you hit that gravitational pull? Ha. WOOSH! It sucks you right in and the next thing you know it's five hours later. Nothing on your list has gotten done, but hey! you've now discovered 500 new and wondrous things to add to a brand new board full of "schtuff" you totally have to do. In your spare time. Of which you have none. Right then. Idiot. *facepalm* On top of that, you're now horribly late for something you completely forgot about and (to make things more interesting) your derriere has fallen fast asleep in the chair. Sometimes I think I need professional help. Do you do stuff like that? To top it off, Pinterest has now started sending me "ideas I might like". To date, that has generated a short squeal of fear and and immediate deletion of the notification (but it's rapidly becoming a growing challenge not to at least take a peek). Although I've managed to accomplish a handful of things I've seen indoors and out; like the repurposed wheelbarrow (here), and the jazzing up of my light switches (here), there are - literally - hundreds more and me with medium-rare motivation (though I do have my moments ;o)

On the one hand, I have come up with some really neat ideas that were inspired by things I came across on Pinterest. On the other? Well, I have figured out I definitely need to sprout way more hands than two if I want to achieve even a microscopic portion of all the things I've gleefully pinned. One of the pins (site here) I came across that I really, really, liked was using recycled water bottles to create a root watering system for plants. They also introduced me to the "plant nanny" which I'll explain further down. Since we all know Jen can't leave anything alone, I had to put my own creative spin on it. I don't drink bottled water anymore but I do drink juice, so I started saving the big bottles. DH enjoys a glass of wine in the evenings, so I started saving those bottles too. You know, in case I came across something else that they would come in handy for (and is it any wonder my house is terminally cluttered?) Turns out I did find a great use for them. Several, actually. Mmmph.

For the juice bottles, I poked two tiny holes on the plant side at the very bottom and buried them a short distance from the plant. I filled them with water, and went on my merry way.  Checking the water levels every day got annoying in very short order (I couldn't tell where the line was, so I had to open each one to check). Tedious and time-consuming. Grr. Nope, not happening. As much as I hated the neon orange, it was easily solved with some inexpensive fishing bobbers. Now I can see where the water line is from just about anywhere I stand. I also didn't like the yellow caps on the bottles. Since they don't need to be tight, I opted to swap them out for some plain white ones from empty supplement bottles (thankfully, that idea hit just as I was about to throw several empties in the trash). Since we have a more rustic theme in the back, I went with black caps back there. Then I spent some time wondering how I could jazz up the tops a bit more. I didn't like all of that "sameness". I mean, it's not like I could just LEAVE IT ALONE, right? Yeesh. Painting was too much trouble, and any embellishment glued on there would probably just fall off. Then I thought about all those spectacular cabinet knobs at Hobby Lobby. You know, the ones they regularly put on sale for half price? Not only would they add something unique to my gardens, it would make it easier to handle the tops. WOO! Now we're talking!

I had a field day picking up decorative knobs over the past few months - I tried to stick with porcelain and other things I thought would (I hope) survive outside. Here's what they look like:


Although the juice bottle idea worked like a charm in the supersized planters and flowerbeds, I still had a number of smaller planters scattered everywhere. As much as I love my plants, it will be tough to keep up with it all once reality sets back in (back to school) at the end of the month. Enter the nifty little invention I mentioned earlier: the "plant nanny". It's a terra cotta spike that will hold large bottles in an inverted position; since terra cotta is porous, it allows the water to seep slowly into the roots. An automated potted plant watering system? Boo-Yeah. Now we're talking! (See? I knew I should totally save all those wine bottles ;o) If you click on the picture to blow it up, you can just see the top of the spike in the soil. The downside (of course there had to be one) is that they are hideously expensive at around $20 for a box of four. *gulp*  I found one that was a little less; I think it was called the "plant minder" or something like that anyway.

I still had the other half of DD's crib; the first end being ensconced by the front beds (here) and its springs adorning the wall outside the feed room (here). I decided the shape of the crib end might make a neat little backbone piece for a potting area of sorts.  After searching until my eyeballs bled, I opted to "go it alone" and make some kind of a small stand to use on the patio. I painted the crib end a nice rustic red and just stared at it for awhile. Walked around it. I'm pretty sure I burned up quite a few brain cells pondering and percolating, as I eyeballed it from all angles. In order to keep things complicated, I also tried to make use of multiple leftovers from other P-words (projects). There might have been a day or two where I was absolutely certain that DIY actually stood for, "Delusional Is YOU" and nobody ever told me that's what it really meant. Eventually I got it all figured out right down to the small rolled up piece of leftover chicken wire I kept moving around to get it out of the way (you know the thing, it's too small to use for anything, but too big to throw away?). Hobby Lobby put their Spring Shop items on sale at 66% off, and I made a beeline for some fabulous art deco brackets (photo) that I had been drooling over (they wound up being $5.44 each - WHOOP! :o) I also found a decorative piece with multiple hooks for half price to hang my tools and gloves. I chose to hang it improperly, of course, with part of it sticking up above the top of the crib end. It gave it a nice finished look - at least I thought it did.


It was really hard to get a clear picture with the patio all shady and so much light behind it. Even though it was raining, the light was too much and I wound up taking flash pictures which made the color look a little funky. The photo below is a bit better. Overall, I was delighted with the way it turned out, although I may need to go back and paint those bottom pieces...


I bolted it to the post behind it for stability, since it only has two legs. It's pretty unobtrusive, which I like (I'll have a real potting bench in the garage eventually - It's on The List. *eyeroll*). I just needed a small space to store gardening things and somewhere to pot up any cuttings I might have to share with our visitors. The chicken wire (though annoying) added a bit of rustic flair. It also meant that I got rid of something else that was laying around - Hooray!!


Even though I had to add a scrap piece of 2x4 behind it to make it work (the leftover shelf piece was too narrow for the brackets) I decided the raised shelf in the back worked great for smaller garden related items. Things like an old spice jar full of eggshells for new plantings, plant tags to label shared cuttings (held in one of DD's wood practice pieces from college), and a little pot with all the informational thingies from my plants and flowers, among other things.


Next to the potting stand, one of my favorite MSU's (make somethin' up ;o) so far this year has to be the butterfly bath planters. I had two old Christmas tree stands sitting in the garage. I think I spent about two months just looking at them. I knew I could use them "as is" for planters, but I didn't really like it that way. They took up too much room for one thing (too clunky) and, well, I just didn't like it. At some point, I flipped them over and stared a bit more before the AHA moment hit (don't you love those?) I could plant multiple plants in it if I turned it upside down. A handy bonus? The extra large eye bolts used to stabilize the tree in the stand would offer some additional stability in its inverted position. Initially, I thought to put a flowerpot on the center "shelf" creating a tiered look, but then inspiration struck again and I decided to use a flowerpot saucer to make a butterfly and bee bath instead. To paraphrase what's-his-face from the A-Team, "I love it when a plan[ter] comes together". Bwahahaha. *snort* Yeah, I know, I'm corny and my age is showing :oP


I drilled some holes for drainage, got out my trusty spray paint and went to town (again, with the less expensive base coat followed by the outdoor metallic paint). Some sparkly paint and stepping stones for the bees and the butterflies coming right up!


Since bees and butterflies can drown (and garden lifeguards are in short supply), some pretty pieces of hexagonal glass from Hobby Lobby made the perfect stepping stone. My friendly neighborhood feed store (Ace is the place ;o) was nice enough to put some $2 flats of Gaillardia right by the door where I'd trip over them on my feed run and.... Viola! Do you like it?


It will look better, I'm sure, when the flowers "fill in" a little bit more. SO...I'm pretty sure that's more than enough for now. I'm all talked out, and I'll just bet you're tired of reading (or you fudged it and mostly just looked at the pictures ;o) If you're a picture person, feel free to look us up on Instagram (there's a shot of our very first visitor to the butterfly bath on there). Have a wonderful weekend and a beautifully blessed week!


I've said the "P" word a LOT lately...

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Growing up, the word Project (always with a capital P) was tantamount to a swear word in our house; particularly when it was spoken with great enthusiasm by my father. If I'm honest, I will tell you that my left eye still twitches when I hear him say the word. (I also have to fight an overwhelming urge to flee ;o) Why? Because his idea of a "Project" was enough to instill fear in even the staunchest of hearts. I think the worst one I ever had to do was the brick walkway. There was a straight brick path leading from the patio to a circular bricked garden complete with benches and a birdbath, then a second straight path [opposite the first] that led to a pergola. It was very pretty to look at, beautiful really, but I grew to hate it. In the spring I had to dig up every single brick, clean off any and all [unwanted] moss and "dirty" sand, then put each brick back in the same place making sure they were both level and uniformly spaced. When I was done, my dad would stop whatever P-word he was working on and pour in fresh sand to refill the spaces. In hindsight, I can't help but wonder why on earth the man didn't just buy some concrete and be done with it (because talk about tedious -  Yeesh!)

And now? Well, now I find myself using that very same word with increasing abandon (then glancing over my shoulder in trepidation and apologizing profusely for using such language in the event someone actually heard me). For some reason, however, my own projects don't seem quite as horrifying as those inflicted upon me so many years ago (though I will own up to periodic panic-induced ponderings [Ha] - usually along the lines of: "Hello? What in the world were you thinking when you thought this was a good idea Jennifer? Does this LOOK like a good idea? Are you mental?"). Of course DH - if and when he gets dragged into the middle of one of them - is usually all too happy to question my sanity for me.

My largest act of lunacy DIY Pro- um - Undertaking so far this summer has been adding a super-sized container garden to the back yard. We had six (count 'em, six) garbage cans left over when the county switched to an automated trash pick up system. What was I supposed to do with all those cans? Did you know it's virtually impossible to throw out a garbage can? Not to mention the overflowing landfill issue. I decided to commit an environmental nicety and turn them all into ginormous planters. Not as nice as the kind I would love to have, certainly, but I can't afford the amount they charge for any of those great big beautiful things (nope, nary a one - and I've looked). Since this bed would be largely made up of our old garbage cans and wheel-less yard carts, I decided to entertain myself by dubbing it the "Recycling Plant" (I thought it was pretty darn punny myself; ba-dump-bump ;o) I haven't made the sign for it yet, but it's on the list. DH let me raid the lumber stash we were saving for the boys stalls; there was a reason we had gotten it at a steep discount, and most of it had turned out to be unusable for any structural endeavors so it was just sitting there in a big pile.

Since it was just a "spot in the yard", I didn't take a picture at the very beginning. It occurred to me to snap a photo about the time I had the first garbage can painted and buried and had already hauled several other items around to their new home. I wound up digging the first can I planted back up and burying it in a different spot. What can I say? Clearly, I am mental. *laugh* I drilled about a bazillion holes for drainage, and honestly didn't think I'd ever finish painting it all. Although I went with all brown, several were in metallic shades (which I love). To save money, I used regular paint in a close color for the base coat then topped it off with the metallic paint (that stuff's too darn expensive to use for multiple coats!) Then when I finally did get all done, didn't we just have to have that crazy hail storm out of the blue? ACK!! It messed up my paint jobs in several places. Big, fat raspberries to that. Hopefully, nobody will notice once the plants get going; or should I say get growing? *snicker*

Don't you wish things would actually progress as easily at they appear to in photos? Although it may not look like it, this particular P-word turned out to be quite labor intensive. I'm sure my neighbors wondered initially what in the world I was doing lugging all that big ugly junk to the same place though....


Pine cones, in case you're wondering, make an excellent natural filler for large containers (dirt gets expensive to buy, I can only dig up so much, and we've got pine cones in spades - Ha - I'm on it today, eh? ;o)  I put a layer of pine cones in the bottom of the old water trough (above left) as well as the other big stuff. They will break down eventually, so I'll probably have to add a bit more dirt when they do, but for now it's quite helpful in pinching what's left of my pennies (both of 'em ;o)


Having learned my lesson the first go-round (a rare, yet happy occurrence) I spent some time playing around with the rest of the containers and moving things around to see where I liked them the best before I buried anything else...


Tractor Supply was kind enough to put their [cheapest] fake barrel planters on sale, and I found my first XL "rescue" plant at Lowe's (a Gaillardia for $2)


I honestly thought I'd never finish painting them all, but I did. I only painted what showed; as you can see by that awful yard cart green peeking out in the above photo. *laugh*


On one of the days, the only thing I did was move the bird bath. It took me forever to flip the base end over end from its point of origin to the flowerbed. The route from Point A to Point B had just enough incline to it that rolling it was a no-go. All that bending over to roll - then standing up because ACK, my back! - made me really dizzy. *laugh* Why do things always get so darn complicated? That joker was heavy. The top part I could carry without too much trouble; it was just a little awkward. Whew!


I had to wait for DH to come lend a hand with the left and right ends though; those 6x6's are a little too much for me to do all by myself (particularly the cutting with a chainsaw part ;o)


I put down a layer of feed bags to keep the grass and weeds from creeping up through the mulch; they're every bit as good as cardboard, which I didn't have. But feed bags? Got lots of those (though I obviously had a leeetle bit of trouble getting them all fully tucked under that front stack on the left end - oops). I'll go back with a knife and trim them eventually. Probably. Maybe....


I added the other half of the cypress log (the first half being in the front bed) to the right side and...


TAH DAH! So what do you think? It looks a little funny right now with some of the plants being so small in such big containers, but they'll grow. Salvaged plants notwithstanding, everything else was in the smallest container they had; which was the only way I could swing it. Well, that and spreading it out over multiple paychecks. *sigh* Hopefully they'll grow soon. Very soon. Tomorrow's good for me, actually. Day after at the latest. I may add a few more things here and there if I find anything else I can't resist (because who doesn't love a good bargain basement special, right? ;o)

On another (and completely irrelevant) note, look who I found hiding out in the tool shed:


Thanks so much for reading this far. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July and a beautifully blessed week y'all!


Let me just tell you what Katydid...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

For some reason, any time I hear the word "Katydid" I can't help but think, "Who is Katy and what did she do?" *laugh* Well, I'll tell you what Katy did: That little heifer (with some help from her cousin Bubba) ate HUGE holes all over my Bee Balm, that's what. For something so little she sure does have a voracious appetite. From what I can discern, this itty-bitty evil beastie is a juvenile Meadow Katydid. I shot this photo on the macro setting, and you can tell how tiny she is because you can actually see the individual hairs on the leaf. Small, but mighty - and a TOTAL pig. *scowl* Where is Cedric when I need him? The Bee Balm should (if I can keep them clear of cretins, that is) flower sometime in mid summer. Both plants are growing well - in spite of all the holes - but no hint of blooms as yet. Raspberries. :oP

I found this fun sign at Tractor Supply the other day (too true, too true!) I didn't have anywhere to put it, or I might have brought it home with me:


I painted the springs from DD's old crib, and DH helped me hang it on the wall by the feed room bed. I plan to get a narrow decorative scroll of some sort to put at the top. The plant in the planter is a Heucherella. I've been calling it the "sneeze plant", because A) I have an awful time remembering the name of it; and, B) for some reason every time I hear someone say Heucherella, I feel the urge to say "Gesundheit". *giggle* This particular variety is known as "Redstone Falls". It's a groundcover vine/cascading version. Should be gorgeous when it fills in - I can hardly wait! *bounce*bounce*bounce* I know, I know: see the sign Jen. *sigh*



I did manage to get a couple of decent shots of one of the male Cardinals - we have two or three families living just up the hill. I've been stalking him forever, but he's super quick and highly skilled at evasive maneuvers. He looks quite stoic sitting there, don't you think?


Awwww, look. He posed (just for us :o)


I also caught one of the Mockingbirds (who was - for once - not squawking at me). They relocated from the Dogwood to the Camellia bush by the kitchen window. Mr. and Mrs. chastise me daily for having the unmitigated gall to water my plants when they are busy feeding Junior. Excuse me? Did I tell you to move your nest into the front flowerbed where I spend large quantities of time bright and early? Nooo, I most certainly did not. And hello? Exactly when is that kid of yours NOT eating?!? Sheesh.


I probably could have jazzed them up a bit more, but (except for slapping on the vignettes) I left them as is straight out of the camera. I love my camera :oD

I also managed to get a shot of this long-legged fly parked on the Sweet Mint - he was bright and shiny and so very, very tiny! Ha. Rhymed it.


I'll leave you with several shots of Junior [the juvenile] Cardinal. Must be my week for juveniles, eh? I decided he just had to be a teenager. Aside from the crazy hair, he couldn't seem to sit still at all. He had a mouth crammed full of food and talked incessantly; probably about his latest crush (and isn't that just like a teen?) I thought it was interesting how his coloring shifted and changed as he hopped and popped around in the light.









He almost dropped his dinner at one point, but looked rather proud of his quick recovery (the last two shots). He finally flew off, still yammering away. I wonder if he'd like some Katydid for dessert...

As always, thanks so much for reading this far! Have a great weekend and a beautifully blessed week.




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