Archive for June, 2011

The Cone of Protection

I am a living mosquito magnet. I have been since I was a baby. I am the living target; the motion detector for marauding mosquitoes. I have an arrow pointing to me, my arms, my legs, my back, my face; here she is, fellas. Ready. Set. Attack.

Ah, but now I have a defense system.

Now I can ward mosquitoes off with the flick of a switch.

Now I have what I call my cone of protection. A little device that I snap on my waist or neckline or even the bill of my cap, and out I go, armed and protected, the “force is with me”.

This little device from the people at S. C. Johnson has been my outdoor companion for almost a week now, with nary a bite. Okay. There is one mosquito bite on my arm which I am certain was from the little stinger who was riding in my car the other day when I did not have the cone of protection on.

The reviews the Off! Clip-On Mosquito repellent are mixed. Some have had no results, others, like myself, have had pretty good luck. This clip on device with a rotating cup and repellent refill operates on AAA batteries, is easy to use, and, I must say, has kept the bugs at bay. I’ve worn it while working in the garden, at the Open Days walk last weekend, and while visiting gardens of others. I keep it by the back door and clip it on when I go out for the mail. (Yes, I’ve often been the victim of random mosquito attacks while going to the mail or emptying the garbage).

A little switch turns the clip device on and the repellent creates some sort of barrier between you and the little pests. From head to toe, a cone of protection. If I’m wearing it and you stand next to me, I’ll twirl around and you will be protected too. I just can’t twirl too much because, you know, well, you know how clumsy I can be, don’t you?


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We’ve had visitors here lately, though no fox to wear the foxgloves.

A chipmunk, however,  stops by most mornings. He sits upon the window ledge and looks into the library window, then acts surprised when he sees me sitting at the desk, tapping away on my keyboard. He must think I’m warning him away, so, he sits and chides me until his little striped body shakes in dismay. He’s quite noisy. In fact, he rattles goes on and on with his rant until I threaten to get my camera, wherein, he leaps across the Rose of Sharon and scurries up the bricks.

This morning, I heard a thud. Thinking a bird hit the window (a good reason as any not to wash the windows) I turned and there, magnified in segments by the leaded glass hanging in front of the window, was Midnight, a hefty black cat with the greenest of eyes who has taken to wandering our grounds. He stood there, quite proud and quite steady, on the opposite ledge from the chipmunk’s lookout, and arched his back, as black cats and others are wont to do, the sun streaming around him and through the prisms of the glass. Then, he swatted at something on the vines growing on the bricks. Whatever it was, we will never know, for he stopped, looked in at me, and sprung, like a cat on a hot tin roof, and slowly wandered away.

My brief guest Sunday evening was especially pleasant, though came unannounced.  I was talking to the Antler Man. I had on a colorful floral blouse, appropriate, I thought, for our garden club’s preview walk earlier in the day. My visitor seemed to like it as well. There we stood, recalling the day, when a lovely white moth took it upon herself to settle upon me, where she rested quite comfortably, it seemed,  for a half a minute or so before joyfully flitting away.

Mornings, this youngster stops by, nibbling on mulberries that have fallen to the ground. We don’t mind, just as long as she stays out of the flower beds.

Have you had any visitors lately?

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All aboard!

I love the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days.  If you’ve never attended an Open Day, you really, really should check to see if there are any in your area. Most of the gardens are private properties, often estates, rarely seen by common folk such as myself, and always an aesthetic adventure.  Admission is generally $5 per person per garden and benefits the Conservancy. Believe me when I tell you, my friends, that it is the best $5 and several hours you will spend.

On Saturday, there were two featured gardens in the Barrington area. Although a bit of a ride, it was a lovely day, plenty of sunshine and not too hot, and two garden estates we had not ever seen. In fact, did not even know existed. One was an estate of considerable acreage with a large pond, several homes and buildings within the compound, beautiful flowers and woodland, and a phenomenal collection of miniature railroads. The private home and business of Huff and Puff Industries (don’t you just love the name), it was one of the few Open Days gardens that allows for children – and children their were, although some were well into their 80’s and 9o’s!

The other estate, also on many acres, asked that no pictures be taken for profit or display. I just couldn’t help myself with the beauty of the roses and other flowers, so, I’m sneaking in a few here. You won’t tell on me, will you?

Have you been to any inspiring gardens this summer?

Rooftop gardening. Another spot in the railroad garden and a perfect spot for children of all ages to hit the croquet ball.

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One of my favorite things to do in summer is to visit gardens.

We live in an area where, on most weekends in summer, there is a walk of some sort or another through private gardens and ponds, as well as public ones. Our own garden walk, the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire, is coming up in a few weeks and all are busy with preparations.

Tom and I are heading up to the northern suburbs to see a few gardens that are part of the Open Days Program of The Garden Conservancy. These gardens are often estates and a feast for the senses for gardeners. They are also only $5 per garden, which is a small price to pay for such beauty and a to a wonderful organization. I know I’ll come home full of inspiration and hundreds of photos to share.

Until then, I’ll just share some pictures from the La Grange Garden Club’s garden walk. It was one of the few days this summer that has been warm and sunny and the gardens were spectacular. In addition to the sumptuous gardens, the La Grange walk also featured  phenomenal tablescapes. I’ll include a few here.

It is amazing what one can do with a Sum and Substance hosta!

Everything on the table above was crocheted by a member of the La Grange club.

You really must click on to see the cupcakes!

Clematis planted in amongst the pachysandra. Who knew?

Just a little whimsy before I say goodbye.


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The heart of an ancient tree

I gasped when I saw it the first time around. I circled again and there it was – or, I should say, wasn’t. A break in the rhythm of life. A snap in the storm. The heart of an ancient tree exposed. This stately tree, an elm I believe, more than one hundred years old, close to two, I’m sure, had been snapped by the wild, ugly winds on Tuesday night and took a few others down in its fall. I wanted to weep when I saw it, broken and tied with police tape, like a crime scene.

It is sad to see a tree felled by nature or man, isn’t it? I think it cuts to the core for many of us, like losing a trusted old friend.

I stopped to take a few pictures. For what? I don’t know. I just felt I needed to record it somehow. As I stood and clicked from different angles, a few cars stopped, as well as some walkers. Cell phones and iPods and cameras came out. Quietly, as if at a wake or funeral, they paid their respects. It was a sweet moment that probably played out many times over the day. Good folks in the center of a town without electricity, stores and governments buildings closed, the drone of saws and such cleaning debris, and children with parents, a cable company technician, a man in a suit, teenaged boys out for a ride in the car, a young couple and me, all performing last rites for the untimely death of a tree.

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Image of fireflies from Google.

Madame Solstice came rushing in last night with a mighty temper, lashing at leaves and blowing a fierce summer wind. The entire area, county-by-county, was under tornado watch and warnings with meteorologists ordering all to “take cover, NOW”. Downed power lines, uprooted trees, and flooding abound and I wonder what made Madame Solstice so angry. We weathered the storm and are safe and grateful and hope that you are as well.

Once the torrent passed and the wind died down. we surfaced, Tom carrying the birdcage with Maya squawking and fluttering her wings, insulted at being so rudely displaced. Once settled in her normal spot, she promptly reminded us that she was a “pretty bird” and demanded “feed me, Maya, feed me”.

Life feels good when normal returns.

We stepped outside into the dark, to check our little acreage, flashlight in hand, raindrops still trickling from the trees. It smelled the sweet fragrance that comes after a storm. As we walked Tom suddenly stopped and said “look” – and there they were. Thousands of fireflies dancing their dance, drunk on the moisture and lighting up the ground and the air and the trees and the cutoff with their starry signals that all was well and signalling “how about a dance and some summer love, sweetie?” as they continued their ancient lightening bug  ritual on this stormy summer solstice.

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Being a princess inside

     “Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”  

Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

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