May was a lovely month in the garden. The highlight of course was the "Week of Peonies" which I look forward to all year. But while my attention was diverted to my beloved blooms there was plenty of other things happening at a more subtle level.
The vole-devastated perennial beds have been re-worked and now I start again with the old gardening adage "sleep, creep, leap." I tore out things that had overgrown and turned over the soil where the voles had eaten away the perennials. Black-eyed susan's were taken from other beds and used to fill in gaps as were lilies and hostas and chrysanthemums. The perennial bed looks a bit sparse and young, and I know this year the newly established plants will only "sleep." But I keep reminding myself that gardening is for the long haul and doing this now will result in lovely beds a few years hence.
Speaking of voles, just in the last few days Michael is having great success trapping them. Long may this continue!
The vegetable garden is off to a good start except that something keeps eating our baby plants -- perhaps the cute bunnies we see frolicking a few houses down from us or running out of our bushes in the early morning.
The younger boys were eager to help with the veggie garden and chose to plant onions, watermelon, squash, carrots, and radishes. We've already had a bountiful radish harvest. Pole beans have emerged and before we know it will be scampering up the new stick teepee in the center of the garden. The chives gave a beautiful show of their purple flowers earlier in the month and are settling down for the rest of the season. In a rare spur-of-the-moment decision I bought a blackberry plant for the vegetable garden. It feels so right to have blackberries truly back in our life again. We shall see if I regret this decision in a few years.
My "almost prayer" for a bird's nest was answered in a most exciting way. One Sunday the kids came running to tell me there was a bird in the front room. I ran down immediately and found a sweet little wren hopping about near the bookshelves. We carefully helped shoo her to the front door and out again. The next morning Michael texted me the picture of the wren again -- this time perched on a favorite painting. How was this happening? Then it dawned on us -- she had made a nest inside our front door decoration basket! The said decoration was quickly moved to the side of the door to prevent poor Jenny Wren from flying up into the house every time one of us uses the front door. It really is delightful to have a nest in our yard again!
The lily of the valley bloomed and offered its heady scent. I was glad the voles hadn't eaten all of it. The knockout rose also bloomed but it needs to grow much bigger before I can cut the blooms for vases. Right now we are in an in between stage, waiting on the day lilies and the small remnant of daisies to open up.
Marigold and zinnia seeds have been liberally scattered several times over.
The cherry rudbeckia has one tiny plant growing. I'm too afraid to hope it will establish itself and bloom.
The pansies out front have done so well in their pots. Just this weekend the hot heat has hit and the pansies are beginning to look too leggy. I'm going to replace them with red geraniums.
And we have been eating out on our back patio as often as we can in the evenings. The patio garden will be at its peak in about 4 weeks. Right now there are just large mounds of greenery with hints of the lilies and bee balm to come. The red currant bush keeps the kids with something to pick and eat (whenever they can get away with it). Not only have we been enjoying the patio but we finally have a grill again after far too long. It makes all the difference for easy summer meals.
I can't believe most of the heavy spring garden work is done and now it will be just a case of maintaining the weeding and watching for water needs. Before we know it the next batch of cut flowers will be ready to enjoy!
Another year of peonies has come and gone! The week goes by so fast. At first there are just one or two in bloom but a few days later the majority of buds burst open and every few hours I go out to cut a few more before the sun fades them or the rain gilds their edges with an ugly brown.
I have a flower bed just devoted to peonies. Just think, that flower bed sits for 51 weeks of the year in preparation or recovery for one week of marvelous beauty. It makes me laugh to think how addicted to productivity and getting a run for our money we are when God creates flowers that spend 98% of the year in quietness and only 2% of the year in visible productivity.
I visit the cut peonies all throughout the day, resisting the urge to cup their gentle petals in my hands like the face of the cutest toddler. I don't know exactly what it is about the peonies but their magic keeps me spell-bound for a week.
I planted my row of peonies about 8 years ago. My sister, Emily, and I did it together because back then she lived with us. We dreamed, and I even prayed, that maybe we'd use these peonies in her wedding, if only God would send her a boyfriend! The peonies grew and Emily found a boyfriend but their eventual wedding was not during the week of peonies -- it was an October wedding. But who knew that some years later Emily's first child, a daughter, would be born during the week of peonies?! How special is that? She came at the tail end of the season, but our season was early this year and next year her birthday will be smack in the middle of our celebration of beauty. Baby Olivia got the very last peonies that came off the bushes. It couldn't be more fitting!
I cleared out nearly all my vases today, hating the task of throwing the nearly dried flowers into the trash and thinking how long it will be until I pick more. I'll just need to find some other expressions of beauty to enjoy in the mean time and maybe watching Olivia grow over the next year will divert my attention just a bit.
It's been some time since I've posted book reviews on the blog. Time to remedy that and share with you what's been on my reading stack this year:
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
I read this at the very beginning of the year and it was the perfect way to focus my mind on the attributes of God and what that means for me as I headed into a new year. Jen is a gifted communicator. Her books are always well-written, enjoyable to read but also spiritually challenging.
Theras and His Town by Caroline Snedeker
This was one of our homeschool read alouds. Theras is a young boy living in Athens but gets taken to live in Sparta part way through the book. This was a perfect way for us to explore life in both Athens and Sparta and experience a bit of the rivalry that existed between the two cities.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I love talking books with the circulation desk staff at my local library. This was recommended by one friend there and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's technically classified as "young adult," but being a well-written World War II story set in England I enjoyed it just as much as if it had been written for adults.
Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer
I loved sneaking into the everyday life of Lewis, Tolkien, and others through the research of Diana Glyer as she painted a picture of how these men interacted over their own written words and inspired each other to create books that have become classics.
Niko: Sculptors Apprentice by Isabelle Lawrence
Another read-aloud set in Athens with a 12-year old boy as the hero. We enjoyed this and it gave another look at everyday life in ancient Greece.
Mere Motherhoodby Cindy Rollins
I got strangely drawn into this book by a homeschooling mother describing how she became interested in homeschooling, began educating her ever-growing brood of children, and then mellowed into a woman with perspective as the bumps of life took their toll. I think I was so drawn to this book because Rollins was describing a way of life and community that I grew up in but she also didn't neglect to point out some of the problems/down sides to homeschooling. It gave me plenty of food for thought.
Devoted to God by Sinclair Ferguson
This is an excellent and well-written book on the doctrine of sanctification.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood
The kids and I recently discovered this series and have been listening to it in the car. I can't help but laugh out loud, especially when the narrator imitates the wolf howls that the children make. Set in Victorian times, the tale describes the crazy life of three children rescued from their wild upbringing in the woods and now being trained by a governess to be proper Victorian children.
Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson
The Clarksons tell the story of what it was like to be the parent of, and the child with, several issues like anxiety, OCD, and ADHD. I'm thankful for their candid and honest sharing of how difficult it can be to struggle with these issues yourself, and to be a loving, patient parent to those who struggle in this way. I think this book would benefit any parent in helping to think through how best to love and shepherd your child(ren) since each child is unique in some way.
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
This was my first time to read anything written by Wendell Berry. I really enjoyed this novel set in the hill country of Kentucky. The book is Hannah's narration of her life beginning in the 1920's, carrying on through World War II, and into the remaining 20th century. I loved the gentle yet real descriptions of country living and the observations of human life.
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
We just finished this book as part of our Roman studies. It is set in Galilee in the time of Christ and helps to give perspective on the great desire of the Jews to escape the rule of the Romans. It follows the life of a young boy who vows to fight the Romans and we watch the results of that vow play out in his life and that of his sister.
Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
This was an excellent book on humility. I loved how Anderson chose a garden plant for each chapter and used that plant as an illustration for the message she was communicating. This will be one of my favorite books from the year.
And, if you're interested in the Scottish books I've been reading, you can hop over to my Reading Scotland blog and scroll through those reviews.