Wildflowers & Creeks

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Elle's first time in a creek

Believe it or not, this photograph shows Elle experiencing the joys of walking barefoot in a creek for the first time in her life. That sounds a little unreal, doesn’t it? You have to remember, though, that she is Florida-born and bred, with the exception of the last eleven months of her life here in Oklahoma, and little girls from the South, at least mine, just can’t walk around barefoot in creeks and ponds for worry of gators and poisonous watersnakes. There was a single reminder of our Florida days, however, when we came across a mound of miniature seashells. Ah, Oklahoma’s Cretaceous Period?

Oklahoma seashells!

The two of us were attempting to make our walk worth at least a couple of miles but I really underestimated the heat and foolishly left my thermos of ice-cold water in the car. After a short stroll around the creek we crossed an old iron bridge and found ourselves near a field of wildflowers. Elle and I snapped a few photographs while getting eaten up by mosquitos and chased by bees the whole time. All those bug bites were worth it, though, at least to me. I am quite enamored of wildflowers, especially the field of Mexican hats I stumbled upon.

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mexican hats

mexican hats

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In the Garden

Whoa. Summer came to Oklahoma with a bang. After all those extra months of freezing weather and our recent weeks of rain, it is finally 90+ degrees and dry. Is there no such thing as a happy medium? Or do those days happen fleetingly? I’m guessing the latter.

Those days have come where I now have to check my flowers and vegetables daily. A simply soaking every evening only seems to make my plants thirstier. When I walked past my potted petunias last night I was shocked by the condition of the soil. It was cracking and parched and it made me feel so silly for proclaiming only last week how hard it was to kill petunias! PUBLIC APOLOGY, PETUNIAS – I take it all back.

I never had an interest in gardening for most of my life, although I have had a lifelong interest in eating food grown in other people’s gardens. When I lost my job nearly two years ago and Florida’s economy failed to provide me with another, I decided to turn my spare time into a useful tool. The following spring and summer, I grew tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, carrots, ground cherries, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, herbs, and edible flowers.

Jack, my parents’ piebald dachshund, accompanied me every morning to the garden space. The two of us made our rounds collecting ground cherries that had fallen or thinning out the carrots and nursing the cucumbers back to health. Actually, I did the work while Jack chased squirrels and investigated the deep roots of a philodendron.

Jack, my garden buddy

Jack, looking especially short next to the lettuce patch

Matt and I decided this year’s garden would be a small and manageable one. Everything we hope will be edible is growing in container pots and recycled whiskey barrels. There are three varieties of potted tomatoes, cucumbers trailing on our iron porch rails, and okra being held upright with a metal trellis. All those mornings I tossed the water out of those saturated pots are paying off and things are finally starting to grow.

sunburst cherry tomatoes

sunburst cherry tomatoes

okra is happening!

okra is happening!

It seems I have a new garden buddy these days to go along with my new garden. As I made my rounds this morning redirecting the cucumber vines and marveling at the height of my still-growing sunflowers, Teddy rarely left my side. There is a story behind this dog and I wish I knew what it was, but for now I’m happy to imagine he was treated well by someone who appreciated his constant presence and liked to take him for long walks outside.

my handsome boy

my handsome boy

Drying Out

My mother called me this morning from Florida and after the usual banter about work, the family, and my father’s upcoming birthday, she began to complain about the rain. Tropical Storm Andrea is poised to dump six inches over coastal North Florida. Friends of mine as far north as South Georgia are under a tornado warning. My mother can’t get the German Shepherd to go outside and pee because he’s afraid to get wet. He’s also afraid of the dark.

“I don’t want to hear about your rain. I don’t feel sorry for you,” I told her. For the record, she laughed then asked me how my garden had made it through the last two weeks of Oklahoma’s record-breaking rainfall. The answer is: I don’t know yet. I’m hoping it stops raining long enough to give the soil an opportunity to dry out, otherwise we’re back at square one.

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my cucumbers, in better days

For all my frustration with the vegetables, my flowers are thriving. My daylily doubled in size, the sunflowers are mostly all over two feet tall, and the lavender is…doing something. It hasn’t gone brown or lost its heavenly scent. I call that a score. The Indian blanket has spread a few feet in all directions and this makes me very happy. When I brought that plant home with me last summer, there were two measly blossoms. I’m thinking I should go get more. Seriously, my desire to rip out all the ugly things in my yard and replace them with Indian blanket grows by the day!

A surprising sprawl of #indianblanket #wildflowers and a climbing ivy

Also, my theory about petunias is becoming as true as my theory about goldfish – it takes a lot to kill those suckers, even when you try. No, I’m not trying. I’m only emphasizing how important petunias can be to the beginning gardener’s precious and fragile ego.

TAKE HEED, first-timers.

Macro? And Mammoths.

Having a camera doesn’t make one a photographer, but it’s still fun to play around with pictures. I have a few friends who are photographers and, as artists of any medium will probably argue, some believe in the art of digital manipulation while others do not. I am not a photographer, I just have a camera, so I can do whatever I want and not feel like I’m cheating.

Last weekend, before all hell broke loose, I decided to enjoy the few hours of decent weather we were expecting to have for three days. My hour-long walk in a nearby park in full floral bloom produced some gorgeous photos. When I was finally able to upload and filter them, and just downright redesign them into what I wanted them to look like, I ended up with these:

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a rose

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an iris

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a marigold

yellow goatsbeard

the fuzz of yellow goatsbeard

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a petunia

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another rose

I don’t dare call this macro photography because I didn’t exactly follow the rules. Actually, are there rules? I simply cropped close-up photographs for an even closer-up view of the flowers’ insides. To be honest, I don’t know what to do with my camera without the help of editing software. Besides, it’s fun!

Some of these flowers are from my own front porch. I think a lot of this might be stemming from my need to be in the garden. Stemming? The pun was not intended, but now you can possibly see where my head has been lately. Speaking of stems, though, my mammoth sunflowers have broken through the soil, way ahead of schedule. I wasn’t expecting them for at least another ten days but the rains during the last week must have hurried them along. If that’s the case, maybe they’ll reach their full height of 12 feet when I’m still here in Oklahoma to enjoy them!

mammoth sunflower seedlings

my mammoth sunflowers, in infancy

 

Cyanotype

Our friend is a photographer who works strictly in the old school ways, meaning he uses no digital manipulation on his photographs and crafts all of his stuff from film. There have been times when he has tried to explain photography tricks and styles to me that go right over my head, seeing as I am of the digital age when it comes to picture-taking, but he mentioned something a few weekends ago that got me wanting to try this technique called cyanotype.

This printing process has been around since the mid-19th century, courtesy of Sir John Herschel, and was mainly to preserve and copy diagrams. Anna Atkins, it is recorded, was the first to use this technique for documenting plant life. There are plenty of websites out there in the Land of Google that will tell you all about cyanotype’s importance in the world of engineering, architecture, and blueprints, but I find that stuff boring. Instead, I was more drawn to how botanists used the technique to preserve things they found in nature: flowers, algae, ferns, etc.

This technique involves two solutions but I won’t get into that stuff here. While researching cyanotype, I came across a few websites that suggested using other solutions or adding chemicals to the two original solutions in order to give longevity to the paper one uses in this method. I would hate to be held responsible for someone losing their eyesight in a horrible potassium ferricyanide explosion (see, I just gave you one-half of the concoction right there – you find the rest!).

Last week, our friend brought over two bottles of solution, mixed media paper, a paintbrush, and a case for pressing objects to paper and gave Elle and me a quick tutorial. So for a short time one afternoon, while he and a bunch of other bearded men poured concrete in my backyard in exchange for a lunch of hot dogs and future hot tub time, Elle and I played with chemicals and paintbrushes, henbit and dandelions. And sunlight. That’s the most important part of the whole process.

A bonus was blowing the mind of a little boy who was visiting us that afternoon, too. He wanted to help with the water wash process. Remember hypercolor t-shirts from back in the 1990s? The change of colors from light green to Prussian blue in a matter of 3 seconds practically made his eyeballs pop out of his head.

Here are our first (and, so far, only) attempts at cyanotype. (Click here to view other people’s cyanotype art.) Come springtime when there are more plants outside to play with, we will definitely try this again.

cyanotype

cyanotype

dandelion

cyanotype

henbit

 

Living Greenery

Last weekend my husband and I filled our home with plants – all kinds of plants! It is pretty incredible what a little bit of living greenery can do to a room, not to mention one’s mood (namely mine). We now have a lovely cordatum cascading from the high kitchen cabinets and a Norfolk Pine tree in the office.

Norfolk Pine

A philodendron in the living room is doing a nice job of filling out a corner in which nothing else seemed to belong. The kiddo even chose a beautiful orange bromeliad for her new bedroom desk/work table. California ivy hangs down from a bookshelf and kitchen herbs now take up a part of the kitchen that had been reserved for junk mail in the past. We are constantly motivated now to keep the counters cleared of paperwork, especially since the ceramic planters match the kitchen curtains so perfectly.

And this? This is a very unique looking succulent, chosen by the husband and Elle.

succulent

Sometimes I look at it and imagine it’s some kind of alien life form. Anyone have any advice on how not to kill a house-bound succulent?