Saturday, June 30, 2012

British Boxwoods

I love the way gardeners and landscapers in the UK use boxwoods in planter boxes. Often combined with geraniums and ivies and pansies, the boxwoods back up the flowering plants and give soft texture to the planter's composition. I thought I would try a green theme, so I avoided color.

Here's my first attempt at a boxwood planter. I used a Green Velvet boxwood, a small one from Lee's Landscaping in Bay Port. I added a variegated ivy with several long, twining stems which I wired together into a quasi wreath shape. In London we saw window boxes with graceful swags of ivy, so the wreath is my bow to the London designs.

The square planter box brings a hint of formality to the concept. I did two boxes like this and have them flanking the main stone pillars at the lakehouse. Cost wise, the plants are about the same as filling a box with geraniums and accent plants.

I also added a Soil Moist 7 x 7" pad (I call these things "plant diapers") as I potted so that watering could be done less frequently. So far, I'm quite pleased with the results.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, June 29, 2012

Sister Roses


A new plant joined the Dortmund Sisters along the split rail fence at the lakehouse this summer. Readers of this blog will recall that there are six Dortmund climbing roses, named for my five sisters and me, that are twining their way along the fenceline. 

This year a seventh rose has been added to the lineup. This rose honors my brother's wife, Nancy. I have been watching for a Fourth of July rose, also a climber, thinking that the patriotic name of the rose would be a good link to Nancy's career as a diplomat.

Instead we found a Queen Elizabeth rose, a lovely medium pink grandiflora, that has become the Nancy rose at Cedar Bluff. The photo shows all seven roses -- left to right; Carla, Wanda, Penny, Mary, Heidi, Martha, and now, Nancy -- in their June glory. I like the fact that the Queen Elizabeth rose was planted in Queen Elizabeth's 60th Jubilee year.

I'm battling one weed in particular this summer. Horsetail fern is abundant as grass in some of my flower beds. We are gradually getting it rooted out, but it is a battle royale. The green ground cover that is in front of the red roses in this photo is the horsetail fern. Time to weed some more.

Related posts: 

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sparty and Me on The Porch

Ah, happy summer time. This morning I'm sitting in my Sparty rocker with the geraniums, doing my blogging and thinking about another cup of coffee.

The hummingbirds and goldfiches keep me company. There's a cool breeze. The porch pots are watered and look like a picture in a magazine. I'm rocking and blogging. Ah, happy summer.

Ephemera: Lipstick color #457, Wild Orchid by Revlon (Mom said to always wear lipstick.) Geraniums: Patriot Red Improved, from Lee's Landscaping, Bay Port, MI.. Rockers (there are two -- one for me and one for Ed) from a company in Tennessee, purchased at Murray's in Bad Axe, MI. Yes, those are my computer closeup glasses and I love them.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lost Trees

There's a heavy stand of dead ash trees that runs for a mile or so just north of Harbor Beach, Michigan on M-25. I took this image of the trees this week and once again mourned their loss.

In the spring dead trees look like they are late, almost as if their buds haven't produced leaves yet. By summer, it is apparent that trees have been killed by the emerald ash borer's presence.

Bare branch trees, easily identifiable as ash trees, can be seen along fencerows and roadsides in much of southeast Michigan. The emerald ash borer, an invasive insect, takes a toll on the wooded areas as the ash trees cannot withstand the activity of the borer.

Since wood is quarantined and must not be moved from areas where the trees are dying, lots of woodlots have been harvested and it is very common to see firewood for sale along the road.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Viridian Joule

I have always thought that a really cool job to have would be working for a company like Sherwin Williams in their paint-naming department. It is so much fun to browse the color chip cards at a hardware store. Green isn't green. It is Lemongrass. Red is Stoplight. Blue is Azure Cloud.

The last time we painted the east sitting room in the farmhouse I chose a soft green called Baby Turtle. I really like the color but I think I like the name of the color even more.

My Chevy Volt's color is Viridian Joule, a sort of gray with a touch of green. General Motors staffers put lots of thought into the Volt, including this color name. It's a great bow to electricity (the joule is a unit of energy) and to green energy.

So here's my Chevy Volt, parked facing Lake Michigan, not too far away from the Big Mac Bridge. My Volt's viridian hue shows up in this photo taken in the hour before sunset.

By the way, while in Wisconsin last week, I mentioned to a someone that I would "drive to the Bridge and then Ed would drive the rest of the way home."

"What bridge?" she said.

Silly me, I'm such a Michiganian that I forgot to say "the Mackinac Bridge."

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ditch Friends

A fawn and its mother share the protection of one of Huron County's many drainage ditches. The great blue heron looked up from stalking its prey in the low water. Herons wade slowly and watch for creatures to eat. Then they quickly snatch a crayfish or a frog up into their big beaks.

Suddenly, all three sensed a human presence. The heron flew. The doe and fawn fled. The moment was gone.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sedum in Hypertufa Pot

I have two hypertufa pots that I bought at a Master Gardener seminar in 2005. They are planted with sedums and can be left outside through the winter.

Here's a closeup of one pot of sedum. The gray of the hypertufa is wonderfully stonelike and adds to the appeal of these pots.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Storm Over Green Bay

I travelled up and down two states yesterday, from one farm to another, a journey of about 550 miles. I left Sunnyside Stock Farm (my mother's home place) just after lunch. Drove US-41 north through Wisconsin, along Green Bay, and into Michigan. It is a route that is commonplace in my adult life, this trek from my birth state Wisconsin to my home in Michigan.

I followed US-2 along the Lake Michigan shoreline to The Straits of Mackinac where Ed was waiting for me at the Shepler ferry docks in Mackinaw City. Ed drove the rest of the way -- downstate on Interstate 75 and then up M-25 into Michigan's Thumb -- to our farm south of Pigeon where we arrived around 1 am.

Today's photo is of a summer storm moving out over Green Bay into Lake Michigan. This image was taken north of Menominee, Michigan, along M-35. I drove through five swaths of rain -- some driving rains, some scattered sprinkles -- as I headed north in eastern Wisconsin yesterday.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, June 22, 2012

Home Place Barn

I could have doctored this photo via the Photoshop perspective tool. I could tell you all sorts of memories of this barn.

But, on this second day of Summer 2012, suffice it to say that this is one of the four home place barns in my life. That's right. The barns on four home places -- farmsteads where both of my parents were raised and where Ed's parents were raised -- are still standing.

This is the Thangles Barn, on the farm in Wisconsin that my 91 year old father calls home. I've been in Wisconsin, visiting family, for several wonderful June summer days.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ochre Evening

Ed and I were driving up Interstate 75 in Michigan on Monday night through a rainstorm. As the rain subsided, the sun entered that magic moment stage.

Construction barrels, those orange ones that we all just love to see in the summer, were strung along the highway like necklaces that ran for miles. I had my small camera out to try to catch the lines of barrels.

This photo, of a golden yellow sky and reflection on the wet pavement, popped into my camera that evening.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pausing to Remember

My parents were married on June 20, 1944. So this is a day for pausing and remember. Luckily, I will be in Wisconsin today and get to spend a portion of the day with my Dad at the family farm. The photo above was taken of my parents, Stan and Val, in December of 2000.

The family had gathered in the Washington, DC area for a baptism and wedding. I had finished a quilt that honors their 50th anniversary and it is that quilt that they are holding in this picture. My parents got to celebrate a 60th anniversary in 2004 with a big party and two more anniversaries together after that, as Mom died in January of 2007.

It is good to have days when one remembers the special occasions. Taking pause and remembering makes one thankful for people, like my Mom and Dad, married so long ago on this day in June.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Boys and The Tregurtha

Finn and Max love to hold big things. Here they are, with all their boy-strength, holding up the Paul R. Tregurtha, a ship that their Grandpa Ed calls "The Queen of the Lakes."

This photo was taken at the Thomas Edison Inn near the foot of the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan. Magnificient large photographs of ships and shipping line the hallways of the hotel's dining area. We stopped by the Edison Inn on Saturday to show the boys the photos and shop at the gift shop where I often find neat nautical items.

We were surprised to learn that the Edison Inn has been sold and will be closing soon. It is expected that the hotel will reopen as a Hilton property, part of county development strategy that includes construction of a convention center and culinary school on the site.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, June 18, 2012

Holding Hands

Like most almost-three-year-olds, Hannah doesn't stay still very long. She and Grandpa Ed got captured in my camera yesterday though. They struck out across a parking lot, headed for a restaurant entrance, hand in hand.

And so, this glimpse of Grandpa holding Hannah's hand on Father's Day, comes to the blog like a little poem of good times with grandchildren. It is a glimpse of a day that can never be redone, only replayed in memory.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Watching Freighters

Sometimes when we stop at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, we will not see a single ship. Yesterday we were with our grandsons and had warned them that there might be ships on the St. Clair River or there might not be any ships at all.

We pulled under the bridge first. No ships.

We went down to the Coast Guard mooring and got out of the car to look at the Hollyhock, the CG buoy tender, in port at the CG station. The Hollyhock, while not a freighter, is always impressive to see.

Then, a ship -- no, two ships!  It was a ship watcher's dream come true. Within the span of ten minutes, two giant freighters chugged steadily up river on their way under the bridge and out into Lake Huron.

In this photo: the Kaministiqua approaches the Blue Water Bridge (center), the Algoway (right) heads up river, while the Hollyhock lies at anchor (left.) 

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Finn and I declared a war on the weeds in the Upper Garden yesterday. Max and I soaked the area with the garden hose first. Then we pulled and dug out the weeds.

We put the weeds on the warm paver sidewalk and let them dry out before we swept them into piles. After drying overnight, we will haul them to the compost pile.

Finn learned how to recognize horsetail weed, a bane of my gardening existence this summer. If Finn pulled out one horsetail plant, he pulled out thirty. He is very good at weeding with his grandmother and especially good at getting in the little places where an adult cannot go.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bee Stomping

I have a simple microscope that I have been looking forward to using with grandkids. Yesterday Max and Finn and I got out the microscope and did some science. Here are Max and Finn on the lawn at the park stomping bees in the clover. We needed some bees' wings to look at in the microscope. Hence, the stomping at the park.

They picked up the dead bees using the tweezers from the microscope kit and put them into collecting vials. In this photo, the boys are holding the tweezers and the vials.

And this photo is of the magnified leg of an insect as seen through the microscope and photographed using my Sony Cybershot point-and-shoot camera. Although not the leg of one of the bees (we have yet to pick the bees apart) you can certainly see that the microscope is working. Today we will look at bee wings and legs and a bird's feather and other assorted gathered specimens.

By the way, I got the closeup photo by holding the camera up to the eyepiece of the microscope, focusing using the telephoto function, and shooting. You might have to try this maneuver a few times before it works, but trust me, it will work. We have done photographs of the moon through a telescope using the same trick.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Iconic Michigan Flags

When I think about flags and Flag Day, as a good Michiganian, I would have to consider the flags on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

The flags at the Grand are as iconic to that hotel as are the pots of geraniums on the long porch that overlooks the Straits of Mackinac.

Happy Flag Day 2012, in a sort of Pure Michigan way!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Grand June Day with Grand Sons

Max found a robin's nest in the playground structure at the Mennonite Church. He used my camera to take this photo of four perfect eggs while the mother and father robin chirped with great distress.

We found a groundhog's burrow in the alfalfa field. We watched the groundhog most of the morning.

Max and Finn showed Grandpa right where the groundhog's burrow was. Then Grandpa sent a text to the guys who go after groundhogs. Here's Grandpa, texting out in the field while Max and Finn investigate the openings to the den.

In the afternoon we went to Bird  Creek Golf Club. Max and Finn took at golf lesson from Mr. Eric who is the golf pro at the club. Then we played four holes. Finn rode with Grandma in the golf cart; Max rode with Grandpa. Here's Finny, chipping up onto a green on the back nine.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Paint Time

Two very large paint brushes and a chunk of plywood did not stand a chance when up against the Clark Brothers Painting Company yesterday. Both Clarks, experts at wielding brushes, whipped through the paint job in record time.

The brothers are working on a set of bean bag toss game boards using paint donated by their father. Following this photo, the brothers took a break and went to Main Street Cafe for lunch.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, June 11, 2012

Garden Slice

My camera can capture slices of my gardens. This one, taken yesterday, has the texture of the Bay Port stone that contrasts with the spikey lines of daylily leaves and salvia flowers. The reds and whites are geraniums; there is a touch of a pink rose. Yellow and green low sedum accents the edge of the rocks.

As in most spots of my gardens, there are hostas. The plant pictured came from my Dad and Mom's farm in Wisconsin many years ago. Lots of hostas in our gardens are divisions of those original hostas, brought to Michigan when our kids were little.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Purple Wonder

Clumps of purple iris thrive along the paver wall that faces Lake Huron. We call this color of purple -- a saturated blue violet -- "bishop's purple" because of the depth of the color.

This June, the purples are extravagantly rich.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Big Hosta Leaf

While weeding the courtyard garden I bumped up against the very large leaves of the Thunderbolt hosta that grows under the Japanese maple tree. I manged to take a good chunk out of one of the leaves so I cut it off the plant. The shredded leaf, though my fault, marred the perfect look of the plant's shape.

Then another leaf, this really big one, was shading part of the daylily right behind the hosta. So I cut it off and laid it aside. This size of the leaf, separated from the main plant, surprised me.

Later, in the house, I put the leaf -- dulled with soil and marked with bird droppings -- into the kitchen sink and gave it a bath. It took on personality. Shining surface, ridges like plow furrows, tracings like roads on a map -- the hosta glowed with character.

It takes some kneeling at the growing level of a plant to see these things. Down on the ground I find greens and yellows that are not apparent from overhead. Up close, the plant has a magnificent countenance.

It is like that with people, too. When we look at each other in new ways, things surprise us. It shouldn't take a big hosta leaf to remind me of that, but then, sometimes it does.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler


Friday, June 8, 2012

A Happy 85th Birthday

One's 85th birthday is quite a milestone and I am honored to wish my mother-in-law, Pauline Beatrice Geiger Eichler, a happy 85th birthday today. Pauline was feted at a noon barbecue in her honor yesterday. Here she is enjoying a smile with Neal, her third son. That's Jim Christner in the background.

The party was held at the John E. Eichler Farmer's Market in downtown Pigeon, a delightful location for small to medium sized gatherings that is next to Pigeon's Historic Depot Museum. We have a tradition of having Pauline's birthday parties at the Farmer's Market, as you can see from this blog post from last year's party.   And from this Birthday Album, also from last year.

Photography by Kathy Kent

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chevy Volt: Ampera in UK and Mulch

Ampera billboard on the M4 near London

In May I spent almost two weeks in Great Britain and was excited to see the Ampera by Vauxhaul advertised on television and on billboards. Ampera is the Volt in UK. Check out the Ampera photos of the steering-wheel-on-the-right-side version of the Chevy Volt.

I thought I would miss my SUV when gardening time came. Not so. My Chevy Volt easily hauled six bags of mulch plus assorted flats of plants on one of my gardening forays last week. Loading the hatchback was convenient and, with some care, I'm finding that the back end isn't getting that messed up from putting stuff in and taking it out again, golf clubs and garden spade included.

The odometer topped 8500 miles this week when I filled up the Volt. You can see from the photo that I almost made 600 miles on one tank. For the kind of driving that I do -- often 100-plus miles a day -- the 82.9 mpg is very good. My best so far is 650 miles on one tank. I carry my charge cord and charge whenever and wherever I can.

It's a great car. I'm loving my Chevy Volt.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Porch Pot Transport

Ed was worrying about my bad habit of not using my back properly when I drag pots around the porches and yard. So he found a very handy transporter device for me.

I have to be sure that the pot is anchored and balanced when I move it. Going over doorstops is slow and careful, but very doable.

What once was a backbreaking, Advil-inducing job -- moving the porch pots from sunroom to portico -- is now accomplished in ten minutes.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Abandoned Egg

Maybe she misjudged the day or the location. Maybe there was no choice. Whatever the bird circumstance that caused a mother killdeer to lay an egg on the walkway down to the lake at Cedar Bluff, it wasn't a good idea.

Abandoned, the egg is vulnerable. Foxes, looking for a tasty morsel, come up the bluff trail. Humans or deer could step on it. The Canada geese parade their goslings up and down the trail. They could easily dislodge it from the open nest and destroy it.

For now, it is abandoned, a speckled reminder that things don't always work out the way nature plans.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, June 4, 2012

Miniature Roses

This is my morning to blog from out in the garden. Here are four miniature roses, the kind you sometimes see in the florist section at larger grocery stores. They are tucked in between two clumps of iris that tower over them.

The two that are budded, on the left, came from Tim and Nancy on my birthday several years ago. Pink roses, they like the lakeside garden and bloom several times a summer.

On the right are two yellow roses that I dragged back from Arizona. A bit bedraggled from their winter ordeal, they are getting used to terra firma largese.  I did some root feeding for all four when I resettled them into their eastern sunshine location for this summer. Josh Roggenbuck at Plant Farm in Bad Axe sells a really good root solution for perennials. That's what I use.

A pot of miniature roses costs $5-10 in the winter. Usually there are three plants in a pot. They are little but fun to grow.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler
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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant Album

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on Cadogan Pier, about to board a
launch taking them to the Royal Barge.

We are enjoying the Thames River Diamond Jubilee Pageant immensely this morning, thanks to the BBC America television feed. BBC is doing a great job of covering the event and we're using the internet site, Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, to learn more as the event moves down the Thames.

The Jubilee Bells at the lead of the Pageant, soon to be
installed at St. James Garlickhythe, a church we visited in May.

A steam locamotive salutes the Queen's launch as it
passes in front of Albert Bridge.

The Glorianna, an oar powered ship, out in front of the
Man-Powered Boats division of the Pageant.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Happy Diamond Jubilee to the Queen

I started using my new Diamond Jubilee mug yesterday afternoon when I fixed coffee in it. I doubt that Queen Elizabeth even knows what a Keurig coffee brewer is or a K-cup, but here's is my very cool Jubilee mug receiving the first K-cup of bold coffee (it was that kind of day and I needed the bold caffeine business).

This weekend, on Sunday, is the Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pageant, a very, very large flotilla of vessels moving down the Thames in London. The bells of St. James Garlickhythe (see the map), one of the many churches that we visited in May, will lead the flotilla.

The bells, newly cast and soon to be installed at the church, will be on a floating belfry, "swinging full circle to herald the arrival of Her Majesty," says publicity from St. James Garlickhythe where the parish is very excited about their new bells and the pageant. The Queen's royal barge will follow the Garlickhythe bells which will be answered by the pealing of bells along both shores of the Thames. Very, very cool indeed.

I have already missed the Diamond Jubilee Garden Party held at St. Michael's Chester Square on Thursday evening. The Pink Champagne Sisters, a vintage music trio, were the featured entertainment at their outdoor event which we saw advertised on posters at the church when we visited them two weeks ago.

One of our Pipedreams tour leaders, Tom Bell, is the organist at St. Michael's. No doubt Tom got to hob nob with parishoners and party goers and the Champagne Sisters at the Jubilee Garden Party which is one of probably hundreds of events to be held in honor of the Queen this month in the UK.

It's to be four days of celebration in the UK and it sounds absolutely marvelous. The shops are decorated. Streets are decked out with the Union Jack. There will parties and gatherings and parades and festivals and fun. It will be four days of holiday, all for the purpose of promoting longevity and family (isn't everybody's family somewhat royal?) and steadfastness and love of country.

It should be a good show, British friends. Raise a cup (of tea) for me, if you please!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rain, Rain

The rain started after midnight and continues this morning. A quick walk to the rain gauge shows a half inch already, although with the wind blowing against the windows it sounds like much more.

Time to hunker down for a slow Friday and do some writing and reading.  The gardens will wait and Douglas Brinkley's new biography of Walter Cronkrite is beckoning.

I think I will fix another cup of coffee and read.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler