A peony, bluebell and hawthorn floral arrangement

Hello, and welcome to my blog! May has been quite a funny month this year. Usually, May is a dependable month for sunny and warm weather in Ireland. This year, though, the weather has been cold and windy, although thankfully we haven’t had any frost and we still have had some sunny days. The other thing that went cold was my blogging. Sometimes, I just need to step away for a little bit. But I’m back now, and I have a ‘little’ flower arrangement to show you!

I say ‘little’ because it is actually rather tall. It reminds me of a rocket ship, actually. The great thing about flower arranging for yourself is that you can create anything you want and you don’t have to obey any rules. It’s sometimes good to use rules as a guide, but then again it is ok to just create what you want to create. And that is exactly what I did!

I only had three peony that were near enough to blooming, so that was my starting point. These peony actually grow near bluebells and I love the colors together. I discovered something new about my bluebells this year. I have two varieties! My early blooming ones were actually Spanish bluebells. They stand upright and have conical bell-shaped flowers with open tips, and although I didn’t notice, they would have blue pollen. The currently blooming bluebells have a distinctive ‘droop’ to their stem, narrow bell-shaped flowers with rolled back tips, and creamy white pollen. Apparently, the Spanish bluebells tend to overtake the native flowers, so I’m glad my natives are still doing well. I will try and separate them out at some stage.

So I had my three peony stems and a huge handful of bluebells to start things off. This actually changed my choice of vase as my original choice was now too small. Moving up a size in vase then pushed me to find something a bit bigger for the arrangement. We are fortunate enough to have a row of hawthorn trees lining one side of our property. They are in full bloom right now and they look spectacular! I decided to try working it into my arrangement. But hawthorn have *big* thorns, and aren’t that easy to work with, as it turns out. So while I think I would have preferred more lines in my arrangement, I simply had to work with what I had (a rocket ship type structure). πŸ™‚

Never mind the rocket ship structure, it was created to fill an open space, placed high in my kitchen. I think the sizing was perfect for the location, providing that bit of color and freshness while being out of the way. I have to say that I enjoyed creating it and I was happy with the finished look. (And bonus: my husband complimented me on it, too.)

I do hope that our weather warms up and soon! I have squash, sunflowers and strawberries that are in desperate need of a whole lotta sunshine and warmth! Send your warm vibes this way, please!

In Peace,
Dana

Hawthorn Peony blue bells floral arrangement

A backdrop of hawthorn trees for the peony, native bluebells and hawthorn floral arrangement.

Peony Hawthorn bluebells up close floral arrangement

The peonies were at three different stages of opening, which is perfect for arrangements.

Close up peony hawthorn bluebell floral arrangement

This is my favorite picture of all! A close up of the beautiful blooms!

Spanish bluebells

I hadn’t realized what a good shot I had of the Spanish bluebells. You can see clearly how they stand tall, with open flowers.

Native Bluebell hand bouquet

While I like this picture, it is a little harder to see the droopy stems of the native bluebells. The rolled back tips of the open flowers are easy to see, though.

Peony and native bluebells

This is my peony in the garden with bluebells in the background. I love this combination.

Hawthorn tree blue sky

Look at those hawthorn blooms with a perfect blue sky backdrop! I was actually looking up into this tree when I took the pictures, as below the tree is our compost heap and it isn’t very pretty!

floral arrangement in kitchen

And this is where the arrangement sits now. Although I didn’t manage to get a well lit picture from afar, you get the idea of the space and height. I think it fits in perfectly.

Thank you for stopping by!

Springtime garden bliss

Hello, and welcome to my blog! I’m sitting at my desk at the end of a weekend where I spent more time being in the garden than I did in the house – and what a great experience that is! While the weather is still not exceptionally warm (it was around 13Β°C / 55Β°F), the sun was shinning for most of the weekend. There is no doubt that sunny days lift my mood, and when I’m able to get into the garden, it is euphoric!

What’s going on in the garden in April? Well, I’m mainly taking care of my new trees, the plants which we moved in March, as well as the new plantings. We haven’t had a lot of rain, so it was a big enough job making sure everyone had enough water this weekend. The first year of planting trees is pretty important, after that their roots will hopefully be deep enough so that it isn’t as big a deal if we miss some rain. I also added more compost around the birch trees to help keep the moisture in and to feed the soil. We will need to move our compost ‘heap’ this season and I want to use up as much of the ‘good stuff’ as possible before we set up the new spot. The new spot has not yet been determined, unfortunately. All in good time (says she, hopefully). πŸ™‚

The strawberry plants have settled in perfectly. They are hardy, to say the least. The blueberry shrubs also seems to be happy enough in their new homes. The raspberries, on the other hand, are giving me trouble. Some of them are wilting. Perhaps it was from the frost we had after they were planted? But then why aren’t they all wilting? We’ll see. Again, I’m still hopeful!

The vegetable plants that I started from seed are now growing a little too fast. I’ve started to acclimatize some of them, setting them outside during the day. If all goes well weather wise, I’m hoping to get some of them planted the beginning half of May. My little flower seedlings aren’t growing at as fast a pace. I’ve moved them to the south facing part of the house and I can already see an improvement. I have no choice but to be hopeful!

The tulips are in full bloom. The early varieties have already started to fade. This has me planning on what I can add to which bed for next year. But for now, there are so many signs of what’s still to come, I don’t think we’ll be stuck for color any time soon!

We’ve observed so many birds resting in the new trees now. There is a noticeable increase in avian visitors, which is delightful to see. It is just a joy to see and hear them. If you follow me on Instagram, you can often hear them in the background of my stories.

I hope you are enjoying your weather, wherever you are in the world! I also hope that you, too, have much to be hopeful for.

In Peace,
Dana

Veggie beds April 24

There isn’t too much progress on the new beds. The raspberries in front are challenging me, while the blueberries and strawberries seem to be doing fine. The pear tree is flowering, too, with pretty white blossoms.

Aurthur Turner (cooking) apple

The blooms on the Arthur Turner (cooking) apple tree are a very pretty deep pink before they open to a lighter pink. The tree is covered in blooms.

eating apple tree

This apple tree will have red apples that are classified as ‘eating’ apples (not cooking). The blossoms are a light pink when closed and a pale pink when opened. The tree is quite a sight as it is completely covered in flowers!

different varieties of tulips

April was all about Tulips! We enjoyed a lovely display, mostly due to the fact that we hadn’t had any major storms, which would usually batter the tulips. So thankful for the calm! (Top right: Queen of the Night, bottom right: Pretty Princess)

an inside view of tulips
all pink tulips
orange and yellow tulips
fringed tulipa Honeymoon

This white tulip is a new variety this year, although I have had similar before. It is called Tulipa Honeymoon and is pure white with a fringed edging. It is very pretty. I thought Kitty looked sweet sunning herself in the evening sunlight between some of the tulips.

seeds started in pots

Our hallway is becoming quite full! I can’t wait until we can plant out everything in the garden! I did buy some fleece, just in case we get frost *after* I plant them out. The picture on the left shows the plants which are further along (outside).

birch trees

I spent a lot of time with the birch trees this weekend!

Rose bed April 25

I think the ‘Rose bed’ looks so pretty at the moment, with the aubrietia (in front), purple anemone, pink and deep purple tulips and the rose bushes starting to fill out with leaves. Oh, and that blue sky sure helps!

Thanks for stopping by! Take care! πŸ™‚

A crochet Farm Animal Baby Blanket

Hello and welcome to my blog! Did you ever come across a gift for someone in particular and think ‘this is perfect!’? Isn’t that the greatest feeling when that happens? That happened to me recently, when I came across a pattern for a baby blanket. Now, honestly, I think all children enjoy farm animals. But this particular friend who was expecting her first baby has farming in her blood – and a tractor in her wedding pictures to prove it! So I decided that this was the blanket that I’d make for them.

The blanket itself is a ‘corner to corner’ pattern, meaning that it is made diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner. I found the pattern, which was easy enough to follow, online at crazy patterns. The fact that I already had in my ‘stash’, every single color that I needed was rather amazing. See, it *does* pay to stock up on all different colors of yarn! I used my favorite yarn, Caron Simply Soft.

The animals and sun are applique, meaning that they are made separately and then sewn on top of the blanket. My favorite aspect of the blanket is that there are moving pieces: the horse’s mane and tail, the pig’s ears and tail, the chicken’s beak and feet, and the cow’s udder and horns are all moveable. Actually, the original pattern didn’t have an udder. So I went looking for an udder pattern and added it. I think it is the best! The pig’s tail is curly, which I think is very cute.

After making the blanket, then making each of the animals, and then sewing them all on, I took a little break! Luckily, the baby decided to take her time getting here. πŸ™‚ The pattern called for one simple border of a single row of a similar stitch to the blanket, in white. I did that, but I didn’t like it. I then tried a few different iterations, and undid them as well. Funny enough, I asked my kids’ input and between their idea and mine I came up with a border that we were really happy with.

It was made, washed, dried, and wrapped in lavender in time for the arrival of the little one (yay!). It is such a wonderful feeling when a handmade gift is appreciated. I’m happy to say that they really liked it.

Here’s to finding the perfect gift!

In Peace,
Dana

corner to corner baby blanket

This is what a ‘corner to corner’ blanket looks like while in progress! The awkward part is that all of the colors are attached as you use them (see top right picture). I took over our ottoman for a while, so as not to get the skeins of yarn tangled!

completed farm animal baby blanket with different borders

So here is what the blanket looked like as I figured out the border. The top left is without any border. The bottom right is the original pattern (which I undid). I definitely wanted to have red in the border, but it was a bit harsh on its own. The compromise was to add the sun yellow and then white.

a closeup of the applique work

You can see the ‘moveable’ pieces in this collage. The beak, the cow’s udder and horns, the horse’s tail and mane are all moveable. The top right picture doesn’t have the final color of white on the border yet.

Dana and completed farm animal baby blanket

Ta-da! I was quite pleased with the final outcome!

some silly pictures of posing with the baby blanket

It was time to have some fun with the blanket photoshoot! I did a ‘running’ picture when I made my daughter’s Elmer blanket, so I thought I’d do that again πŸ™‚

farm animals up close

I like to challenge myself with new projects and with this one, the animals were definitely something new for me. I enjoyed learning how to make them. The eyes were tricky. There are plastic eyes you can buy to attach, but I never like that idea for baby blankets (choking hazard?). So they are all a bit different.

crochet pig head

The pig was the first animal I made. πŸ™‚

crochet cow in progress

The cow looks a bit bare without any spots!

I really enjoyed making this blanket and seeing it come together with all of the animals. I’m a very slow crocheter and I only worked on it in the evenings and weekends. It took about three weeks to make the body of the blanket and then another two weeks to make the animals and finish the blanket. It was time well spent. I wonder what my next project will be? πŸ™‚

The joy when someone touches your heart

Hi there, and welcome to my blog! Today would be the 100th birthday of my dear friend Monsignor James McCloskey. Although he passed away November 25th, 2017, he is still sorely missed. Monsignor, or Father Jim as he referred to himself, was someone who connected with people wherever he went. I am thankful that we formed a very special bond over the nearly 20 years that we knew each other.

What made Monsignor special? I think it was his desire to lift people up, and to share with everyone his love of Jesus. He always greeted you with a compliment. Always! And he always finished the conversation with a joke. I don’t know how he remembered all of his jokes, because he had so many that he would tell!

I think that through his many years of living life, and being very close to those he loved, he gained an invaluable insight into people, relationships, and life itself. I learned to never underestimate his knowledge in areas where I wouldn’t think he’d have much experience (like teens, for example). He had walked with so many people before me, on their journey through the toddler years, the teen years, marriage, loss – all aspects of life! Truly, he’d been through it all, felt their pain, enjoyed their happiness, and supported them through their loss.

My loss. My sister died suddenly when I was 33 years old, and she was 35. It was the most difficult time of my life. I was numb most of the time. But when I’d go to church and kneel to pray, it was like the floodgates would open. The tears flowed whenever I was in church, despite my being able to hold it together everywhere else, which distressed me even more. Monsignor was so kind to me, and told me it was perfectly O.K. to cry in church, in God’s home, as it was where I was most comfortable to do so. Of course there wasn’t a separate church life and ‘regular life’, it was all one Christian life, where he effortlessly reached out to those in need.

Monsignor was very proud of his Irish heritage, and I think he was excited for us when we moved to Ireland. We still kept in touch after the move. In fact, if Monsignor hadn’t heard from me in a while, he’d either send me an email or call me on the phone ‘just to make sure we’re all doing O.K.’! My visits back to see him were very special. We’d usually go to breakfast after he said morning mass (he had a devoted congregation who adored him and his homilies), always to eat, talk and share.

We (my husband and I) were so fortunate to have visited with him just a few months before he passed away. We had a lovely visit! As always, he was in great spirits and we enjoyed each other’s company. It was shortly after that visit when his health really began to decline. We continued to speak on the telephone over the next few months. His spirits remained high and he was completely at peace. On one of our last phone calls, he told me he’d always be with me, that he’s just changing address.

I’m so thankful that Monsignor was my friend and mentor for so many years, looking out for me, guiding me, and supporting me. I miss him. But I’m grateful to have his love in my heart. Until we meet again, Happy Birthday Monsignor. ❀️

In Peace,
Dana

Monsignor and Dana

This was on our last visit, the summer of 2017. Monsignor was, as always, in great form and full of chat and a great listener.

PΓ‘raic, Monsignor and Dana

My husband joined me on this visit. Monsignor always had a joke to tell!

Monsignor James McCloskey, Dana and Cliona for Cliona's Christening

Monsignor James McCloskey celebrated Cliona’s Christening.

Monsignor and Cliona as a toddler

Monsignor was a hands-on priest, who simply connected with us. Here he is with Cliona as a baby.

Cliona and Monsignor at a church event

Monsignor was always around for church events, to say hello to everyone, but especially the little ones (this was probably a breakfast). Here he is with Cliona.

Dana and Monsignor

This was on one of my visits home, at our mutual friend, Lisa’s house.

Dana, Monsignor and Lisa

This is me, Monsignor and Lisa on an earlier visit home. Don’t you love Monsignor’s bib? πŸ™‚

Immaculate Conception Church staff, Fayetteville, NY

This is some of the wonderful staff at Immaculate Conception Parish in Fayetteville, New York, along with Monsignor James McCloskey. It’s the wonderful people of a parish who make the parish life what it is. I’m so thankful to have been part of such a loving and giving community.

Monsignor in his garden

This little garden area was special because Monsignor could enjoy this view while in his sitting room, and he could also enjoy the birdsong, which he so loved.

The feature photo is of Immaculate Conception Parish’s grotto where the statue of the Blessed Mary is. Mary was very special to Monsignor, and I think it is fitting here.

Such a wonderful, full life to celebrate! πŸ™‚

Re-creating veg and flower beds

Hello there, and welcome to my blog! The weather has not been cooperating, and it has been a colder than usual start to April. The one saving grace is that there have been nice stretches of sunshine, making the cold somewhat bearable. Despite the cold, our big garden project is well underway. We are really happy with the progress so far. Actually, it all started 10 years ago, when we first created the vegetable garden. We had 7 beds, a few apple and pear trees and lots of enthusiasm! Over the years, the enthusiasm faded as the weeds took over. The paths were never correctly made, and more or less it all became too much to maintain. I’d hung on to about 4 bed over the past number of years, but once we decided to do a makeover, I’d stopped fighting with those, too – and the weeds finally won.

Due to the failed attempt at creating stone paths, and the terrible state of everything, we decided to have the area dug up, and start fresh. The idea of then covering the entire area with weed preventing ground cover was very, very appealing! But in thinking about it, and talking with other gardeners (thank you Paddy!), the issues like how unsightly it is when it inevitably peeps up along the edges, and how annoying and tedious it is to cut through it when trying to add new plants, played a roll in my final decision. I’ve decided to mainly use the ground cover in the pathways and not in any of the beds. We put down cardboard under the ground cover, too, to help keep the weeds down as long as possible! To cover the paths, we are using Hoggin. Hoggin is a mix of gravel, sand and clay that is firm when compacted (read: easy to walk on), yet also allows water to drain through it. It was recommended to us, and we are really happy with it.

We now have 8 beds in place, and they are filled with topsoil. I’m mixing my compost into the beds too. It is quite wonderful to work in beds with no weeds! πŸ™‚ The size of these beds are more comfortable for weeding, too. I have one bed that is quite large and is specifically large for me to fill with sunflowers. The other beds are (roughly) 2.4m x 1.2m. Our strawberry bed is double the length. I’m already much happier with the slimmer width! Much easier for planting and future weeding.

So, the beds could be filled in no time. We usually grow sweet pea, garlic, pumpkins, and sunflowers – depending on how the seed planting goes! We sometimes grow courgette (zucchini), too. One bed has strawberries and one has blueberries. If I don’t use the beds for veggies I will certainly fill them with flowers! I’ll also have a shaded area, near the hedge, that I plan to use for potted plants (I’m thinking hostas). It’s still a work in progress – all of the Hoggin has not been spread out, and we need to finish off the edging. I’ve put mulch around our blueberry shrubs. I haven’t used that mulch before, so it is a bit of an experiment. I know some people like it, and some people don’t. So I am trying it around the blueberries as a start.

My husband and son have done all of the hard work (aside from the clearing of the mess). I drew up the master plan and have persevered to help get it done. I’ve also started all of our seeds to help fill those beds. Even though I do this every year, it is still nerve wracking until the seeds have germinated, the plants have grown, been transplanted into the bed, and they have finally settled in to their beds! It’s a long 8 – 10 weeks!

Before we had everything dug up, I saved a bunch of strawberry plants (all those that were not completely covered in weeds). They are now planted in their new home, as are the blueberry plants, and some raspberry plants which my neighbor gave me. Taking a bit of a chance with the raspberries as it is a tiny bit late to plant them, but hoping they will take. I’m really happy with how it is all coming together. I’m glad to have something in the garden to focus on, since that’s how I enjoy spending my time. I found some lovely pictures of the area from earlier years, to compare what it looked like then to now. I know it wasn’t great previously, but I did still love it. I’m just glad to have the area looking a bit more neat and tidy.

Do you have any projects that you are working on? I hope they are going well!

Stay safe and healthy.

In Peace,
Dana

before and after pictures of garden project

OK, so there is nothing like starting with the worst looking pictures, ever! We didn’t tidy up the strawberry beds or the sunflower bed this season, because we knew we were going to do *something* with the area! It wouldn’t normally look quite as bad as it does above – although it was in pretty bad shape! One big change this time around is that we’ve pulled the beds out from the hedges. The hedges were very young and low when we first built the beds, but they have grown and now provide quite a bit of shade! We’ll probably cut the hedges a bit lower, too, to keep the shade in check. We also have more room between the beds now, which is better for getting the wheelbarrow in and out and is just generally more comfortable. You can see the pile of Hoggin in the bottom left photo. Getting that spread out is the next job.

a cleared garden section

A clean slate! I was a tiny bit sad, but more relieved to have all of the mess cleared away.

flower bed of raspberries

The newest addition to the garden: raspberries! I mixed in a bunch of our compost, which had loads of worms. We’ll see how the plants do. Confession time: we’ve tried raspberries before and they didn’t survive. No idea why.

strawberry plants

Here’s our new strawberry bed (it’s a double). The beds weren’t screwed together yet, which you can see in this photo. I have room for 3 more plants!

view of the garden before renovation

Here’s a peek back to the ‘old’ garden. Sweet peas, sunflowers and the stone path.

pumpkins, sunflowers and playhouse

Another peek back! This was a good year for pumpkins (a few years back). This is also the old playhouse roof. That was changed last year to a nicer black shingle.

pink aubrietia in the garden

O.K., enough about the veggie garden. Moving on to other items in the garden: The aubrietia is looking beautiful and PINK these days! I’d forgotten how vibrant it can be.

Magnolia tree - Heaven Scent

This was another new addition to the garden at the end of October last year. It is a Magnolia tree ‘Heaven Scent’ and it has a bunch of blooms on it. I didn’t really notice any scent around them, even when I climbed the ladder πŸ™‚

magnolia 'heaven scent'

A view from the ladder! The flowers are quite pretty.

hyacinth flowers, pink, white and bright pink

Some years the weather is brutal with wind and rain, and the hyacinth, which are quite top heavy, fall over. We’ve been lucky this year and although it has been cold, they have mostly stayed upright. The holed leaves are curtesy of the slugs. I love the scent of hyacinth (which is not for everyone).

white bergenia

My white Bergenia is another plant that is doing exceptionally well this year. There are lots of blooms, which start out white and fade to light pink. The leaves show signs of slugs, but not too badly. It’s making a nice impact statement at the front of the Rainbow garden.

grape hyacinth flowers

I have some grape hyacinth growing under our hedge. I think it is perfect there, because I don’t mind cutting it to bring it inside (if it were in the yard, I’d be more inclined to leave it outside!). It can be quite pretty in a vase.

hyacinth, grape hyacinth and candles

Sadly, I didn’t put this ‘together’ until after Easter! Missed opportunity. But we are enjoying it now.

Mom in the garden

What can I say? It’s still sweater whether, but at least I match the aubrietia (it’s my favorite color). I hope you enjoyed the garden tour! Take care! πŸ™‚

The changeable month of March

Hi there, and welcome to my blog! What a month it has been. We’ve seen some beautiful sunny and mild days as well as some very cold and dreary days. My mood has been influenced by this changeable weather: high spirits when the sun was out and low spirits when the howling winds and dark clouds took over. I’m thankful that I was able to get some work done in the garden and able to enjoy that time. This year I am also attempting to grow some flowers from seed. Fingers crossed that they all take! Oh! And I am excited about a garden clean-up project we are doing, too!

So, the garden clean-up project is the area to the side of our playhouse. When we first moved here, we built a bunch of raised beds and planted some fruit trees in this area. It was fabulous! I made an attempt to create stone pathways, but they never quite came together right. Then we moved the apple trees because they were too close together. A few years after that, and the Beech hedges grew to their full height and added too much shade for strawberries and vegetables to grow. And finally, the weeds just plain took over. I’ve learned a lot over that time, and we are now going to re-do that area. We decided to completely clear the area due to the terrible state it was in. That is the point where we are now! I’ll let you know as we progress. I cannot wait to get the new beds set-up!

As for the rest of the garden, I think it is ready for the season ahead! I’ve planted some summer bulbs (and still have some more to plant!). Most of those are going in pots this year. I simply had that in mind when I ordered them. We still haven’t mowed the lawn yet, and usually this would bother me. But I’m changing my mind on this, and I’m not in a hurry to have it done. I used to feel like it was a terrible reflection on the garden when we had long grass. How silly! Something else I realized recently. Three of my hellebores didn’t bloom this year. Two of them didn’t even show their leaves until very late in the season, never mind flower! The funny thing is, I felt that this was somehow due to my poor gardening skills. What?! I hadn’t done anything differently – they just didn’t come up until very late in the season. But I had internalized their not blooming, that somehow it was my fault. I was glad to recognize that, so I could correct my mindset. I’m not a terrible gardener. Sometimes, things just don’t grow. πŸ™‚

Life is funny, and I’m still learning. Thank God! I hope you are keeping safe and well and are also still learning!

In Peace,
Dana

Let’s try this again! This will have beds for vegetables, annual flowers and strawberries. This time, we’ll put ground cover material down to help to prevent weeds (I think I might add cardboard, too, since we have a bunch of it).

Nothing says ‘It’s March’ in Ireland better than daffodils and shamrock!

Springtime flowers are blooming! This is a Pulmonaria with purple and pink flowers and spotted leaves. It looks lovely with daffodils, which are growing next to them.

This area with the tulips was one of my clean-up jobs this month! I didn’t tidy it up very well last year and it was not in good shape. I cleared it just in time for this beautiful day!

I like these Mr. Fokker anemone and purple hyacinth together.

This pink hyacinth is probably my favorite flower at the moment, and beautifully fragrant!

Here’s a great contrast in weather! The picture above, on the left was taken on quite a dull gray day, while the picture on the right was taken on a lovely and sunny day! The Aubrieta is not in full bloom just yet, but it is getting there.

Here are some of the seeds that I’m growing. These are Coleus. Fingers crossed that I continue to take care of them properly!

The two flower pots in front of the hen house are still looking really well. Those tete a tete daffodils have been blooming for a few weeks now. It was so worth getting them to add a bit of cheer!

It certainly feels like anything is possible when the sky is blue! We did some more planting in this birch tree bed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the spring update! Take care! πŸ™‚

Rejuvenating the soul with a weekend in the garden

Hello, and welcome to my blog! It is no secret that I have been struggling with this latest lockdown here in Ireland. I understand why we need it, I’ve just found it much harder to adjust this time. I am very happy to say that this weekend I felt an actual lifting of my spirits as I worked away in the garden over two beautiful days. My pace is slow and steady, which is good enough for me. I’ve also been practicing my mantra of ‘every little bit helps’. So over the past week I’ve managed to get a bunch of little things done around the garden, all from spending just a short amount of time doing small jobs. Of course it all adds up!

So what’s happening in the garden? I think the biggest job I’ve completed is pruning the roses. I struggle with this job only because I need to be ruthless and just get the job done, and I tend to over think it. I haven’t appreciated how many rose plants I’ve collected, until pruning them all this year! I have to say that I was more ruthless than ever before, so hopefully they’ll appreciate that. According to the gardening program I’ve been watching on Instagram, called Gardening Conversations, (I think I’ve mentioned it previously), you can do a hard prune every three to five years. Their advice was to get your worst enemy to prune your roses – to get the ‘hard prune’ that you hate to do! πŸ™‚

Another big job we’ve been working on is creating a new flower bed. I had some sod removed back in November when we had our birch trees planted, and then my husband finished removing the rest of the sod last week. The bed looks really good because we (read: my husband) then added a very thick layer of our compost on top. There’s a good 4 inches of compost along with lots of worms. I can’t wait to get some plants in there! It will be a partly sunny garden, as I wanted a bed with some shade. Stay tuned to see what plants we pick!

Speaking of adding new plants: there are a couple of new Hellebore plants which I’ve welcomed into my garden recently. They are from Altamont Gardens, in Carlow. I’ve been meaning to visit Altamont for years! Sadly, I’ll have to wait a bit longer due to the lockdown. They were selling some of their plants via Instagram, though, and I’m delighted with the two I now have.

The other little jobs I’ve been doing have been part of my winter clean up. I’ve cut down dead fennel, aster, and sedum stems. I’ve also started to do some weeding. I want to spread more compost in the beds and I’d prefer to have most of the weeds gone before I do that. I want to feed the soil, not the weeds!

I’m so thankful that the days are brighter, well into the evening. It makes such a difference to my mood, and allows me some garden time after work!

I hope you are doing well and that you are enjoying the extended daylight, too!

In Peace,
Dana

collage of 2 hellebore plants
collage of 2 hellebore plants

I’m starting with the pictures with my two new hellebores, which I think are very pretty. They are Harvington Double Apricots and Harvington Double Reds. The Apricot flower can look a pale yellow as well as the apricot hue. The Double Reds seem more of a burgundy/pink color than red to me. I think they fit in perfectly! They are planted in the new ‘birch trees bed’ among the iris.

collage of hellebore flowers

Here are some of my other hellebore plants. The newest one is the Helleborus ‘Anemone Picotee’ which has purple veins on the petals (the three corner pictures). The Center picture is Winter Sunshine, and the top left corner is the SP Frilly Isabelle. The other pictures are from plants that were given to me, and I don’t have their names. They all add some lovely color to the garden at this time of year.

pruned roses
hard prune of roses

There was a progression with the roses. It took me a few days to completely prune one plant as each time I’d take off a bit more, and a bit more, and a bit more! I am happy with the hard prune that I eventually ended up with. I hope the plants are happy, too! πŸ™‚

Pruned roses and pink anemone

Here’s another look at the roses, but I took the picture because of this single, bright pink anemone. Isn’t that color something?

collage of compost and freshly dug bed

Here’s a look at our compost and the newly dug up bed. The pallets which are the walls for our compost structure, have seen better days. This summer I’ll have to decide on a new place to have our compost, so the plan is to fix the structure then. The compost we’re using now is a year old (the pile on the far right).

view of garden at front gate

I cleaned this bed up over the weekend. The Pittosporum, Tom Thumb, in the right corner, adds wonderful texture. The lavender next to it looks much nicer when it is in bloom! The burgundy colored plant that lines both sides of the bed is Bergenia. The flowers of this variety of Bergenia are very bright pink. Otherwise there isn’t a lot going on in this bed at the moment!

Full rainbow garden view

This bed is ready for some more compost. I have a few new plants in here, which I can’t wait to see!

henhouse with flowers

I’ve added some flowers to the front of the girls’ house. I can look out onto their house and run while in our kitchen and this way I can see the flowers more often than I could when they were on the back porch. I always enjoy seeing flowers, so this is a win/win for me!

close up picture of hen

The chickens are so curious and will get very close to my phone when I’m taking pictures. It isn’t so easy to get good shots because they never stay still! I like this one, though. I can’t remember which hen this is, and I tell them apart by looking at their back feathers, so we’ll just have to guess! (My guess is Iris.)

Thank you so much for visiting! I hope you are keeping well, and safe. Take care! πŸ™‚

Spotlight on Long QT for Rare Diseases Day

Hi there! Welcome to my blog. Maybe you know already, but for those who don’t, today is Rare Diseases Day. Our family knows all about one rare disease in particular: Long QT syndrome. Long QT (LQT) has to do with the electrics of the heart.

Now, the fact that we know all about LQT is both good and bad. It is unfortunate that this genetic condition runs in my family. Honestly, I wish it didn’t. But it is also quite a good thing that we now know about this condition and how to treat it. Knowledge is power, and I feel it is so much better to know about and manage our condition so that we can live our lives fully.

What does QT stand for? The ‘Q’ and ‘T’ are waves from an ECG reading. The distance between the start of the Q wave and the end of the T wave (Q-T interval) corresponds to the time it takes for the heart to contract and refill with blood, before beginning the next contraction. A prolonged QT interval means that the length of time is beyond the normal amount of time. Although usually caused by a genetic factor, LQT may be acquired by certain medications or medical conditions.

LQT arrhythmias can result in syncope (loss of consciousness), seizures, and potentially, cardiac arrest. There are many medications that prolong the QT interval, and those should be avoided by LQT patients. There is a fantastic resource for us which easily helps to determine if a drug is safe to take or not. It is called Credible Meds and is free, easy to register for, and is an app you can have on your phone.

The great news is that Long QT is treatable.

I think there are a lot of things to be grateful for over this past year of the pandemic. One thing that I am thankful for is the SADS Foundation weekly Facebook live sessions with Dr. Michael Ackerman. Dr. Ackerman is an established and respected expert in the field, and every Friday night (7:20 PM Irish time, 2:20 PM EST) for 40 minutes he talks about genetic heart conditions like Long QT. He is often joined by other world class experts, talking about our conditions, covid, genetics, and generally answering our many questions. Having such easy access to so much relevant information from the most respected in the field is simply priceless. The main takeaway, which is quite positive, is that we can all manage our conditions and live full lives. That will certainly look differently for different people, but it is possible for everyone. Knowledge is key, as is treatment.

We found it immensely helpful to be involved with support groups, especially in the beginning when we were first diagnosed. The Irish Heart Foundation had a wonderful program for families at that time, which brought them together in the fun atmosphere of Barretstown (a camp set up specifically for kids with illnesses). We were able to forget those initial worries and all of the unknowns and be with other families who were going through similar experiences as well as families who’d already been through this stage and had practical advice to share with us.

My purpose of this post today is to spread the word about Long QT syndrome. Not enough people know about it, or know what to do when they see someone ‘faint’ (a typical symptom) or worse still, go into cardiac arrest. Have you taken a CPR course lately? Maybe it’s time for a refresh or to take it for the first time. You never know, you just might save a life. If you feel so inclined, it would be a great time to reach out and help your local heart organizations. They help to get people trained in CPR, which ultimately helps all of us. I just learned of a wonderful program in the US where they teach age appropriate CPR to elementary school aged children. They repeat the program every year, so that by the time the kids leave elementary school, they know CPR without even thinking. What a great way to keep the community safe!

It has truly been quite a journey, and we are still learning, but I’m hopeful for our future.

Stay safe and well!

In Peace,
Dana

This beautiful picture hangs in the kitchen for parents of patients in the cardiology ward at Crumlin Children’s hospital, in Dublin. I know this from the times we’ve been there for our Long QT. The Irish says ‘In my heart forever’.

A collage of pictures from the fun the kids had at the Barretstown weekend with other families with hereditary heart conditions.

The grounds are lovely at Barretstown, with a sweet park to stroll. This tree, fairy door and sign were my favorite.

A happy moment in time, captured with the snap of a picture. Barretstown weekend.

Thank you for stopping by. πŸ™‚

Seizing the moment this Valentine’s weekend

Hi there! Welcome to my blog. Life is still pretty crazy, and the news isn’t really getting much better, but something wonderful happened this weekend. I just let every worry go and went outside and had some silly fun with my girls! It was freezing, it was wet, it was snowy, but most of all it was just what I needed.

When I mention ‘my girls’, I’m usually referring to my chickens, but this time I actually mean my daughters. They are 16 and 20 and they are really a delight. This lock down can’t be easy for any of us, and they are holding up so well. I’m glad we had the opportunity to get out and have a bit of fun.

Our area is not really known for snow. Admittedly, we’ve had a few dustings this winter, and it has definitely been colder than usual. But for whatever reason, the snow this weekend had all three of us going outside and having a bit of fun. We were out long enough to make a snowman and take some pictures, which was the perfect amount of time! Our snowman was the laying down variety, since the snow was too heavy for us to lift the body (it was really, really wet!). By the time we rolled the three parts, most of the snow had been rolled up!

I’m so glad we did it. I was tempted to stay inside and just watch them from the window (I don’t like the cold!). It was so worth being with them and a part of their silliness. I probably need to do that a little more often!

I hope you’ve had the chance to be silly, too! I think it is good for all of us.

Take care!

In Peace,
Dana

Mom in the garden and her daughters playing in the snow

I’m so glad the girls aren’t ‘too old’ for having fun in the snow! (You can see the grass showing after we rolled the snowman!) Everything was green again the next day – washed away with the rain.

Playhouse in snow February

We’ve had more snowfall this year than usual. We’ve had a long stretch of rainy, cold, or snowy weather!

collage anemone, hellebores, snowdrops

The sun managed to visit us just today! It was lovely to get some pictures of the flowers currently blooming! (clockwise from top left: Hellebore (unknown variety), anemone, snowdrops, Winter Sunshine hellebore)

Hellebore Winter Sunshine February 14 closeup
hellebore Winter Sunshine

The Winter Sunshine hellebore is really starting to come into full bloom. There are so many flowers! It never disappoints.

Hellebore dark pink
Hellebore full plant dark pink

This dark pink hellebore plant is also starting to come along. I have hellebores at different stages, and this one is not as far along as the Winter Sunshine. You can actually see the Winter Sunshine hellebore in the top right hand corner of the above picture.

Snowdrops February 14 full sun and open
snowdrops collage

These snowdrops have never looked as ‘happy’ as they do this year! I especially like the green markings. They are so dainty, and when they are fully open they look like miniature lampshades. These were a gift from a friend’s garden, years ago, and have been divided at least once. But this group here is the showiest.

Anemone purple February 14

Last but not least, we have this anemone, which isn’t a Mr. Fokker, like the rest in my garden. So I’m unsure what it is. I found the color to be quite pretty, though.

blue sky snow fall playhouse

We did have one blue sky day this week, and it was just beautiful. I’m so thankful for days like this, which really lift my spirits!

chocolate heart cookie

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Valentine’s weekend, and have been made to feel special! Thank you for visiting, and do take care! πŸ™‚

Mindful busyness

Hi there! Welcome to my blog. I last spoke about how times are feeling tough, so now I want to share what I’ve been doing to lift my spirits. SEED SHOPPING! Yes, that’s right, I’ve been seed shopping. It has been wonderful to plan what will go in the garden when the weather warms up again. The weather has been horrible (read: very, very wet) which has directly influenced the huge quantity of seed packets I have ordered!

I have decided to switch things up a bit this year. I am a geranium girl. I think I have always had geraniums in planters on the back deck. I almost always have pink geraniums, with the odd year where I might go red. But this year I’m not going to have geraniums and I’m going to try lots of different flowers in lots of different colors. Well, at least the plan is to grow them from seed and if that works then I’ll have flowers. We’ll see!

The first batch of seeds have arrived already. They came from Irish Plants Direct. I confess that I am most excited for the Coleus Rainbow Mix. Our next door neighbors back in Manlius, New York, were very special to us and Betty always had Coleus in her summer planters. I think of Betty whenever I see them (as I’d never really noticed Coleus before seeing her planters.). Sadly, Betty passed away in 2019 and I still miss her dearly. So I’ll be planting them in her honor.

As for the rest of the planters, I have some cockscomb, zinnia, and Helichrysum strawflower Tom Thumb to try out. They all should provide lots of color!

I have grown sunflowers the past number of years because I think they are just fabulous. Although I still have some seeds from last year, I decided to add a few different varieties to the mix. There will be some shorter ones (Waooh) and some darker (a wine-red color) ones (Claret) as well as the standard version.

Sweet peas are another staple in my garden, mainly for their scent! I’ll try a different organic mix this year, called old spice.

I’ll also grow nasturtium and Bells of Ireland. The last item, Gourd seeds, was a ‘Ah sure, let’s give it a try’ kinda purchase. I’m hoping they will be fun to grow and harvest!

The real influence to go all out with seeds this year was the government recommending that we plan for ‘staycations’ again this year. If we’re going to be home all year, I want to have as many flowers as possible!

Those are a good start to my garden planning!

What have you been doing to stay mindfully busy during these times? I hope you are staying mentally well and healthy. πŸ™‚

In Peace,
Dana

Snowdrops Feb 4 sunshine

Although we have seen quite a lot of rain, there were a few times when the sun came out (ever so briefly). These snowdrops are covered in raindrops but are looking lovely!

Frilly Isabelle hellebore full plant

My Frilly Isabelle hellebore is much slower to bloom this year, although it is starting to slowly look itself again.

Helleborus SP Frilly Isabelle

A lovely closeup of the flowers, which usually hang down. Here you can see their frilliness!

Hellebore Winter Sunshine February 4

Quite a different looking hellebore is this Winter Sunshine one. I’ve cut the leaves completely back as they were covered in black spot (typical for this plant at this time of year). Last year, after cutting the leaves at the start of the season, they remained healthy throughout the entire year, which was a real treat!

Growing garlic in winter

Here’s a look at the garlic. It is ever so slowly growing! I can almost see all of the rows. (We planted some of them a tiny bit too deep, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do!)

foggy and rainy view of country road

This is how things were for a very long time – rainy and foggy!

Kitty hanging off of my desk

This is Kitty. She isn’t usually allowed in my ‘office’ because she’ll try to be close to me in the most awkward way possible. Here she is hanging off of the table/desk directly in front of my keyboard…

Irish Plants Direct seeds

And here is the first batch of seeds to arrive! Thank you Irish Plants Direct!

Stormy sky Feb 4

The weather has been so changeable! We had blue skies for a couple of hours on this day, and then the sky turned dark again. At least we managed to see the sun for a tiny bit!

Thank you again for visiting! Stay safe! πŸ™‚