Downsizing and economising

Several years ago, in the depths of winter, our heat pump/air conditioning unit went out of commission.  I weighed the options, I could spend yet another $1,500 to get it repaired to continue to heat and cool our three bedroom two story house and live with the $400.00 a month bills or I could spend a great deal less money in buying space heaters to heat the rooms we were actually living in.  I chose the latter and I have never looked back since.  Once I had tried the space heater route, and the window air conditioner route in the summer, I kicked myself at the amount of money I spent over the years to heat and cool the house.

Today it was 105 degrees here in Eastern North Carolina and my window a/c units in the living room and the bedroom kept the WHOLE HOUSE cool.  I also have a window unit in the kitchen that I did not even need to turn on at all.  My electric bill continues to run at about $100 a month (as opposed to the previous $400 a month during the hottest of the summer).  The whole house is comfortable, not only during the heat of the summer but during the cold of the winter thanks to my space heaters.  The heaters and window a/c units have paid for themselves several times over thanks to the savings in the electric bills and I feel good knowing that I am doing a little bit to help the environment not using electricity to heat and cool the ducts in my walls and the rooms that I only use one month a year.

I have heard more and more adverts on the local radio station about Fujistu mini-split a/c and heating systems that only heat or cool the room you are in.  It is becoming more and more obvious that heating and cooling a huge empty house is simply madness and only heating and cooling the room you are using is the way to go.  It is funny, because it takes me back to my childhood, when we used to do that exact thing.  We would heat the room that we were in with a coal or a gas fire and not worry about the rest of the house, because when we went to bed we would be under the covers and not need to worry about it.  I am more confident that people will make this switch, as they see how insane it is to heat and cool a big old empty box.  We can do this.


Unruly Teenagers

I have a clutch of baby Cardinals in my yard that have obviously just recently fledged.  They are of course loud, obnoxious and uniformly demanding of their tired parents.  When one of the parents comes down to the feeders to get a well deserved meal the youngsters will follow and demand to be fed also.

It is quite comical, they will sit on the feeders, with food not inches from their beaks, and flap their wings and screech at their parents, demanding to be fed.  The poor overworked parents will do their best to ignore them but there they are, loud and obnoxious.   Despite the fact that they are siblings (or perhaps because they are siblings) they will think nothing of chasing each other off from a prime spot closest to the parent.  Occasionally one of the parents will tire of the screeching and pop a shelled sunflower seed into the youngsters mouth, which of course does not stop the screeching, it merely increases the volume, which makes them exactly like human teenagers when you think about it.

I have seen this all before of course, and eventually the fledglings will realize that flapping of wings and screeching will do no good and will begin cracking open their own sunflower seeds.   Still it is nice to see the babies.  I cannot wait until the boys start to get their adult plumage in as it will make for some nice “ugliest cardinal in the world” photos until they complete their moult.   Should the 100+ temperatures allow it this weekend I will attempt to get some photographs.

The boys are back in town

To my delight, as it is always this time of year, I have black swallowtail caterpillars on my fennel (which of course is planted for this purpose).

I have also got lots of eggs, which just tickles me pink.

I bought two fennel plants at the Farmers Market this weekend and I am hoping that I can root them so that my boys have enough food to get them through their life cycle.  This is very important to me.  I feel that it is part of my life’s worth to raise Black Swallowtail caterpillars into full fledged butterflies.  It is a tiny thing I can do, but if I can do it, I will.

The evolution of a Zinnia

I love Zinnia.  While they are an annual (a plant that I generally do not spend a great deal of time worrying about, when I plant something I like it to stay planted and not die come winter), they undergo the most delightful evolution that one can follow day after day.  The blooms begin with their main petals, usually bright pinks and yellows and oranges, whether or not they are singles or the more showy pom-poms they begin this way.

As can be seen beginning on this shot, shortly thereafter multitudes of tiny secondary flowers burst from the center filling in the middle until it appears that Ms. Zinnia is wearing a hat of secondary blooms.

This process goes on over time and it is fascinating to watch it go on.  As the older outer petals fade the inner yellow blooms seem to shine.   While the older petals are busily forming seeds, the yellow blooms continue to attract pollinators and continue to provide food.  Finally the yellow tiny blooms begin to form seeds and fade.

If you crumble a dead zinnia head you discover that there are two distinct types of seeds, those that have developed from the first outer petals and those that have developed from those tiny yellow blooms.  It really is quite incredible to think that nature developed a process whereby a plant could reproduce itself and then includes a built in back up should there be a shortage of pollinators in a particular stage of its life.  I love Zinnia.



Whatever it was that happened to Ellie Wyatt, and I profess to not knowing as no one would ever know, it has scared the treacle out of him.  Since he came home from his surgery he has not moved more than a few feet in either direction of the dining room.   In fact this evening I found him asleep in his cat carrier, no doubt he feels safest in there than anywhere.  When the need takes him he will visit the litter box, or if he is feeling a little adventurous he will poke himself through the cat door and pee and poo right outside the kitchen door and then scoot right back through the cat door and take up his place either on my computer chair or the dining room table.

My husband was afraid that he would become the villain in the entire affair, it was he, after all, that took him to the vets.  Quite the contrary, it would appear that while prior to the vet visit Ellie Wyatt treated him with a sort of quiet disdain, now he adores him.  It occurs to me that Ellie now sees him as the nice man who took away the pain.  He never fails to lift his head for a scritch whenever my husband goes through to the kitchen for a soda, and he actively seeks him out for lap time.

I cannot say that I am upset that Ellie has become a homebody, there are so many dangers in Eastern North Carolina for cats.   Nevertheless, he is free to do what he feels is best, and right now he feels that his entire world consists of the dining room.  I am cool with that.


The yard looked sorry this morning.  Everything was drooping thanks to lack of rain.  Of course, the containers were the worst off, and I was fearful of losing all of the plants in them.  The forecast was only a 30% chance of rain and around here that usually means no rain at all.   After we had gone out to get my husband’s car inspected I came home and set out the sprinkler to give my flower beds a good soaking.   After a couple of hours of working on my containers (removing the dead violas and pansies) and moving the sprinkler around the garden my husband came out and asked me how I was doing.  He then noticed the sprinkler.  “You know what this means” he said “what?”  I asked.  “It’s going to rain today”.  I laughed at him “its only a 30% chance which usually means nothing around here”.  “No” he said “it will rain just because you are watering”.

Sure enough about an hour ago the thunder began to rumble and the rain began tapping on the skylights.   It has been pouring fairly steadily for about an hour and my only consolation is that using the sprinklers has dampened the soil so that this good soaking rain will actually penetrate the scorched earth and it will soak into the soil and not run off which it probably would have done had I not turned on the sprinklers.   At least that is what I will tell myself when the water bill comes in.


New Daylilies

A couple of years ago I mail ordered some daylilies and planted them in the bed that runs along my pathway to the front door.  I am deluged with daylilies, but for some strange reason I decided that more would be good.  It took them a little while to establish but now they are blooming and they give a really good contrast to my fulva doubles which are rampant throughout my yard.

These new ones are just now flowering and, in addition to a wonderful lemon yellow there is a deep burgundy that is flowering right now, it is truly stunning.

As we all know daylily flowers are short lived, but while they bloom they are brilliant in the landscape, and the best part about them they are almost impossible to kill.   You could literally dig them up, throw them on the compost pile, and they would bloom the following year.  So long as they have even a tiny grasp of something they can draw food from they will thrive.  There is really not a more reliable plant for the landscape.  I cannot recommend them more.