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Impromptu Photo Shoot

While Niece #1 has shown in horse shows before, this will be her first year at the Crow Wing County Fair as a 4-Her...she's a Cloverbud and will be riding Will (my mom's bay Arabian gelding).
I was never a Cloverbud (the years before one is old enough to be in 4-H; it's somewhat akin to Cub Scouts) but I remember showing at the county fair with MY pony and the whole experience: decorating the box stall; hanging up my ribbons at the end of the show day; sitting in front of the stall and watching all the people stroll by; talking about my horse and letting everyone pet him...

Her Cloverbud classes will all be "leadline" style – i.e., Mom will have the horse on lead rope and be with her in all her classes – but it's still exciting that this is her first 4-H show. 

She's sharing Will with another 4-Her (a family friend's daughter is riding him in the older classes), and that girl will have her own decorations up on the stall. 

So, I wanted to be sure Niece #1 got the full experience of having a horse at the fair, even if she was sharing him with someone else...I planned to get some pictures of her and "her" horse to hang on the stall door for decorations. But, even though I was up North a couple weekends when Niece #1 was, we never got any pictures taken of the two of them (the horse is boarded at a stable ~30 minutes away). 

Well, that left this weekend – and not very much time. I came up on Sunday afternoon (so I could enter my fair photos), and the show starts this morning. We were all too tired to do pictures on Sunday evening so yesterday morning we headed over to the barn for a quick photo shoot.

The plan was to shoot in the morning, quick edit the good ones, then throw them on a flash drive for Mom to take to Target and get prints that afternoon. 

We didn't get to the barn as early as I'd've liked, so the lighting wasn't great but I did the best I could (and, of course, the cloud cover I'd been banking on went away so we had full sun). Plus, the barn's a tad short on ambience, so we had to walk over to a nearby field...again, you work with what you have :)

All in all, for a quick 30-minute shoot (with a 7-year-old and a horse who wanted nothing more than to bury his head in the grass), I think I got some good ones. 

Mom, like the true trooper she is, took the flash drive into Target and got a bunch of photos, which I then taped to a piece of tag board...pretty simple but at least we got it done! 

Now Niece #1 will have her own stall decorations for her very first 4-H show :) She's not even awake yet but I'm giddy with excitement and can't WAIT to see how she does!

Good luck, kiddo!

My Favorite Container Garden Plants

It's been a banner summer for gardening – lots of sun, lots of rain, and the growing season started in about March, so that helps.

My beautiful urban garden is doing very well, as evidenced by the riotous profusion of foliage out on the deck. I even had to move several pots to the front stoop and even the patio to make it less crowded out there. And, while a parent should never do this, there are a couple of plants that are my favorites.

Corn in a Deck Garden

You might remember the corn I "planted" last year – i.e., the shoots I stole from a squirrel's cache in the lawn – and watched grow into large, healthy stalks that even tasseled, silked AND produced one tiny, stunted ear of feed corn. I was so proud. 

Well, since my deck garden this year was to be so much bigger (I added tomatoes, green beans and green peppers to the menagerie), I decided to plant corn on purpose. So I did – but I still counted on the squirrels to start the process for me: when the first little shoots of corn started peeking up over the grass from the squirrel caches this spring, I "stole" six of them and planted them in their very own pot. 

While only five of the little shoots made it, and they're not QUITE as big as the two stalks I had last year, they're doing very well. (Also, this year it's just known as My Corn; I didn't name it :)

In fact, in the last week they tasseled and then they started the silking stage...hopefully with FIVE stalks in contention the pollen will find its way to the 3 or 4 budding ovules. Clint said this year we might have to rent a combine to harvest all the corn. Smart-a$$. 

My First-Ever Tomato Plant

A newcomer to the gardening endeavor this year was a cherry tomato plant I bought from a "neighbor" (he lives on the parkway about ¼ mile away, so by country standards, a neighbor). It was quickly a favorite because I love tomatoes. And, how fun is it to watch them ripen and then pluck them right off the plant and gobble them down? Very, I assure you.

I think the pot the tomato plant is in doesn't drain very well (I had to have Dick over to drill holes in several of my pots this year) since the plant's leaves are yellowish. The tomatoes are doing well but the plant itself tends to look somewhat year I'll have to be sure to drill some more holes in that pot.

To date I've picked and eaten about 10 cherry tomatoes; I'll have a few more to pick tomorrow morning, I think.

Bright, Cheery Zinnia Flowers

I love things that make me smile. I'm also partial to bright colors, which make me happy – ergo the zinnia plant I have is my favorite flowering pot this year. It will definitely be a yearly addition to my garden, now that I know how lovely these cheery, colorful blooms are. 

I wasn't prepared for the sheer number of flowers this plant would produce – and the myriad of colors! Various shades of red, orange and pink flowers sprout continuously...they're so happy!

Unfortunately, bright colors attract bugs...namely, the horrible Japanese beetle. My poor, beautiful zinnia plant was one of the hardest-hit of my plants when the beetles started chomping away. Thankfully, the spray I've been using has been keeping the nasty bugs to a minimum (along with Dick & Jane's pheromone trap) so my gorgeous, poufy blooms have come back and are much, much healthier now. 

I'm even entering a photo of one of my blooms in the Crow Wing County Fair this year...hopefully the judges like it as much as I do :) Regardless, I think this print will hang on the wall.

Orange Coleus

I think part of the reason I love coleus so much is I consider it the "gardening for dummies" plant. It's a hearty, thriving addition to any garden and there's really not much you can do to mess it up...full sun, mostly's really a plant that does well just about anywhere (well, mine are, anyway). Plus, there are so many varieties and colors. 

My favorite is orange coleus (surprise, surprise), and the plants I got this year are from one of the "neighbors" so that makes them special. And, again, they're bright, colorful and happy. 

So there you have it...the update on my fun container garden. 

War on Japanese Beetles

Last month I realized I had a major enemy: the Japanese beetle. Turns out I'm not the only gardener suffering  this summer from the onslaught of these little carapace-bearing monsters; Dick & Jane's plants were also afflicted.

While I've been trying to spray my plants with some sort of death-to-all-beetles chemicals, D&J went the organic route and put up a Japanese beetle trap. Evidently the dreadful bugs are attracted to pheromones and head into the trap to investigate, where they then remain trapped until Dick dumps them all into a freezer bag.

That's right, when the pheromone trap gets full, he puts all the living bugs into a heavy-duty Ziploc baggie and lays them out in the sun, where the greenhouse effect kills them within minutes. Die, you nasty bugs, DIE!!!


I don't like seeing any animal suffer...but there is a very, VERY warm & fuzzy feeling that washes over me at the demise of these hideous beetles that wreak so much havoc on my lovely deck garden. And I don't feel the least bit guilty about said feeling.

My neighbors realize my fascination with the abomination because now they've started calling me when they empty the trap: "we're killing another bag of beetles!" So I hurry over to watch the little suckers writhe and squirm 'til their demise.

Did I mention I do NOT like Japanese beetles?

Oh, and while I'm over in their "lawn," I just happen to hang out and invariably a Yappy Hour ensues. The dogs chew on sticks, chase tennis balls and in general entertain us (as the bugs lay dying. Faulkner, anyone?).

Little Coyote Bait has decided he doesn't want to drink out of the water bowl anymore; he prefers climbing up on the fountain to get a drink. He's a weird little dog.

Many times there are drinks involved over at Dick & Jane's; the most popular drinks-on-the-house are mimosas and bloody marys. Of course, on a hot day there's nothing like a cold, refreshing adult beverage to cool you off...and even the dogs benefit: we give them the leftover ice cubes, which they greedily gobble up.

Long story longer: I'm glad Dick & Jane have declared war on the evil Japanese beetle population in St. Paul. Not that I needed another excuse to wander over, but, you know...