Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S GARDEN...OR NOT By Catherine Lanigan & Rula Sinara

Admit it! We just made you think of Shakespeare. Didn’t we? One of my boys loves Shakespeare’s plays and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is one of his favorites. Who doesn’t like Puck? But although the official Midsummer’s Eve was a few weeks ago, Catherine and I really are talking about the ‘dream’ garden we all wish we had. The kind you can play in without any effort. Perfectly manicured and weed free without the use of chemicals or muddy knees, achy backs and dirt packed fingernails…and without having to pay anyone else to keep it that way (no cheating!). Sprinkle some faery dust and the flowers bloom and that’s it.

Whoa! Daydream over. I don’t know about you, but Catherine and I actually love gardening. I’ve been known to even skip the gardening gloves because I don’t want to block any of my senses when it comes to planting a tree or a seed that will bloom into a stunning flower. (Picture heavy!)

Rudbekia in Rula's garden

Butterfly Weed in Rula's butterfly garden

Tuscawilla Tigress Lily in Rula's garden

Alexander the Great lilies in Catherine's garden

Grandma's Kiss lilies in Catherine's garden

Catherine's Rocket daylily

Rula's hydrangeas

Catherine's hydrangeas in a vase. Love the color!

Yes, we tend to love the same types of plants. We both happen to love weeping trees too. All that emotion! But seriously, Shakespeare was on to something. I mean, maybe faeries really do exist. I certainly wouldn’t mind living in a whimsical garden wonderland of bright flowers.

But as we said…the perfect, dream garden is just that. A dream. One made possible by camera zoom or cropping the weeds out of photos. I wouldn’t want to be a tiny sprite and come face-to-face with this otherwise quite pretty fellow…


Rula's mint does taste good :)

Or this one...

Praying mantis who appeared on Rula's office window a few years ago

Especially not when I put two praying mantis egg cases in the garden this spring (each case can hatch up to 200 babies). They’re awesome carnivores who will help keep insects in an organic garden in check…but the females will also eat their mates after…well you know (none of that on a Heartwarming blog lol ;). Goodness knows what they’d do to a poor guy like Puck.

Or these Japanese beetles who just did this to one of my apple trees…


Beetles munching and humping (can we say that here?) on Rula's tree

Rula's Shakespearean apple tree tragedy

Catherine's gruesome beetle buffet scene

Oh, and it’d take a machete to get through the weeds!


Rula's weeds. If you can't lick'em, join'em. Yes, I've made dandelion tea.

Weeds in Catherine's hydrangea bed. When you can't lick'em, put the flowers in a vase!
Catherine did have lovely sweet potato vines...


Catherine's lovely lime green sweet potato vines

...before a deer came by and had them for a snack.

Ahh the dangers that lurk in gardens.

But if I were a garden faery, I wouldn’t mind taking a flight on the back of this beauty…


Luna moth on Rula's hand. They're huge! 
But in real life, gardening does teach us that hard work pays off. Even with writing, it takes a lot of pruning and weeding before we can sit back with iced tea and enjoy the scenery…I mean story ;). So like Charlotte’s cousin in my yard told me, ‘Make like a spider and weave’.

No, she didn’t really say that! Did you actually think I speak spider? I bet you believe in faeries too J.

This web at Rula's was as tall as her. It was strung between trees. Makes one think of Mirkwood and its spiders in The Hobbit by Tolkien!

Let your imaginations take over. Do you like gardening? What’s your favorite part...the digging or the kicking back and daydreaming?





67 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos, ladies. I do enjoy gardening. Our once lovely purple leaf plum tree has been devoured by the Japanese beetles this year. I don't remember them being this destructive last year..sigh...

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    1. Thanks, Jill! You know, they haven't touched our two purple leaf plums, but probably only because they're close to our fruit trees...and a fruiting plum they love. Our plum tree looks worse than the apple tree in the photo today. Those two trees are their favorites in our yard. They start with them every year, then go on to the other apple tree and then they go for everything else, including our crape myrtles.

      The numbers of japanese beetles and speed of damage has really gone down since we put 'milky spore' on our lawn (it's organic but damages the grub stage) and also since we got chickens (grubs, yum!), but they still come over from neighboring lawns and properties :(. I can't control that, unfortunately.

      I hope your plums bounce back!

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  2. Love the flowers. hate the bugs! I have a black thumb. Thank goodness my husband enjoys being the gardner in our family. We have some gorgeous blueish/purple hydrangeas in our backyard that are my favorite!

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    1. Oooh, I LOVE blue hydrangeas. Just planted some this year!

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  3. How gorgeous! I have a very modest little garden in my yard, but oh how I love to sit there and watch the dragonflies and big black bees. Thanks for sharing your garden!

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    1. Dragonflies are fabulous. We're getting a lot more of them this year because all the rain has kept our small creek and pockets of still water filled. We also have a ton of bees...all kinds...because of organic gardening. I love them and they're hard at work every morning pollinating my squash :).

      I'm a bit strange. I love insects. No, I don't want to be stung by a wasp and I'm not fond of roaches or flies, but the rest are beautiful and fascinating. I took entomology as one of my bio degree classes in college and really appreciate them :).

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    2. Aw, thanks, Laurie :). Blushing!

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  4. You made me smile. I'm not a gardener. My backyard is meh. So, did the Japanese Beetles destroy the tree? Or just take over? Love the moth.

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    1. Pam, luckily, the trees get new leaves once the beetles are done with the mating/feeding part of their life cycle. But it takes time and stresses the trees, so the fruit often drops. I didn't get to enjoy any italian plums last year because of it. It's frustrating.

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  5. I love, love, LOVE beautiful gardens and (to a degree) gardening! Thank you for sharing the gorgeous pictures from your gardens, Rula and Catherine.

    I am intrigued by the Luna moth. One of my dogs, Harley, loves to chase butterflies (or anything that resembles one). He'd be in puppy heaven if he saw one of these!

    As far as my biggest challenge right now....hoping that the new-born bunnies in my yard don't eat ALL my plants. (I posted some pics just yesterday on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KateJamesBooks. They're so cute, it's hard to begrudge them a meal or two, or three....)

    Enjoy your gardens, ladies. You've earned it!!

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    1. The Luna moths are amazing and just stunning, Kate. One appeared on my front doorstep a few years ago and it's the one photographed on my blog's upper right corner. The one in the photo here was taken just a few weeks ago. I found it one morning near my garage doors (we keep a light on there at night). I didn't want it injured, so I carried it over to a garden bed.

      Finding one is really a spiritual experience :). We also get a lot of swallowtail butterfies and I'm working on a Monarch waystation. Just planted their favorite milkweed variety this year :).

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    2. Even when they're devouring your gardens?! :-D

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    3. LOL, Kate. No, I'd rather not have my gardens eaten ;). I'd have to resort to covering things in wire lol. I love deer too, but know first hand the damage they can do to my trees and plants if I'm not careful. We learned the hard way to wire around the trunks of young, newly planted trees...after losing many to deer. Good luck with your gardens!

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  6. I love to look at other people's garden. I can't keep anything alive so I quit trying. I now have lovely pots of metal flowers, and am planning this fall to get more. No water, no bugs, yay. But I have a non edible black walnut tree that sheds leaves and nuts, so it still needs my attention. Rula, if that was you spider web, aiyii! I'd never go in my back yard again.

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    1. Roz, metal flowers...great idea lol! Actually, very smart for more arid areas where conservation is important. A good xeriscaping idea :).

      We have a lot of black walnuts by our creek. I have to be careful about what I plant there because their roots release a chemical called juglone, which keeps many other plants from growing near them (though many are immune to their territorial techniques lol). I don't like black walnuts as much as english, in terms of nut flavor, but their pretty expensive in stores. I've tried harvesting them, but it's very hard to do, so I've left them to the squirrels who love them.

      And yes, that spider web was in my front yard lol. Anyone wanna come over lol? It was amazing. I was shocked at how big it was! Very cool.

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  7. Love your pictures. My favorite part of gardening was sitting in my rock garden and looking at my labors of past years while sipping tea with my neighbor. Had little to do but pull a weed or two because everything came up as planned. Really miss that tranquility. Excellent post.

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    1. I love me a tranquil garden, Marion :). And tea!

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  8. You both have such beautiful gardens! My mother was like you all--the best gardener ever. She could make anything grow, and when anyone in my family had a plant in danger, they brought it to her because she could make them grow again. Apparently, she had such great skills that genetics had none left for me. I'm a garden''s worst enemy, so I sigh with envy at yours, and wish I had a clue. I'd never be in the house if I had beauty like you all have outdoors!

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    1. Thanks for the compliments, Anna :). I'm laughing at your genetics joke;). My sister brought me an orchid to save once, but that was indoors. I've had plants that couldn't be saved no matter what I tried. And outside, it's a full time job to keep things looking nice. Sometimes, it's way too hot out to make the effort. But I will say that, now that I can compost chicken poop, my veggie garden is growing like never before. I just saw my first broccoli flower yesterday and got excited :).

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  9. What a fun post, ladies! I'd love to come over and just chill (maybe nap) a while in your beautiful garden spaces. I'd be willing to try some of that dandelion tea, too. I think A Midsummer Night's Dream is my favorite Shakespeare play.

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    1. It's one of Shakespeare's best :).

      Be prepared for a bit of bitter with the dandelion tea. I had to acquire a taste for it, but it's really good for you (especially digestion). Obviously, not if weed killer has been used on it lol.

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  10. Rula, Catherine, love your photos and applaud your gardening skills. What I love the most is that you let Nature do what it does and work around it. That is a scary-big spider web. We have spiders everywhere in the fall and while I'd go into cardiac arrest if one of them landed on me, I find them fascinating to watch - and they're a good life lesson for all of us. If a careless foot destroys your home, build again. There's a forsythia at the front of our porch, and a Hawthorne on the side. Makes a beautiful, 'bowery' spot for having tea. Have a great day everyone - this was such a lovely way to start it.

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    1. Muriel, I love that saying! Forsythia are so beautiful in the spring. I just planted three so that they can form a sheltered tunnel area against my veggie garden fence. It'll be a good hiding place for my free range hens when the hawks are overhead.

      When it comes to Mother Nature, it really is all about balance. Some of the insects we tend to fear (like wheel bugs) are the ones who keep the damaging ones in check :). We all have a purpose ;).

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  11. Oh, those gorgeous photos! Your two gardens are beautiful. As a little girl, I loved to "tour" my grandmother's garden and learn about all the flowers. She also grew wonderful tomatoes. I used to garden then went to container gardening on the deck, but this summer on a book deadline I didn't even buy plants :( My husband has become our gardener--and he works for free! About spiders: We once had a huge Wolf spider that "lived" in our bathtub. I guess he came up in the drain at night though he couldn't get out of the tub. We named him Igor. We have Luna moths at our bedroom window sometimes. Stunning.

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    1. A wolf spider named Igor living in your tub. I love that. You need to write a children's story around that lol ;).

      I planted over 10 varieties of tomatoes this year. I like making my own sundried tomatoes stored in herbed olive oil. My son and I are allergic to onions and garlic, so I have to make it from scratch...

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  12. What a great post. Love, love, love the pictures. Those hydrangeas in the vase are so lovely, and that butterfly weed is uniquely beautiful. I am well acquainted with those pesky Japanese beetles. One found its way into my hair at the base of my neck and I've hated them ever since. They'd ravage my potted flowers when I tried container gardening years ago. From the looks of all of your beautiful flowers perseverance truly pays off. Oh, and as for that praying Mantis, I've seen them up close on a couple of occasions. They give me the creeps. I think it's illegal to kill them....not that I'd try. Thanks again for the wonderful post.

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    1. Laurie, just the other day I stood under my apple tree and shook it, hoping the chickens would devour the Japanese beetles that showered down and scattered. They did get some, but the rest landed on my. I calmly shook them off and out of my hair. Calmly, because I was expecting that to happen. I mean, what sane person stands under a beetle loaded tree and shakes it. Well, about an hour later, while standing in front of my fridge, I felt something crawling up my back. At that point, I did do the standing-on-hot coals dance and shrieked until it fell out of my shirt. One does not expect bugs in their shirt while reaching for orange juice in the fridge.

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    2. That has to go in a book, Rula.

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    3. That has to go in a book, Rula.

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    4. I'll make a note and stick it on my idea board lol! :)

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    5. Haven't done it in a really long time, but I can remember picking off the Japanese beetles and how they felt tingling in the palm of my hand. Haven't seen a single one in Arizona.

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    6. They do feel like that, Marion! :) Those scrambling little legs...

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    7. Laurie, Muriel and Marion,
      Thanks for sharing. I have to put out the Milky Spore to kill the Japanese beetle larvae today. However, I have done this for 5 years and I STILL have those pesky beetles. I have rose plants from both my sister's and my mother's funerals in my garden and I work very hard to keep them fed, sprayed and de-bugged. They're worth it!

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    8. Laurie, Muriel and Marion,
      Thanks for sharing. I have to put out the Milky Spore to kill the Japanese beetle larvae today. However, I have done this for 5 years and I STILL have those pesky beetles. I have rose plants from both my sister's and my mother's funerals in my garden and I work very hard to keep them fed, sprayed and de-bugged. They're worth it!

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  13. Love those gorgeous flowers of yours. Not repeating what a black thumb I have or what I killed last. (Elaeagnus). My two neighbors used to compete to see who had the first daffodils. One year one of them bought beautiful silk daffodils and put them in her bed in late February...

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    1. Pat, I have elaeagnus bushes. Nice shimmer in the sunlight :). Sorry about yours!

      And too funny about your neighbor and the silk flowers. Pretty hilarious lol.

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    2. Pat, I have to say by the time I hit dreary March, silk flowers are looking good to me.

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  14. Amazing post! I love that you show the rewards of gardening and the hard work! :)

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    1. Thank you, Dana! It really is hard work, but I love it and would feel like I was suffocating if I didn't have a garden. I try and keep it healthy and, in return, it keeps me healthy ;).

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  15. Thanks everybody! I'm inviting everyone to come have lemonade, wine and fun goodies anytime. My automatic sprinkler system is myself. I have to move those sprinklers every hour all day long. My fun story is that the daylilies were all purchased from a day lily farm when my darling sister, Nancy, was still alive. It was fabulous. There were violins playing, tea being served and the money was raised for needy children. So, when I look at the daylilies, I think of children smiling back at me. Thanks to you all for reading!

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    1. That's so beautiful, Catherine!! I didn't realize just how special they are to you. What a lovely way to remember Nancy and a wonderful fundraising idea!

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  16. Love the beautiful garden photos. What a great way to start my day.

    I've been gardening in Anchorage for twenty-three years, which has its own challenges including moose, but last year we started spending part of our year in Arizona. We tried an experiment there, planting a vegetable garden before we left for the summer, with heavy mulch and automatic water, and hoping to come back to harvest in the fall. We discovered moose destruction is nothing compared to mule deer. The deer ate everything -- the peppers, sunflowers, okra, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes -- everything except the stump of one better boy that went on to produce cracked but delicious tomatoes, and the gourds. The six gourd seeds I planted covered the whole garden area, crawled down the steps to the level below, and climbed a tree. We harvested more than two hundred little gourds. Too bad they weren't edible. But like most gardeners, we're trying again. My husband built elaborate wire cages to shelter the tomatoes, which we're hoping will stymie the deer. We'll find out in September.

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    1. Oh, Beth! What are you going to do with the gourds? Are they the kind you can make bird houses with? Still, that's a lot of houses lol.

      We have a lot of deer here in VA and I have a 6 ft wire fence around my vegetable garden. It seems to be keeping them out, but they do jump our 4 ft property fence easily. I think, for the most part, they pick up the scent our dogs leave in the yard and stay away. But the fence around the veggies keeps the hens out too (they'll scratch, eat and destroy an area easily if I'm not careful). I only let them in after I've harvested everything late fall. Then I let them clean up ;).

      I've always wanted to go to Alaska and have wondered what gardening there would be like. Do you keep a greenhouse to extend seasons? I'm zone 6b, but we had such a cold winter this year that we lost major branches on some crape myrtles that are supposed to be hardy to zone 5, and a few perennials too.

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    2. WOW, Beth! What a story. I would have just sat down and cried over losing the whole garden. I lived in Arizona for six years and THAT garden was a real challenge. I clearly do better here in the Mid west. I can't imagine gardening in Alaska. It's a pretty short growing season isn't it? I'm inclined to think that a greenhouse would be my haven. Hmm. Come to think of it, that would fit quite well in my backyard now. On second thought. Better not. If I had a greenhouse, I would never get my writing done!

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  17. Love it.
    I am a gardening obsessive. Fortunately the blood, sweat and tears (all in generous quantities) are a distant memory by the time things come into bloom.
    The weeds (like the poor) are always with us.
    And I can't wear gloves. I need to see and feel what I am doing. And pay the penalty.

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    1. Great to see you here! :) I'm like you. I need to feel what I'm doing, even when it comes to washing dishes. The only time I'll glove while gardening is if I'm dealing with something very prickly or thorny.

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    2. I'm with you, Rula, my husband is constantly saying, "And where are your work gloves?" Kill joy.

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    3. I'm with you, Rula, my husband is constantly saying, "And where are your work gloves?" Kill joy.

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  18. Nice to meet you, Catherine!

    I'm a diehard homesteader as Rula well knows. And I'm no stranger to scrapes, bites, thorns, poison ivy, scorpions, and the occasional coyote.

    Taking care of animals is hard work, but gardening is less stressful. If I kill a tomato plant it's less dire than a sick chicken. Still, I don't think I can compete with flowers like the ones you shared today. Gorgeous! I'm slowly expanding my flower gallery. Someday...

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    1. Ack, my server went down and I lost the reply I just wrote. Sigh.

      Maria, you're an inspiration and my go to if I have questions! I'm in awe of all you do on your homestead!

      And I agree, animal care is much harder than any weed pulling that has to get done, or gardening in general. In fact, I just lost a hen last week to what I'm sure was sudden death syndrome/heart attack (the rest are fine). It happened right before me with no signs or symptoms of an issue at all. It was a sad day. As for all your homesteading expertise...I wish we lived closer to each other! :)

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    2. The more I learn, the more I find out how much I don't know!

      I'm sorry about your hen. Their metabolisms are so fast. By the time you know something is wrong, it's already killed them.

      PS I wish we lived closer too!

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    3. Thanks for sharing, Maria. I can't tell you how many "stabs" I have on my arms from the rose bushes, WHICH ARE NOW ALL EATEN. But when the fawn, whom I spied early one evening, ate the potato vine, that was it. I had to get out my chilli pepper deer spray. Organic, of course.

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    4. Catherine, I make a spray like that too! I mix water, a spoon of liquid soap, a spoon of oil, several of tabasco sauce, a raw egg and a little milk (both of which start to stink enough to repel deer)...shake it up in a spray bottle and it works (until the rain washes it away ;)

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    5. This is the problem with the sprays. Once it rains OR if I run the sprinkler, it washes away and then some darling critter comes along and whammo, whack, my vines are gone!!

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  19. I have a black thumb. Husband's is bright green, however, and I take credit for all his hard work through the Our Rule :)

    Great photos and beautiful flowers, ladies!

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    1. LOL, Carol. I'm liking that rule! :)

      Glad you enjoyed the pics :)

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  20. Wow! Thank you for sharing those gorgeous pictures of your gardens, Rula and Catherine. I'm inspired to consider praying mantis to solve my bug issues- and that Luna moth was otherworldly:)

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Seeing one really does make you believe in faeries ;).

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    2. Karen, I'm with you. The shot of the LUNA moth was worth everything in this blog. I have NEVER seen one. So, thanks Rula for sharing. Can we use that on a book cover somehow????

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    3. Ha! I was thinking the same thing, Catherine! I'd love to have my luna moth on a HW cover. I'll have to include it in a story...:)

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  21. The pictures are gorgeous! I have some of those things, but they're pretty much haloed by weeds... :-) Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Liz! The weeds are always there. Lucky for me, my chickens like to eat them. Now if only they won't eat the rest of the plants along with them lol.

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