Tag Archives: April

Friday Floral Feature: Stolen Tuesday Flower Photos


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Lilac in bloom. Sweet smelling time!

I already wrote about planting seeds with the aid of two granddaughters, so I’ll let that just be part of the Earth Day march for science post.

This week, cool April weather returned. We’ve had a generally warm and pretty April, but in the second half of the week, cold and clouds rolled in. It rained, and snow was also in the air, although I did not see any of the white flakes, and I’m OK with that.

While lows have been in the 30s, thankfully we have not really had a freeze, and with April entering its final days, I would expect that the weather trend soon will be much warmer.

Before the rains moved in midweek, on Tuesday morning I did a very quick walk in the gardens about before leaving for work, and I made some flower images in a few stolen minutes during the attractive golden light of morning.

I’m glad I have several different types of crab apple tree. Some are already getting past prime, but others are just coming on. In the front yard, the larger white crab apple is shedding many of its pedals, while its pink-and-white cousin (both trees were tiny twigs when they went into the ground on the same day, part of the same Arbor Day Foundation set) is just getting into its prime.

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Tulip in back garden.

Same story in the back yard—some crab apples are getting beyond prime bloom time, others are just kicking in.

The Moscow Lilac is at its peak and may be faded when sunshine returns. Redbuds, for the most part, are starting to put out leaves, so the pretty pink flowers aren’t going to be around long. One darker Redbud in front, however, is just getting ready to bloom.

Bluebells are still blooming well. Some Lily of the Valley have heavy looking buds, just getting ready to bloom. Early peonies are going to pop any day now—maybe once the sunshine returns.

Well, cool rainy days aren’t the best days to be outside. Still, to a gardener, cool damp days at this time of year are welcome. New grass is sprouting in back. And the grandkids and I recently planted seeds—and you know what they say about April showers.

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Crab apple in front yard.

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The First “Real” Spring Weekend


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When he was a feature writer for the Des Moines Register, Ken Fuson did a front-page “brite,” or happy feature story, about the first warm weekend day in Iowa in March (“What A Day!”). It was one long, joyous sentence.

I won’t try to mimic Fuson’s style—but this was such a day today. Granted, there has been nice weather in 2017 already—sunny, unseasonably warm weekends early in March. And it’s April now, so maybe nice weather is not such a jolt to the system.

But it still topped 70 degrees today. The sun was shining down, and it felt like the first true foreshadowing of the Midwest late spring yet to come. We’ve even had warmer days before, but the flowers and green and spring are just far enough along the road today towards true spring. In our minds, we could imagine June, the month of the year when Iowa can be the most pleasant spot on the planet (as long as it’s not rainy and flooding). Today, we could picture June.

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Grandson removes shoes late in morning. It had been cool, was was starting to hint at warm.

The day began windy and cloudy, a bit on the cool side. I spent the morning at a soccer pitch in Monticello, Iowa, watching a kindergarten-age grandson studiously ignore the rather random soccer game that languidly swirled around him without disturbing his great concentration on whatever it was he was so deeply focused on.

Well, the athletic gene runs shallow in the Sheller clan.

After that, there was a playground at the fairgrounds (where the soccer fields in Monticello are). The sun peeked at us now and then, there were a few random bug sightings, but we kept our sweatshirts (if not our shoes) on.

Then came lunch. Then, the afternoon. The afternoon! After our midday pizza feast, many of us started to warm up in the backyard of my daughter’s home. Coats were forgotten, ladybugs were everywhere, and my sweatshirt was draped over the cross bars of the swing set as I fulfilled a grandfather’s burden for a shifting cast of grandchildren (I pushed).

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Tired and exhausted by running, tossing and swinging in the increasingly warm, sunny, pleasant day, we headed back to Cedar Rapids. After a rest (the grandkids watched “Zootopia,” of which I saw only the snippet of opening credits and final 5 minutes—I suspect there was mid-movie snoring in the family room), I went upstairs. My 15-month-old grandson was up from a brief nap, so we donned shoes and headed in back for a flower photo safari. Within 5 minutes, several other grandkids joined us, so I did a fair amount of ball tossing and swing pushing between photographing flowers.

The cool morning had turned to a genuinely warm afternoon, milky sun beating down, buzzing bugs flying about—it had the smell and feel of the next coming season. The trees are still shaking off their winter slumber, but at the ground level, the annual hoedown of life is already do-si-doing.

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Early peony bud.

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First tulip.

I shot lots of images of crocus, early tulips, daffodils and other spring flowers. Bluebells, AWOL until now, have suddenly popped up. They are not super early spring flowers and are not blooming, but suddenly, like little garden salads, clumps of bluebell leaves have poked up all around the shady gardens.

Then, late in the afternoon, the dam burst. The bicycle would not be denied. I had taken my main commuting bike that I call “Clarence” and assembled the bus Friday by putting on the toddler seat and attaching a Tag-A-Long. I met the kids at a park Friday and took two home with the bike. The oldest grandchild had been lobbying for a bike ride all day today, and it was time.

The original plan was for her to ride her bike and for two other grandchildren to ride Clarence with me, but for some reason plans morphed. Recognizing we would climb some hills, the oldest granddaughter shrewdly shifted plans to the Tag-A-Long.

What followed was a series of bike rides of 2-3 miles each with a shifting cast of grandchildren. On ride number two, with the oldest grandchild, we paused to inspect a garter snake basking on the trail. Many birds, puppies, cats, birds and the one snake were all inspected or commented on during the rides.

Tomorrow, I plan to put in some grass seed and trim a few trees, as well as spending hours grading. I supposed I could have graded today, but the sun was calling, there were many, many grandchildren to play with (we had seven with us for most of the day) and it was THAT Saturday, the First Summer-Like Saturday, a day to drink nature in with no thought of tomorrow and no regrets.

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Mid-April, Buds Show How The World Will Change


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Fern ready to unfurl, looks like it could be an alien about to bite

Crocus have been in bloom and many are already faded. Daffodils are coming into their own, and all kinds of flowers/plants are starting to show themselves.

It’s mid-April, an in between time in the garden. The early phase, the first signs of life, are ending, and some serious plant sex is ready to kick into gear.

Here I present a few images shot during a quick tour of my backyard in the morning of April 14. Your taxes are due tomorrow, and by this time next week, green and shade will start to dominate my temporarily sunny yard.

In my quick loop this morning, I was struck by how odd the ferns look, which is why “Fernie” gets the main spot. Before their fronds unfurl fully, they look a bit like the evil plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

New lilac

Lilac

Lilacs will be a mixed bag, which they always are. A fairly young one that we planted 2 years ago and that bloomed last year looks like it’s going to bloom its heart out. As you can see, at least one other bush will be in a reproductive frenzy, too. But looking down at the bud nearer the ground—well, this pretty white lilac doesn’t seem to have any flower buds yet. Next spring, I hope. A few other shy bushes seem like they’ll continue their shy ways. Oh well, I’m going to have plenty of lilacs to see and smell (and chances are, I’ll need them).

Some of the traditional peonies are showing well, but not budded yet. The frilly early ones have formed buds already and should bloom soon.

Lily of the valley and hostas, which always seem like the last flowers to awaken, are just starting to poke their conical first folded leaves above the ground.

Crab apple trees have their tiny early leaves, which means they are getting set to bloom very soon. Redbuds are swollen with pink buds that will be gorgeous tiny flowers in a matter of days.

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Pear tree. May be a bit stinky ....

Sadly, the pear tree that bloomed just a little last year looks ready to put on a real show—with pears, that’s sometimes a stinky show, too. I hope the scent of lilac proves more robust than the pear stench.

And a few other early flowers, plants that are part of the end of “wave 1” of spring.

Grass will need mowing soon. New grass is starting to sprout. The larger trees are still fitfully snoozing, but showing signs too, with maples long since flowered and buds swelling on oak and ash.

The in between time is poised to give way to dramatic new flowers shortly! Hooray, spring!

Fern

Side view of Fern. Scary looking little monster, but will be pretty plant.

Lilac

Traditional color lilac near house.

Moscow lilac

Pretty little Moscow lilac, will bloom white. But not this year.

Redbud

Both redbuds, older one and young pup, are going to be very showy this spring.

Pear

Another view of pear buds.

Shady groundcover.

Shady plant in bloom.

Early flower.

Early flower in garden by deck.

Daffodils.

Final photo, daffodil in bloom.

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Practice Run During Tulip-Palooza


Joe and Theresa

Me and Theresa in our racing gear, shot by Audrey on the back deck. I rode bike to Thomas Park and met her there for our first joint practice run today. On to Bix 2010!

 

Theresa and I did it—went on a practice run today. It was during the afternoon, which felt pretty warm, a good idea since the Bix is in July. 

We went about 25 minutes, which we calculate to be around 2 miles. Yes, it’s true, the young lady ambling along listening to her iPod took us a while to pass—her leisurely walk was almost my jogging pace. At least she wasn’t an old lady with a walker. 

I think Theresa almost went insane at some points. It’s hard when you’re young and healthy to run with an old man, especially when you have to be extraordinarily generous with your definition of “run.” 

Tulips

Many people have clusters of flowers, such as daffodils, in gardens, and they look nice. I've tended to mix different colors or types more-not that I mind the clusters (I like them), I guess I've just into variety. Many tulips are in bloom now, including these three by the house in back.

 

We “ran” on the bike/walk trail near Thomas Park—the one that snakes through a Frisbee gold course where Ben and Brandon were playing. 

Taken with my 4-mile “run” on Saturday, it means I almost did a Bix this weekend. The Bix is 7 miles, very hilly miles, too. 

Well, at least training is underway. A few others in the family expressed intrest in doing the Bix this year, but so far, no other trainers. 

Despite an injury (she was bitten by a dog this morning), Theresa easily kept pace and ran ahead a few times when the maddeningly slow plod was too much for her. 

Give her credit, though, she always slowed down and waited for the elephant to catch up. 

They’re putting in a new trail off of the main one through the golf course, which looks like it will be nice, although much of the length was aggregate for now. 

We’re off and running! On a sunny late May day that happened to be in early April. A day that features many of the tulips in my gardens popping, a few added flower photos below. 

And then on to work. I have a ton. But the nice day would not be denied some outdoor activity. 

Magnolia

Magnolia in back, blooming like crazy. Sargent crab apple looks to be a bust for one more year, but many things are blooming.

 

Two more tulips

We have a few pastel tulips, like the pink one in the group of 3 above, but seem to favor more vibrant colors.

 

Native violets

These grow as weeds in the yard, but I move a few before pulling or spraying--I like these native violets in shady areas of the garden where they seem to do well. I think Pat and Anne used to flavor candy with them at one time? I seem to recall such an experiment in Clinton when Euell Gibbons was in fashion.

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Living Life’s Transitions


Amanda gets a surprise

Amanda was having her hair fixed the day of Theresa's wedding. She wanted juice and a home-made cinnamon roll and called Ben. Surprisingly, Ben delivers. You just never know what the future holds ...

Soon, the class of 2010 will walk across the stage and take its place in the American workforce.

For some, it will be an easy transition—students who have connections or luck or the right major may have already lined up nice first jobs. Other students have applied for, and been accepted, into graduate school.

For many, however, graduation means the beginning of a time of uncertainty and at least temporary unemployment.

That’s the way it was for me when I graduated with a BA in History and Communication from Marycrest College in 1982. I was engaged to be married, my future wife had a nursing job in central Missouri, and I was unemployed.

Luckily, not for long. Despite a national recession and the presence of the one of the world’s largest journalism factories at the University of Missouri just 20 miles east, I got a job at the “Booneville Daily News” as a sports editor.

That brings me to a point of advice to the class of 2010: Remember Tom Hanks in the 2000 movie “Castaway.” When reflecting on his experience—being stranded on a deserted island with only a volleyball for company and, at one point, being driven to the brink of suicide—he noted that one lesson he learned was that you just have to keep breathing. Because you never know what the next tide will bring.

That can be scant comfort when you’re standing at the edge of the unknown, but I think there is wisdom in that outlook, too.

Audrey and I had planned to take a mini vacation this spring break. The kids had given us a bed and breakfast certificate for our 25th wedding anniversary, and we were thinking of a two-day trip to the St. Louis area—our plan was to go somewhere not far away where spring is just a bit further along and enjoy ourselves.

As fate would have it, it didn’t happen. Our son-in-law is finishing a PhD at Iowa State, and, with a new baby in the family, was struggling to get everything done.

Audrey and I decided it would make more sense for her to offer to take care of our granddaughter during spring break. Frankly, it was something of a relief to us—knowing how far behind I was in grading, having extra days to work without having to make time for a trip was probably a good idea anyway for me, too. And any excuse to visit a baby granddaughter has its own rewards. And, it seemed the week had the desired impact—word from Ames is that the big project is much farther along.

So, son-in-law, don’t feel at all guilty. St. Louis and the bed and breakfast certificate will still be there. Audrey thoroughly enjoyed visiting her granddaughter and I got some extra work time and some R and R in the garden—it all worked out for the best for everyone, not just for you.

April is just around the corner. Lent is in its final days and Easter is nearly here. It seems that virtually all of the peony clumps from the farm survived, and I’m anxiously awaiting them to see what colors they bring.

From Wikimedia commons, posted by Steve Ryan on Flikr. Finch in Feburary 2009, but could have been in March, given the uncertainties of March weather.

April, it is said, is the cruelest month. I am not sure at all what T.S. Eliot meant by that line in context—I am not a great literary interpreter of 20th century poetry. I personally think March is crueler—whatever limped through the winter may expire in that half spring, half winter month—but I don’t think T.S. was writing about birds, small mammals, bulbs or other non-human living things.

But, for students, perhaps April is about the hardest time of year. In May, the coming excitement of graduation and the final push to finish everything as best as you can provides a final burst of energy. But in April, just after mid-term, if you aren’t going to make it, if your academic ship is foundering and full of holes, it’s probably sinking time.

Still, April is also full of new life and new hope. If you are failing at something you’re trying, it just means you haven’t found the right path yet. Failure is never truly failure unless you fail to learn anything from it.

And if you’re graduating from Mount Mercy this year, or from ISU with a PhD, congratulations. If you don’t that that dream job lined up, please remember Tom Hanks.

Keep breathing. You never know what the next tide will bring. Not everything that washes ashore is good or welcome, but at least much of it is unexpected.

May some of that which is unexpected be surprisingly good.

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