Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The flowers are happy

Last night it began to rain and it is still
raining today. My plants are all happy for a good drink.
The small pond that used to gather in front of my gate is now gathering to the south and north ends of the street. We can actually walk 15 to 20 paces before we start wading.

I am glad to get the rain over with because Cub Camp begins Friday night. While Boy Scouts can camp in the rain, managing a group of cubs who come with parents and siblings ... and trying to convince them that scouting is fun ... is a whole new ballgame.

Meanwhile, I am preparing a craft to teach the cubs on Saturday. The camp has a Harry Potter theme so I will have the classes making owl neckerchief slides.

That involves cutting about 150 slices of wood for the body. I will let the kids cut the eye pieces and the bamboo ring for the back.

Yesterday I managed to cut about 20 slices so I have a long way to go. I have to do the task outside and sure do wish I had a friend with a band saw. I remember doing this in years past once I arrived at camp, now I am feeling my age and wondering if I can find a few boy scouts once I get there to help out ... but I really don't want to risk being un-prepared.

When I returned from camp last week, I found the little + quilt on the trash-bin counter was covered with stains.  Some were coffee but the others looked like some kind of jam that was dried in black blobs. I washed it three times but the stains all remain. What is rather amazing is that there is a 4' x 11' ceramic plate on that 7' x 11' space so not a whole lot of area for making spills. I used to have a natural keyake wood tray on that counter but it disappeared during last summer's trip. I can only surmise it got pushed off into the top trash bin.

Well, not that I just love that + pattern but while I was on a roll, I made a new little topper which I will save for when guests come. Maybe the little bin to the left  would like a runner too. Actually, that is a narrow unit of stacked drawers with pet things (inside and on top)... sticky rollers, bird seed, dog treats, Nikko's clothing (to be used to protect visitors from dog hair when they come inside) and some spare toys that won't fit in Nikko's toy box.

  This one got a dark binding. Maybe it won't show the spills as much.

Anyway, I will save this one for another day.

I found a pattern I'd really like to use for Ben's big-boy quilt but am still trying to come up with enough purple and lime-green fabric. I really don't want to begin something until I can see it through. I just don't have room to house UFOs.

Meantime. I am trying to find a good block for the latest book club read.

This is what is enjoying today's rain.

These flowers are growing along the wall  outside the rice store lady's garden.

The red ones are the same as I have along my wall.

Each time I walk along the street on my way to the corner and the train station, I pull the weeds among the bulbs. Once the red flowers are finished there will be plenty of seeds. I collect them and have a few places to put them in other weedy neighborhood spots.

Among the red flowers are these purple ones with three petals.

In our last house, we had some coming up here and there in the lawn. I have no idea what they are. Even my Japanese plant books don't have pictures of these two plants.

Both grow from tiny bulbs.

The purple one is a very short bloomer. I tried to get a picture on Sunday on my way to church but they had not begin to open at 8:am when I walked past.

By three in the afternoon, this is all that you can see, the petals having rolled down to the center. By the next day, it is an invisible green stub that will end up a seed pod.

The leaves of both plants look like the "dragon's beard" grass that is popular in Japanese gardens.
I think the little flowers are a pretty addition to any weedy strip.

And this is what is blooming in my little bedroom/greenhouse.

I think that flower pot cup could stand a washing but I hesitate to disturb the cactus.

I think these are so pretty.

They bloom a long time and look like twinkling stars.

I see more flower buds coming on a number of cacti. The white one that has already bloomed a few weeks ago is getting new buds.

The Easter cactus is about ready to burst into bloom too. (a bit late, but it survived out in the cold and snow this past winter).

Well, blogging break should be over and camp prep resumed. I was hoping the rain would finish by now so I don't have to add sawdust to the dog hair that is already taking over the house. Sigh!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Blogging buddies

As my four hundredth post nears, I can't help looking back over the years since my son turned my paper diary into a blog. I still keep my paper diary much as before, printing out a picture of each finish to paste on the page and writing in details like date and size and title or purpose. Sometimes I have added a snip of fabric that was used. That poor book as undergone countless repairs as it was never intended as a photo album. At one point in the not-to-distant future, I will need to find a second edition.

One thing that has changed is building a relationship with so many wonderful blogging buddies. It isn't just answering comments, but the exchange that goes back and forth between the posts. There are kindred spirits out there. A few I have been lucky enough to meet in person. Many more are never far from my thoughts.

This brings me to one of my longest friends,
Irene in Texas. Long ago we both belonged to the "Slowpokes". (and that will explain a lot about this post).

More than a year ago ... yes I am slow so these are not yet UFOs...I began to make blocks to represent each of my blogging friends. I call them "followers blocks"but they are really little reminders of my special friends.

It was a whole year ago that I received a note from my friend Irene, sending me these darling little hexie flowers. I was to use one on her block.  Now, I have been teasing her weekly for the past four years or so because on her "One Flower Wednesday" posts, she more often than not, shows more than one flower. Of course, with flowers this small and precisely constructed,  you would have to make more than one a week to get anything the size of a quilt.

Well, at first I was thinking in terms of a cute pink house. If you have visited her blog you would know why. That house is not just sitting there but is decorated differently for each season. Then, when the flowers arrived I began hunting up fabric with a number print. Finally, I found a pack of four cuts of numbered fabric. It isn't exactly what I had in mind and the #1 is a bit hard to find, but one year is enough for a slowpoke to make just one eight-inch block.

So ... one more block added to my little collection.

Thank you Irene for all these years of friendship and taking my ribbing. Maybe one of these days .....
we might meet in person.

Maybe the pink wasn't the best choice because the letters rather hide the outline of the triangles against the background.

Another interesting blogging aspect is the way my friends out there solve mysteries.

Growing up in Northern Ohio, I am pretty familiar with plants that grow in that zone but often find things growing in my own garden that I have no idea what they are or how they got there.

Last post I put up a picture of these mystery flowers in the hanging pot on my gate.

It is a mystery no more. Jean from All Points of the Compass knew what it was. Rhodohypoxis baurii , is native to South Africa.

I found out more information on line and even some advice as when to re-pot them. Thanks Jean.

Here is another mystery bloomer.

This has been planted from seed and has a small bulb.
There are multiple flowers on one stem and have begun blooming last week.

The rice store garden wall has a strip of them blooming in the three or four inch strip of dirt at the base of the wall.

They also grow in the dirt strip at the base of my wall (the one that was saved by the road-pavers) .

Finding information in English on the plants in Japan is not easy. Often I find a picture and the Japanese name and if the Latin name is included, I can learn more.

Years ago, I wrote a handbook for the Scouts to use for identifying plants, as it is part of the advancement trail and very little in English  can be found. Even in the "Park for Nature Study"(part of the National Institute for Nature and Science) plant names are only posted in Japanese. A few of my Troop's Scouts have done Eagle projects of putting labels on trees and plants in city parks in not only Japanese but with Latin as well as English common names. Since I grew up learning the Latin names of local plants, I find it fun to see how those familiar ones relate to their cousins in other parts of the world.

The above flower also comes in a white version.

These are such pretty blooms and thrive on neglect.

Who could ask for more. I'm glad they didn't get covered with asphalt.

 And, speaking of something thriving on neglect, these hen and chicks toss out flowers with gay abandon.

A few broken off runners found a new home in a vacant pot and seem to be celebrating.

So, my blogging friends,  though I may seem to be neglecting you, I hope you are thriving too, and send you this virtual bouquet of mystery flowers in celebration.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A finish at last

At last the runner is finished.

I will call this one "Thinking of Irene, the Hilacha Queen" I will probably be wearing those little threads (along with the dog hair) for months to come!

Nearly every one of these fabrics has been used in some other quilt. My grand kids could probably play "I Spy" with it.... something from the very first quilt down to the most recent one ... and I wasn't even trying to fit them all in either.

Of course, it's companion on the trash bin/counter is now in need of a washing. (Ah, life in the Fukuda household!)

Now I will have to think of something else for a take-along project. My #2 Grandson needs a "big boy quilt". Even if it fits his bunk, he is closing in on his teen years and probably outgrown that alphabet quilt I made so many years ago.

The trouble is, his color choice is purple and lime green. The quilt I made for his brother was blues and greens and I didn't even ask his preference. I was able to go to my stash and make blocks using lots of scrap fabric, only buying something for the borders. BUT ... purple? Not so many pieces and most are floral prints. Of course, I can't imagine my dear Ben complaining about a quilt I have made him but still.... Then, there is the lime green. I have two bins of greens but very few fall into the lime category.

When I was at the quilt show, I looked through the cut fabrics for sale with Ben in mind but didn't even come home with one new piece. Even the + runner has only a few purple blocks and no lime green.

Another little cacti has bloomed. I thought I might miss it all together because I was away at a Scouting event, but it has lasted a few days. The white one is still in full bloom since the last post but the yellow one beside it only lasted two days.

I noticed buds on another two getting ready to open before long.

These little flowers are in a hanging pot on my gate. They are only a few inches high and come from bulbs but I have no idea what thy are.

Some are dark pink, some light , and some variegated.

They probably need to be re-potted when they are finished blooming.

A neighbor has an entire fence crawling with this rose. It only blooms once in the spring and then is finished. I grew up with roses lasting all summer and I can't imagine my father giving  that much space to something with such a limited blooming period.

I notice the roses that are doing best here are growing on tall bushes.

Another house between my home and the train station has four or five very tall bushes that even kept their flowers through the winter. Those are not climbers but they are now in full bloom. I have tried growing roses several times but have had not much luck and suspect the soil is too acid for them to do well. Miniature roses in planters do have some luck and I may give them another try one of these days.

The small flower shop near my home has a wide selection of blooming plants that would make any garden happy. If only I had a garden space with sun I might be spending more than I can afford.
Meanwhile, cacti in my roof greenhouse will keep me happy.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The sun is smiling.

Remember when you were a kid and you put that sun up in the corner of your picture, wearing a smiley face with rays shooting out? (Of course when the teacher gave you a D minus minus minus there was no smiley face even though it looked like the sun).

Golden week has begun in Japan and in spite of a few rainy nights, we are enjoying lovely sunny days ... smiley face and all.

The morning started out very early with a trip into town to the American Embassy to get our family signatures notarized. You might think that was an easy thing ... but you need an appointment several weeks ahead. Then you need lots of identification to prove who you are. Fine ... I have a passport and so does my husband but... I have not always used my "real" name, which is "Julia", or my husband his real name which is "Ryusuke". I have gone by Julie since I entered school and hated to be called Jul-yuh. Paul's Christian name is not on his passport or birth certificate but it was used as "R. Paul Fukuda " in the business world, being a whole lot easier for non-Japanese to figure out how to pronounce. It took a whole lot of talking with assorted Embassy personnel before we could get the business taken care of. I guess I should tell my grand kids to use their real names on all documents. Even my social security cards... before and after marriage had "Julie" on them. Of course the Embassy told us those are not identity cards ... they did look at a picture identity card to the Tokyo American Club, however. 5,150 yen later we were happily out of there!

Last night I put the final border on my + runner somewhere between choir practice and home.

Here is the flimsy hanging on the fence in the park. Then I came home and basted the sandwich ready for quilting. I thought I might do some applique in the empty border spaces but the more I look at it, the more I think quilting will be enough. It is happily in a hoop awaiting the first stitches.

My cacti seem to be enjoying the sunny days. The little red flowers are still opening and last quite a while but the larger ones are only good for a few days at the most.

If they bloom on a camping weekend, I miss them and will have to wait another year.

One Golden Week I was attending a Scouting event in the states so I put all the cacti with buds on a tray and brought them down to the coffee table, leaving my husband with my camera and instructions to snap a picture.

Actually, he took a beautiful shot that was used as wallpaper on my old lap top until it died.

American Dogwoods, Cornus florida, have become quite popular on Tokyo, even as street trees. I think it is a good idea because they offer plenty of shade in the summer after the blooms are gone, they don't grow so huge so as to need extensive pruning and thus don't interfere with the power lines, and the seeds are pretty in the late summer and attract birds. And leaves turn red in the fall.

Lately I have noticed what seem to be hybrids with pink-tinged white bracts, dark pink bracts, and recently these cute tiny flowers with the bracts remaining connected in the center.  The street to the station has several of this variety.

There is also another young dogwood that bloomed for the first time this year. It was a first for me because the flowers had multiple bracts overlapping each other.

This picture doesn't really do it justice but you can notice the multiple bracts. Some of those flowers had eight and some had twelve or even sixteen.

The center flower was not yet visible. I will have to keep an eye on this tree.

The school where I sometimes teach has a "Dove Tree", or sometimes called a handkerchief tree with just two long hanging bracts, a native to Western China.
There would be no problem filling a May basket with flowers today.

I hope your day is a smiling one too.