This one - taken on July 2nd - is the backyard. A month earlier the backyard had not been sodded - it was still mud and covered with straw - a result of heavy equipment and trucks in the backyard for repairs. The barn also had not been painted yet. So, this one represents a lot of hard work on our part (we did all the sod) and a feeling of completion with the barn finally painted.
This is another view of the backyard looking to the west. The tan/cream building is the new garage to replace the hobby shed that burned. Our home is behind the apple and pine trees to the right of the photo.
Flowers were abundant in our back middle garden including roses and strawflowers:
This is a purple cleome. They grow quite tall and have these beautiful and unusual flowers.
These purple flowers are by the back door (which is actually our front door since we live in an old farm home).
On a trip with the girls many years ago, I saw these flowers - lantana - in another state. In Minnesota, they are annuals and I get them every year now. I love the variety of colors in each flower.
Our peonies bloomed this year - just in time for Sophia's graduation party last month (June 29th). They aren't receiving as much sunlight, so their flowers haven't been as abundant as in previous years.
This is the front yard - the hostas at the beginning on the month were quite large. Now, at the end of the month, they have purple flowers that stand a couple of feet above the plants themselves. Hummingbirds love them - though the numbers are down this year because apparently during the Spring migration in April in Iowa, many were killed in the blizzard there.
On July 6th, I finished the squares for a quilt I'm working on. It's part of the Minnesota Quilters' annual mystery quilt project. It's a fundraiser and fun project to do throughout the year. Each month, you get clues to do, but you have no idea what the final quilt will look like. We're getting closer, though, because the blocks now are being assembled. These are Blocks 1 and 3.
Each in July, the girls and I went to Willow River State Park in Wisconsin. We had not been there before so it was a pleasant surprise.
There is a very steep walk to get down to the fall (which makes for an ambitious climb back up this hill!). It was a hot day, so the spray from the waterfall felt really good.
During July, Sophia played the harp for quite a few dogs at the humane society. This one enjoyed listening to the music - check out his ears as he listened.
There was a pair of dogs that were from a senior owner who no longer could keep them. This one reminded us of one of our dogs, Danny, who loves to be scratched by his neck and has the same funny facial expression.
A big change for us that we have been enjoying in July was painting four rooms in June before Sophia's graduation party. The dining room has been white since we moved in (I painted over a blue/brown country look paneling board within the first month of moving here). It is now a soft green.
The living room also has the same soft green. Depending on the light and time of the day, it can look like a very light green or a bit darker.
The kitchen walls we painted a light gray (they also have been white since 1995) and did a brighter shade of white for the cabinetry, trim, and doors. The gray walls now match with the flooring which we had installed many years ago when we had water damage from the second floor that went into the first floor and basement.
The main floor half-bath we painted a mint green. Again, the walls had been white since 1995 so it's nice to see some subtle color in the bathroom. The wallpaper was from the previous owner. We kept that. I added the brown towels to tie into the pinecones on the wallpaper.
By mid-July, there were even more flowers blooming in the garden.
They were such pretty, vibrant colors.
We had a lot of purple flowers this year because Sophia's graduation party colors were purple and silver.
The daisies were in full bloom.
The lilies by the driveway also looked beautiful after a rain.
The hydrangeas, by the end of the month, were big snowballs. They about the size of a dinner plate.
I've loved seeing the bumblebees and native bees all over the flowers. There's a constant hum whenever I pass by the flower garden.
We've been seeing more butterflies this year with all the flowers - the ones we've had and the ones we've added.
Earlier in the month, I was filling the bird feeders - including the one on the mudroom roof that is next to the bedroom window. I love seeing the birds up close and watching their expressions. I think they can hear us sometimes - like this bird.
I stopped filling the feeder on the mudroom roof because of multiple visits from the squirrels - gray and red. They drive Cooper crazy and he barks at them to scare them away. Problem is: now they know that even if he barks he poses no threat because he doesn't come after them.
The wrens have been singing daily. They go in and out of their house which leads me to believe they have a family in there.
In mid-July, the girls competed in the county fair with their 4-H projects. Olivia did very well this year - earning all blues and one red. She entered a lot of projects - with the majority in photography, crafts, and fine arts.
Sophia earned all blues. Her main areas of interest were crafts, fine arts, and self-determined.
On the day that we volunteered at the fair in the 4-H food cafeteria, there was a major storm that was projected for the area. No one knew quite what to expect. It ended up being a serious storm with tornado-like winds, hail, lightening, and downpours that were blinding (both when walking and driving). It was like nothing we had ever experienced. These are the storm clouds moving in.
The people at the county fair had to take shelter at the churches across the street. Power went out, and buildings on the fairgrounds were damaged. No one - people or animals - were hurt. However, the fair closed for that night because of the amount of flooding and no power.
We made it through the rain stopped to get dinner at the Chinese buffet to bring home to celebrate Olivia's 16 1/2 year old birthday. We still do half-birthdays. Somehow I don't think we'll stop - it has become a tradition to celebrate the girls birthdays and half-birthdays since they were young.
July was filled not only with serious storms, but very high temperatures and humidity. We invested in two new fans for the barn. One (shown in the background below) is up higher and gets the air circulating at head-level for Bailey (the black horse).
We got another fan that we put on the floor and aimed it up for Hoss to enjoy. The minute I plugged it in, it was clear that this was where he was going to spend his day. He loved the wind on his forelock and mane.
We went back to the county fair on the 21st to see how the girls did on their projects; and what top ribbons they received. Olivia received a grand champion on her wildlife biology project that focused on killer whales. She will be competing at the State Fair next month with it.
Sophia chose to bring her health project on Sole Hope to the State Fair. She's working on doing a tri-fold display to go along with her booklet to display at the State Fair. Olivia will be doing a booklet to go along with her display.
The girls received multiple grand champion, reserve champion, and top blue awards for many of their projects. Needless to say, they were happy with the results.
Once the county fair that the girls compete in with their 4-H projects was done, we began focusing our efforts on the county fair that we enter our projects in the open class category. This county fair is the county that we live in, so we've been entering projects into it since Sophia was about 5 years old - 13 years now!
One of the projects Olivia did was a quilted pillow. The pillow itself fits into a pillow holder. This is a major accomplishment because she has never quilted anything so complex before. She was so happy with how it turned out.
What I love about this time of the year is that we do a lot of hands-on projects and sewing that we've wanted to do during the year, but haven't had the time. Our dining room and living room turn into a big crafting area, and we're all working on a variety of projects.
We went to the county fair to see how we did and to see the projects that other people did on July 31st. We were all happy that we got ribbons for our hard work. One of the projects Olivia did very well on was her poetry collection. She got a blue ribbon.
Closing out the month, I saw two sandhill cranes in a nearby field. Almost every day, I hear the cranes. Periodically I see them which is always neat. They are such big birds.
On the last day of July, I found some more monarch caterpillars. We have five now in the butterfly cage. It seems like each time I got out to get some more milkweed leaves, I find another one! This is the most caterpillars we've ever had which is so exciting!
I can't wait to see them emerge from their chrysalises as monarch butterflies! This is always a highlight of our summer since the girls have been young (around 8 and 6 years old).