Friday, September 30, 2011
It is paved with themI woke up with the best of intentions. Honest I did. I was going to spend at least 2 hours in the office, getting a good start with this project I've been saddled with. But then, while sipping my coffee, I saw the sun come up over the top of the hill and ignite the maple trees in the lower acre and suddenly I realized that this was going to be a hooky day.
I made some amazing progress... I have this grape arbor "project" that I have been picking away at for YEARS. I wanted something that would look rough and rustic and a little Mediterranean....something slightly (VERY SLIGHTLY) that would evoke the idea that here was this little temple that had fallen down and some peasant had erected a grape arbor over it.... Yes, yes, I know.... *LOL* I read too much.
Anyways, about 4 years ago I poured concrete pillars about 4 feet tall at the corners. Then in a real stroke of amazing luck, I got two pick up truck loads of those little very expensive pavers... FREE!!! Someone had dumped them at the local dump! I could not believe my luck. So...after about 6 months of wondering how to use them, I paved the floor of the grape arbor with them, in a sort of "celtic cross" motif. Then I toyed with different ideas for the wooden posts that would set on the concrete pillars. Another year (or so) went by. I have a slow mind. Ideas tend to percolate through it like that honey that you leave too long in the little plastic bear jar and it gets all sticky and crystally?
So then I thought why not use up all these wooden fence posts laying around? So I bundled four together for each pillar, bound them with wire, and set them on the pillars. This was like...hmmm...2 years ago? From that time to today, I have been terrified to actually nail boards across the top. I can't really explain why. I think it's because my husband is such an absolute WONDER with any type of construction. And he made it clear this was MY project from the start. (Also because I am absolutely champion for measuring twice and cutting once...and STILL GETTTING IT WRONG! *LOL*)
Today, I screwed my courage to the sticking point, picked up a saw, hammer, etc. and actually got the two long boards nailed onto the top. So that's 2 sides. Tomorrow, the gods willing, I will try to nail the two other sides in place. Then support wires and the fence wire that will form the "ceiling" for the grapes to hang down from. I SAY "tomorrow" but for all we know, it may be a few more years *LOL*!
I finally got the little path under the forsythia archway woodchipped, laid down some chicken wire over it (to keep the hens out) and put down those few flat rocks and concrete pavers that I have laying around. Looks very nice.
Baked bread and cinnamon rolls for tomorrow, as well as a pot of beef barley soup, also for supper tomorrow.
Now, since I have been so busy and virtuous all day, i think I will refuse to cook and order in a pizza!
Thursday, September 29, 2011
What is that strange light in the sky?Can it be the SUN???? *LOL* I have GOT to get some laundry out on the line, quick, before it rains again.
I harvested all the 4 heads of broccoli last night; my hand was forced. The heads were big and full and tight, but because of the persistent damp the center of each head was starting to get black! I was able to salvage most of the heads; I have no luck freezing broccoli in the deep freeze, so I just cooked it all up, divided it into plastic containers and put it in the fridge freezer for use in the next week. Like other gardeners, I've found that if you cut the main heads from broccoli and just let the plants alone, most will continue to produce small heads; the plants I put in in spring are still throwing off small heads!
How depressing: My friend E. talked me into going to a "garden party" type thing, where you wander around someone else's garden, nibbling high-calorie treats and listening to a young man play soft nondescript music on a guitar. It was a beautiful garden, in a large backyard in the suburbs. The couple were obviously well to do, retired, and both avid gardeners. Very friendly people, and a lovely little "do."
I was totally demoralized. BEFORE I saw their perfect, manicured, designed garden I really sort of liked MY garden! *lol* AFTERWARD? Ugh. My garden is a mess, there's weeds everywhere, I haven't got a clue how to design it, and there's not a hope in hell of ever getting this utter chaos into any sort of shape...ever. *LOL*
Never again. I'll only visit gardens if the gardeners are harried, harrassed, working people with dogs, cats, kids, goats, whatever living on way too much land and with way too little time and money. THOSE gardens will undoubtedly leave me feeling very superior!
K. wants me to go to a "Chicken Fair" with her on Saturday. I may do, if the weather is nice. I am very attracted to fancy chickens and would love to learn more about them. My neighbor J. keeps some fancy bantams and I would love to get a few of those someday.
OK, I had better get out of here and try to get something done outside. Surely this bright sunshine will not last!
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The season called "Bounty"I have to confess to being a bit "ticked off" with my niece and her missing husband. I really wanted to have at least until mid-October with no work so that I could concentrate on taking care of R postsurgery. Now I find myself saddled with three projects (2 from scratch, 1 that I need to finish up from my niece). I feel disgruntled and abused *lol*. I understand that they're having problems and that she needs time to sort things out, but really.
Let's see. Yet again, more rain. Our neighboring farms are bringing in the harvest (silage) and the roads are an absolute mess....the farm machinery is spreading mud everywhere. They have no choice...everything is so wet the corn will rot if it stands and the fields are soaked.
My dahlias are at absolute peak. I know I made fun of the big neon dinner plate dahlias earlier in the month, but I'm coming to realize that, although they would look a bit absurd in a small garden, in a big garden like mine, they are "to scale" and really add some much needed color.
The santolina cuttings I started in July are fully rooted and putting on new growth. I'm going to plant them out as soon as I decide where they should go....I'm thinking the top border near the forsythia arch. I'd like to try starting more santolina cuttings next year and also give lavender a try. If I get good at it, I'll have enough plants for a hedge in the vegetable garden, around the circular center bed. I read somewhere that boxwood are easy to root, so I might give that a whirl too.
The big azalea that E. and I dug out at the cemetery (mgt. are in the process of cleaning out the cemetery and sprucing it up, so they're allowing anyone to dig out marked plants) is really doing well! I want to dig out the big "no name" euonymous under the living room window, move it to the New Garden area, and replace it with this azalea. WHEN I will do this is anyone's guess *lol*. But I do want to do it! I think I may drive up to the cemetery today and see if any other plants are still available for digging up. There was an old rose bush that I thought might be interesting.
I'm beginning to think that four seasons just aren't enough. It really seems as if we need to add another season here...somewhere between summer and fall. Spanning these days from mid-September to late October, when it's not summer (days are short, nights are long), but it's not really autumn either (temperatures are high and rain is plentiful). I vote that we name this shorty season "Bounty" because it seems as if everything is shaking out its last ounce of goodness. I've even seen new blossoms on my mock orange and my flowering crabs!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Weird weatherThis week, our temps have been in the mid to upper 80s, but by Saturday night, they're forecasting possible frost and a low of 39! Still lots of rain/moisture. I don't know when my hair will dry out enough to stop being so frizzy.
Yesterday I moved some languishing ajuga from under the maples in the woods to up near the deck, where I hope they will do better. (Hmm....Languishing Ajuga...either a great name for a band or a new variety of ajuga? "Languishing Ajuga combines the best of the Rolling Stones lyrics with the drive of Green Day...." or, Ajuga 'Languishing' a trailing, low growing groundcover that weeps over walls, puddles across walks and generally provides a sense of gentle melancholy to the garden design...")
At any rate. That was the big gardening adventure yesterday. I also managed to get another section of basement wall painted. I am hoping to move my canning shelves today and paint behind them today. Then I can finally start moving the filled jars out of my (tiny) kitchen and finally see my tabletop again.
Today, if I get a chance, between rain falls, I need to drag all those fallen branches out of the woods and up to the brush fence.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Kicking and screaming*lol*. My vision for my garden is coming along, even though it seems sometimes I have to drag the whole 2 acres kicking and screaming into shape. Yesterday was a very productive day. I divided and moved the big Vipers Bugloss from beside the path to three new spots, two up near the grape arbor and one in the new garden. I planted yellow lily bulbs in the same hole, so that should make a nice color blend when everything is in bloom.
Also planted some young yucca up in the new garden. These were "throw away" plants that sprouted between the pavers in the front walk, but I just don't have the heart to toss them. I really should have planted them out along the road, with the wild daylilies, but didn't have the gumption to do the hard work.
Picked a peck of peppers...I think I got about 14 very nice sized sweet peppers. There are more smaller ones still on the plants that I think I'll let go until nearly frost. Also picked some beans from the scarlet runner...I see that it's really starting to set flowers and I'm wondering if it's a late producer? If so, I'll try planting two teepees next year, one with my all-time favorite Blue Lake pole beans for early crops and another with scarlet runner for later crops. Can't have too many green beans!
The late broccoli is coming along beautifully; we ate one very big head with pork chops last night. There are 3 or 4 more to go. I'm sorry now that I didn't buy more baby plants back in late July. The cauliflower (3 plants) look like they are TRYING to form heads, but so far nothing.
Later in the evening, I took a walk, for a change WITHOUT work gloves, secateurs, and weeder *LOL*. Just to look at things. I'm pleased! It actually is beginning to take shape. There's a lot of work still to be done, but now the "bones" of the garden are starting to form. I know where beds will be, some of the baby trees are already in place, areas are being mulched/composted to get them ready for "taming"...it's coming together. Of course, some spots still look a jungle of weeds and brush, but I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I think this week, when I can steal a few minutes from my job, I'll concentrate on finishing up some half-done projects that got set aside during the summer.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
MagicToday, my niece dropped off her 6 year old daughter with me for a few hours while she did some shopping. Tesserae is a lovely child; she's bright, polite without being smarmy, and smart without being precocious. Today, she brought her newest book, the first of the Harry Potter series. I have to confess, I have not joined the hordes who love H.P., but after today, I think I can safely say I am a fan! I'm not sure how much Tess really understands about the story, but I know I was completely charmed by it. And I'm sure it won't hurt a little girl of 6 to believe there really is a Hogwarts out there somewhere, where ordinary Muggle children can become witches and wizards.
After I read the first couple of chapters with her, over oj and cookies, we went outside and did a little gardening together. She's a big help in the garden! Her mom is a gardener and Tess must have Miracle-Gro in her blood *ha*. We got the front walk weeded, and the front beds mulched. Plus, planted out those dratted heuchera that have been staring balefully at me from their pots.
And after Tessie had gone home and I was sitting on the porch admiring our handiwork, it occurred to me that this is a sort of magic too.... Not the wands and incantations kind, but still magic. Taking a dried up seed and a handful of dirt and ending up with beautiful flowers. Watching the dragonflies change from dull gray-green to electric blue as they fly. Seeing the flocks of starlings wheel and piroutte over the treetops.
I believe that the only magic wands we have are the two attached to the ends of our arms. That the only Spellbook we possess is the one between our ears. Magic, as far as I'm concerned, is hard work... But it doesn't hurt to let little children think that Great Auntie Jo is a witch who can make cookies appear on command!
Friday, September 23, 2011
Weeds weeds everywhereSummer's back, at least a little bit...temps got into the mid-80s yesterday with high humidity. The only saving grace is that the days are shorter and by about 5 p.m., it begins to cool off.
Finally tackled the driveway flowerbed. Weeded and cleaned it up. Not too bad, actually. Then turned my sites on that little triangular bed near the walk, and the "new" bed under the mugo pine. The chickens have made a mess there...scratched nearly all the woodchips out over the walk. So, mostly that was just raking and "tidying". I laid down a piece of chicken wire over the woodchips to keep the hens off. That seems to be the most effective barrier, and once the wire starts to rust (or get a "patina" as we like to say *ahem* *lol*), it's nearly invisible. Keeps the cats out too.
The only disappointment in that driveway bed is the red Monarda. I really thought it would thrive there, but it's barely hanging on. I need to get lavender planted and some of the heuchera that I have in pots.
Today, I have to take R for a doctor's appt (postsurgical checkup), and I have to get a lot of "real" (office type) work done. I have been left in the lurch. My niece has informed me that she is having a nervous breakdown and will not be working for about a month. This is no shock to me; the poor girl has been having a very rough time with that husband of hers. He finally decamped and we have no idea where he is or if he's coming back. Soooo....so much for partial retirement. I'm baaacckkkk! *lol* It's just irritating that I can't seem to find truly reliable people for this job. Then again, I shouldn't really say that. They've both been good works for several years. It's just this intermittent nuttyness that is so hard to deal with.
The scarlet runner beans have put on one last show...wow. The color is great! I have to remember that they do this, bloom late in September, so I can work them into the fall landscape.
BTW: PAGirl's suggestion of using plastic forks for plant markers is AWESOME! I'm going to be recycling plastic forks for this use! Another good plant marker is to save the slats from windowblinds. I cut them into lengths, with one end angled and write on them with a permanent marker. They aren't indestructible, but they last at least a couple of years.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
ExhaustedBrought R home yesterday. He's doing well, very weak and a little "out of it" from the lingering anesthesia and pain meds.
I am bummed out. I spent a whole morning shampooing my area rug, as I have several times before. This time, however, once it dried, it SMELLED! I mean STINK! it smells as if I washed it with sewer water! Horrible. Looks nice and clean, but stinks so badly that I ended up rolling it up and dragging it into the basement until I can figure out what to do. I have no idea what happened! I've done this before and it always smelled fine; I can only suspect that my shampooer, which was stored for 2 years in the basement, had mold spores in it and somehow "inoculated" the carpet. Oh well. It is not by any means an expensive carpet (Ollie's $50) and I've had it for about 6 years, and just last week I was thinking it might be time to get another carpet, not because this one is worn, but simply for a change. I guess the Household Gods heard me and decided for me *HA*.
Rain today. If it lets up, I may try to get outside and do some planting/transplanting. I have a bowl full of mini daffodils that need to be planted and there's other things I really need to get done. This past week, what with running back and forth to Hershey, etc. has been pretty much wasted as far as getting anything much done.
Thank goodness again for good neighbors. B. next door mowed part of my lawn for me and I knocked off the other half so that's done. Now if I could just get neighbors to come in and weed all the flower beds..... *LOL*
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Autumnal weather at last!Well, *crosses fingers* hopefully we've seen the last of that awful heat and humidity that lasted all summer. We're having wonderfully cool weather lately, and today, at long last, it's actually sunny! Yay!
R. is still in the hospital, in intermediate care. He's doing well, but they can't get his heart rate and blood pressure stabilized, it keeps swinging up and down wildly. They're trying new drugs/combinations of drugs last night and today. Otherwise, he's doing well, up and walking a bit, eating well, watching tv, etc. I spent a few hours visiting him yesterday; that was enjoyable. What was NOT enjoyable was visiting my niece's friend's daughter, who is also in the hospital for surgery. This little girl also has congenital heart problems; she is scheduled for surgery Monday. They had it scheduled for the same week as R's surgery, but the poor little thing caught a cold so it had to be postponed. It is always so sad to visit children in the hospital. I hope it goes well for her; her mom was there, looking very tired.
Let's see. Got home late Thursday and got very little done. Thank goodness for good friends; E. and B. both took turns feeding the cats, and I came home to all the cat dishes washed, the floor swept and a big bowl of soup in the fridge for me to heat and eat. Wonderful!
Friday, I tore into housecleaning. Cleaning house is the best medicine for nerves; second only to gardening of course. Gave R.'s room and bathroom a very good cleaning and disinfecting, laundered all the curtains, carpets, bedding, etc. Shampooed the living room carpet. Basically, tore the house apart. It looked much worse after than when I started *HA*! But Saturday morning I was able to put everything back where it belongs and the house looks nice, smells clean. I am finishing up laundry today.
Harvested 5 or 6 small heads of cabbage yesterday; the rain made the split. I was able to salvage most of them though, steamed them and popped them into the deep freeze. Held back one for cole slaw.
Today, I'm hoping to get in the green tomatoes; there's not much point in letting them stay on the vine now.
I've got a lot of sweet peppers that I really need to do something with....
I still need to do some transplanting/dividing of perennials, and now that R. is in the hospital, I have to make time to mow the lawn as well. Busy, busy busy...
I had to laugh. When I returned on Thurs, after being gone the better part of 3 days, the cats were on the deck and looked at me like "Yawn. So you're back. Big deal. Who cares." But after I'd been home about 10 minutes and started doing "normal" things, like run water, make coffee, move around the house, etc. they all just suddenly went WILD. They started chasing each other and running all through the house, out the back door, around the deck, back in, down the basement stairs! *LOL* It was SO funny! I think it was their way of expressing profound relief that at least one of their Slave Persons had returned to wait on them hand and foot!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Doing wellI visited with R last evening in the ICU. He was off the ventilator, awake, and able to talk. He was even in pretty good spirits, considering what he'd just gone through (6 hours of surgery!). His surgeon stopped by and was very pleased with R's progress. I stayed until about 7, then the staff came along to warn everybody that a severe thunderstorm was bearing down on the area, so I left. Got back to the hotel just in time; my god, what a storm!
Today it's pouring rain; I'm due back at the hospital around 9:30. I think I'll stay as long as I can, til about noon, then head for home. I'm not looking forward to that long drive in the rain; I'm not familiar with the highways around here, I figure at the worst, I'll get on anything heading south and that will take me into familiar territory.
I just want to be home.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Successful surgeryWell, R. got successfully through surgery today. What a long harrowing day! I honestly can say without a doubt this has been the longest day of my life. We got next to no sleep at all last night, what with worrying about everything. Got up by 4 a.m. to report to the hospital by 5:15 a.m. He went into surgery around 7 a.m. and the surgeon finally came out at 1:30 p.m. to tell me that his aortic valve and aortic root have been replaced (R. chose to go with a "tissue" or biological valve, not a mechanical one). I came back to the hotel to try to get a little sleep and eat something, then I will go back over to the hospital around 6 p.m. to visit R in the ICU; the nurse says he should be off the ventilator by then and breathing on his own. Hopefully, he'll be semiconscious and we can talk a bit.
I have to confess, when I got back to my hotel room I had a good long messy cry, opened a can of beer, drank it (middle of the day drinking, what would my mother say? *lol*), then fell asleep for 2 hours. I'm planning on having dinner at 5 p.m., but I'm not really hungry; my digestion is in protest from stress, no sleep, bad food, weird water, and ...yes...beer at 1:30 pm., *Ha!*
I'm trying to think of some way to tie this day's adventures into gardening, but all I can come up with is to say that, in the face of such terrible stresses and worries, it really DID help to be able to sit outside in the little courtyard gardens, listen to birds and the sound of the breeze, smell the trees, watch the clouds. Nature soothes the jangled nerves. And, yes, I must admit, when no one was looking, I pulled a few weeds too! So sue me.
Not being of the Twitter generation, who seem to feel that every time they fart, all their acquaintances need to know about it, I think I will wait until tomorrow to start emailing family and friends with the news that surgery was a success.
We are hoping that R can come home on Monday; I intend to go back home tomorrow (Thurs.), then drive up to visit on Saturday (we live about 2 hours away). I've already got a list of recipes I want to cook for him, for homecoming!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Busy MondayYesterday was a very busy day in the garden! I got up early--beautiful September morning, nice and cool and fresh, the grass underfoot was as crisp and juicy as a big salad. Tore into weeding out the west end of the vegetable garden and made some very good progress. It looks much better now. I am debating whether to rip out the Big Boy tomato plants; there are some small greenies, so I decided to let them be for now. I did remove the Roma plants; they were finished.
The strawberry bed looks bedraggled after all the rain and also because that darned bindweed/morning glory is just rampant in there! I am not much on chemicals for the garden, but this is one instance where RoundUp is my best friend. I sprayed the bindweed in the paths and in the empty beds (not in the strawberries). Nothing else seems to even faze that stuff! Once I got the strawberries weeded out, though, I think they look pretty good. If we get some nice mild weather and I put on a good mulch of ground up leaves later, they should get through the winter OK.
Picked a big "mess" of beans and cooked them up this morning. I've decided that I obviously do not have the knack for freezing vegetables, so I just cooked them thoroughly, put them in freezer bags and put them in the fridge freezer (not the deep freeze). I'll try to use them up during the week. Odd amount, too much to eat at once, too little to get out the jars and start canning. (I put away the canner. I think that's it for this season. Still need to do the beets, but that's hot water bath.)
Today's the day R. goes up to Hershey Medical for his pre-surgical meeting with the anesthesiologist. We're leaving in a couple of hours; surgery is tomorrow morning. Wish him luck!
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Remembering 9/11I watched some of the live coverage of the Memorial Services, but it was too heart-rending, too hard to watch them replay those awful videos of the towers. I still feel sick when I see them. Like everyone else who experienced that morning, I will never forget it. I was sitting at my computer working, here in Pennsylvania, on a beautiful clear blue September morning, and the phone rang. A colleague who lived in Northern New Jersey, Patty W., said to me "We're under attack! A plane has hit the World Trade Center!" And honest to god, in that split second, I thought that, knowing Patty and her weird sense of humor, that this was some sort of joke with a punch line that would come next. And then, in the next split second, I knew it was real. She started to cry, saying she could see smoke on the horizon to the north. She said "Get R. [my husband], make sure he's with you. Turn on your tv!" and hung up.
I ran into the living room and was so scared, so shaken I couldn't remember how to turn on the TV. I ran into his bedroom and woke up R. I remember that, even as the words came out of my mouth, some part of me was thinking I could not POSSIBLY be saying these words: "Honey, wake up. Honey, we're under attack. The country's been attacked."
The next few minutes were possibly the worst of our lives. He stumbled out of bed, got the TV on and as we watched in utter horror, the second plane hit. I sat on the sofa and wept and wept and wept as if I could never stop "All those people, all those people."
And you know, then I don't remember much...I don't remember the sequence of things. I know we learned of Flight 93 crashing in Shanksville (very near my hometown, my god, how many times I'd driven past that stretch of field and forest and never never in my most horrific imaginings could have foreseen it would be a memorial to tragedy someday!) I remember calling my sister in DC when we heard of the Pentagon crash and the odd fear of realizing the phone lines were down. I remember calling family in Johnstown, PA (near Shanksville) and just staying on the line long enough to say "we're ok, are you ok?"
It was about a week or so later that the emails started to come in. I have colleagues and friends in NYC, and naturally I had been trying to reach them over the week following 9/11. When the phone lines started to come back up, the emails started to come in. "I'm ok, but I saw it all." "We're all right, but it was like a nightmare." One man emailed me a detailed account of all he saw, from the window of his apartment, right there. I printed it out and saved it. I still can't read it. By the grace of God, none of those I knew were harmed, physically, but all were scarred emotionally.
A few weeks later, another NYC colleague, a woman I knew only slightly and only very formally and professionally, called to discuss a project we were working on. She was her usual cool and professional self. After we had finished discussing the project, I said to her "Diana, how are you?" I think the first time I ever interjected anything personal into our conversations.
It was like the breaking of a dam. She began to cry and talk and talk and talk and talk....pouring out her fear, her horror, her confusion....how she watched the cloud of dust and debris billow down the street toward her, how she ran back into her office building, feeling that her post was at her desk, even though the police were telling everyone to evacuate from that area of the city. Seeing military personnel in the streets afterwards, everything.
We wept together, on the phone. Me and a woman that I had never met in the flesh, who I had known only as a professional colleague. And I don't believe we've ever mentioned that long, terrible conversation again.
It may be simply my gardener's eye, but I am disappointed in the New York WTC memorial. It seems so bleak, so regimented. Perhaps it's only because it's all so new, and surrounded by ongoing construction, but I can see nothing comforting in those stark square holes and those ranks of trees. It seems cold and dark....especially those waterfalls into a dark pit. That fills me with a sense of dread. I don't like it.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Pear shaped raindropsB. and I canned up about 10 pints and 4 quarts of spiced pears yesterday. My share of the "loot" will be delivered later today. I hope they come out well. I walked to and from her house (it's about 1.5 miles away.) The way up was dry, but my gods did it pour on the way back! I'm not too opposed to walking in the rain, but the thunder and lightning was a bit scary. At every moment, I was waiting to be translated to that Great Garden in the Sky. *lol*
Obviously, with all that rain, nothing else got done outside yesterday. However, at evening we were blessed with a glimpse of clear sky and there is off and on sunlight and clouds this morning. I have a big load of laundry going (I don't have a dryer, except for the solar-powered one out in the backyard). I suppose if I can't get everything washed and dried today, I will have to resort to the public laundromat because R and I need clean clothes for the trip to Hershey next week.
We've been dreading it so long, and here it is, only 3 days away. I hate the thought of it, but there you go. I know everything will turn out ok, but I'm still dreading the suffering and fear that I know he is going through and will continue to go through for a while.
BTW: I notice that one person is watching this blog. Thank you so much! Get in touch with me via D-mail and we'll chat!
Still no word of my missing nephew. I am very worried for that little family out there on the farm. I think we are all afraid that he's done something rash to himself. My niece (his wife) called her mother in law and there is no word from there either. I wonder if there's something in the stars that is making this the worst couple of weeks imaginable for my extended family?
Friday, September 9, 2011
A lot done in the woodsYesterday, despite the rain, proved to be fairly productive. I got down to the woods this morning, put in the hostas (they seem happy), did some weeding in the beds down there, and began the task of hauling out the dropped dead limbs twigs from the Silver Maples. There are areas of our little woodland that are becoming impassable over the past few weeks from the number of branches that have come down from recent storms. (A good reason for the advice to not plant Silver Maples near a house or structure.) Plus, and this is entirely my fault, I've been using the area as a vast compost pile and now I have piles of half-rotten vegetation stacked up all over the place.
There is however method to this madness! It is a "manmade" woodland, in that when we bought the place, it was a worked out cornfield with absolutely nothing growing on it but tall weeds. I planted a lot...not wisely, but too well. *lol* A windbreak of a double row of red pines (outer row) and blue spruce (inner), and then 7 clumps of rescued little silver maples. It took years of mowing (I mowed down more than one tiny pine tree!) and mulching, but now everything has grown to mammoth proportions and I'm sorry that I planted it all so thickly. The silver maples tend to suck the life/water out of the soil, and the double row of evergreens is beginning to look very shabby. As they get taller, the lower limbs of the pines are dropping off/dying and revealing that the backsides of the blue spruce are totally bare....from the front, beautiful blue spruce. From the back, a bare trunk. Ugh. I've had to have a few of the pines cut down, and I think I may, over the next several years, slowly remove most of them and the spruce and do what I should have done from the first...plant a mixed border of smaller trees and big shrubs that will give me year round interest/privacy and not be prone to attracting bugs and disease.
But I digress. So, I spent the morning weeding the flower beds that I have down there, planting hostas, and picking up and hauling out dead wood. There is still a lot to do. I have two, long, flowering shrub borders intermixed with some hardy perennials and those have been neglected for a while. (The nice thing about a shrub border is that once it's established, you really can neglect it for a while.) So, I need to spend a good two days just cleaning up the two borders.
I would like to work on a few little areas in the woodland that are getting a bit shaggy too. (The reason for the compost heaps down there is to try to build up the soil to true "woodland" proportions. It's working! From thin yellow clay, now I have areas that are inches thick in black humus. Not only my own garden/yard wastes go in to that area. Every fall, my neighbors bring me truckloads of leaves and a good amount of those are spread in the woodland. My goal is to soon have areas that will support native woodland wildflowers.)
Weather continues very wet and overcast, but it's not actively raining right now. I may get on the Wellies and give it a go.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
At least my intentions are working hardRAIN. We had a minor glimpse of sunshine for about 2 minutes yesterday. I spent all day yesterday cleaning out my closet/drawers and taking 3 big bags of stuff to Goodwill. Then bought 4 sweaters and 1 "hippie chick" top at same Goodwill (plus a Harry Potter book!). I got everything for $26. And the best part is that all 4 sweaters are brandnew. Still have the store tags on them!
Yes, yes, I know. This has nothing to do with gardening. *lol*
Today, it is very overcast but at least not actively raining, so I think I will pop in a few hostas that are sitting around in pots, looking at me with very accusatory stares.
B. brought over some pears yesterday; we are going to get together Friday morning and can up the rest of her pear harvest at her house. She tried canning peaches and pears last year and did something wrong and ended up tossing out 30 quarts of fruit. She says the lids "fell off" after a few days. Hmm.
I should try to weed the veg garden as well. Oh, and I need to unload some mulch that is sitting in buckets in the back of my SUV.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
It is paved with themYou know what they say about good intentions? Well, got absolutely NOTHING done in the garden (or the house for that matter) yesterday. I spent a few hours at a friend's house, helping her with some massive baking projects. Then noodled around shopping for cat food....I cannot believe I drove all that way to WalMart for big cans of cat food and they did not have them! *arggggghhhh* And then, as I came out of WalMart...deluge. It poured rain! I dragged myself home, cooked up "comfort pasta" and spent the afternoon accomplishing next to nothing.
It rained all night, and it has only recently stopped raining. Just catching its breath for the next downpour I think. We are all beginning to forget what that...hmmm...what do you call it? Sun...shine? looks like *LOL*.
I think today I'll spend cleaning and getting the house all tidied up so that I am not utterly humiliated by having people come in to feed the cats while I'm away. I think I will even go through the drawers (just in case they do *HA!*)
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Rain, rain go ...Hmm. I am a bit wary of actually saying 'go away' considering how often we experience drought here (Southcentral Pennsylvania). I think our climate is changing to an almost Mediterranean one...we often have dry spells that last from mid-May well into August now; when I was a girl, it seemed that rain was far more abundant throughout the summer. Then again, I did not grow up here, but farther to the west, in the Alleghenies.
But lord, lord, the rain! It has not stopped for more than a few minutes at a time since....*counts on fingers* I think last Thursday. The ground is saturated, there are flash flood warnings up. (No danger here; we're up on a hill.)
Despite the drizzle, I think I may put on the old Wellies and a hat and try to get some gardening done. I'm trying to decide what project to tackle today. Heaven knows there's plenty of them! I have The List, you know....that list where you sit down one morning and sip coffee and feel righteous and productive as you jot down a few things that absolutely, positively MUST be done... and the list grows and grows, and by the time you finish your coffee, you sit there defeated and appalled by how much there is to do!
Never mind! You tell yourself as you bravely get up and tackle one of the projects on The List. Ah, the satisfaction of crossing it off... ONly as soon as you do, there's the niggling reminder in the back of your mind that you really ought to add "that little job" and then another and another. The List grows like Topsy....before you know it, it's getting bigger, not smaller (mine started with 12 projects...I've lost count now but I think it's maybe 45 *ugh*).
I'll bet you're wondering if I'm sitting here typing just to put off tackling "The List". You're right *LOL*
Niece has returned to hubbie. I figured she would, seeing that their daughter has to go to school. I don't know what the arrangements will be now. It's a terrible situation. I know that she's afraid to actually tell him to leave, for fear he'll end up on the streets somewhere, with his drug addiction. I'll pump her for more info when she comes over to work later today.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Heavy rainWow, what a night! A truly spectacular thunderstorm roared through our area late yesterday evening. Fortunately, we seemed to catch just the trailing edge but that was more than enough! It dumped 2 inches of rain in about 2 hours, the lightning was continuous, and our power went out around 9 p.m. (Restored by midnight; Allegheny Power crews are the best!)
I am pretty sure that the two small bridges near our house, spanning a small creek, must have either been underwater or washed out, because there was some sort of emergency vehicle parked at the intersection below the house (couldn't see because of dark, rain, trees in way). I think I'll put on the sneakers and do a little snooping as soon as I finish here. I also need to check on C.'s horses...she's away for the weekend.
The strange thing is, all this rain does not seem to have "cleared the air" in the least. It's foggy and humid and warm this morning, and I think it's going to be another sticky day. However, checking last year's calendar, we discovered that the temps have actually been a little LOWER this week than last year at this time.
If the rain holds off, I may try doing some transplanting today. I really need to move that big Viper's Bugloss from beside the path to up on the hill. I am thinking of planting it and a half dozen lifted yellow lilies all together, in the same spot. With luck, the yellow lilies should be blooming just about as the bugloss tapers off and the blue and yellow will go well together.
Very happy to see that the tiny Althea that A.Y. gave me 2 years ago has not only bloomed, but is a lovely deep pink DOUBLE variety that is the twin of a big shrub that I have always admired, which is located a mile or two away. I also found another "stray" althea growing in the woods that is a light clear pink, instead of the usual mauve/lavender. I may move that to a better area.
What a useless day! I walked down to J.'s house around noon, to find out where our power outage started. A huge tree had come down on the lines right above her house; it was all cleaned up of course, but it must have been quite a mess. J had several trees knocked over, and a number of trees split, broken over, etc. Her fence was knocked down in one place, and the roof was lifted partially off the old smokehouse next to her house. She's most upset because a young weeping willow she planted was split right in two. If it doesn't recover, I'll give her that young willow I have potted up for the past 3-4 years in the garden. She got a black silkie in a trade; he's beautiful. I really do think I'd like to keep some bantams; it surprised me how big he was. For some reason I thought banties were much smaller. Now that I see them up close and personal, I'm definitely going to see about getting a few of those beauties. Her three are cochins, which have feathered feet...not sure about that...they certainly do get filthy.
I never did get anything done in the garden, between rain, not feeling that well, and taking a walk with R. Now it's pouring here again, so I think I'll just call it a day and do a little reading.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Like a warm wet blanketThe humidity is suffocating here today. This morning, we had light fog that did not go away until almost 10 a.m. Actually, I think it was more like steam. *lol* I got to work in the Storybook Garden at 7 a.m. and kept at it until 10:30. By that time I looked as if I had been standing under a shower in my clothes. It's not that hot, but with the humidity, you just cannot cool down. I did get a lot done, however...I was very pleased to see that the weeds were not at all bad up there...mostly I needed to deadhead things. Once all that black/brown was removed the garden looks very nice.
I have given up trying to get that grass out of the old daylily bed. I sickled it all down and sprayed with Roundup. I use Roundup very sparingly, but at this point...I am desperate. Very pleased to see that the purple asters are starting to bud and I think will put on a good show this year. I had nothing from them last year.
E. says she'll take some black raspberry plants from me next week or so...if I can dig them out of that jungle down there where the bed is. I picture myself with a machete (possibly on an elephant) hacking my way through the underbrush.
We certainly have had some tangles in the family news lately. First, my niece's friend's young daughter (4?) was diagnosed with a heart problem that will require surgery. Second, my husband is also facing surgery this month. Third, my mother in law is in the hospital as of yesterday...she has inoperable gastrointestinal cancer and I do truly think this may be her last summer. Fourth, my niece has taken her little girl and left her husband as of 3 or 4 days ago. I can't say that I blame her, but at the same time I feel so bad for them both. He's a very sweet young man, very intelligent, and very kind I think, but he's battling an ongoing drug problem for YEARS and it just seems to keep sucking him back in. Just when we all think he's going to be ok, BAM! back he goes. It is especially scary because my niece,her husband, and I work together at our business and I am always afraid that he's going to do something foolish and hurt the business. Plus, when they have trouble like they are having now, the workload ends up falling entirely on me and I have a lot on my plate right now with R. getting ready for surgery on the 14th.
Almost forgot, my OTHER niece had back surgery on the 25th of Aug. and I dont know how she's doing yet. And her husband (my nephew) also is battling addiction, plus bipolar disorder...and their son is autistic. I really don't know how this all happens. I do know that drug abuse must be the worst thing people can do to themselves...these 2 young men are paying for the rest of their lives for what was probably a momentary foolishness of youth.
Today I heard from another cousin that her mom (my aunt) has sold her Florida house and contents and moved to N. C. to live with another daughter....and now is having 2nd thoughts *shakes head*. I pray to god that when I get to that "certain age" I won't be wishy-washy about what I want.
I have GOT to get beans picked this afternoon. And I need to weed the strawberry bed. AND I think I should drive over to my niece's house and see if there's anything I can do there, with her gone. I shudder to think of it, but I know I should go. She's an avid gardener too, and I know that she'll be sorry to have the vegetable garden go to waste while she's away. (I really do think she'll be back in a week or so...she always does, poor girl.)
Saturday, September 3, 2011
The leaning tower of BeansaThis morning I turned two big heads of cabbage in 3 quarts of saurkraut. I have this wonderful old recipe for making saurkraut in quart jars, rather than in a big crock. Very convenient, and it works GREAT!
Picked the very last of the Roma tomatoes yesterday and turned them into about 1 quart of sauce. I think I will go ahead and clean them out of the veg garden today, along with the finished sweet corn. No point in letting that stuff accumulate. I've also got to get the red beets out and pick a "mess" of green beans. The tower with the scarlet runner beans is leaning worse than Pisa, but I don't think I see any new beans on it. I think I'll just let it alone, until it either falls over or the frost finishes it. The scarlet runners were a disappointment...lots of beautiful red flowers and very very few beans. I think for produce, I'll continue to plant Blue Lake Pole beans and save the scarlet runners for decoration. I was thinking this morning how stunning they'd look with blue morning glories.
I have an abundance of sweet peppers this year! It seems with my garden, sweet peppers are either boom or bust. There are years where I get almost nothing; other years when I have more than I can use.
My biggest disappointment (again) this year has been potatoes. I don't know what is going on. I used to get bumper crops of potatoes every year, but for the past 5 years, I barely get back what I put in the ground. I talked to another local gardener and he says he's been experiencing the same thing. I know my soil is good...it better be with all that horse, cow, chicken and rabbit manure...*my aching back*. I think it might just be ...technique...for lack of a better term. I think I'm just "off" in my planting or something. I do admit I tend to neglect potatoes sometimes...I know you're supposed to hill them up and pluck off the flowers, etc. But it seems as if those chores always come at the time when Im most busy with something else and the weather is at its worst with heat and humidity.
Next year, I vow, potatoes!
Friday, September 2, 2011
Bishop of Llanulf dahliaOvercast this morning, comfortable. I don't think we're out of the woods yet, with the heat, but at least we have the consolation of shorter day length. It is definitely getting dark around 8 p.m.; it seems like only a week ago 8 pm was still blazing sunshine.
I do love the longer slower light of morning and evening this time of year. There's something magical in the way the shadows lengthen and the light filters through the trees. Everything seems softer; the crickets chirp lazily, everything drowses.
The "grab bag" of dahlia roots that my friend gave me early in the spring are starting to bloom. Wow! Carnival colors! Huge flowers! Everything I most dislike in a flowering plant *lol*. I really don't know what to do with dinner plate sized neon pink and orange flowers. Thank goodness they're "temporary" perennials. I'll find them a better home next year. This year they worked well as place holders in the new bed in the Storybook Garden. Next year, I may plant them in the round center bed in the vegetable garden.
On the other hand, my Bishop of Llanulf (sp?) and Claire de Lune antique dahlias are blooming and they are beautiful. Bishop is a deep deep crimson and Claire is a pale pale yellow. Both are singles, with flat daisy like flowers. Bishop has the added beauty of very dark foliage and stems, a deep purple that is almost black.
I bought roots for them both 2 years ago; each one was a root about the size of my finger, maybe a little fatter. Last fall when I dug them up to store them, Bishop had five "fingers" and Claire had three! This year, I'm hoping that they will have multiplied enough so that next spring I can divide the "hands" and have 2 plants of each. Since these are fairly rare heirloom types, I really happy to be able to increase their numbers. I've got to think of something blue that blooms late to pair with Bishop...that red is just too good to waste.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
They can use my ashes as amendmentMy first entry in my new blog! I hope I can live up to expectations! *lol*
We're having beautiful weather! After an intensely hot and humid summer, with a rainless and scorching July, August sort of settled in to make things right. Still hot...still humid...but plentiful rain to keep things growing.
I hesitate to write this, knowing the suffering and devastation that Hurricane Irene did to so many places, and my heart grieves for those people. But we were very fortunate in that the storm gave us only a very good drenching rain. My gardens think it is spring again; new growth and even some new flowers.
I've been spending whatever time I can wrest from my job in dividing and moving perennials. So far I am very pleased with the results.
I live on 2 acres and it has been my determined wish to turn the whole 2 acres into one vast garden. After 25 years, I'm only about 1/2 way. I figure that, by the time I am 104 (I fully intend to live that long!) I should be done. *lol* I have a big mostly "blank slate" at the top of my property, which for many years used to be the pasture for my pet sheep. They are all gone to that great sheep shed in the sky now, and I don't think I want anymore. So....a big area of tall grass and some young trees to turn into...you guessed it....GARDEN! *yippee* *Ouch, my back* *LOL*
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