Viewing LysmachiaMoon's Garden Diary: November 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Poison Ivy vs. MeI decided that I'd tackle that ugly spot between our backyard and the neighbor's. Now I know why Bill next door never bothered to clean it up. Crawling with poison ivy. There's an old poplar stump there that was resprouting and twined up with what I thought was just honeysuckle. Lots of thorny brambles, pokeweed, generally ugly stuff. I began snipping and digging my way in, toward the stump and that's when I realized that there was poison everywhere. God, I hate that stuff! It even looks evil. Those snaky little stems and hairy roots. I dug out a lot of it, cut down the mess of poplar, honeysuckle and poison from the stump, dug out a lot of wild blackberry. Just an unholy ugly mess.
I was afraid to work for more than about an hour after getting into the poison ivy. Even though I was completely covered in work clothes/gloves from head to toe, I'm still very afraid of getting "touched." So I did what I could, then headed in, showered and put everything I was wearing in the laundry. I left the tools laying outside; hopefully the dew and frost will wash a bit of the poison off the handles. I'll need to be very careful only to use those tools while wearing old gloves for a day or two, then toss the gloves. My best pair of leather gloves are probably toast now. I'm not sure I want to risk using them again. I'm so very allergic to poison ivy...I just got a very bad spot of it cleared up on my wrist and I am not looking forward to getting another.
Anyways. On the good side, I found a lovely tree lilac in that mess...about 4 feet tall and very well grown. So that will need to come out and be moved to a better place. There are a couple of old groundhog dens in that area (abandoned) so the dirt there needs to be smoothed out and leveled. Once I've done that, I think I'll pop in a big forsythia from the row that I'm digging out. That entire area really should be dug over and mulched. Neither Bill nor I want to get in there with a lawnmower and its just sunny enough that the weeds get really dense and tall. I have a feeling that is a real "ugly duckling" spot, that, given a little extra work and care could be really pretty. The soil is good, now that the poplars are gone it gets plenty of sun and it's in a "dip" so it gets plenty of moisture too.
Argh. The problem is: HOW TO GET MORE PLANTS! *LOL* I look around and I think " I need more this, more that, some of that would nice..." I can't tell you how thrilled I was to find out I could root santolina cuttings *lol* I know! I need to get a life. I wonder...just how many hostas can you actually get from one nice size clump? I have this fantasy of digging up a clump and dividing it into..oh, maybe 20 little plants? Wouldn't that be great?
Got my Bluestone Perennials catalog today. Yum. I want at least one of everything. Seriously, though I was thinking....hmmm...If I place a mail order, I have to pay shipping. Which is about the cost of one plant. So...if I wait and drive over to Lurgans in the spring, I can buy an extra plant PLUS get a nice drive and a day at the display gardens. Bluestone is a great mail order place...I've never ever been less than thrilled with what I got from them. But I think I'll pass this year, unless I really really can't live without that echinacea that looks like eyeballs on sticks.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Heart, lip, knee...now elbow?First of all, I just realized it's December and I'm still writing in my November blog, so this will be the last entry here and I'll open a new December tab tomorrow. So keep watching!
OK, this is getting truly bizarre. Summer, R. has major heart valve replacement surgery. Two weeks after he comes home, his lower lips swells up to the size of a quail egg and he had to have that removed in oral surgery. Wednesday the MRI results on his sore and swollen knee show that he has a torn meniscus and will need (minor) surgery for that. LAST NIGHT...he was sitting on the floor playing around with one of the cats and he jerked his arm back and whacked the elbow so hard on the corner of the coffee table he thinks he broke something. *shakes head* The joint is stiff but it's not swollen and he can bend it very painfully. I honestly don't know what to do with the boy. I told him if he isn't more careful he's going to end up wearing elbow/knee pads and a helmet in the house. If it doesn't seem a lot better by Weds, I guess he'll have to ask the orthopedic surgeon to have a look at his ELBOW as well as his knee. If this keeps up, the doctors are going to think I am beating him or something! Spousal abuse. I can see it now. "So, how do you explain all these bumps and bruises on your husband?" "Ummm.... He fell? The cat made him do it?"
Once, several years ago, I had a physical in the summer. The doctor was looking at me really oddly and at one point he said, very gently and very concerned: "Is there something you'd like to talk about?" I thought he was nuts. Then I realized he was looking at all the bruises on my legs and arms. "I'm a maniac gardener, doctor. My husband doesn't beat me. This is from digging out brush and hauling it!" Poor man. I'm still not sure he believed me. *LOL*
I may be pushing my luck, but today I am going to try to transplant at least 2 of those big forsythia. I've got them cut way down to about 1 foot tall. I'm hoping we'l still have a few weeks of mild(er) weather before the ground freezes and I'll mulch them really well too.
There's still so much to do around here!
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Empowerment, Torn MeniscusYou know, it's kind of funny. I started this blog mainly to talk about my garden adventures, but lately I realize I've been using it as a sort of sounding board and to vent a bit. and you know what? It really helps! It's nice to be able to say "Look, this sucks." and have nice people say "Yes, it does. And you know what? Mine sucks too." *LOL*
Ive decided that the next couple of months, the dark months of the year, will be a sort of "gestation period" for me. I need to decide what to do next with my life. I'm not going to rush into things, I'm not going to let myself get anxious and worried. I'm going to THINK. And when I decide what I want to do, then come spring, I'll do it. Don't worry. It's not going to be anythign too drastic like change my name to Viper and get a tattoo and a Harley. *lol* Altho..... hh.....mmm... No. No. Not that. But I do think it's time I got off my backside and started taking control of my work life, instead of cringing and letting others determine it. I guess it's like this: I'm 54 years old and I've worked hard all my life and STILL I dont feel like a success. And then I realize I need to ask: By who's yardstick are you measuring "success."? That's one important issue. Another is "How do you want to spend the rest of your life?" Certainly not like last summer....what a stressful time! I actually experienced anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. Not pleasant.
So....while my garden sleeps, I'm going to let my brain ferment through all sorts of options and plans.
On the garden front, we had very heavy rain yesterday/last night. This morning the temps are below freezing but it's clearing off. If I can get through the last of this monster project this morning, I am hoping to get outside. Depending on time, I might try to at least get the grass dug off the folly wall footer area. If I have more time, I might try starting in on clearing and evaluating that nasty looking area between our yard and the neighbor's. It's really an ugly spot and I think that might be a good "winter project" since it really needs a lot of cutting, digging out, sawing down, that sort of thing.
Good gardening, from Viper...er LysmachiaMoon....
R's doctor confirmed yesterday that R has a torn meniscus in his left knee and will need surgery. We're scheduled to see the orthopedic surgeon next weds., and hopefully he'll be able to get this knee fixed before Christmas. The doctor assures us it is simple outpatient procedure, not major. But after what R went through with his heart this summer, I know he's scared. I don't blame him. One thing I have to say: R's doctor is really wonderful. He's about our age, very "tough" sort of guy...but I could just see the compassion oozing out of him when he was telling R not to worry about the knee surgery, that it would be a piece of cake compared to what he's already been through, etc. It's good to know your doctor is truly a humane person, you know?
The Burning bush plants are gone! Outta here! The man who called the other day came and got all 23 plants. The deal was he could take them all for $15, but he left me a $20! What a nice surprise! This seals it>>>I am going to make my fortune selling plants! *lol* (Remember when you were 18 and this is actually how you used to think?) I figure between selling off extra plants from the garden and reading a few tarot cards, I'll be set! *HA* That and the Cat Circus, of course.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Snow may be on the wayYesterday was like April, but this morning there's heavy rain and the temps are falling as the day progresses. We are supposed to get snow by nightfall. I hope it holds off until then, because I have to drive R to his doctor's office to get the results of the knee MRI. I don't know what to expect there; now, last night, R says his other knee (the right one) is also starting to hurt and swell. It's just one thing after another with that guy....
Work (my office work) is really starting to get me down. I don't mind tough projects or deadlines, but I don't like being pushed into stuff. I was given this small project to do, but it turned out to involve using software I never used before, and to do it I had to use another person's laptop...with a totally different keyboard layout. It's nerve wracking... Then, apparently one of my "big" clients is undergoing big changes and suddenly there's all these forms to fill out and these rather nasty "reviews" of work. I was even told that any comments or notes that I leave in the work for the author were to be "businesslike, not chatty." Oh come on. I've always tried to make a connection with the author (who I rarely work with directly) so he or she knows that I'm a human being too, and that I'm trying to make them look good. (The result has been some really very good feedback from authors!) How is this bad?
I don't know. I think maybe it's all me...I'm really just not in the mood anymore. I really think all this is pushing pushing pushing me into a different direction. I think it's time to really get down to pursuing my dream, which is to start a small publishing company of my own. I made a good stab at it last summer, but with R's surgery and all, it got set aside. TIme to blow the dust off that project and get going!
Some man called here yesterday interested in buying what's left of the Burning Bush plants for a hedge. I told him he could have all 23 plants for $15. I set them out int he driveway with a coffee can for money and told him to come whenever he wanted to. I hope he doesn't stiff me. I really don't want to have to deal with those potted up plants over winter...AGAIN.
It came to me yesterday that, just for fun, I'm going to see how much money this property can generate of itself. I sell our excess eggs ($1/doz) and some garden plants. But I think I'll see about selling a bit more produce, etc. Wouldn't it be great if the property could pay its own taxes?? I don't think that's possible, outside of training the cats to do circus tricks and charging admission "Cats du Soleil"...hmmm.... Yes, yes, I know.... "Eet ees an outrrrage!" But I do think I could grow pumpkins and decorative corn for sale, that sort of thing. And black raspberries....I usually give them away or sell them for very very little.
I guess what this is all about is that I really would like to earn my living from the land, rather than deal with office politics and technology. *sigh* I was born in the wrong century. I would have made a good farmer!
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
More on the folly wall projectThere is no way in ...ahem...that I am going to pour a concrete footer under that wall. I've been doing a little research and I am pretty sure that I can get away with a well-tamped gravel/crushed stone footer. So that is what I am going to do. I've been saving small rocks that I turn up in little piles everywhere, sort of like a manic chipmunk saves nuts.
A friend asked me if I was going to have vines on the wall, and YES, that's the plan. I want to put Virginia creeper to grow up it and I would really like to move a small and languishing Climbing Hydrangea next to it too.
I've also been gathering and saving bits of concrete work that I might try to incorporate into the wall....I found 4 sort of shell-shaped brackets....I think I can use them at the bottom corners of the doorway, so that it looks as if there was a fancy door there at one time. My dearest wish is to find something that I can use as an archway or lintel over the doorway, but then again.... I really have no wish to have it come crashing down on my head either!
Rain, and back to very mild temps again, after a week of hard frost and chilly November weather. Nobody knows what to make of this...it's like a season without a name. It's not the autumn we're used to, it's certainly not winter, and it can't be spring. At this point, however, I'm beginning to hope that we have a mild winter throughout....I have a lot of "hardscaping" to get done around here and as long as the ground doesn't freeze and the snow doesn't get too deep, I can still work outside.
My brother called yesterday. We've been playing phone tag since T.giving! All is well with him, but he's very upset about his son and daughter-in-law. These 2 are in their late 30s and they have a lot of problems. But I think all their problems can be distilled down to this: They are playing house. They think they are adults, they want all the perks of adulthood, but they don't want the responsibility and yes, the downright boredom of adulthood. No, it is not exciting to stay home watching TV with the kids when you could be at a bar with your friends. No, it is not fun to have to make do with last year's winter coat when you want a new one. But that's what being an adult is all about. At nearly 40, they really really need to grow up. The whole family is getting tired of carrying them, financially and otherwise.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Started the "folly wall"For the past couple of years, I've been talking about building a "folly wall" up in the new garden, to act as a divider between the lower part of the new garden and the upper part. What I'm envisioning is a wall that looks like it's the broken down remnant of a much larger structure, like what would be left if a big old brick or stone house had been razed and only this one wall with a doorway was left.
Today, I laid out the area that needs to be dug out for the footer. The footer will be about 18 feet long, 4 feet wide, and about 18-20 inches deep. The wall itself will be about 17 feet long, 22 inches wide and at its highest point, I'm estimating maybe 6 feet...but it will be sort of high in the middle, where there will be a doorway, and angle downward from there, so it looks as if it sort of "peters out" into nothing.
I got the footer area laid out and the edges cut, so that even if I can't get anything more done on it this year, it will still be there and visible in the spring.
Not much else going on...tight deadlines in the office, so no time for anything else.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Pictures of Croquembouche; Deep plantingPichers! I gots pichers! These very nice pics of the infamous croquembouche were taken by E. As you can see, it's part of a larger order that's going out for a party.
BUT....*LOL*....further adventures in Croquembouche land. Remember I said we made a cardboard cone and covered it with parchment paper and then stuck the cookies to it? Guess what? Parchment paper makes things NOT STICK to it. Kinda like Teflon. *LOL* E said that after a few hours, she heard this soft "popping" sound and one by one the cookies started falling off. She had to dismantle the whole thing, wrap the cone in tissue paper instead and re-glue the cookies on using melted white chocolate.
It's time like these that I am SO GLAD I was out of the house and away from the phone.
Going to try to dig a few planting holes for the forsythia. I don't know if I'll actually move any today...it may be getting a bit late in the year. However, I read a very interesting article about deep planting shrubs and I may do that.
Contrary to what we've been taught (plant things at the same depth that they were growing), with "stemmy" shrubs like lilac, forsythia, etc., you can actually plant them up to A FOOT Deeper than they were growing, as long as a full complement of stems is still above ground. This blew me away...apparently by deep planting, you protect the growing buds and can thereby "push the zone" on some more delicate shrubs. It helps conserve moisture for the shrub too. Also, since a lot of these types of stemmy shrubs root readily from stems, you get a bigger better root ball (and, I suspect you could then more easily divide off baby shrubs). The article appeared in an old Horticulture magazine; if I can find it, I'll supply issue number. Not all shrubs will survive this type of handling, but forsythia will.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Working for a livingDang. This having to work for a living really cuts into my gardening time. *LOL* I'm under tight deadline on a few projects....it's always feast or famine in this business...so I haven't been able to get out to do a lot in the garden the past week.
However, I did get the huge junipers below the deck pruned as well as that really big (?) euonyomous thingy....it's the same species as the infamous Trub of distant memory.... My friend B wanted some of the juniper pruning to make grave blankets for Xmas, and I put the rest of the prunings out along the road for people to take as free Xmas greens. Times are tough; I figured free Xmas trimmings would be welcome.
I also hauled three more big piles of brush up the hill to the brush fence. Saw some signs of deer bedding down behind the brush fence, which is OK by me. With deer hunting season in full swing, I have a feeling they are looking for sanctuary whereever they can find it. As long as they don't get into the veg garden (never have in 25 years, knock on wood), they're welcome to a bed up in the wildlife area. R says we should set up a salt block on the farthest fence post, but I don't want trouble with neighbors.
Off to make our incredibly sophisticated, gourmet-type supper: Manwich from a can and frozen crinkle fries. "Sacre blooo...Eeet ees an outrrrrage!"
Friday, December 2, 2011
The Second Great CroquemboucheE and I put together another croquembouche. This time, she made these little cookies out of meringue (can't spell it...the egg whites thingy, not the Latin salsa dance). White (almond), pink (raspberry), and brown (choc). The pink and brown came out OK, the white were very fragile. First, you have to glue them together into sort of sandwiches...white chocolate between the almond ones, chocolate in the choco., and raspberry jam in the rasp. This is not a job for the ham-fisted (i.e., me). I finally got the hang of it (thank goodness we can eat our mistakes!). Then, we made a cone out of poster board and covered it with parchment paper. Then, we "glued" the cookie sandwiches to the cone using melted white chocolate. It went fairly smoothly. We found that we had to take the whole she-bang out to the garage after every row to let the white choc "glue" cool and harden. And at the very end we ran out of pink and brown... Other than that, I think it went pretty well. I had to leave before the very end, so I'm not sure what the finished product will look like. E wants to decorate it with white choc ribbons and silver "sprinkles". She says she'll email me a pic and I'll try to post it.
Personally? I think it's a lot of hard work and time that I wouldn't want to spend (except as a learning experience). I guess I'm too plebian to appreciate this sort of thing. All I could think was, "wow, we could do this so much faster with Nilla Wafers!" *LOL*
Heavy frost this morning, very cold, very sunny. Beautiful! I can't wait for it to warm up a bit and then I'm outta here! I want to get some more of the forsythia cut down and possibly dig out one or more and move them. More later!
4 p.m. Whew! I got the remaining four+ forsythia cut down. What a mess. They are not only very big bushes, but so many stem tips have rooted that it's a jungle in there! Plus, these last four were positively smothered in and tangled up with honeysuckle. It took a lot of work to cut them down. I hauled three big loads up the hill, but there's at least another 4 or 5 brush loads to go. I pooped out before I could do them. So, that's on the list for tomorrow.
The more I study the area, now that those shrubs are down, the more I think that I might dig most of them out. It's really strange how different it looks! The path is suddenly "over there" and there's a whole new "feel" to that corner. I took down a section of rail fencing at the top of that area to make it easier for me to haul out the brush and now I think I might leave that section permanently removed. Just an entirely different look and feel to the place...almost like discovering a new piece of land that you did not know belonged to you.
I'm trying to make a list of where to put the forsythia when I dig them out. For certain at least 3 of the biggest will go in the pine gap. I think I'll put another 1 or 2 big ones up in the wildlife area...they will provide nice shelter for the birds up there. As for the dozens of smaller shrublets, I don't know....I hate to kill any of them. Maybe I will leave them be until spring, then put them up on Freecycle...free for the digging. That will get them out of there AND save me the effort of digging them out.
I have to say that I am REALLY impressed with the fall color on my oakleaf hydrangea. This is the first year that it has been big enough to put on much of a show, and WOW! It's a deep crimson red and the leaves are just staying on and on. I am definitely going to try to take a small cutting off the base and start another one for somewhere else on the property.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Minor personal crisisI guess I have reached that age where, god forbid, I need to "find myself." Urgh. I woke up in the middle of the night and wondered what the heck I am doing with my life. (Yes, I know...this really should happen when you're 25, not 54.....). I guess the biggest "issue" *rolls eyes heavenward* is that I'm not sure I like my job anymore. I used to love it. It's all I ever wanted to do, to be. I set goals, I worked toward them, I got all the training/education I could and I did it. About 6-7 years ago, I was able to take on my niece as an assistant and gradually move most of the basic work to her. I've kept busy, and I've been pretty happy.
Then, this summer, my niece and her husband (who also works for me) hit a very rough patch and pretty much gave up on the business. At the time, what with R being so sick and preparing for surgery in September, I simply told all my clients that I wasn't accepting new projects for a month and sort of focused on R. A few little projects filtered in and that was OK.
Now, however, the flood gates have opened, I'm swamped with work, I've got no one I can count on to help out, and instead of reveling in it, as I used to, I realize that I hate it. I hate having to work this hard, this relentlessly. But...and this is the big BUT...there's no real alternative. SOMEBODY has to earn money around here. It's this or starve. (Well, ok, that might be a bit dramatic, but you understand...) I never thought I'd feel this way. I've always LOVED what I do. And now I dont...
*sigh* I hope this is a phase. I hope that once I get back in harness and truly used to being stuck at my desk for 9-10 hours a day, I'll be ok. But I sure do miss those long days spent out in the garden, even when it involves poison ivy, backbreaking work, digging, and hauling.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Just hauled out some brushOne of those blah days where I feel as if I got nothing done, but when I look at a list of things, I did get quite a lot accomplished, only not much in the garden...and what else really counts, right?
Let's see. Yesterday I got 2 work projects completed and sent off and a sample sent off to a client. This means I barely left my office chair all day. (Well, except to take Barty back and forth to the vet.)
Today, I spent the morning in the office, then drove R to the hospital for his Xray and MRI...that took well over an hour. We had planned to do a little xmas shopping afterward, but we were both so bored and tired we decided to just go home.
I did get all the cut down forsythia brush hauled out at least. It took 8 trips up and down the hill to get it all out, and that's only the first 3 forsythia bushes. There are 4 more to go!
Now that the area is cleared, it really looks different. R suggested that I dig out the forsythia entirely; at first, I said no, simply because it's a big job. But now that I see how the area looks without them, I think I might do it. I figure that I can use at least 5 of the forsythia in the "pine gaps" and the remainder can go along the top south border/fenceline. anything left over (the small stuff that sprouts inevitably around forsythia) can be sold or given away in the spring.
And that's about it....I finished the brush hauling, came in, ate, then got back to work in the office.
Oh, and I have to tell the vet to note in Barty's record to NEVER give him whatever pain meds they gave him. (Which were unnecessary anyways...). Instead of being drowsy and out of it, he's totally wired. He's been running around like a mad thing since we brought him home at 3 pm. yesterday. It's 6 p.m now and I think he's finally "crashing." Poor little guy. He needs sleep. This happened with another of my cats last year; apparently some cats have a paradoxical reaction to this particular pain killer.
Tomorrow, E and I are going to try another croquembouche. Only this time she's going to try making it with some sort of fancy cookies. Wish us luck!
Saw a picture of big full-blown pink roses underplanted with a thick row of hen-and-chick succulents. WONDERFUL! The hen-and-chicks mimic the shape of the roses and it looks perfect together. I'd have never thunk o' that! Going to try it next year in my own rose bed.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Heavy rainIt is POURING here today. I'm pretty certain that the local creeks will be flooding today, because when I went over the west branch of the Antietam, it was already up to the top of its banks yesterday. And that was before this rain.
Took Barty the cat to the vet to get his teeth cleaned. I swear to God, I'm going to see if the volunteeer firemen want to borrow my cats for sirens. Not one of them "goes quietly into that good carrier"... Bart started howling the minute I put him in and didnt stop until I left him at the vet. it got so loud as we drove that I was expecting traffic to pull to the right and get out of our way, as if we were an ambulance. *LOL*
VEt called about an hour ago to say Barty is well and ready to come home in a couple hours. He did not need any extractions, just cleaned. That won't be the story he'll tell. He'll spread it around to the other cats that he was tortured and abused. Then they'll all get their revenge by peeing on everything.
I felt bad that we did nothing to celebrate R's birthday last week. It fell on the day after Thanksgiving and the idea of cake and a special supper...errbbbbbbaaaa.... Neither of us could face it. So, this morning I got him a chunk of chocolate cake with peanut butter icing, stuck a candle in it, and sang him Happy Birthday when he got up. Hey. We're simple folk. We're easily amused around here.
I've decided that as soon as this rain lets up, and whatever the weather from here on out, I'll try to at least dig planting holes whereever I am plannign to put trees and shrubs in the spring. At least I will get a jump on the planting season that way. I think I should also go around the property and put tags or ribbons on those things that I need to divide and/or move come spring. I am always full of good intentions to move/divide things and then I forget.
Whoa. I nearly got my deer this morning! A fairly big buck and a couple of does bounced out right in front of my truck as I was coming home (without siren Barty) from the vet. See? If I'd had Barty with me, the deer would have heard my approach from a mile away and stayed off the road!
Monday, November 28, 2011
Working weekendLet's see. The "tree guy" stopped over with a friend on Saturday. I finally negotiated him down to removing 4 pine trees for $150. They will just drop the trees and cut them up, leaving the wood and brush for me to deal with. This is FINE. I can deal with that, I just don't have a chainsaw to cut down/cut up.
Then, E came over and we drove to J's back lot and got a nice truck load of wood chip mulch. VERY NICE. He has a small chipper and it produces really fine chips, almost like beauty mulch. It did not take too long to load (we found that hand scooping into 5-gal. buckets was easier than trying to use shovels or forks.) Unloading was no trouble at all: Her older brother and sister were there to help. E gave me five nice clumps of wild begonia (strawberry begonia?) and some of the little cream puffs from the croquembouche.
OH...that croquembouche! All that hard work...when I left (this was last week, Tuesday?) E wrapped it carefully in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Apparently, this is exactly what NOT to do. The hard caramel that holds the whole tower together absorbed moisture from the fridge and the plastic wrap kept it moist. It softened and the whole tower collapsed! She said when she got it out of the fridge it was just this soggy pile of cream puffs covered with goo! *LMAO*
Nobody even got to see the darned thing before it fell apart! Her sister said, "We've been eating those cream puffs for breakfast, lunch and dinner, too." and she had this look on her face like an early Christian martyr. E gave me 8 of the cream puffs to take home. I won't tell her this, but after the first one, the hens got the rest. They were stale and soggy at the same time. *errrppphhh*
Yesterday (Sunday) I truly tore into that shrubbery bed and got it edged, weeded. Planted the strawberry begonias and divided and moved a small chunk of arum into it. I need to get more shade plants for that area. I also expanded the bed a bit to include a pear tree. It's getting to the size where it's hard to mow between it and the bed, so why not put it IN the bed. Then I transplanted a spirea (Pink Princess) from a shady spot to a spot where it will get better sun. I think there will be a lot of digging and moving involved in getting those two shrub beds in shape this year.
I also weeded out a lot of tiny tree seedlings and cleaned up around the edge of the wood. I hate to kill baby trees, but there were just dozens of them and nobody wants anything that small. I did save a couple of the biggest ones to move up into the wildlife area.
Sooo...busy weekend. The weather is very strange; yesterday felt more like April than November. The birds were even making their spring calls! By mid-afternoon, it would have been easy to convince yourself that it was approaching Easter, not going into December and Christmas.
Called my sis Carole yesterday. Good news! Her daughter won a very prestigious art award and her work will be appearing at the Smithsonian in April! Her daughter (in her 40s) is a bona fide artist in ceramics.
Deer season starts officially today...I woke up to the sound of gunfire and just now there was a loud blast from somewhere (TOO) nearby. I don't think these dudes around here care about the laws that limit how close to houses you can be. I'm not going outside today unless I absolutely have to. I'm not going to end up tied to the hood of some guy's car, no sirree. Not me. (Note to self: Do NOT wear holiday antler hair band today.)
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Dratted catWell, my three baby chicks are no more. That damned Tucker got in and slaughtered all three. I'm so upset. It's not like I "loved" the chicks; they are, after all, chickens. It's just that it seemed such a sweet little triumph to have them hatch from eggs. I'm not exactly angry at Tucker...he is after all a cat and as such equipped by Nature to be a perfect little killer...but I am ...well...pissed off *lol*. I've been ignoring him and he's been skulking around, he definitely knows he did something wrong. Then last night, I guess the tension of being ignored got to him and he started that Licking Licking Licking that a couple of summers ago led to a huge hot spot/sore. So I took pity and gave him his meds and made up to him.
I'm still not sure how he got into the hen run. He must have industriously dug his way in through the wire mesh. This makes 6 baby chicks that he's killed in one year...it must be a record. We have 14 cats, and none of the others has ever messed with the chickens. Not even the 2 feral cats that live in the tool shed (and eat like conquerors, so don't worry about them). If this were a farm, Tucker would probly be ...well. We won't go there. I certainly value my Tucker more than some chickens.
The question is, how will I EVER have new baby chicks again? I've always got 3 or 4 every couple of springs to replace the old girls who stop laying. (None of my laying hens ever get put in the pot...they go into graceful retirement and live out their lives here.) I'm going to have to give this some really long, hard thought. The old rabbit hutch that I got and that still needs to be refurbished may be the answer, but it's going to need a lot of work. I think I'll try to work on it all winter (weather permitting) with the hopes that, come spring, I'll have a place that's secure for baby chickens.
Otherwise, not much going on. I think I overdid it on Thursday, because yesterday (Friday) I stayed in most of the day and caught up with "indoor work." Today, I think I may drive over to J's back lot and get a load of wood chip mulch for E. I've been reluctant to actually load up a truck for her, but really...that's selfish... I know she has shoulder problems and she's got her whole family in for T.giving. I should be charitable and do it. Plus, I can scavenge some plywood there too, for the rabbit hutch project.
I've got a guy coming over around noon to look at the dead pine trees and give me an estimate. He says he charges $90/hour. This really sets my teeth on edge. I know he thinks his time is valuable, but hey...so do I. I have a college degree and work with medical texts. I get roughly $30/hour. I really think that my time is worth just as much as his, with a chainsaw. He assures me it only takes about a half hour to cut down a pine, but still. If he had to use a lift and extra equipment, I could see. But I know what it will be: He'll drive over (from 1 mile away) in a pickup truck, rev up the chainsaw and cut down the tree in 5 minutes. Spend another few minutes cutting it into pieces and leave. (I told him I'll deal with the wood.)
OK, better get some laundry out on the line (another beautiful day on tap!) and then I think I'll take monkeymomr's example and try to get this camera to work so I can take some (very bad and out of focus) pics for the blog.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Survived turkey; hellebore and hostaWhew! Survived eating way too much turkey. You know those Turduckens people do? (Which, by the way, I think is gross)....well this morning I have 14 Catkeys. Cats stuffed with turkey. *HA* And two Hukeys (Humans stuffed with turkey).
If there is a god and any justice at all out there in the universe, all that food (including 2 pieces of pumpkin pie, one with whipped cream) will not cause a single OUNCE of gained weight on me. Because all day yesterday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., I worked in the garden. And I mean WORKED. I started by hauling mulch to the first pine gap bed (where the lilac is still MIA). That took me several hours because the mulch pile is a good walk from the bed (14 or 15 [borrowed] wheelbarrow loads total!). Then, I dug over the last of the big square beds in the veggie garden. Then I turned my baleful eye on that snow-flattened corner of the shrub border, where the forsythia have spread all over the path and decided to tackle that next.
It was one of those snowballing projects. At first I thought I'd just weed the shrub bed in that corner, edge it up, and cut back the forsythia. But the bed was worse than I thought and I ended up having to pretty much dig it all over, pulling out blackberries, wiregrass, honeysuckle, goldenrod, etc. I found a nice clump of purple coneflower in all that, dug it out...that will go up in the new garden area, where it can get some sun. Also found a new Mock Orange...I did not know that mock orange could set "offsets" but apparently a stem from the main shrub rooted and now there's a nice size "daughter" plant. Left it for now. I'll need to find it a good place.
The forsythia were so overgrown and spread out that I could barely find room to work, so instead of just cutting them back, I decided to cut them down. Now of course, the problem is hauling all that brush out of there, up the hill, to the nature area and the brush fence.
I swear I ache in muscles I didnt know I had. That whole corner of the shrub border looks much better, but it still needs work. It's because of the evolution of the garden, the natural progression. When I planted it, the poplars, the blue spruce, the forsythia, everything was smaller (naturally). So it got plenty of sun. Over the past 10 years, as everything has increased in size, that area has become shadier and the perennials that were sprinkled in have disappeared. There was a nice bed of iris and daisies down there once; I removed the remaining iris yesterday. They haven't bloomed in years, so now they'll get a new home in the new garden.
So, now I have a fairly large area of blank soil. I would love to fill it with ferns, hosta, etc. Shade plants. I think I may divide my clump of arum and put some of it there to get started. I also have a false Solomon's seal languishing beside the house. I know that can really grow into a large clump, so I may put that in too.
Oh, a few years ago, I bought some Hellebores at a local plant sale. I thought they were Christmas Rose hellebores (Hellebore nigra?) but they turned out to be those kind of Hellebore that have thinly cut leaves and produce tall stalks with tiny green flowers. Not, to my eyes, very attractive plants. I put them in under the flower plum (which is also down in the corner where I am working). They have grown very well and obviously like it there. A few days ago, I was leaving through an old garden magazine and I saw a picture of these particular Hellebores in a mixed planting with Hostas. Wow! Alone, the hellebores just do not do it for me. But paired with hostas...perfect!
Since I am one of those gardeners who believe it is impossible to have too many hostas, this is a great discovery. I'll put some hostas in under the plum and I'll also move some of the hellebores to my established hosta bed. The contrast between the hosta's broad smooth-edged leaves and the hellebores "jagged" finer cut leaves is really beautiful.
By 3 pm I was too tired to go on, so I quit. I still have 4 or 5 forsythia to cut down. These are so smothered under honeysuckle you can barely tell they are forsythia. PLUS, that October snow weighted them down so badly....it's going to be an epic adventure just trying to get in close enough to find the main stems. I'd like to get them removed now, before the weather gets too cold. I don't want to remove anything like that if the birds are sheltering in it at night. Once the forsythia are cut down (I'm taking them down to about 2-3 feet tall, I'm hoping to dig out any "sprouts" and possibly move them to the pine row. I figure if I can start planting some things IN FRONT of the still remaining pines, I can get a bit of a jump on filling in that area once the pines are dead and removed.
I have a feeling that cutting down the forsythia is going to take me a week, which means that the rest of the shrub borders (I have two long ones, just in front of the "woods") will be neglected. Unless we have a very mild winter, I dont' know what I'll do about that. I guess let it go until spring and hope I find time.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Learned to make croquemboucheInstead of trying to garden in the rain, E invited me to come over to her house so we could learn how to make a croquembouche. This is basically a big cone-shaped tower of little tiny cream puffs, "cemented" together with hard caramel. It was a learning experience, I'll say that much. E already had the little puff pastries made and the filling, so my job was to fill each one with the custard filling while she made the caramel. The filling part went well, but the caramel was awful. The sugar started to melt, then went back into a huge hard lump! We looked like a couple of coal miners, whacking away at it with meat tenderizer hammers and knives. *whoop, lol*
Finally got a nice pan of caramel and started assembling the croquembouche (I think the name is actually more to describe the "presentation" not the actual pastries...). It went pretty well. We were a little too timid about the stacking however and the finished product looks more like a beehive than a pointy cone. But it was fun, and I learned something (mostly that I don't ever want to make another one...the recipe took a total of 22 eggs!!!). She's hoping that if she can get a really nice one together, she can show it to a couple of her clients and they might order one for parties, etc. (she bakes semi-professionally). It certainly would lend itself to Christmas parties, because it's shaped like a Xmas tree. I think the most fun would be in decorating the finished tower.
I also think you could make a much simpler (and cheaper) version using beignets instead of little cream puffs. Actually, I think you could do it using just about any sort of pastry/cookie. We saw pics online of a few made of other types of cookies etc. (Mmmmm....brownies!!!) You could even go totally American and use Rice Krispie Treats! They'd be easy to stick together! *HA* Of course, doing so might call down the wrath of the entire Frence nation... "Sacre Bloo! Eet ees an outrrrrage!"
Heavy fog again this morning, but the rain seems to be letting up. With luck, I WILL get outside to move mulch.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
It never seems to endWell, R. had cardiac surgery in September. Two weeks after that he had to have oral surgery to remove a benign tumor on his lip. NOW it looks like he may need knee surgery! He's been limping around on his left knee for several weeks now, probably since returning from the hospital, but we just put it down to being in bed for a week, etc. It's been getting worse and worse. He's using a cane most of the time. So today he had our family doctor check it out. Possible meniscus tear. He's scheduled for an MRI/xray, whatever, on next Weds. Then, if it is a meniscus tear, it will mean arthroscopic surgery. *shakes head*
I am so glad we never had children. HIs heart problem was genetic; his weak knee is probably genetic; his high blood pressure is genetic....etc. Frankly, that whole family (my in-laws) are one sickly bunch, physically, mentally, and emotionally. They range from neurotic to outright psychotic if you ask me. And yes, we've got some loony tunes in my family too, but basically I come from hardy healthy European peasant stock. My mom always used to say that you either were healthy or you died. THat's harsh, but it's true.
OH well. I guess there's no point worrying about it. Whatever happens, we'll deal with it. I just feel sorry for R because I think he really believed that once he got through heart surgery, he'd be so much healthier and able to do things again. But now this knee thing....
Still, looking back, we have a LOT to be thankful for. He DID get through his heart surgery ok, and he has been making a really great recovery.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Wheelbarrow brokenWell, my old wheelbarrow finally gave out on me. The wooden part that holds the wheel was pretty badly rotted and it finally gave way and the wheel dropped. R is trying to fix it, but I think that's hopeless. It looks like Santa will have to bring me a new one!
Fortunately, my neighbors let me borrow theirs. They don't garden, so once the lawn mowing season is done, they don't use their wheelbarrow. I still need to move a lot of mulch and compost around.
It's raining steadily today, so I doubt if I am going to get much done.
ARGH! Just remembered....cat to vet at 10. Must run!
Whew! Got Barty to the vet for his shots on time. He's scheduled for a dental cleaning next week.
Now, where was I?
Oh yes. So...I still need to mulch the "pine gap" where the lilac went missing. Then, I think I'll turn my attention to cleaning up a piece of the lower South Border where we had some of the big poplars taken down a few years ago. That area is a mess. Full of weeds and poison ivy (I don't know why my neighbor can't mow right up to the property line for goodness sake. That would have killed most of the ivy while it was still in the grass. Now, it's starting to climb up onto the small trees and shrubs there.) I think I'd like get another tree planted down there, and maybe some forsythia. It's just a big ugly area and I'm tired of looking at it.
When I think of all the heavy digging I need to do around here....my knees hurt. So far, I've been pretty lucky with knees. No major pains or problems. But I do worry so that I don't start problems. I'm trying to do exercises to strengthen the leg muscles, to prevent knee joint damage. It's either that or kidnap a professional gardener and turn him into a zombie to do my bidding in the garden. *mwah ha ha ha ***
The rain's let up. I may just put on the wellies and get some mulch moved.
OH, sold 8 burning bushes yesterday!
Dratted weather *lol*. As soon as got my boots on, the rain started up again. Of course, around here the time elapsing between the wish and the deed depends entirely on the cats. I say "I will put on my wellies and go outside." What that REALLY means is "I will feed the cats. I will open the door and let Nicky out. I will change the cat's water dish. I will open the door and let Grace in. I will wipe up the up-chuck from Barty's last meal. I will open the door and let Nicky in. I will scoop out the litter pan. I will open the door and let Tucker out. I will get out the special treats because Alvin's decided he doesn't like the regular cat food. I will open the door to let Tucker in. ...." Then...maybe...if I'm lucky...I get my boots on. And it starts to rain.....
Monday, November 21, 2011
Poison ivyVery foggy and mild this morning. I think we may be setting up for an "English winter." We get them occasionally, winters where the ground never freezes and there's little snow, just a lot of rain and fog. I really like them! It's wonderful to be able to garden throughout the winter months, and the nicest thing about it is that whatever is done STAYS done....You weed a section and it stays weeded. You prune a shrub and it stays pruned. Not like in May, when everything just keeps sprouting and growing.
If we do have a very mild winter, I think I'll concentrate on some tough areas that will require a lot of physical work, digging out weeds/brush, cutting back brush/trees, removing old fence lines, that sort of thing. I'd rather not do that sort of thing when it's hot outside; definitely a cool weather person. (I think it's heredity; my grandpap used to garden under electric lights in the summer nights. The neighbors thought he was mad.) He was a coal miner and I guess he found the cool and dark much nicer than working in the blazing sun.
Plus, winter is the best time to get rid of poison ivy, and this place is and always has been pretty rife with the stuff. It used to be worse, but when we had sheep they ate it away from the fence lines and pasture area. Now that the sheep are gone, I'm seeing it popping up more. The stuff is terrible; I've had some very bad experiences with it and I treat it with vast respect. Once the leaves are gone from it in the winter, however, it's a LITTLE safer to handle. I try not to touch it even with gloved hands; I've become pretty good at working it out of the ground with a shovel and hoe and then carrying the plant/roots to the road. Lying out there on the macadam usually kills it quickly; but you know, even dead it's a menace.
My best tip for dealing with poison ivy contact is this: WASH WITH ICY COLD WATER. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but this is the best way to get the poisonous oils off. If you use warm water, it opens the pores of your skin and allows the oil to penetrate. My usual routine is to first rinse, rinse, rinse with plain icy cold water running from the tap. Then lather up using the cheapest, harshest dishwashing liquid you can find (nothing with moisturizer in it). Rinse in cold, repeat, repeat, repeat, always with cold RUNNING water. Don't fill up the sink to wash. This is one time when water conservation is not a good idea. Then pat dry with paper towels.
So far *knock on wood* using this method, I've avoided getting a bad rash for several years. Also, you MUST wash the area within 1 hour of contacting poision ivy. After that, you'll probably get a rash, although if you wash thoroughly it won't be too bad.
I've also learned that the worst thing you can do is treat the rash gently. Dont try to moisturize it. What you want to do is dry out the skin so that it gets flaky and scaly. I use lots of soap and water, rubbing alcohol, whatever is drying, if I do start to see a rash appear.
And don't burn poison ivy! My sister's husband burned off a patch, she breathed in some of the smoke and spent a few days in the hospital because it somehow got into her kidneys!
E just called to ask me if I'd like to help her make a croquembuche. I had to Google on it. *lol* It's a sort of tower of cream puffs. Looks lovely, and I think it will be a big hit for Christmas!
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Stop! Thief!This is so bizarre. On Friday, I planted 3 forsythia and one small lilac in my "pine gap" by the road. Today (Sunday) the lilac is missing. *LOL* I am honestly flummoxed. Surely to god nobody would actually stop and dig out a weedy 3 foot tall leafless lilac??? It would be hard to see from the road, and since it had no leaves, how would you even KNOW it was there? The forsythia are untouched.... I'm baffled.
At first I thought maybe I DID NOT plant the lilac there. That maybe I changed my mind and I've just forgotten where in the HELL I did plant it. But I don't think so. OK, I'm not the brightest bulb on the twinkle light string, but I'm not THAT bad. *LOL*
The only other thing I can think of is that bunnies chewed the skinny little stems (about 3 of them) off and if I look really closely I'll find the darn thing still there. it was getting late in the afternoon when R. came out to see what I was doing and I showed him the forsythia and that's when I discovered the "missing" lilac. The light was bad and I was dead tired, so maybe I just missed it.
I hope so. My friend E. down the road had her gnome snatched from the end of her driveway a week or so ago....Mr. Chomsky. She's putting up a sign to see if she can get him back. I said to wait for the ransom note, but....
Spent yesterday (Saturday) doing next to nothing. Made up for it in spades today. Got back down to the pine row and dug out a huge patch of brambles from that gap on the corner. There are 3 nice young trees there, starting to fill in where the pines are missing, so I pruned them into shape. Then I cut a nice edge and dug out all the weeds and grass in a big area. Put in a Burning bush, 2 yuccas and a small clump of ornamental grass (Now, remember this in case I come back here and say something else is missing *LOL*).
Then, I laid down a thick mulch of fallen leaves and weighted that down with a layer of coarse wood chips, from that pile that Z's left for me and E.
I am beat. Came in, hot shower, hot soup, hot tea and a nice little nap.
I still have to figure out a way to coerce someone to cut down a couple of those dead pines. I'm considering tying a case a beer to the top of the tree I want down and letting nature take it course. Man...chain saw...dead tree...case of beer... Do the math.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Tackling the pine rowYesterday afternoon I decied to go ahead and tackle one of the gaps in my infamous pine row/windbreak. A couple of the pines had died about 4 years ago and we cut them down, leaving not only a gap in the pine row, but exposing the "back sides" of the blue spruce that form in the inner row of this double-row windbreak. Ugh. The blue spruce look gorgeous from the "front" and are ugly and bare from the back. At that time, I planted a couple of azalea into the gap, but they died. I stuck in some yucca and they're still there, but mostly the gap is filled with wild brambles, poison ivy, and honeysuckle.
So, got to work with shovel, saws, etc. and got that gap cleaned out. Then I put in 4 big forsythia that I moved from under the apple tree in the back yard. (These forsythia root from the tips, so I almost always have young plants growing somewhere!). I also stuck in a small (3 foot tall) lilac that was also growing up under the apple tree and looking very weedy there. With luck, these ought to take over the winter and get growing in the spring. I really want to get a mixed border started down there, because I know that over the next years those pines are going to start dying off at a faster rate. There are already a few "wild" trees starting up, a couple of nice box elders and some hackberry that I'm pruning and encouraging. I don't want anymore silver maples though....they are just too hungry and thirsty.
Today (Saturday) I'd like to do the same to the gap on the corner. We had one tree taken down there, and to be honest the two on either side really don't look good and should probly be removed too. I think what I'll do there is go ahead and limb up the two dying trees as far up as possible. I don't care what they look like; I just want to reduce their presence while I work on the gap. Then, hopefully over the winter, maybe I can get someone to cut those 2 trees down.
It's a mess. What I'd really like to do (but can't afford) is to go ahead and cut down and dig out ALL the pines and spruce, except for maybe 5 really nice ones. Then plant in a nice mixed border of small trees and big shrubs. That's probly never going to happen, so I have to sort of stumble along with this project.
First garden catalog arrived! Pinetree Gardens (how appropriate, huh?)...they have an interesting selection and the prices are nice and low. I'm not sure what I need for next year's garden, and at any rate I like to wait until after Christmas to get together my seed orders. It's a little ritual I have. After I get the seed order together in the last week of December, I have to walk it up to the post office. It can't be sent via email, and it can't be paid via credit card. It has to be a check, and it has to be mailed, and I have to WALK it to the post office (2 miles away) for it to count. *lol*
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Center of attentionYesterday was a complete washout, gardenwise. We had rain all day and well into the evening. This morning it's a good bit cooler and still overcast. If things dry out a bit more, I might get into the veg garden and finish up the winter cleanup.
I've been going over ideas for next year's veg garden. Now that I have permanent beds, I want to try to "rotate" my crops through them, so I don't plant the same thing in the same place twice. I think I have a good plan worked out for 2012.
When I laid out the veg garden, I made several long narrow beds, 4 square beds, and one big circular bed in the middle, flanked by 4 small "cutout" beds that sort of fit around it. This year, the circular bed held my big pole bean teepee and it made a great focal point for the garden. The problem is, if I don't want to plant pole beans in the circle bed again in 2012, then what do I plant there? That bed is sort of the "centerpiece" of the garden, so I'd like it to be something eyecatching. I considered filling it with annuals, but I really don't think I want to sacrifice vegetable growing space. Cabbages can be sort of ornamental, but when you start harvesting...
Then I thought that maybe I could put some thing in the center of the bed that would be more or less permanent. First I thought a bird bath, then I thought maybe a piece of statuary. But then I started thinking maybe I could build a sort of rustic looking, cute little tall skinny "bird house" thingy. About 5 feet tall and maybe 20x20 inches. With a sort of bird house hole at the top, but with maybe a hinged door in front so I could store a few tools in it. I don't know. I'll have to mull this over for a while.
I am SO RELIEVED. I heard from one of my big clients this morning and they have a job for me. I have been praying to the Blessed Mother for help and guidance, and I truly feel as if she's answered my prayers. After the MESS that my niece and her husband left me this summer with the business, I was beginning to think that I would never see this particular client again. I love them both, they are both great kids (in their early 30s), but they have just too much drama in their personal lives. It is ok when it stays in their personal space, but when it spills over into the business and worst when it starts to spill over into MY life, then all bets are off. My niece still does some work for me, but she is working for a small local ad agency, so most of the business is back with me. Her husband...that poor lost soul. In and out of drug rehab all through the autumn. He's living with a friend in a nearby city now. He comes up to visit her and their daughter every weekend. It's very sad. The poor boy looks like a ghost. My niece doesn't say much, but I wonder if that marriage is going to end.
I was comparing Christmas lists with a (nongardener) friend of mine. I went to visit her yesterday (might as well sit in someone's kitchen and drink coffee in all that rain!) and saw her list on the refrigerator. She wants a new winter coat, a punchbowl (??seriously??), a food processor, and jewelry. Oh and she's been tossing around hints for a gift cert to a day spa.
I was too ashamed to tell her whats on my list: Muck boots, a spading fork (broke mine trying to wee-jee out a rock), a new handle for my best shovel (just the handle; I can replace the one that I broke trying to wee-jee out a rock), and a carton of Miracle-Gro. *sigh* Just imagine what a lovely arrangement of gifts that will make under the tree...
Finally, I wanted to say that I am SO GLAD I found Dave's Garden, and that I have met some truly wonderful people here on this site. It's great to find like-minded people, gardeners, who don't think I'm insane when I mention that I spent the money I was supposed to use on shoes on a new plant for the garden instead.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011Steady rain again all morning. This nixes E. and my plan to move wood chips today. I am doomed to work at the desk all day. Yesterday, in between rains, I walked over to E's to help her with some baking (she bakes for a local coffee shop). She has had her downstairs completely repainted and some 1970s type paneling removed from the breakfast nook. What a difference! The house looks twice as big...so much more airy and light-filled. I brought her one of the two huge Boston ferns that was gifted to me a few weeks ago. Together, they took up most of my office *lol*. One is more manageable, although I'm sure with our combined concerted efforts, the cats and I will indeed eventually kill it.
This mild November weather is very strange...yesterday, I saw more forsythia blooming (this is not unheard of, I've seen that before), but more astounding I saw a DOGWOOD in bloom. This cannot be right. This cannot be good. Of course, so many people are already blathering about the "Winter that Never Was" but it is still only November and we've been known to have real doozies of winters from January to March. (We've also had a few snowless mild winters when the ground never froze, so...)
My friend S (the psychic) has foretold unto me (you have to use that sort of language when you're psychic) that September was a month of great changes for me, and that I can expect these changes to continue into the New Year. I hate change. But she said that no matter how bad it seemed, it was all pointing toward an exciting new future. I hate exciting futures; in my case, it usually means something awful will happen. I think she's just trying to cozy me up to get me to go along with her Tarot Reading business idea. *lol* Her idea is, she reads the cards, then I type up the "reading" for the client. Her talent is in the psychic business, my talent is in writing. I dont know. It might be a way to earn a few bucks for the holidays. Plus, and I do have to admit this, S always is very very supportive of people. She's not likely to say to someone "Bah. Your cards are dreadful. Get your affairs in order!" *lol* Will have to think about it. Silly.
Back to work I go. If the rain stops, I'm going to TRY to move some mulch around.
Oh, also, got a note from F saying that if I wanted to go up to the mountain property to clear out that shed, he could possibly meet me up there and help (F is the husband of my childhood friend Dee; he's a brick). I am afraid to go alone, and my husband is not up to the trip or the work. (I used to go up there alone all the time, until the episode entitled "What is that strange buzzing noise?" or "When Women Fly...Rattlesnake Sighting."
Just now looked out the office window at my veggie garden. There's only one bed left to clear out, the one that had held all those potted up plants. (I still need to weed the strawberries and the asparagus, and that shady bed in the back). I think I might just gather up the remaining potted up daylilies, yucca, burning bush, etc. and take them up to the wildlife sanctuary. I think I'll just dig a trench along the brush fence and plant everything there. If it survives, great; if not, that's ok too. I just don't have anymore energy to deal with those things.
Over all though, I have to say that from this vantage point, the veg garden is looking pretty good. I really like the way the pattern of beds and paths looks. So orderly and neat!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Life is an Irish Fairy TaleVery mild and rainy this morning, almost like a spring morning.
In absolute contrariness to what I wrote on the 14th, I did NOTHING in the garden yesterday. *HA* Barely set tootsies outside the door. Spent the whole day plugging along through "Irish Fairytales," (from an Italian translation) and taking frequent breaks to sip coffee and surf the 'Net. Disgusting behavior. Some days the tide ebbs, some days the tide flows. And some days you're left high and dry at the turn of the tide, sitting like a rotting bit of old fish.
Could this be a sign, an OMEN? I put out a few potted up plants along the road with a For Sale, $1 sign and lo....they were all bought up! Maybe my next career is in selling plants? We did do pretty well with the plant sale we had 2 years ago, but I really don't know if I have the stamina to get up another one. Especially since we were SUPPOSED to have had another sale this spring, but E. had to back out because her mom got sick. That left me with a huge number of potted up "everything" stuck in the veg garden. I've spent most of the past summer and fall trying to plant out all that stuff and now that it's finally mostly gone....I really don't feel like filling up a bunch of pots with more stuff.
E. arranged for a tree trimming outfit to dump a big pile of wood chips at the corner of my property, so we can share them. (She has a heavily wooded house lot and a big truck couldn't get in there.) I've also got a heap of leaves that the neighbors have been contributing building down there. R. is starting to whine about it (he's not a gardener, obviously, or he'd see these piles of leaves, chips, and grass clippings as I do...pure gold!). I may suit up and get some of the leaves hauled out. I need them as mulch up along the South Border.
I have to work up the nerve to go over to Mr. Good's house and see if whoever is living there now will let me still have all the ground up leaves in the back yard. I think the house is still in the family; Mr. Good passed away 2 years ago. he and I were "garden buddies" and every fall he brought me all his leaves. He'd grind them up with the lawnmower and so what he delivered was mostly this heavenly mix of grass clippings and leaf mulch that is like...instant loam!
OK. Back to Irish Fairytales from the Italian. *shudder* *lol*
Monday, November 14, 2011
Deer, bread and vansAs long as the weather stays as mild as it has been the past week or so (it's as if the infamous Halloween blizzard never happened), I'm continuining to get things done. Let's see....yesterday I got the bed below the deck weeded and cleaned up for winter. The worst part was down near the bottom, where the mugho pine is, where the bed meets the lawn. I wasn't able to weed or do anything there all summer because a nest of wasps took up residence in an underground burrow. I found them the hard way, back in June. Ouch! After having been chased all over the yard and stung by a half dozen angry yellow-jackets, you can bet I wasn't going back there again!
Now that the wasps are gone, I got work...the Gill-over-the-Ground (can never remember the official name of that) had spread all the way from the lawn up over the blue rug junipers and just about had the juniper smothered. Got that cleaned out, then cut back the edge of the bed, extending it by about a foot. Less grass to mow. I still need to weed under the mugho pine, but that can wait a bit.
The edging resulted in a couple of wheelbarrow loads of dirt/grass, so I made one of those snap decisions....I thought "wouldnt it be sort of cool to have a little hill up in the new section of the Story Book Garden?" So that's where the dirt went.
Later in the day, I just sort of schmoozed around the garden, doing a little here and there. It was such a pretty day I really did not want to spend it in work clothes, sweating and struggling.
Ooo....while exploring the upper southeast corner of the property (where the Dark part of the Story Book garden will go), I found a lot of deer sign! I think at least a couple of deer are regularly bedding down up there, in among the autumn olive, etc. This reminds me that the very top of the property has to remain wild, as part of our wildlife habitat. THis is probably a good thing, because it sets a definite limit on propensity to expand my gardening ad infinitum *LOL*. (Without a clear fence line, I'd probably be halfway through the neighbor's back yard by now!)
I had to drive over to the market in the morning to buy flour. Lemme tell ya. On Friday, I tried for the first time to make whole wheat bread. Now, not to brag, but my regular white bread is to die for. I've got bread making (no machine, by hand) down to a fine art. So I thought, why not try whole wheat? I followed the recipe, and the darn stuff just would not rise. It just sat there, staring sullenly at me, like a pouting teenager. I finally ended up rolling it out flat and baking it in a pizza pan. Do you know any municipalities that might need manhole covers? Not even the chickens would eat it.
Then a friend of mine said I needed to add a lot more white flour to the mix. So I did that. I have to admit, it did rise a little better. I baked it. When I took the loaf out, it had sunk down and was so tough I couldn't get the knife into it. If anyone needs a door stop, or a brick.... look me up.
All this experimentation used up my white flour (and my patience). So to soothe my battered ego, I went to the supermarket for more flour so I could make white bread (which came out great, thank you). On the way, I had to stop just a few blocks from my house to let a flock of wild turkeys cross the road...there must have been about 30 of them.
Later in the day, I had a slightly disturbing experience. I guess I forgot how quickly it gets dark this time of year. Around 4:30, I took a walk down to the little church that is about a mile from our house. By the time I got there and turned around to come home, it was already getting toward dusk...the light over the church's notice board came on just as I made the turn. As I was walking back, a white van came toward me and sort of slowed down. Figuring he was slowing down to be sure not to hit me, I stepped off the road into the corn field and kept going. At that point, I was very near to a cluster of houses and I honestly thought nothing of it.
But then, a little while later, the van passed me going in the opposite direction. Hmm.
Then, when I got up onto the long straight stretch that is bordered by nothing but open fields and only one old farmhouse, I saw the van again. This time he was stopped in the road, with his headlights off, only his running lights lit, facing me. In other words, he'd turned around AGAIN. Now, before jumping to any conclusions, I have to say that a couple of what looked like either deer or dogs were running across the road between me and the van, so he may have stopped for a herd of deer. But I did not like the looks of it, so I turned around and went to the farmhouse, let myself through their gate and went up on their porch. I stood there, back against the house, and watched the van go past, rather slowly. He went to the intersection, stopped at the stop sign and sat there for longer than necessary, then drove away out of sight. I knocked on the farmhouse door and when the lady came to answer, I told her what was going on and she wanted her husband to drive me home. I said no, but would appreciate it if she watched the road while I walked home.
That's it. The van did not come back, I got safely home, and maybe the people in the farmhouse think I'm nuts, but I'd rather be thought silly than become a statistic.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Chicks found!Found both baby chicks, unharmed. They fled whatever (I suspect Tucker the cat) got in the hen run and wedged themselves in the bricks under the water barrel. Took a lot of work to extract them, but they're fine. Whew! Close call. That damn Tucker. I love him dearly, but he's such a killer. He's killed about 6 baby chickens over the years. I spent the rest of the day going back over the hen run and reinforcing everything. I still don't trust it. So...the new rule is when Tucker is out, the baby chicks and their mom are closed up in the henhouse. It's going to be irritating, but it's the only thing I can think of.
Got a lot done again. Finally, got that "fig" tree dug up and moved to the top of the South Border. There are 2 of those trees growing in the veg garden, but I am seriously considering just digging out and getting rid of the second one. It's huge, there's no place ready for it, and the way these things sprout, I doubt I'll ever have a hard time replacing it. So, the afternoon is going to be spent digging that big root out.
Also planted out a few more potted things: a yew and some lilies in the StoryBook garden, the potted up traveler's joy along the brush fence, etc. Also dug up and moved a couple of flowering hawthorns that sprouted up under the big tree. I'm not sure they'll survive. I was surprised to see that they had almost no roots. Just one big one which I think was the "mother" root that connected them to the main tree.
Hauled in 14 bags of leaves from my friend Eleanor's house. She has a ginko and the smell of those leaves can be overpowering, so she rakes them up fast and has me haul them off. I only use them up in the new garden areas because I dont' like that sweet rotten smell either. And boy are they heavy! Like little pieces of bright yellow leather.
J. told me I can haul off all the wood chips I want from his trailer court's compost area. I finally trekked over there to see what he's got and wow! THere's a sizable pile of chips, some composted leaves, and lots of scrap lumber. I need some plywood for the rabbit hutch conversion, so I may go over there on Monday and see if I can find anything that fits.
While I was digging out the hawthorn sprouts, I realized that the bed in which they grow is REALLY getting messy. I need to get in there and do some serious pruning and transplanting. There are what looks like about 8 nice sized young Rose of Sharon (Althea) growing there. These are all seedlings from that oddly "weeping" form that grew from seed about ten years ago. A. says I should propagate it since the weeping form is unusual. I'm not sure if it grows true from seed, but I think it might because another seedling is showing that same drooping shape. It's not truly "weeping" but I think if I selected for only those with the strongest droop, I might just get one.
Sort of pooped out midday. Laid around on the back deck reading and eating snacks, sipping OJ. I deserve a day off. Really. I do. *LOL*
Later in the afternoon, just before dusk, I went up to the Story Book garden and started walking around, snipping a little here and there. Before I knew it, I was up in the "wild" part, where I haven't formally started gardening yet. A few years ago, I popped in some scraggly little silver maple trees up there, some forsythia along the border. The trees are growing fairly well, the forsythia are holding their own. A lot of autumn olive have started up there...most of them will have to come out, but a few are tall enough that if I trim them properly, they should make nice small trees. I know they're an invasive alien species, but in our area, if you tried to remove all the autum olive, you'd be at it until the proverbial freezes over. I limit them as much as possible; they won't grow under established trees, and mowing kills them.
One clump has formed an intriguing little area that I think I will probably use as the first of the Dark garden's beds. It looks like it would hold some hosta or mossy rocks or something. (The problem up there will be water....I really need to improve the soil...which I'm doing by sheet composting.)
Just tramping around up there for the first time, really---it got me enthusiastic all over again. I still have no real drawn-up plan for the area, just a vague sense of what I want. But it should be a lot of fun (and very hard work) to begin clearing and actually working that area. There's this glimmer of an idea, probably impossible, that I'd like to actually dig out an area for a sort of sunken garden up on the top of the hill....but without a backhoe, I don't know if that will be possible. Then again... It's a lot easier to build up the level around the area without actually digging deeply down. I did it at the entrance to the StoryBook garden. We'll see.
Moved more purple coneflowers up there, as well as a very well grown burning bush to the border. I've begun really clearing out bed 16 in the veg garden, which is where the coneflower and bush were. I know the veg garden is supposed to be for vegs, but that corner is so nice and shady that I long to turn it into a little sitting area, where I can take a break from working in the veg garden, especially when it's hot and sunny.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
So far, not a good dayOne of those days. Last night, I got a call from the Fraud dept. of my credit card: someone had run up $3000 of purchases in one day, on high-end catalog items. The nice young lady I talked to said I was not responsible for these purchases, after confirming I did not buy this stuff. I've got to cut up my card and wait to get a new account. I did have to smile: in explaining why the company noticed this unusual activity she said, in this absolutely delightful Texas Accent...."well. Ummm... You're last purchase? Was for flea medicine? For $29? So we thought this can't be right..." (Yeah, that's me...big spender on pet products!)
Then, I had bad dreams all night about my mother in law. Her health is not at all good, and I guess I'm more worried than I thought. I really don't know what we'll do if she passes away....R. is not really physically up to that trip back home. And that family is such a mess; I know we'll end up responsible for the funeral costs, which I don't begrudge, just worry about.
Finally....got up to a rainy morning, went to feed the hens and two of the baby chicks are gone. I can't find them, I have no idea. All I can surmise is that something got in during the night and snatched them. I am so depressed by this. I really thought they were safe; I secured the hen run, the momma hen was with them. I guess live and learn. If I'm going to have baby chicks, I'm going to have to really tighten up that henhouse/hen run and make double sure there's no way anything can get in. Well. Nothing to be done. Just take it as a lesson and prepare for next spring, when I intend to buy more fertile eggs when one of my hens gets broody.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Mother knows bestI probably should wait until evening to write here, but by evening I'm so worn out I can't lift my hands to the keyboard! So....*slurps coffee*...morning entries, here we go.
You know, it's funny how gardeners think. We carry around in our heads this vision of how the world should be, and unlike most other people...those ungardeners...we actually TRY to make it that way. Maybe not the whole world, but our little part of it, even if that's only a flowerbox or a tiny backyard. Working with 2 acres, I realize just how hard it is to, single-handedly, change the world. Just when you think you've got one problem solved, another pops up, and by the time you've dealt with that, the first problem is back. And then, if you're really smart...you start to realize that the "problems" aren't always problems at all....they're just Mother Nature's way of reminding you who's really in charge, and who really has the "answers." Take that dratted row of pines for example. I was talked into planting a double row of Austrian pines and blue spruce when we first moved here, 20 years ago, as a windbreak along the western and part of the northern edge of the property. The trees when planted were about 6 inches tall and it took forever for them to grow. But then, after about 10 years, they were really nice. A sort of 10 foot tall hedge of pines and blue spruce.
And then Mother reminded me that she doesn't like all of one kind of tree planted close together. Blight started killing off branches, here and there, as she pruned the trees to let in more sunlight. After a few more years, she decided maybe some of the trees should go entirely and now there are some gaps....which she's happily filling in with other types of plants....box elder, maples, blackberries, etc. For a few years, I fought this. I hired a firm to spray the trees and for a while they looked good. Then, the tree guy who sprayed them suggested that I "limb up" the pines, to let in more air and sunlight (like what Mother said, only I was too stupid to listen). I spent an entire winter sawing branches. When I was done, my beautiful thick windbreak "hedge" was a bunch of trees with their bare trunks showing. You can look right through them. So much for a windbreak and privacy.
The point of this ramble is that I spent a lot of money trying to save trees that were a bad idea from the beginning. Now? I'm listening to Mom. As the trees gradually thin out and die off, I'm letting them go. Everytime one kicks the bucket, I get it removed. This winter, I'm planning to really clean out the gaps (poison ivy and blackberries) and plant other types of plants....shrubs, trees, etc....to fill in. I've already pruned up some of the little maples and box elders that have gotten started there, so they will eventually develop into really beautiful trees.
If I had listened to Mother, if I had followed her lead, I probably would now have a dense mixed border of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs that would go on forever. It's late in the game now, but I've finally got the message.
OK, here's the 7 p.m. recap. Got all the spring bulbs planted; 9 big clumps of specie crocus under the apple tree and about 5 small clumps up in the Fairy Glen (250 bulbs total); 5 big white flowering alliums in the Pond Circle; 4 clumps of snowdrops under the apple tree (25 bulbs total); and innumerable miniature daffodils and crocus that had been dug up during transplanting in other areas around the gardens. Most of them went back into the Top Border and into the Story Book garden.
After that, I got the miniature dahlias lifted and boxed, and the heirlooms. My Bishop of Llanulf (sp?) really multiplied! From 2 small clumps planted in May, I am pretty sure I will have at least 3 clumps next year, once I divide the tubers. The Clare du Lune has about doubled in sized; I think I will have 2 clumps of that next year. *yay*
After THAT, R reminded me that I had to run the gasoline out of the red push mower, because he wants to take the engine out and replace it. So....mowed all the lawn(s) except for the hillside above the house. Phew! I thought that darned mower would NEVER run out of gas. It really does need a new motor...it burns oil and mowing with it is penance. By the time I was done, my throat was raw from fumes and my hair felt as if someone had sprayed it with PAM. A hot shower and a cup of herbal tea (liberally laced with booze *LOL*) fixed me right up.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Weeding and WalkingThe last few days have been spent mostly working indoors, in the office, but yesterday I did manage to get all the old tomato plants out of the garden and the asparagus cut back. I still need to weed and till those two beds. There are only two beds (Beds #12 and #16) that are completely untouched. Bed 12 has all those potted up plants in it and that's going to be a real headache to clear out. Bed 16 is the "nursery" bed back in the shady corner of the veg garden and that....I get a stomachache just thinking about it. It's one massive overgrown tangle of you-name-it-it's-growing-there. I also need to thoroughly weed out the strawberry bed and mulch it for winter.
I've definitely decided to remove the old dog house from the corner of the veg garden; that area is now designated as Bed #1. I think that will probably be a thornless blackberry patch.
Part of yesterday evening was spent drawing up a nice neat plan of the vegetable garden beds and numbering them. I hope to make copies of the plan so that I can have one for each year, showing where things were planted. Helps in "crop rotation."
Took a very long walk yesterday; the weather was perfect, and we needed milk so I hiked up to the highway for a 1/2 gallon. It's about a 4.5 mile walk, round trip. Sometimes I feel a little smug; I'm the only one of a very few of my neighbors who ever walks at all around here. I know where the deer cross, where the wild turkeys roost, where the groundhogs have their dens. I know where the hickory trees are, and where the bloodroot bloom in March. I'm the one who "discovered" the big sink hole in one of my farmer friend's fields...imagine owning land and not noticing that there's a huge hole opening up alongside the road? Well, you don't if all you do is whizz by in a pickup truck. Get down and walk, and you see where you REALLY live. Every fall, I see frustrated hunters in red coats tramping back and forth across the great cornfields, peering into the woods, trying to find the deer. Silly. If I was so inclined (which I'm not), I could get a deer just by sitting at the base of that steep cliff to the east of the road, about a quarter mile from the Scott farm. The deer cross there every day, morning and evening, a big herd of them, by the looks of their tracks.
And I don't just walk. I take a litter bag with me and pick up other people's trash. At first, I felt a little awkward doing this....would I look like some crazy bag lady? Would people somehow think less of me..."Oh look, it's the trash picker"? Then, one day, I realized that I wasn't picking up some yahoo's chewing tobacco cans anymore. And it occurred to me that he'd seen me doing it and maybe I'd shamed him into not tossing them out the window anymore. And then one day, a woman stopped her car and said to me "THANK YOU. Thank you for picking up the litter." And then I've noticed that a couple of other people who walk also are picking up litter! Our roads look so much better now. This just proves to me that one person can make a difference, even if it's just in something small and insignificant.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Tipping pointOne of those days when I worked, worked, worked, and still feel as if I did not get much done. Mostly because I ended up doing a lot of work that was not "on the list" and I did not get that feeling of accomplishment that I get when I cross something off! *lol*
Dug out EVERYTHING from Bed 12 in the veg garden...omg. There's TONS of stuff in there. I have so many potted up Burning Bush it's not even funny. I wanted to place an ad to sell them in the local paper but it would cost me $50...which is utterly ridiculous. So, I think I'll try to find a paper with free ads and try again.
I found new homes in the StoryBook garden for 3 sage plants, 3 daylilies, 2 creeping euonymous, 1 michaelmas daisy, 1 coneflower, and 1 hawkweed. This barely dents the inventory. I think I may go ahead and plant the remaining daylilies (I think they're the ordinary tawny kind) up in the Nature area and let them fend for themselves. I've also decided that the potted up Traveler's Joy vine will be planted right up tight to the brush fence and allowed to grow over/along it. I may go ahead and move the main Traveler's Joy vine up there to the brush fence too. Should look really spectacular!
I got all my big dinner plate dahlias cut down, dug up, and packed for storage. Tomorrow I'll lift the two heirloom clumps (hope they really multiplied!), and the miniature dahlias as well.
I sickled down the tall grass and brush from a big area along the South Border. Once I had it cleared off, I dug 3 planting holes. Got one forsythia in; the other 2 holes I think will get a lilac and maybe a flowering hawthorn tree. Was AMAZED to find a very small flowering crabapple that I planted out there a couple of years ago and forgot about....it was still alive. I'll get the area around it cleaned up, mulched, etc. and it should get off to a good start. The little flowering plum I planted there at the same time is thriving on benign neglect as well.
Tomorrow I need to dig out a really BIG hole to plant those 2 "fig" trees. I'd like to get them going up there to provide some much needed shade/privacy to that hillside. My neighbor's back windows face up the hill and I always feel "on display" when Im working up there. Once the border plantings get going, though, that should be a fairly secluded area, at least in the summer.
Tidied up the edging on the big bed in the StoryBook garden and...at long last.... I think I can actually start to plan for plantings in the upper part of that garden area. I've been layering in garden trash, leaves, grass clippings, etc. for years, letting everything compost down and I think that by spring the soil up there might be good enough to start getting some plantings in. I'd like to start with shrubs and small trees, and then move in some perennials later.
Before I do that, however, I'd like to get the dead apple tree down. It's like a rotten tooth, loose in its hole, and I really think that if I could get a big ole husky dude to give it a heave, it might go right over. *lol* Dratted thing survived the heavy snow and don't you know it simply WILL NOT blow over in a gale. I've been able to dismantle it by breaking off even really big branches, but I've been going at it casually, not with any determined effort.
It's funny how, with a new garden area, one eventually reaches a sort of "tipping point" where suddenly everything starts to come together and take off all at once. For the past couple of years, I've been pecking and struggling with the Storybook garden and now, this fall, suddenly, it's coming together. As I dig stuff out of one area, it moves to another, the cut grass clippings become mulch, the stones become path material, etc. etc. It's a great feeling.
Stopped work to go vote. I
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Good weather = Lots of workYet ANOTHER busy busy day. I got the "mystery trees" sawed off in the veg garden, I set out a bunch of potted shrubs for sale along the road, I cleaned up part of the Story Book Garden, dug out the grass in that little odd patch up there, and then I spent most of the afternoon cat-proofing the hen run.
My cat Tucker saw the baby chicks for the first time yesterday. Momma Hen brought the little ones out into the hen run; once Tucker saw them, I knew there would be trouble. He is such a killer. I was (fortunately) working up in the Story Book garden there, so I saw him circling and circling that hen run, looking for a way to get in, ears back, eyes wide. I tried to shoo him off, but he kept coming back. Finally, when I saw him climb up onto the roof of the henhouse looking for a way to drop in from overhead, I knew my garden work day was over...it was time to really cat proof the hen run.
The run is fairly safe, but it's been a while since we had very tiny chicks in there so I've let "security" go a bit. So, yesterday, I pruned away the overhead branches from the mulberry tree, tacked up the sagging bird netting overhead and made sure there were no gaps, then re-set one section of the heavy duty fencing at the bottom of the run and replaced some of the chicken wire that goes over it. It's not totally "varmint proof", I know that a snake, or a weasel could still get in, but it is---at least I hope so--fairly cat proof, and the chicks won't be able to squeeze out of it. Plus, it looks better...it was getting a little tatty looking with all that sagging netting and drooping tree branches and rusty wire.
Earlier in the day, when I was cutting down the "mystery trees" (I've decided to call them figs, since that's what they sort of look like...), I had one of those embarrassing moments where you hope to GOD the neighbors didn't see you. The figs are growing in 2 close-together clumps, about 4 stems each, each stem only about 1.5 or 2 inches across. So I sawed off one clump, leaving about 18 inch stumps so I have somethign to hold onto when I yank them out. I stepped over the sawed off clump to get into position to start sawing the second clump. One of the stems went up my pant leg and down I went. *lol* The funny thing was that it was a "slow motion" fall. I felt myself starting to fall, grabbed the trunk of one of the uncut figs, which bent under my weight and then ...whoooooaaaaaaa.....the wet dirt under my foot gave way and away I went. I think the funniest thing was that, at a certain point about halfway down, my brain actually seemed to say "Eh. Why fight it?" I landed flat on my back in the mud, giggling like a mad woman. Then I had to flounder around, kicking and giggling, trying to get the stem out of my pant leg.
I hope the neighbor's did not see. I have neighbors across the road (D & E) who I really wouldn't care if they saw me, because we are good friends and have a lot of laughs together. But the neighbors on the other side are...I don't know....we are friendly, but there's just no "spark" there. I TRY to like K, but she seems so ....so....prissy and particular.... (I swear she waits until she sees me at my absolute worst: mid-afternoon on an August day with 101 degree temps and 90 % humidity, after an hour spent cleaning the hen house....THEN I hear "Joan! Joan! (she still does not know my name after 8 years) and she wants me to come over to the fence and talk.) Anyways. I hope K did not see me fall. She already suspects me of insanity. After that, she'll probly have the men in white pants come get me.
Later in the afternoon, B stopped by with a Thank You gift and card for me. I was so very touched! She baked me a big batch of chocolate cookies and bought me a little antique cast iron sheep (In memory of our dear old Percy). I really didn't expect anything; I was happy to help out with getting her rental unit in shape and taking care of her sick cat (btw: Rental unit is RENTED *yay* and Tilly the cat is doing MUCH BETTER *yay*)
After the busy day, R decided to treat me to a movie...Puss in Boots...and a pizza. That was a lot of fun! The movie was SO FUNNY. You know, I never thought much of Antono Banderas (except of course as eye candy!), he always struck me as a conceited jackass. But now that he's doing the voice for Puss, I have a whole new respect for the man! At least he has a good sense of humor!
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Another very busy dayI still add 3 items for every one checked off the to-do list, but I do feel as if I'm accomplishing something. I got the black raspberry bed completely weeded and pruned (not as bad as I anticipated), I pulled the "Traveler's Joy" vine down out of the flowering plum and cut the vine back. I think I'm going to have to move that vine....it looks great frothing over the fence, but it insists on climbing up the tree. This year, with that sudden heavy snow last week, the combined weight looks as if it almost split the plum tree, which is far to beautiful to risk. In fact, I am going to look into how to brace the tree so that it doesn't split if we get heavy snow this winter.
Oh, and I transplanted my Japanese maple from its spot at the end of the driveway hedge to its new location above the little retaining wall...it looks great! Put a big clump of "black" iris in the vacated spot at the end of the hedge.
It's funny, but writing about it seems like I did only these three little things...but they were major jobs and took all day. (And all this in addition to cooking meals, feeding pets, laundry, etc.)
In rootling about down there along the lower South Border, I discovered that one of my tree lilacs had a limb split from the snow, so that's on the list to remove today. Also, the forsythia bushes that were more or less flattened two winters ago under heavy snow (and which I've been meaning to cut down) are definitely flattened now....one can barely squeeze past them on the path. Sooooo....I think I'll charge in and start cutting them down later this month. I think I'll take them almost down to the ground so they can "renew" themselves. That area down there is a massive tangle of stuff; in addition to cutting back the forsythia, I may go ahead and refurbish the curve of the shrubbery bed too.
Certain areas just seem to get forgotten and neglected; some do very well with "benign" neglect, others go to pieces.
It occurred to me as I trudged up the hill to the brush fence for the FIFTH time that it's not so much the actual work that wears me out as MOVING STUFF AROUND. I wish I'd equipped the wheelbarrow with an odometer; I know that I've put a million miles on that old thing *lol*. Yesterday, by about 4 pm, I was fantasizing about owning a little donkey or a pony and cart to haul things for me. I suppose the obvious answer is a riding mower/lawn tractor *shudder* but I refuse to have one of those smelly noisy things. The rototiller was bad enough, and it hasn't seen light of day for years *note to self: Sell rototiller*
This morning (Saturday) is beautiful, crisp and clear and perfect November weather so I think I'll probably finish up a few things in the house and then head out with a thermos of coffee and a shovel. Today? Clear out bed 9 in the veg garden, remove the broken lilac limb and then either back to work on the upper South Border or clear out the brush around the pines at the road, so I can plant some shrubs in there.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Slowly getting thereVery busy yesterday. Got 8 pints of pickled beets done; I still have about 8 pints of beets to process so I can't cross that off the list just yet :). I potted up the rest of the amaryllis and the geranium I rescued from the barrel by the steps. The geranium looks a bit tattered, but I think the root is still alive and I'm pretty confident that now it's in a warm dry pot of soil in the dining room it will resprout. I hope so because it's a beautiful big red flowered one.
Also got 12 pots of little sweet potatoes potted up for next year's crop. I'm going to try something a bit different with them this year. They take up so much space, and last year I had to battle whitefly all winter long. So this year, I potted them up fairly dry and set the entire flat on top of the kitchen cabinets, up near the ceiling where, although it's fairly dim, it's also warm and dry. I think I'll leave them there (with periodic checking, moistening) until about January, THEN bring them down to where they can get lots of sunshine and keep them watered. Hopefully, then they'll sprout and I'll have nice vines ready to plant in May. Most years I just let them get going right from the start and treat them as small houseplants.
Got the potted trees out of bed 8 in the veg garden. They're in the truck, waiting delivery to B's house. B stopped by with her little niece yesterday to see the baby chicks. I feel bad for her; her son went to prison on Weds (the county lockup for 60 days), and she's pretty well devastated. He was taken up on drug charges months and months ago and they fought it tooth and nail, but I guess the law had him dead to rights.
Anyways. I also got some of the little burning bush plants dug out and repotted in flats. I think I'll try to sell them as a "hedge in a box" deal....20 nice plants for....oh, let's say $8. I've also got 3 gallon size bushes that I'm not sure where I would put...those might go for sale too. I've got to get rid of some of this stuff that was SUPPOSED to be sold at the plant sale that never happened.
I got all the black raspberry canes that were draped over the veg garden fence cut back. Also got about 15 black raspberry plantlets. I hate to just destroy these things, but I really don't know what to do with them. I guess try to sell them too. Or just give them away. The trouble with give aways is that people say they want stuff, then don't come to get them. I guess free delivery has to be included *HA*.
I really need to tackle that corner of the veg garden where the old dog house is. I got it second-hand to use for the hens when I only had 6 birds and they lived in that section of the garden. It's big, ugly, and very very heavy. And now that the girls have their own beautiful big henhouse up the hill, it's also superfluous. I used it the last couple of years to store hoses overwinter, but the truth is, it's hard to get the hoses in and out and *gulp* I'm always a little scared of reaching in there. One year "something" was living under it. Last night, after a discussion with my friend S, I think I decided I should dismantle the thing and get rid of it. I can probably salvage the roofing and some of the boards for the rabbit hutch that I'm converting for chickens. I know the floor of the dog house is pretty well rotted... It really would be better out of there. Then that whole corner could be turned over to the thornless blackberries, which have colonised it pretty well already anyways.
Can you trellis blackberries? Or do they need to be cut back every year, like raspberries? Must look that up.
Great. Another project to add to the list "dismantle dog house." *sigh* It never ends.
Today, I was planning to tackle pruning and mulching the entire black raspberry bed, but I think instead I will transplant my Japanese maple. The sooner I can move it, the better it will settle in before freeze.
I did get to cross off one item on the to-do list! I finished painting the south wall of the basement *yay*. Of course, this leaves 3 walls to go... (I refuse to cross off an item until it is absolutely done, so despite the fact I dug out those trees, I won't cross them off until I deliver them to B's doorstep.)
One of these days, when it's nasty and wet outside and I have nothing to do (HA!), I want to sit down and plan next year's veggie garden (or Potager, as we really fancy people call it....). Now that I have permanent beds, I really do want to try to organize each year's plantings so that I "rotate" the crops through the beds. Also, I think I might try planting more sweet corn next year, exclusively for the freezer. I was surprised at how well it froze (off the cob) and we do like frozen veggies all winter long.
What a long and boring entry! My mediocrity amazes me sometimes...
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Warmer weatherThe weather is back to normal, warm and sunny, highs in the 50s, almost as if the snowstorm never happened. I got the bean tower dragged out of the garden, got the circular bed dug over, and the little bed that had held the red beets also edged and dug over. Got the sweet potatoes lifted and stored, and that bed dug over too. Whew!
I also repotted 6 big amaryllis bulbs into one very large pot, and today I need to find pots of various sizes for more of them. I have about 8 small bulbs (offshoots) that I'd like to grow to full blooming size. Plus 4 more big blooming size bulbs. I also need to find pots for the baby sweet potatoes that I plant up every fall to provide the "starts" for next year's sweet potato patch.
Late yesterday evening, I sat down and started to make a new To Do list. There so much to do! It's a little daunting....I know I'll never get through that list before the weather goes seriously south. I am concentrating on getting the veg garden cleared out and laid down for winter...that comes first. Today, hopefully, I'll get those few remaining potted trees out of there and up to B's house. And that clump of iris and a couple of small sage plants can definitely get moved to a new location today. That will really help...
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Lots on my plate; mystery treeThe snow is mostly gone and I've got a long list of stuff still waiting to be done. Today, without fail, the sweet potatoes must be lifted and stored, the bean tower (which fell over) must be removed, and I'd like to try very hard to at least whack down some brush along the upper South border so that I can dig a (big) hole to transplant that tree out of the veg garden. This tree is a mystery to me. There is a large clump of them that grows down the road from us, in a sheltered dip. It spreads by runners, like a sumac, but it's not a sumac. It has formed a dense hedge where the township mowing maching keeps it "barbered" to the height of the farm fence it grows along, but several of the plants have attained full tree height, about 25-30 feet.
The leaves are big, soft, and furry, deeply lobed, but irregularly so, some two lobes, some three lobes, some one single unlobed leaf, like a sassafras...but it's not a sassafras.
The bark is smooth, grayish green, and vividly marked when young with dark russet bands...like a sycamore, but it's not a sycamore.
The leaves exude a white sap when they are broken, as do the twigs. It sets long catkins in the spring, but I can see no fruit.
It looks almost exactly like a fig tree, but it is winter hardy and there are no figs. I am going to have to send a leafy twig to the Cooperative Extension office next spring to see if they can id it for me. It's probably something that will have me saying "OF COURSE IT IS!" once I see it. But I'm stumped so far.
Made our traditional Halloween "Bloody Fangs" Borscht last night for supper *LOL*. I just think there's nothing better than that dark red color for a Halloween supper...plus, you get to play with the red beets beforehand. One year, I had just finished cooking the fresh-from-the-garden beets to get them soft enough to slip the skins when there was a knock at the front door. Trick or treaters. I grabbed one big human heart shaped slipped beet, all gory with red juice and those straggling stems hanging off it, and answered the door. "Yeeeessss? Can I help you.....?" Two of the four kids ran screaming *LOL*. The other two were brave enough to stand there, wide eyed, staring uncertainly from me...to the beet...to me...to the beet.... The accompanying dad who was standing below the porch had a good laugh too!
November. I can't believe it. It seemed as if that long hot hot humid summer would NEVER end, then it ended all at once and there's still some snow around from the blizzard the other day.... It's disconcerting to see snow on the roofs of neighboring houses!
I feel that I am at a point in my life where changes are in the process. I realize that my dream of retiring is just that...a dream. I really thought that my niece would be a good one to take over and manage my business, but I see that she really can't cope. So, I have a choice to make. Do I go back to the "grind" of working 10 hour days, 7 days a week and counting myself lucky to get an hour to do some strenous gardening once ina while? Or do I try to find another way to earn my living? I was talking to a very dear friend the other day, S, who suggested that I go back to the "first dream," the dream I have had since I was a girl of being a writer.
I've had some success with that...I got a book published, I got magazine articles published in major mags, I even had a gardening column in a local little mag. Then the editing business took off and I let all that slip away. Maybe it is time to go back. Not novels...I would LOVE to do that, but I don't think I've got the stamina. But maybe other things. Useful things.
It would be so nice to have the TIME to do things. I found some drawings I did about 7 years ago for a line of fortune-telling cards using plants and garden items....it was just a silly idea, but it was fun to do the drawings. I really thought that, after all this time, the drawings would look bad and amateurish, but they did not. They looked surprisingly good! I used to draw. At one time (ages ago) I was considered pretty good...I even did some pencil portraits that sold. Again, in the rush to earn a living, that all got swept away. Maybe it's time to go back....
I like to sew. I used to sew a lot. I have these great ideas for beautiful clothes...but again....everything got swept aside. I know it's wrong to blame, but part of the fault is R's....he has an uncanny ability to make whatever I love doing seem a chore. ...well...water under the bridge.
It would be nice to have time...and some financial security...and I guess I need to try to find the balance.