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Archive for May, 2009

Azahar has posed a question on her blog today, namely and to wit, “What is on your desktop?”

The answer to that question here at The Havens is, “It depends.   It’s very mutable.”   Jim has a slide show set up as a default screen saver, and when I touch the mouse or keyboard the application I am using comes up in front of the slide show.  Whatever is showing at that moment becomes the desktop.  So, right when that question was asked, it looked like this:’

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Right now it has Ruby proudly lying with her latest bone.  But that will change in a minute.

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Nest update

It has come to my attention that there are quite a few people following the progress of the nest of robins outside my massage room window.  It isn’t just blog friends, either.   I have numerous clients who are taking longer to get ready for their massage, or to emerge from the room after it, because they feel compelled to watch the scene unfolding.   God forbid that I should even be remotely construed as critical of this, as I find myself quite distracted while giving massage when Mama or Papa Robin arrive with some goodies for the babies.   

To review, first there was a nest, which I thought had been built but then abandoned as being in an unsuitable location.

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Then one fine day Jim observed that he thought the robins were using that nest.   Sure enough, I noticed the mother sitting there on occasion, so I figured she was probably laying eggs.  I could not see into the bottom of the nest, so I went out and very nosily stuck my camera above the nest and took a shot.   

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That was April 21.  By the 24th, there were three eggs.

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She started sitting in earnest.  One day, I caught the parents taking food to the nest, so I knew the babies had hatched.   This photo was taken within 24 hours of the hatch, on May 5.

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Tiny, naked, helpless things.   They don’t even seem to have moved much from their position as eggs in this shot.  I still wonder how all that little bird gets crammed into those pretty blue eggs, but the secret really is that baby birds hit the nest growing.  Within two days, on May 7, they had doubled in size and became covered with down.

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These next two pictures were taken this morning, May 11.  The first I took from the window as Mama Robin was there with a delivery of worms.

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Then I went outside and did the “hold the camera over the nest, click, and hope for the best” technique.  These chicks are so well fed and satisfied they didn’t even sit up and beg for brunch when I shook the nest during the photography. 

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That is starting to be quite a nestful of bird.  

Look!   They are making pin feathers.  Very soon their eyes will have developed.  Compare these chicks to the ones in picture I took when they were day old chicks — SIX days ago.   I am gratified that there are still three chicks, and look how well they are doing!   

Now that is a growth cycle!

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Once again it is time for the Saturday Photohunt.   This week the theme is “In Memory.”   Make sure you visit the site to find other takes on the theme.   It is well worth visiting other blogs, there are some great and creative photographers out there participating in this meme.

I thought about this theme all week, and I just could not decide what to do for a post.   Yesterday, as I was dumping weeds I had just pulled plus old daffodils and irises I had deadheaded recently onto the “to be ground for compost” pile, I noticed several hundred seedlings scattered around the pile site.   There were chicory, catnip, Thai basil, lettuce, kale, rose campion, dill, cilantro and sundry other volunteers, all courtesy of the stuff I cleaned out the gardens last year.   I thought that would be a clever post:  “In Memory of Gardens Past.”    

Then I thought about my beautiful cat Mike, who died last year.   I have lots of great pictures of him, and it would make a great post, only I still miss him.  I can’t decide which of the many stories would I choose to tell about him.  Some other time, perhaps.

Besides, the apple of my eye right now is my new Stroll Garden.   If you haven’t been following its progress on the blog since inception, I refer you to my archives.   Anyway, one of the features of the Stroll Garden is a section I call Memory Lane.   This was inspired by all the passalong plants that I have acquired in the years I have been gardening here.   I bought a whole pile of rocks (about 12 tons) at an auction a few years ago, and one of the pieces that was in the pile was a remnant of an old grave stone that the people I bought the rocks from had collected “Somewhere” in the Ozarks.   I use it as a “street sign” for this section of garden.

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It is clear that the original inscription read “In Memory Of My Darling Wife” before the stone aged and broke.  It took me a very long time to decide exactly where it should sit in the garden scheme, but it wasn’t long before the proper place became evident.    

Once I decided that I wanted some sort of organized display of the many passalong plants I now enjoy custody of, I also decided that I wanted to acknowledge the donors in some way.   It was a very short leap to naming the paths bordered by those beds “Memory Lane.”  Since I have a passion for picking up river rocks, it didn’t take long before I realized that I should paint names on them.   People really enjoy being recognized for their contribution when they walk through the garden on a tour.

I have received gifts of plants and money from friends:

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I have many clients represented in my gardens too.   

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Many family members have contributed plants and money as well.

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Last, but by no means least, is The Bench, provided by the two J’s, the men in my life, my husband and son.    Jim and Jesse, I thank you, and I love you.

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Apres le deluge

I apologize to my French readers for my inability to add diacritical marks to the title.   Please forgive me!

We awoke this morning to the sound of the weather radio “going off” to let us know that there was a severe thunderstorm watch.   By the time it was all over, we had indeed experienced torrential rains, straight line winds in excess of 60 mph, and several tornadoes had wended their way through the area.

Fortunately, we did not have the tornadoes here in our neighborhood, and all the roofs we are interested in still have all their shingles despite the gusts.    We did receive 3.9 inches of rain in less than an hour, however, which resulted in some rather astonishing quantities of water all trying to get downhill to the river at the same time.    

Storm drains were overwhelmed and backed up.   Small drainages were also full.    This photo following is the drainage stream for the small pond near our home.    Ordinarily, it has a trickle of water in the bottom of a five foot deep ditch.   At the height of the storm, the water was over the road for a time.   You can see the debris collected on the rails of the water crossing, although the water has dropped far enough it is no longer over the road here.

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Same drainage, looking north rather than south.    You can see that there is more water than the storm drains can handle and the water is flowing across Beck Lane to reach the creek that drains to the river.

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That’s a lot of water.   While the tornado sirens were going off, Jim went to the storm cellar and discovered that the drain that keeps it from being a swimming pool was overwhelmed.    During the height of the deluge, water rose in the shelter to about three inches deep.   Ruby could not understand why she was being forced to stand in the water.   Bad enough that those horrible sirens were going off incessantly, plus she was being locked up in the dungeon along with the terrifying cat, but standing in water?   The ways of humans are inconceivable and incomprehensible, to be sure.     

This is the view of that  drain as it struggled to deal with all the water that was being diverted from the root cellar plus the yard north of the house.

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See where it bubbles up like a spring?   One last image.   This is what happens when the ground is saturated and a strong wind strikes.    Many of the street signs in our neighborhood look like this.

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Well, it is good for our public works department to feel like they are useful.

Now, all the mulch that used to be under my hostas is now piled against the fence where the rushing river that flowed through my gardens carried it.   I believe I shall go out and see about moving that pile back to where it will do some good, assuming that we don’t get another toad strangler like we experienced this morning.

Looks like you got your wish, Silverstar.

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Cinco de Mayo

The robin nest I pictured in a previous post has changed.

During the rains the last few days I have seen some lovely things.   One day the mama robin was sitting carefully on the nest with her head tucked way down and her wings raised up.   She had pulled the leading edges of her wings together up over her back and the flight feathers were spread out over her and the nest, sort of like an umbrella.   The best part of that was the drops of water that had fallen on the impromptu roof and had collected there.    I didn’t try to take a picture because it was raining hard and I didn’t want to scare her off her nest.

Good thing.

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There are actually three beaks in that nest.   I counted them when the parents were feeding them earlier.  While I was getting that picture above, the Proud Papa was up in the redbud tree in the front garden reading me the riot act.

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Yesterday I was able to catch the rose-breasted grosbeak on the feeder.  There’s a goldfinch waiting her turn in both those pictures.

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No pictures of indigo buntings yet.   Just the Hosta Dell with the coral bells in bloom.

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We got the entire place mowed yesterday, and Jim got the edges all weed-eaten today.  So we are all ready for the week of rain the weatherman has promised us.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Monday report

We’ve been in a rainy cycle.   I’m not going to take a position on whether this is a good or a bad thing, it just is what it is.   It does mean certain things, however.  

It means the ground is saturated, so whenever it begins to rain again it runs off  into the creeks and bottoms and makes little flash floods.   In spite of all the warnings from the media and signs at the low water crossings, people still think they can drive their vehicle through a low water crossing that has more than 5 inches of water flowing across it, and then they are surprised when they have to be rescued from their car which is now hood deep (or more) in swiftly flowing water several hundred yards (more or less) from the actual roadway.   Sometimes these people drown.

It also means that you really can’t mow your lawn until things dry out a bit.  But the grass is made very happy by being watered thoroughly on a regular basis, and so it continues to grow.   Quickly.   Our Fair City has, in its infinite wisdom, passed an ordinance that requires people to keep their grass mowed.   They get all hot under the collar if you allow the grass on your property to get longer than 8 inches.  They actually have a compliance officer who is paid to drive around looking for lawns that are too long and places that have too much trash and junk accumulated.  Warnings are issued, summons delivered, hearings had.  Miscreants have their property mowed by the city crews and the bill (extremely huge, by the way) tacked onto their property tax bills.  This is a cause of heartburn for property owners who have tenants who are “supposed” to be taking care of the lawn at the place they occupy, but aren’t.

The city is inclined to be lenient when it has rained for a long period of time, but the threat is still there.  If you are one of those hapless people who don’t have a powerful lawn mower, when the rain stops long enough for things to dry out so they can be mowed, your lawn mower may be insufficient for the task.  This provides work for all the poor souls who have been laid off from their jobs and are driving around with their mowing equipment in the back of their truck hoping to make enough money to be able to pay their truck and house payments.

It also means that the fields, which look all verdant and lush, are actually seas of mud with an icing of waving grass.  

Yesterday, we attended the Baker Creek Planting Festival.   Baker Creek fills a niche in the market supplying heirloom seeds from open-pollinated stock to people who no longer wish to fill the coffers of Monsanto and Cargill, or who just don’t really want to raise food from genetically modified organisms.   Every spring, Baker Creek holds a planting festival, where local organic growers can bring seedlings grown from these stocks of heirloom seeds and sell them to the general public, thereby undercutting the markets at Walmart, Lowes, and the other big box stores.

You would not believe the quantity and variety of tomatoes available at the Festival.  Yesterday we purchased Pink Brandywine, San Marzano, Principe Borghese (you can get a lot of amusement standing around the vendor and listening to people try to pronounce THAT one), German Johnson, Cherokee Purple, Thai Pink Egg, Sioux, and Paul Robeson tomatoes yesterday.   That was a small percentage of the varieties available.   The only one of those listed above you will find at a Big Box store would be the Brandywine.

Baker Creek does not have a lot of customers the rest of the year, so their dedicated parking lot is rather small.  For the planting festival, when hundreds of people descend on them for two days, they generally use their big hay field in the bottom by the creek as a parking area.    Usually this works wonderfully well.   Yesterday it wasn’t so functional.    

I mean, you could drive down onto the field and park just fine; it was leaving that was the issue.   See, once everyone had parked in neat rows as directed by the parking crews, if you wanted to drive out you had to drive between the cars that were parked, in the established aisles.  Up hill.   The first car had no real difficulty, nor did the second or third.  It was the fourth or fifth car, with rather bald tires, perhaps a heavy model from the late 70s made of steel, which began the difficulties.   As it spun its wheels in the attempt to climb the slight slope up to the actual road, the verdant icing of grass became churned into a morass of slick clay  mud.   This made it increasingly difficult for other cars to ascend to the exit without also churning mud.

The proprietors of Baker Creek were aware of the potential, and so they had their nice big John Deere tractors fired up and ready to provide towing services.    Tractors tend to churn mud beautifully, by the way.   

Well, we arrived at the festival in the middle of a gentle rain, put on our muck boots, did our shopping and decided to get the heck out of there.   It wasn’t that pleasant tromping around through the mud churned up by hundreds of people walking from booth to booth, and we weren’t really interested in apple funnel cakes for lunch.   

Luckily, we made this decision before too many people had churned the mud in our particular part of the parking lot, so we were able to sort of float up the slope and onto the road in our fabulous Prius.  This was particularly piquant because what we floated past was a white one-ton dually Dodge pickup truck with four wheel drive which had churned itself axle deep in the mud and was awaiting its turn with the tractor. 

We did not laugh all the way back to town.  Just almost.

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Irises in the rain

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Rainbow nosegay picked from the rock garden and the north side of the house.

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There has been a rose-breasted grosbeak hanging around the yard this week.   He is a regular migrator.  A new addition has been a pair of breeding indigo buntings.  I have not located their nest yet, but they are definitely living right in the neighborhood.

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