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Archive for April, 2010

T-shirt Friday

Once again it is T-shirt Friday over at Nursemyra’s place.

This is a t-shirt that my dad gave me a couple of years ago.   It fits with the Dragon Theme of The Havens, and certainly fits my mood on particularly menopausal days.

And yes, one time it made it into the washer with a load of whites that got bleached.

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Faces

I try to visit Syncopated Eyeball on a regular basis.   She posts a rather wonderful photograph (or series of photographs) every day.   I was inspired by her post today to go around and capture a few of the faces that are found in rocks around The Havens.

This one is by my front door.   I was quite pleased when I found the “hat” rock for this fellow.

Right inside the front door on the plant shelves is this grinning visage.

This personage is in the labyrinth.   The rock that makes his ear came from North Carolina.

Some people find this face out in the day lily bed disturbingly like a snake.

This one isn’t a rock face, but a piece of drift wood that my mother in law collected on the coast of Northern California.   Seems like a very weatherbeaten cowboy in a hat to me.

That’s enough for now, I suppose.   I have some errands to run — looking for raspberries for the new raspberry bed.

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Blessed event

I reported earlier on the robin couple who decided to use the stored pruning ladder as a nesting platform.

The last couple of days it seems like the incubation period might be over, she wasn’t so assiduous about sitting on the nest, etc.   Yesterday I was hanging up the hose on the hose rack so Jim could mow (again), and lo and behold, a little fuzzy head peered over the edge of the nest to see what was going on.

So today I got the other ladder out and climbed up it so I could get a shot into the nest.

I count four beaks amongst those numerous pin feathers, so I would say this particular nest was a success.

Papa Robin was not unaware of my activities, and while I was up there came to see just exactly what I was doing.   Actually, he was flying around my head threatening to flog me and peck my eyes out.   Then he landed on the nest platform and I was able to pop off this shot.   Sorry I cut off his head, but he wasn’t amenable to posing and with the camera over my head pointed down I was not able to make a great aim.   Take my word for it, his expression was not a happy one.

I decamped shortly thereafter and removed the second ladder from the area.

I do muse sometimes on the irony of providing habitat and being happy that the birds are raising chicks successfully while at the same time deploring the habit the birds have of depositing seeds all over my gardens.

I guess you have to take the bad with the good, and this is pretty much all good.

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Blue Period

Over the years I have noticed that at certain times the garden seems to be saturated with one color.   When fall comes and the place is inundated with goldenrod, zinnias, wild sunflowers, and other gold flowers, it seems the whole world is dressed in yellow.   Similarly, there seem to be times when everything is pink, or red.   There are actually gardeners who plan, design and achieve entire gardens that sport one color all year long.   I have never had the discipline to achieve such unification, although whenever I have come across it in other places I have admired the effect.

In my garden I have noticed that there is a “Blue Period” that happens after the daffodils have wound down and before the irises get going.  It is when the ajuga and the wood hyacinths are in the ascendant.

A few other flowers add their notes to the blueness of it all.   Jack frost Brunnera:

Baptista (False indigo):

Well, this year the Blue Period lasted about two minutes, and then the poppies started up.

The irises, not to be outdone, have thrown themselves into action.

If I didn’t suffer from “Rainbow-itis”, I could certainly have managed to extend the Blue Period longer by not planting so many colors of irises.   There are lots of beautiful blue ones.  You can see that the peonies are not far behind them.  They’ll be out soon too.

In the back gardens, I turned my back on the clematis and they went berserk.

The strawberries have set fruit.

Over in the Rock Garden, the dianthus are just winding up for their display.   They are accompanied by the candytuft, snow in summer, and gold alyssum.

Have you noticed anything in all these latest photos?  No?   Here, let me make it more clear.

Still don’t get it, not quite?

Oh!   Now You See, don’t you?   Yes.  The neighbor’s maple thinks the weather is just fine and has gifted me with about eleventy gazillion presents.   I realize that the Norwegian Silver Maple is a lovely shade tree, grows fast and all that, but methinks it is just a source of weed seeds.   Actually, the spectacle of my gardens bedizened with all this fertility is making me blue, just a little.   Like I don’t have enough to do without weeding nine gazillion baby maples out of my gardens, because I figure that maybe two gazillion won’t sprout.

I actually found myself wondering what would happen if I got out the shop vacuum and applied it to the rock garden.  I may just go out and see.

There’s never quite enough to do around here.

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Life’s a beach

There has been entirely too much excitement around here.

While he was in the hospital, my father’s brother died.  I would say he was a certifiably Rich Uncle, but I’m not expecting any windfall from that because he had a perfectly good spouse to leave his estate to; and that is as it should be.   No matter that my uncle’s spouse was another man.  In my book, if you are in a committed loving relationship, it doesn’t matter what the assortment of sexes are.   You are married in my eyes, no matter what the State thinks.   The State is an idiot anyway, and far too subject to the vagaries, fears, and intolerance of its citizens to be trusted.   Too bad the lawyers are involved in the definition at all.   But there you go.  They are.   To quote the Eagles:

“The more I think about it Old Willie was right,

Kill all the lawyers; kill ‘em tonight.”

Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh.  I’m sure there are good, moral, righteous lawyers out there.

There are other illnesses and near deaths going on in the vicinity, and I guess it is just the stage of life I am in that makes it feel like it is all too close somehow.

The economy here in the area is starting to improve, but while it is no longer on “life support” it has definitely only made it into rehab and is ambulatory only with the aid of a walker.   (If you don’t mind me pushing a metaphor to its limits. . .)  I alternate feeling hopeful with despairing that my client base will ever grow again.

Most of the time we are okay, although the recent visits to Costa Rica really pushed it to the limit.   We didn’t know when we made those plans that our tenants were going to change overnight from regular and responsible to invisible and insolvent.

What they did was they came and paid their March rent, telling us they had decided that life and business would be much better for them in Oklahoma, and they were moving there.   They loaded up their dog, the bedroom suite, a couch, their clothes, some other items, plus all the hand tools they could fit into their truck and trailer.  They left behind virtually everything else, telling us sincerely that they would be back “in a couple of weeks” to get the rest of their shit.   Of course, they also told us that they would be completely out by May 1, and that they planned to pay their April rent.

We haven’t seen hide nor hair of them since, they have not been returning calls on the cell phone which we have the number for and which gladly records messages.   Needless to say, they didn’t pay their April rent.

As it is, legally we have the right to dispose of their abandoned property about ten days into May.   Perhaps we will realize enough from a sale to repay us for what they owe us; that would be real nice.  Meanwhile, we have a whole house full of very nice furniture, square dance clothes, collectibles, a couple of sewing machines, an entire home office.   Any cleaning of carpets will have to wait until after the furnishings are gone.   Then maybe we can rent the place out again.

Meanwhile, my darling husband does not feel right about just disposing of all this rather nice stuff without having some sort of conversation with its owners, so he has gone on a road trip to the far western side of Oklahoma to see if he can find a.) them and b.) out what the heck is going on, assuming that they are going to find it in their hearts to be more truthful than they have been so far.

Needless to say, the situation dictates that we are taking a big hit on the old savings account, which is very disturbing.   We’ll be okay.  That is why we have one, after all, for emergencies, although I have a tough time seeing our tenant’s irresponsible actions as an emergency.   But the bills must be paid, lying SOS tenants and all.

Still, it is unsettling.   I won’t be comfy in my mind until Jim is back from Oklahoma.

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One of the blogs I love to visit is Yolanda Elizabet’s Bliss Gardens. I truly do find blissful moments there, visiting the colony of cats that adorn the place, viewing the orderly and wonderfully scented gardens.   There is amusement too, in the depictions of  darling (no-longer-a-puppy) Tara’s antics.   Bliss Gardens is inspirational too, taking you on tours of beautiful Dutch show gardens in her area.   I almost forgot how instructional Bliss is, lots of great information imparted with a humorous touch.

I was particularly struck by the latest post of Yolanda’s:  “Speed Weeding.” This post was very high in my mind today as I was watering the seedling beds over by the sauna dressing room garden.  This is where I allow zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, and other rampant annuals full sway.   The butterflies and bees absolutlely love this spot during July and August.

Anyway, I planted some sunflower seeds on the west side of that garden, and today I was watering those seed beds to encourage them to sprout.   Of course as I was pursuing that job, I had to reassure the robin mother who is nesting right above the hose storage area of the sauna wall.   She is none too confident of our intentions when we are rummaging around below her, and it seems to help if I tell her in a calm and loving voice what it is that I am doing.   (Often when I am in the midst of this sort of activity I suddenly “become” Bilbo Baggins addressing the thrush on Smaug’s doorstep.)    This morning she watched me empty the bird watering pan I always keep by that faucet, and refilling it with fresh water.    She kept shifting in her nest and peering at me very sternly, but she sat tight and relaxed as she watched me slowly working my way along the whole garden, watering the plants that I already have established there.

And this was when I reflected upon the whole concept of “speed weeding” as a tool for garden maintenance.  Mostly I thought about the concept because I need to do some of that very badly.   Unlike Bliss Gardens, I rarely have a group of gardeners coming over for a tour.  Usually my need for speed weeding is caused by my deciding to take my virtual friends on a garden tour.   Needless to say, I can avoid a lot of problems by just deciding not to photograph any spot that is egregiously flaunting lots of weeds.   Or I pass off the green mist around my plants as “ground cover”.

My favorite tool for speed weeding is the Cobra Head weeder.   I have two of these very useful tools, so I usually don’t have to look very far to find one handy, even though The Havens is a rather large space.   Actually, since I usually grab one of them when I head out into the garden, I usually don’t have to look farther than the end of my arm for the tool of choice.  Anyway, using the tool at an angle, I can shave baby weeds off their roots.   Or I can loosen the soil nearby and pull them out by their roots.   When I am doing the “shaving” operation, I frequently follow that with a layer of fresh compost or mulch, and in literally minutes I can change an area that looks like this:

to something that looks more like this:

Same lettuce bed, different angles.  Now take a look at how my onion bed looks, which I never had to speed weed at all because I mulched it directly after my onion plants started growing.   Please also take a moment to admire the garlic, which is in the bed behind the onions.   That was planted in October, wintered over and is now growing like a bad weed (if I dare to mention that word in relation to a desired crop).

The asparagus bed is in the background of this shot I took of the handful of asparagus I harvested the other day.   As you can see, it badly needs weeding in that shot.   That problem was dealt with the other day, but I did not do any speed weeding here.  The asparagus spears are busy coming up through the soil, and any speedy technique is likely to break them off below ground level.  I managed to get the weeds gone and only broke four spears.   And why, you might ask, would you weed out an asparagus bed anyway, especially one as happy as this one?   Because asparagus is a little sulky about competition, and I prefer it to a lush bed of weeds.   Very soon I will be top dressing this bed with a couple of inches of half composted leaves.

I could use that shaving technique here in the Sauna Garden where I mainly host annuals for the butterflies and hummingbirds.   The usual suspects here are marigolds, cosmos, zinnias and cleomes.    This is what the area looks like right now.

There are a couple of cherry tree seedlings in this view, as well as a whole host of sundry chickweeds, and I don’t know what all else.   I will probably use the shave/mulch technique here, but I will be very careful.   Because just to the right of the pebble down at the bottom you can see a cleome seedling.   It is actually in a quite good spot for my purposes, so I will try to leave it intact as I remove all the other volunteers.   By the way, if you are so visionary as to establish a Certified Wildlife Habitat, as I have, you will have lots of things brought to your gardens, planted unbeknownst to you as a wonderful surprise for spring, by the robins and their cohorts.   That is the source of the literally hundreds of cherry tree seedlings I remove from The Havens every year.

Now here is a spot that you almost never see photographed on this blog.   This is the left side of the barn.   There used to be a raspberry patch that started here and extended around the side of the barn.   Now the raspberries are succumbing to some sort of fungus, so I have left them to their own devices while we get a new place arranged for them.   Meanwhile, the robins have planted poke weed here, and there is a lot of other stuff where the raspberries used to be.   I guess we’ll probably remove the railroad tie edging and just start mowing this off as part of the lawn.   I don’t really have any great desire to tend a tiny garden bed here.   Meanwhile, I just crop this out of my photos, as a general rule.

The new raspberry bed is almost ready for planting.   Like most things around here, after a few years of looking around, the obviously perfect spot for the new raspberry bed made itself known.   It will be in front of the vegetable garden fence, and in addition to being a raspberry patch will serve as one more layer of defense against the bermuda grass.

Here is another spot that involves quite technical weeding.  This is the edge of the Root Cellar Garden.   Last fall I had my strong son remove the terrace edging rocks because they have been invaded and colonized by bermuda grass rhizomes.   I did this in the fond belief that during the fall I would get that stuff removed in time to resituate all my lily bulbs, daffodils, sedums, etc etc that are living there.   Ha ha ha ha ha.   This is how it looks right now.

We had to move the rocks so Jim could mow the lawn near here.  it is really going to be a trick to get the grass rhizomes out without killing all the lilies, which you can see are quite happily growing in the first picture.   Quite a nice clump of them there, actually.  This is the sort of mess that makes me almost give up my organic principles and go out and purchase roundup or one of its cousins.   Almost.

And now, a short diversion.   On the way back to the house the other day I noticed that my clematis are busy blooming on the fence.

Remember back when I was so fascinated by the snow and winter beauty that I was parading around at all temperatures, most of them real cold?   There are quite a few posts in January and February exhibiting that obsession.  I have paid the supreme price for that bunch of nonsense.  Sometime during all that in and out, freezing my camera and bringing it in, it got condensation Inside the lenses.   There is a spot on the lens that shows up in the most inopportune times.  Unfortunately, I will have to take this camera to the camera doctor and pay money for the removal of the blotch.   Money which is not available at this time due to the rather inopportune choice our tenants made to move leaving no forwarding address but all their furniture in situ.   Needless to say, we have to wait the appointed amount of time before we can dispose of their personal possessions, and meanwhile the place is standing dirty and unoccupied and not producing income to offset the mortgage.   To say money is tight at The Havens right now is to make an understatement so profound as to be almost unimaginable.   Suffice it to say that the money tightness as resulted in Not One Single Plant being purchased for the new Stroll Garden this spring, a fact that makes my soul shed invisible tears.   We will be fortunate to afford the new raspberries we need.   Oh wait.   Am I whining?   I shall cease and desist immediately.

Anyway, this is what an uncropped photo looks like.   Notice the lovely dark splotch in the sky.   Someday that will be removed by the camera tech.   Meanwhile, I just have to live with it.

Someone left the cake out in the rain, I don’t think that I can take it, cause it took so long to make it, and I’ll never have that recipe again. . . Oh no!”

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Bones

As promised, a tour of the bones and skulls that grace The Havens.  Almost all of these are found objects.   The only exceptions are the ram skull, which one of my clients gave me after one of her rams died.   She has a flock of sheep.   This skull generally hangs over the garden gate, but it has weathered so that it doesn’t like to hang any more.  I am looking for a new site for it.   Meanwhile, a view:

The other gift was from another client who keeps cattle.   This is a long horn steer skull.  It lives by the fence on the west side of the Stroll Garden, and has appeared elsewhere in the blog.

The next skull lives in the corner of my living room, part of my wolf spider’s domain.   I came by this skull at the end of hunting season when I was walking our fences because hunters on ATVs tend to just cut your fence when they want to poach on your property.   Cattle will avail themselves of the exit and it isn’t always easy to retrieve them from across the river.   This buck had been wounded by a hunter who did not bother to track the animal down.   His whole front quarter was rotting as he was trying to overcome the wound, and so we finished him off and ate the meat that had not spoiled.   Quite an excellent batch of venison, my mother opined that he had probably been dining on her clover and hay all fall.

Originally he lived out on the fence, and then for a while over our gate.   One morning I found him adorned with a dewy web.

However, I decided he needed to live inside since the squirrels had discovered the calcium source in his antlers and were busy chewing them away.   Not to be mean, I provided them with a nice femur bone of a cow that had died on my mother’s place.  They are working on it.

Other items inside the house live in the plant shelves near the entry way.

The top photo features the scapula of a deer I found in the woods.   Just below it in that shot is a shell plate from a mud turtle.   The bottom photo is a box turtle shell that acts as a collection point for several items of interest.   The wishbone is from the turkey we roasted and served for my 50th birthday party.  When I found this box turtle shell, the platen was gone but underneath, still attached, was the delicate pelvis of the turtle.   It has since detached itself, but the first lumbar vertebra is still with it.  I see I could have dusted it more thoroughly.

In the shell are a couple of items that deserve a closer look.  First, there is a finch skull.  It is accompanied by an otter scapula.  These were both finds on gravel bars on the Niangua River.

In the background behind the shell I also have the pelvis of an armadillo I found when I was out walking Ruby one day.  It has such an interesting shape.

Out in front of the house is what we call the White Dragon’s Garden.   This is the dragon that was stolen a couple of years ago and I recovered.  Now he is firmly attached to about 300 pounds of cement under the garden, and no casual pair of teenagers is going to walk off with him.

So, he has quite a collection of bones.  There used to be several turtle shells as well, but they tend to deteriorate rather quickly.   First, I am in love with the way the pelvis of a cow looks, especially when turned upside down.   As far as I am concerned, this would make a very cool mask.  It has a very weathered cow skull as a companion.

There is also a bison skull in this garden.   We purchased this at a rock and mineral show.   The proprietors bought these skulls from people who were raising bison for the meat, they would clean them and sell them.   If you wanted a skull with the horns intact that was about four times the money, so we just got the bony skull.  Another pelvis and cow skull in this picture.   All the cattle bones I have came from my mother’s farm, where a cow that dies from a reproductive disaster is left for the coyotes.   They don’t always take away all the bones.

Usually the coyotes haul the spine and sacrum off and chew them up so you don’t find them.   But one time there was a particularly horrible spring where several cows died, one had a prolapsed uterus, another a pair of twins tangled up, etc etc.   I guess the coyotes had more than enough to eat and I was able to rescue this sacrum bone and several vertebrae.

I’m not sure exactly what my neighbors think of the White Dragon’s Garden and Boneyard, but I have noticed that since the collection got pretty good sized the Seventh Day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Mormons don’t bother us.   An unexpected benefit of collecting bones, to be sure.

If only it would discourage the Pentecostal Baptists.

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