Archive for June, 2007

I have mentioned before that I have a pond on the property.  I dug it by hand back in 1997.  This is how it looked shortly after I finished terracing the gardens behind it and laying in the paving in front of it. pond-1997.jpg

 The picture below is about how it looked a couple of weeks ago.


Today I went out to address the situation.  Mainly what I was trying to do was beat back the forsythia and the bush honeysuckle so that you could actually see that there is a pond in there.  I have succeeded to some extent.  So far, this is what I have whacked out of the thicket.


The pond is to the left in that picture.   In the next picture, which features Jesse as the human figure for scale, you are seeing the pond margin and plantings looking at it from the east.   In the picture of the brand new pond, the east side of the pond is on the left.


On the far left edge of this photo, there is a clump of prairie cone flower.   They are covered in buds and will be bursting into bloom in about two weeks.   The next clump in the row is goldenrod, which will be spectacular in August.  There is another clump of goldenrod in front of the cone flower.  Directly over Jesse’s head you can just make out the spiky leaves of the cat tails that are actually growing in the pond.  Just behind Ruby are the spikes of the yellow flag which escaped from the pond and is colonizing that corner.

I took Jesse on a tour of the pond/bird sanctuary garden.   As we were walking along, he noticed something clinging to my shorts.  It turned out to be the shell of a dragonfly nymph that had emerged from the pond to adulthood.  I guess I picked it up while I was wading around in the cat tails, thinning them and whacking back the shrubbery.  I like the evidence that the pond habitat has inhabitants.  A couple of amphibians jumped into the pond when I walked up to start working.   More evidence.

Behind the forsythia, there is a volunteer sassafrass tree (courtesy of the birds) which I have been encouraging.   It is about twelve feet tall now, and already there is a bitterroot vine that has decided it needs climbing.  I planted bitterroot on the fence back there, and it has become splendidly happy.   At first I was reluctant to pull up any volunteers, this being reputed to be a difficult plant to establish in a domestic situation.    I believe I may pull the one climbing the sassafrass right out of the ground before I unwind it from the sassafrass.. 

My vision of this corner of the yard was that it would be a beautiful little haven for the birds with a place they could drink and bathe.    You should be careful what you ask for.   I would say I have definitely achieved a bird haven, and they drink and bathe in the little waterfall  all day long.   The trouble is, when birds drink and bathe they also shit, and that process will leave behind them the seeds of everything that they find excellent to eat.  

As I was beating back the shrubs that I plantedoh-so-enthusiastically 10 years ago, I found several dozen young cherries that the birds had planted for me.   There was also a young mulberry tree that was 12 feet tall.  The frost killed it back to the roots, but it was gamely sprouting down there below the forsythia bush.   I cut it off at ground level with my huge lopping shears, unrepentant.

I was so happy about 7 years ago when a bush honeysuckle volunteered next to the waterfall.   Now it has a trunk that is 5 inches in diameter, and I realize that what I should have done is pull it right out of the ground the second I noticed it and identified it.   Hindsight is so perfect!   Of course, the birds would completely disagree with my idea of eradicating it.   They love it.

In addition to the trees and shrubs, there are numerous pokeweed plants growing back there.   And if I don’t get right on it, the whole area will turn into a blackberry patch that is totally intertwined with grape vines.  Oh yes.  There are wild grapes back there:  possom and fox grapes.   And they are exceedingly pleased by the environment we have provided for them, so pleased that they are about ten feet tall and rampantly owning the fence.

As I was working, I suddenly flashed on a line from “The Hunt for Red October,” spoken on the bridge of the aircraft carrier after a Tomcat has crashed:  “This thing will get out of control.”

I mentioned that to Jesse, and he smiled a little smile, and said, “This whole yard is in danger of that.”

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Men at Work

Jesse is here on leave and it has been great.   He is hard at work helping Jim around the place, and so far they have completed the next to last raised bed edging (7 of 8) in the vegetable garden, mended the fence on the west side of the house that was knocked over in the ice storm, finished cutting up the last branches for firewood and got them stowed in the wood shed, and got the pile of junk by the sauna about 50% cleaned up.

In between there has been vineyard maintenance, and weed eating, and lawn mowing.  Additionally, we have been treated to fresh salmon and tuna for lunch.  Lots of story telling and philosophical discussion has passed time as well.

It has been truly wonderful to have him home, so well and happy.  It seems that the military lifestyle suits him very well, and he is seriously considering making it a career.

Of course, this has been a week of very mixed feelings.   I am happy and proud that he is doing so well, but on the other hand I worry for his safety.   I feel guilty for not blogging, but if I am at the computer I feel like I ought to be talking to my son.  I want for him to be here as long as possible, but on the other hand, having a guest means I feel compelled to produce something other than “cruise food” for dinner.   (“Cruise food” is what Navy wives eat when their husbands are at sea:  you forage in the kitchen.   It involves a lot of cheese and crackers, salads, and fruit, and very little cooking.)

The energy today has been so weird, there was a moment there where I thought maybe I ought to go back to bed.  That was right after I had set my potholder on fire as I was trying to produce breakfast.   As soon as I had thrown the flaming item into the sink and put the fire out, I turned around and flipped one of the sausage patties out of the pan and under the grate of the cooktop.   Then the eggs turned out overcooked because I was distracted by the fact that all the butter in the house was in the freezer, which made it difficult to butter the toast.  

But things have settled down a bit.   My first massage has been completed successfully, and the gentlemen are off in search of a new laptop.

Surely the discombobulation of the morning has settled down for now.

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Today was a labyrinth maintenance day.   Ah, who am I kidding?  It was a yard maintenance day, and the labyrinth was a major part of the work load.    Before I get started talking about what I did today, here is the News of the Day, Inside Edition:


That is what is blooming on the root cellar right now.  Well, that and the lavendar, cleome, rugosa rose, “May night” sage, roses, and a couple of day lilies.  On the west side of the root cellar, the hardy fig has decided that it likes the conditions this year. 


If you get up close and personal you discover that it is making figs, too.


Out in the vegetable garden, things look like this in the squash/corn bed.   I interplant the two of them as my ancestors did on the East coast hundreds of years ago.  I add purple thai basil to the mix because it acts as a companion plant to the squash and helps deter the squash borers from laying their eggs.  Off in the distance you can just make out the chicory patch.   We are waiting for the grapes to cover the arbor back there too.   Eventually, all the grass will be removed from between the raised beds.   We are going to put down gravel paths with big sandstone stepping stones.   It’ll look like something out of Tuscany when we are done.


The onions are making bulbs.   We have already started digging them, one by one.   They are quite wonderful when grilled and put still warm into a salad.  This particular view is of the yellow onions.   There are also red and white ones.


Over in the tomato bed the “Mortgage lifter” tomatoes have set fruit and grown them up all in secret.   We were surprised to notice these tomatoes this morning.  I’m not sure how I have missed them up ’til now.   The welded wire mesh that forms these cages has 6 inch mesh, so you can get an idea of how big these babies are.


The biggest job I did today was to mow the paths in the labyrinth. 

Oops, I hear thunder.  I must go get the clothes off the line immediately.   Back later.


The clothes are off the line and put away.  It truly looks like we may receive a downpour.   I won’t count on it, though.   There are way too many times when we get nice black clouds, thunder, a cool breeze, and it rains hard across the street.   Yesterday was like that.   There was a good shower less than a mile from here,  while we got only a desultory, un-measurable sprinkle.   I’m hoping it does better than that today, or I will have to water the hosta bed in the west corner.

Mowing the labyrinth is not that hard.  It just involves pushing the little 22 inch wide mower along all the paths.   It is only 1/3 of a mile, or a tiny bit farther than half a kilometer.   It’s just that while you are doing that, you have to push the mower forward a few feet and then pull it back,  so that the extremely thick grass actually gets mowed off.  This would not be necessary if the thing got mowed more often than every three weeks.  Right now, the fleabane is trying to colonize the paths, as are the yarrow and the globe mallow.   My rule is, if it is growing in the path, it gets mowed off.   It is too much work to try to mow around things in the middle of the path.  I did that last year with an errant patch of yarrow.  It isn’t like there isn’t lots of yarrow amongst the rocks.   I don’t have to save every volunteer.

There were lots of little philosophical glimmers that arose in my mind as I pushed, pulled, walked, turned, and sweated through the labyrinth.   For example, as I go around the 180 degree turns in the path, it is necessary to walk outside the path in order to horse the mower around the corners.   The symbolism of having to walk a little while in the “past” in order to make progress towards the “future” is not lost on me.  

Then, I came across a lone ox-eye sunflower, the pioneer blossom of its clump, blooming in the middle of a sea of sweet cicely.   How beautiful the loner is, standing out in the crowd.  She will not be alone for long.  If you look closely you can see she is flanked by a couple of buds that will be open in a couple of days.


After I finished the mowing job, I went down to the strip of wild flowers we have planted along the curb.   The strip is 10 feet wide, our section of curb is 300 feet long.  When I first started this project, I spent hours every week pulling the weeds out of the strip.   The main culprit was ragweed, but there was plenty of fescue, elm seedlings, maple seedlings, and Serratia lespedeza to keep that company.   Now I patrol for the lespedeza, a gift from the state highway department, which planted this invasive exotic on the highway right-of-ways to keep them from eroding.   Today I only found about 15 lespedeza plants to dig out, and no ragweed at all.   There were about a dozen elm trees that needed to be dug up too.  

But it is totally worth it.  This is what it looks like on the street side of the fence. 




The flowers are beautiful, but what is really cool is that the gold finches are foraging there now.   They are enjoying the coreopsis and cornflower seeds right now.   Soon they will have plenty of St. John’s wort and Mexican hat seeds to eat too.  When you walk down the driveway, frequently a dozen gold finches fly up out of the strip of wildflowers, rising up into the elms where they light and scold you for your interruption of their brunch.

I didn’t do any work in the vineyard today.  Jim has been keeping the fungus infected leaves pulled off the vines, and he just mowed it yesterday.   It is such a joy to see that the freeze did not impact our grape crop too severely.   This is the berry set on the Baco noir:


The chambourcin looks very good too:


Out in front, there are a couple of more day lilies that have joined the throng.  As usual, these are ladies who are anonymous or incognito:



I’ll close this post with a picture taken in the back yard.   I planted some crocosmia bulbs in the herb garden, and they are making a scarlet splash floating above the drumstick alliums that are just getting started.


Tomorrow we drive to St. Louis to pick up Jesse, who will be home on leave for a couple of weeks.   I still have a bunch of house cleaning to do.  While I am busy doing that, Jim is baking a wonderful chocolate cake in honor of the young man’s 25th birthday, which was last Monday.  

May you all have a blessed and joyful holiday weekend.   Wishing you all a belated Happy Solstice! 

It has started raining.  How wonderful.  I can hear the hostas, grapes, and trees taking a deep drink.

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A bevy of beauties

My little sister is not a gardener.  In fact, she is militantly not a gardener.   Unless, of course, it suits her to think about landscaping her place in order to make it more saleable.   Then she is a gardener.    But not at a party, where other people who have beautiful gardens might want to talk about them.   After all, that would require her to listen to someone else talk.

Anyway, one fine spring day a few years ago when we were still more or less on speaking terms, she dropped by our place and found me knee deep in dirt, busy transplanting and mulching. 

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m transplanting some of day lilies and planting a few more that I bought at the day lily sale Jeri and I went to yesterday,” was my reply.

“Day lilies?    You already have some day lilies, don’t you?”

“Well, yes.   But these are new day lilies.”

“Well, I don’t see why you would want any more.  They are all orange, anyway.”  This was spoken in her dismissive “this is the end of this conversation” tone.

In refutation of that statement, I offer you this bevy of beauties, all blooming this week in my garden.   The first is named Double Bourbon.


This next one is called Hyperion.  It has a lovely scent, the flowers are six inches across.


Next we have Strawberry Candy, followed by Peach Candy:



Now this one is a miniature, the blossoms are only about 2 inches across.   She is called Little Sweetness.


Next one is Spacecoast Starburst.   I actually spent over $30 to acquire this beauty when she was a brand new variety.   Signs of obsession, I know.


The rest have names, I know, but they are lost in the mists of history.   The flowers are no less beautiful for being unnamed.








Now how could anybody say all day lilies are orange? 

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