Archive for November, 2009

Last night we had a hard freeze with lots of frost.  When I looked out the window in the early dawn this morning, I almost thought it had snowed, everything was so white.

I’m glad to see the weather chilling down a bit.   Maybe that will put the kibosh on all the bulb activity that has already started here.

In the front garden, the dutch iris bulbs have sent up their foliage, way too early.   Back in the rose garden where I put the mini daffodils, there are sprouts as well.  I keep telling them they are going to get their noses nipped, but they aren’t listening.

Like I said.  It’s too early.   I have ajuga still blooming, which is making the path it adorns quite charming.  I call these the Ajuga sisters.   Sounds like a country rock and roll band name, doesn’t it?

Right near there is where the Knockout rose is still going strong.   I liked this shot of it against the lowering November sky yesterday.   The last rose of summer:

Just to the left of this is where the Dragon’s Teeth are.   That is what we have decided to call the group of rocks in the Rain Garden area.   Notice that the yarrow has decided to rebloom for the cool autumn.

Directly to my right from where I was standing to take that picture s the little gravel area where I have planted my hen and chicks.   Now, I thought I could draw the line at collecting daffodil varieties and hosta varieties with a side of day lily varieties, but I detoured far away from the plan when I discovered the myriad varieties of Hen and chicks that are available out there.   I had no idea, really.   Then I went to the Planting Festival at Baker’s Creek one year and met the couple that collect varieties of this plant from all over the world.   Hardy, drought tolerant, pest resistant — oh, and CUTE!   Notice that in the following picture, that thing in the upper left corner is the index finger of my work glove.

Did I mention CUTE?   I just love these guys.   Their immediate neighbors up the hill in the rock garden, the sedums, have retreated into dormancy.   The dianthus varieties I have up there have put on a small fall flush of blossoms.

Out in the kitchen herb garden, most everything has settled into making leaves until they all get frosted back.   But the thyme I have planted there is really going to town.

The vegetable garden seems to be in stasis.   Even though we have a couple of really cold nights and some heavy frosts, the it is still producing massive quantities of greens, more than a two-person household can conveniently eat.   This is a typical salad, as seen daily at The Havens’ dinner table.

I’ve been sharing with friends, and fortunately we had Thanksgiving dinner to supply so that sort of put a dent in the things that are outside the cold frames.   The following is a shot of the area where I planted my salad garden for last spring and summer.   These are the  plants that made it through the heat of August and have resurged in the cool fall weather.  They were joined by young plants that grew from seeds shed by the mesclun mix that we didn’t quite get eaten before it bolted.   Once that happened, the pollinators were so enthralled with all those blossoms I couldn’t bear to pull them out.  “Here there be” radicchio, endive, chard, arugula, mizuna, mustard, oak leaf lettuce, parsley, bok choy, kale, and several other things, all still resplendent.

I’m thinking that putting all those flagstones in the paths out in the veggie garden may have created a heat sink that helps prolong the season into the winter.   It doesn’t hurt that we put that nice fence around it either; it is a wonderful wind break.   We surely made some good decisions out there, most of which were driven by the desire to stop having to beat back the bermuda grass from our raised beds.

I have evidence of a recent error in judgment, though.   About a month and a half ago I was rejoicing because I found a hidden lode of compost under the “To Be Ground” pile.   I needed mulch badly right then, so even though I had questions in my mind about whether that particular compost pile had ever gotten hot enough to slow down all the seeds in it, I used it gladly.

That shot is of the area between my two cold frames, where I put mulch because the bed needed feeding.  I  wanted to make sure the bottom of the cold frames was insulated from the “outdoors,” so I spread the mulch particularly thickly between them.   I believe if you look carefully in that area, which is only about eight inches wide, you will be able to locate just about every darn thing that has ever gone to seed on the place in the past two years and then got thrown on the “To Be Ground” pile:   sweet cicely, cilantro, parsley, mustard, lettuce, chicory, bluets, violets, zinnias, marigolds, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.    I am paying for my error in judgment by getting to do a whole bunch of weeding right now.   At least it keeps me from getting bored.

I close this Missive to the Universe (via the Wonderful World Wide Web) with a portrait of the bouquet I picked yesterday.

Even though we had a big frost last night, I could pick the same bouquet today if I cared to.

I guess my garden is in the pink.

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I believe that Jim and I may have had the perfect day today.   It was the right combination of work and fun.

We got up at a rather late hour, and before I could make coffee, I had to roast coffee beans since we had neglected to do that.   Then I decided that I really ought to do something special for breakfast, so I made biscuits.   About three minutes before they were done, as I was heating up the fat to cook the eggs in, the phone rang.   It was Thanksgiving greetings from Iraq, and Jesse sounded great!   He is at his new FOB and enjoying the amenities.   We had to talk to him for a good long time, but fortunately the bacon and biscuits stayed warm perfectly in the oven while we did so.   After we bid our adieus, I cooked the eggs and we enjoyed our repast.   In addition to the other things mentioned above, I made a fruit/yogurt concoction with the blueberries and strawberries we put into the freezer this summer.

While I did a certain amount of laundry and cleaned the house up, Jim was busy stacking a load of kindling we got last night.   Then I took Ruby for a walk while he made sweet potato clam chowder.  This is one of the things we are taking to my mother’s for the Family Thanksgiving Dinner  tomorrow.  He has adapted this recipe by using canned clams rather than the fresh ones, and has had the happy thought to add about a teaspoon of chipotle pepper powder to the chowder base.   It is a truly fabulous dish.

I took Ruby to Bennett Spring State Park, and we walked about a mile and a half up the Natural Tunnel Trail.  There were fish crows, a pileated wood pecker, and several wrens and finches flitting about.   It was pretty chilly, but a pretty day.   The mosses and ferns were looking fine.

On the way back to the car, I noticed a mullein rosette performing a mandala dance.

When Ruby and I got home, Jim had shaved, so I took a shower to make sure all the ticks I might have picked up at Bennett Spring were gone and then we took advantage of the situation for a while.   I took Smokey for another walk.  He checked out the pond while I picked salad.   The reason I had to do that is that while I was gone Jim made a couple of salad dressings:  Bleu Cheese and Honey Mustard Vinaigrette.   We tried them both out on the radish I picked the other day.  This is a White Icicle radish I acquired from Baker Creek Seed Company last spring.  The radishes I grew last summer to act as companions for the butternut squash made seeds, and these are their progeny.

I had the sudden fancy while I was picking this one that the radishes had formed some sort of cabal and were holding secret meetings in the Stroll Garden.

I sliced that radish up and we sampled both salad dressings with the crisp mild slices.  It was a light and delicious snack.

After I picked salad, I also picked a bouquet.   They are both waiting on the table for our attention.   We have agreed that the salad needs to sport the Bleu Cheese dressing.    I am amazed that I was able to pick such a full bouquet on Thanksgiving.

I think the bread is done.  I think I’m going to go eat some dinner.

You all have a happy day.

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Assisted living facility

Well, I know I have mentioned previously that my aged cat Smokey is having health issues.   He is definitely in his geriatric period, he will be 18 years old in March.   If I had to describe what was going on for him, the easiest metaphor is that he is an aging warrior whose battle wounds are paining him.   I call this shot of his ear “You should have seen the other guy.”

That, and he appears to have some sort of dementia.  He honestly looks sometimes like he totally does not know where he is when he walks into a new room.   He REALLY hates it if you rearrange the furniture.  He reminds me of Mr Tiddles in Terry Pratchett’s “Going Postal”.

(Excuse me, sir,  it’s 11:43. . .)

Right now, he loves sitting in front of the fire, and a measure of how age has mellowed him is reflected in this photograph, where he is sharing the warm spot with Ruby.  He has gotten very thin, but Jim points out that very old men are often awfully thin.

Notice that Ruby is not completely comfortable with Smokey.   He may have mellowed somewhat but he will still take a notion into his head that Ruby is a Dog and therefore in Need of Correction, and smack her (he does not pull his punches either, it is always with all claws out) just on General Principles.

He has always had chairs that were “His, by God,” and will come and sit in the living room and fix an interloper with a pained expression if they are so gauche as to sit in the leather chair that he has staked out as his own since the day we moved it in here.   When I am in the family room where the love seat is, he has always liked to sit at the other end of it from me (which is as close as Smokey has ever come to “sharing” a seat with anyone).    However, lately he has decided that he would prefer to sit at the end where I always sit.    I’m not sure why.  Maybe because it is closer to the water bowl.  Anyway, I can move to the other end of the couch and do.   I don’t care.

He has certainly not lost his ability to look pained if someone is in a chair he feels he needs to sit in.

He is not blind, or deaf, it’s just that some of the joints that got bashed around when he was duking it out with the neighborhood “Gang Cats” are stiff and get sore.  He has no kidney problems, in fact I would hazard the statement that possibly his kidneys are just a little too good.  He really takes it amiss if he has used the cat box and no-one has scooped the result out before he needs to use it again.   Sometimes he takes it so amiss that he just can’t bring himself to actually get into the foul box, and so he will pee on the floor.   This only happens if we are home and therefore “should” have taken care of the situation.  If we are out of the house he will use the box even if it is besmirched.

He has developed what I will choose to refer to as “Problems” with his bowel control.   If he walks around after he has been lying about all afternoon, and especially if he has gone and used the facilities, this activity will stimulate his bowels, and unfortunately for me and my white hall carpet, that is usually where the movement assails him and he pretty much has to stop and make a deposit right then and there.   This actually embarrasses him, but I just clean up the little specks of shit and tell him it is okay.

I have figured out that even though it takes a lot of effort for him, he feels much better if he gets some regular exercise, so I regularly carry him out to the pond, a spot he has always loved because of the bird and fish watching opportunities it provides.  Then I put him down and he is required to walk back to the house on his own.  This always results in a stop to mark spots that the young Turks of the neighborhood have peed on, and he also usually winds up having a bowel movement too.   This is great for me and the hall carpet.

He has gotten very finicky about food too, extremely moody.   A variety that was “Creme de la creme” five days ago is the most worthless shit today, and vice versa.   I have gotten rather bitchy about the situation, being as how I can’t afford to be throwing perfectly good cat food away just because today Smokey has decided he just can’t eat it.   For a while when he started being finicky I thought his teeth were bothering him, but then he showed up with a baby rabbit and proceeded to eat about 75% of it, crunch crunch.   So I figured there was nothing wrong with his teeth.

Walking back from the pond seems to stimulate his appetite too.

So here we are at The Havens, where basically we have become an Assisted Living Facility for Smokey, making sure he has nutritious meals, a warm fire to sleep by, regular exercise, fresh water, cleaning up the unavoidable messes.   I give him baths with a damp towel because he doesn’t really get behind his ears very well any more, and under his arms is right out.   Then we brush him with the slicker brush, and he hates it to death the way he always has.  Afterwards, if she doesn’t lie low Ruby will often get smacked as he goes by just because of the load of ire he is carrying.   Then he feels bad and will come back to try to make up with her, and Ruby just gives him the “I don’t trust you, you are Mean” look.

But he’s so handsome.

Not sweet.   Just good looking.  He reminds me of Donald Mills:  he’s the Crabby Old Fart incarnate in feline form.   I can just hear him:  “Damned young whippersnappers. . .”

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Photohunt: Birds

I have lots of pictures of birds.   But none of them are as cute as this Carolina wren chick.   It had fledged from the nest that the parents built on the shelf of Jim’s shop, and was still contemplating the idea of actually flying out of the door and into the rugosa rose the way the mama wanted it to.   I love the tufts of chick fluff above its ears.

Make sure you visit TNChick’s site to visit other Photohunters.

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Corset friday

I am inspired by Nursemyra’s “Corset Fridays.” Definitely worth a peek any week.  I want to participate.

I’m still working on getting a corset.   But I was entranced by the rainbow cast by my little crystal out on the porch one day, had to do a self portrait.

Here is another bouquet you can only have if you are a gardener, inside and outside editions.

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In honor of Sunny

My dear blog friend azahar lost a precious member of her family yesterday.  In honor of Sunny, a beautiful blue eyed feline, I post this photo.

This is a charming “Circle of Friends” my dear friend Kathryn gave to me.   It is supposed to be a votive candle holder, but my quartz crystal ball loves to rest on the cats’ noses.   From across the room it looks like the ball is floating above the circle of cats.

I call this “Gazing into the Rainbow”

May you find peace and joy at the other end of the rainbow, Oh Sunny.

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My pond

In all the literature about creating a safe haven for wildlife, making sure there is a source of water is emphasized.   That, and the love of water and the sounds of water flowing caused me to create the little pond that is out in the corner by the vegetable garden.

I adopted one of my favorite sayings from the movie “Field of Dreams”:   “If you build it, they will come.”   I still remember the day after I installed the pond liner and filled the pond with water.   The following morning, there were little water striders on the surface.   Where did they come from?   How did they know there was a pond?

My yard is alive with birds.   When I look out my kitchen window, I see them flying back and forth to the pond, landing in the evergreens that hang over it to wait their turn at the bathing pool.   When I work in my garden, there is a constant stream of chat interspersed with fluttering sounds.

And yet, when you look at the pond, it seems deserted.

I was weeding the vegetable garden, and when I stood up I got to watch a cardinal preening and rearranging his plumage after his morning ablutions.   Just as I got set to shoot this picture, the two gold finches who had been sharing the fence with him took off.   I think they disapproved of all the water he was spraying around as he shook his wings.

His girlfriend was down by the bathing pool, thinking about availing herself of the facilities.

Yes, there is a bird in there.   She is standing on the rock just above and left of the pool at the top of the waterfall.

Want another puzzle in camouflage?   See if you can see the gold finch in the next shot.

Need a hint?   He is right in the middle of the shot, just to the right of the thickest forsythia branch.

This is why I can watch four cardinals and a dozen gold finches fly into the forsythia “Waiting for the Bath” bush and not be able to see any birds out there.

The pond surface is much easier to photograph.

About an hour and half before I took that picture, I was out clearing stuff out of the filter of the pond pump, and I noticed a juxtaposition of things that pleased my eye:   a little pond hunter spider and a feather from the finches floating amidst the fallen leaves.   “Ooh,” I thought to myself.  “This would make such a great shot.   Too bad my camera is in the house.”   I started off to fetch it, but got distracted by weeds and such.   When I finally had it, I had forgotten about the spider and the feather, and spent a good hour weeding the asparagus patch.   Then I picked a bunch of vegetables for my dinner and lunch:   stuff to add to the soup and ingredients for a fritatta.

By the way, those potatoes came out from under one very happy potato plant that was only about 9 inches tall.   I was expecting one potato.

Anyhow, the bathing cardinal reminded me of the pond photo op, and as I was trying to capture Ms. Cardinal, I remembered the feather and the spider.   I strolled over to the place where I had seen them last, and caught the picture above.   But I really wanted the spider.

As I crouched beside the pond, I noticed that the things on the surface gently circulate around the pond, and I started to wonder if I might not be able to locate the feather I had seen previously.   And the spider.    So I began a slow circumambulation of the pond, and after a while I found them both!

Of course, I didn’t really like where the spider was in relation to the feather, and so I started annoying her gently, trying to get her to move closer to it.  After a while, she got very huffy with me, and disappeared right before my very eyes, moving over the edge of the leaf she was standing on, tucking a bubble of air into her abdomen and pulling the surface tension of the water around her to make a safe haven.   Zip!   Safe from the predators above, confounding the nosy parker poking at her.

I was entranced.   Needless to say, I tried to get a picture of her under her leaf, but I need an entirely different camera for that!   Anyway, after a while she left her haven and proceeded on her hunt, trying to ignore me.

Then a tiny moth wing floated into the shot.

All in all I probably spent half an hour crouched at the edge of the pond.   The rain that had been threatening all morning finally started.  So I gave it up and went inside to the dusting which I have been avoiding all week.

If you ask Ruby, she’ll tell you her mother is certifiably insane.

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