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Archive for April, 2013

It finally stopped raining today.    It’s a darned good thing too; the grass was starting to look more like a hay field than a lawn.   We were really starting to think that we might have to bale it if the weather didn’t cooperate and give us a few dry days.

Not that we are complaining.   After last year’s droughty conditions, all water from the sky is welcome.   But a little moderation once in a while isn’t a bad thing.

In spite of the fact that the weather guessers were SURE that it was going to be a sunny day, the early morning was grey and cloudy.   I decided to go to Bennet Spring and  enjoy the Savanna Ridge Trail anyway.   I figured I would be largely undisturbed since it HAS been raining and all the creeks are up.   I contemplated taking my rubber boots with me, but I didn’t want to carry them along and I knew I didn’t wish to walk three miles in them either.   I thought maybe the water at the slab that is at the beginning of the trail might have gone down during the night.

Not so much:

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I had prepared myself by donning my spectacular high tech army socks, so I waded across and proceeded on my way.   Although my trainers were very wet, my feet became more or less dry in short order due to the wicking action of the above mentioned socks, which showed me quickly that they were well worth the $10 a pair we forked over for them.   I completed my walk with no chafing or discomfort, thanks to these items of apparel.

The path was beautiful.   It wound up the hill, spangled with buttercups.

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Later on, higher up the ridge, the gold spangles changed to blue, almost as if the sky had broken and fallen to the path.   The Bird-foot violets (some folks call them Johnny jump-ups)(Viola pedata) were blooming profusely.

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Off to the side of the path a fern was unfolding its fronds.

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Behind it, the Rue Anemonne (Anemonella thalictroides) was blooming profusely.   It made me think of flecks of foam on the sea of last year’s leaves as they broke against the tree trunks.

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As I rounded the top of the ridge, I could hear the creek chuckling along merrily.    Most of last summer its voice was silent, but today it was vociferous behind the fog of redbud blossoms obscuring it from view.

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It didn’t take us long to descend below the pink fog and discover just how full the little creek was.   No wonder it was talking so loudly.  My favorite waterfall was actually a waterfall rather than a trickle of drops.

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Nearby Mother Nature’s graffiti artist had painted all over a log.

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I discovered another shy spring beauty (Uvularia sessifolia) hiding below the waterfall.   This is called “Wild oats”, which is a misnomer indeed, as it is not even a member of the grass family but a lily instead.   The other thing people call it is “Sessile bellwort”.

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At this point, my camera started telling me that its batteries were getting low.   Hoping that letting it rest would allow it to find some more juice in the depths of the batteries, I turned it off and continued on my way.

The clouds burned off as we walked and it turned into a spectacular day, all blue sky and bird song.  The whitened skull of one of last year’s deer casualties enticed me from the path, and led me to a woodland pond that included frogs in its decor.   We saw a live deer moving through the woods; I was hoping for a new fawn but was disappointed.

As we continued on our way over the ridge I heard a sound in the valley below that I was so rare I almost couldn’t believe it.   The wash of dry gravel bars where I find so many wonderful rocks while walking along them was full of water.

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Above the creek bank a lone dogwood bloomed.

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I was very glad to see it.  Dogwood blossoms are few and far between this spring.   The heat of the summer and the long dry fall caused most of the dogwood trees in our area to drop their flower buds in order to conserve their strength.   The only ones I saw today were in the cooler north-facing hollows where the water runs when it rains.  Usually they make drifts of white all through the woods, a magical thing that is nearly impossible to capture in a photograph.

I turned back to retrace my steps, rejoicing in the creek valley floor.  It was covered with millions of chickweed flowers forming a lacy back drop for the red trillium, yellow violets, Jacob’s ladder and other woodland flowers.   I refrained from turning the camera on in case something really cool showed up.

Of course it did, and I was glad I had saved the batteries.  An amazing blue flower caught my eye, begging to be photographed.   It was even bluer than the Bird’s-foot violets that had so captivated me earlier.   I had no idea what it was, but I made its portrait anyway,

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When I got home, I looked it up.   This is “Blue-eyed Mary” (Collinsia verna), a member of the snapdragon family.  She is an annual flower, and I suppose that accounts for the fact that I had never met her before.   I know where she is blooming, and I intend to go back there and collect a few seeds in a few weeks.   I think this would make a splendid addition to the gardens.

On the way back home I discovered goldenseal (Hydrastis candensis) blooming in the creek bottom.

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By this time, the newly holy church goers had made it out into the woods, and I started meeting groups of people as I neared the car park.   None of them surprised me at all, as I could hear them long before I could see them.   I was glad I had started off early, so I got to see deer and hear many birds, which tend to shut up and become very quiet when the chatting hordes of hikers take over my usual haunts.   This is why I usually go out in the middle of the week, when they are all at work.

But I was glad the promise of clouds burning off had enticed me out early to enjoy the beauty around me undisturbed.

Hope you enjoyed the tour….

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Just a few shots from around the yard…   The species tulips are blooming all over the place.   I moved them around last summer, and they seem to enjoy their new spots.   I will be moving some more of them once they are done blooming.

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In the stroll garden, daffodil “Baby moon” is busy being very cute.   Bear in mind that these flowers are about the size of an anerican quarter.   The foliage surrounding them is cilantro.

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The robin who built her nest on the step ladder a couple of years ago decided that she would try that again, since it worked out so well for her.   Since she barely had the foundations of her nest laid, I tore it out.   I thought I might like to use the ladder sometime this spring…

Undeterred, she moved around the corner and established herself on the nose of the dragon head driftwood. Since he didn’t seem to mind, I let her be.  She was none too pleased the other day when I was weeding the garden beneath her perch.   she will just have to deal with it.

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In other bird news, the gold finches have finally put on their mating colors.   Here is a shot of them enjoying the niger seed feeder.   On the fence there is a white throated sparrow.   I didn’t know they liked niger seed, but I guess they do.

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Spring has officially sprung at The Havens.

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It’s a grey day here at The Havens.   The gold finches are turning yellow, the robins are building nests, the daffodils are in full display and a light mist is drizzling.

As I worked on sewing strips together on the quilt, laying them out on the dining room table, I saw the opportunity to feature two of my passions in life together in one photo.   Fabric and Daffodils.   Is there any better combination?

Okay, maybe coffee and chocolate.

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An example of the magic of the internet.   I was running over to the place where you can purchase terrible things like donuts, which seemed to be the breakfast of choice this morning.   As I went past the freeway interchange, I saw a semi truck pulling onto I-44 heading east.  Emblazoned proudly on both sides, it advertised the San Marcos High School Marching Band from Santa Barbara, California.   Smaller, but no less proud, lettering let you know that this was carrying the equipment for the marching band, flag drill team and percussion performance art department.

My first reaction was, “Wow!   They have a semi truck!”   Our local marching band is the proud possessor of an enclosed utility trailer which can be towed by a large pickup truck.  The high school I attended in Colorado was lucky to have a band at all, let alone a marching band.   I looked at pictures in the yearbook from 1970 and our band had about two dozen members.   Since many of them were also members of the various sporting teams and the Pep club, even a small marching contingent would be hard to gather together.

Anyway, the next thought  that crossed my mind (yes, I admit I was driving distracted, but at least I wasn’t texting) was “What in the world is the San Marcos High School Band of Santa Barbara, California doing in Lebanon, Missouri?”

When I got home I marched straight to the iPad and Googled the San Marcos High School.  There, on their website, under the Performing Arts department, I found the answer.    There, announced prominently, was the news that the Drum Line had earned a place in the WGI World Championships to be held in Dayton, Ohio, and soliciting contributions to get them there.  (I then looked up WGI, which stands for Winter Guard International, a group dedicated to drill teams, flag teams and drum lines.   Who knew.)

I guess they got enough money, because the equipment is quite obviously on its way to Ohio, and I imagine the members of the drum line are not far away.

And so, the magic of the internet answers random questions once again.

 

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After nearly killing ourselves last week getting the weeds out of the pond, I sort of let the next phase of the job stay on hold for a while.   Let me refresh your memory:

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As you can see, I have the pavement area partially clear of grass and weeds.   When I originally laid it, all I did was put in a bed of sand.   Needless to say, this was an open invitation to the ants, bermuda grass, dock, clover, etc. etc. etc. to move in and take over, which they did most thoroughly.

It was a slow process scraping the vegetative cover off of the pavers.  This was not made any easier by the fact that that the ants living there did their little earthmoving activities undisturbed for 17 years, which led to the paving blocks heaving and shifting in a most amazing manner.   I decided that filling the wheelbarrow with grass mats once a day was plenty of work of that sort.    There were plenty of other things to occupy me too, like pruning the espalier, the rugosa rose in front of the barn and I don’t know what all.    Needless to say, I also had to walk Ruby.

Anyway, when the grass was finally cleaned away, a job I finished yesterday morning, the paving looked like this:

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There were plenty of grass roots left sticking up, and after a few seconds I decided I really needed to move the paving and do some restoration to the pad.   So I did.

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I was so careful when I moved the blocks, having the insane idea that I would be able to replace them the same way they came out.   What I neglected to take into consideration was the fact that the far edge had had some blocks break, and so the tiles were not fitted together properly over there.  Also, some of my tiles had broken while the shifting sands were under them.

While I was working, the first house wren returned, flying in from the south in a flurry of announcements.  “This is my house.”   “This is my garden.” “This area is mine, mine, mine, what are you doing here?”   “Where are the girls anyway, slowpokes, don’t they know there are plenty of bugs to eat we need to get busy and start a family post haste.”   I was glad to see him back, nosy bossy busybody that he is.

After I had the pavers moved, I grubbed out the grass roots and rhizomes that had invaded.   Then I “leveled” the mud and spread sand over it to make a nice base for the pavers.   No one can say that I do not learn from my mistakes, so it was off to the Big Box store to  purchase a pond liner to go under the tiles.   That item was not cheap, but I was armored with Jim’s statement “It is a one time expense” so I plopped down several twenty dollar bills, managed to avoid the temptation of half price perennial plants, and came on home.

There I spread the new liner, tucking it neatly under the pond’s pond liner at the edge, and trimming it to fit my tile area.   Then it was jig saw puzzle time as I fit the tile blocks back into their space.   This required a lot of running back and forth to the pile of tile behind the barn in the search for blocks that were “just right” for holes that needed filling.   By the end I was reduced to taking a piece of rock and smacking it with my hammer in the hopes that one of the resulting pieces would be right for the hole that needed filling.   This actually worked quite well several times, much to my amazement.

Jim mixed me up a small batch of mortar, and I got into the waterfall area and mended the cracks so that when we finally get the new pond pump the water will fall rather than dribble.   That was just a short little episode in the long slog of work I was involved in.

Finally, I hauled a couple of three gallon buckets of sand over to fill in the cracks, and swept it clear.   I was finishing that up when I was called to dinner.   I left the area changed:

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After dinner, I took Ruby for her walk, and for some reason it was a very slow pace around the mile and half path I generally take her on.   Frequently I make it 3.5 miles, but it simply wasn’t in the cards last night.   I came home and took a nice long, badly needed epsom salt soak.

Elsewhere in the yard, spring is progressing nicely.   Here are a couple of images of the species tulips and one of my very fancy daffodils as they bloomed beautifully and largely un-noticed on the other side of the yard from where my attention was focused.

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In front, I did manage a clean up during the week, which revealed the peony sprouting very optimistically.   There are plenty of daffodils and tulips keeping it company.   One of the irises already has a flower stalk coming up.

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Now that the pond is finished, I can rest easy in the knowledge that it will never be that hard to maintain again.   Hopefully, anyway.   And that is a good thing, as I am not getting any younger.   In another ten years I’m not sure I would have been able to do the herculean job that I accomplished this past week and a half.  And I do not wish to minimize Jim’s help during it, although most of the work was done by me while he was busy mowing and mowing and cooking and working at the Commissary.

Now all I have to do is help Jim replace all the carpet in the house with flooring, paint all the walls that have cracks from the beam replacement job, remove the cannas from the areas that I don’t want them, get the henbit out of the day lilies, finish planting the vegetable garden, and …..

Did I mention I am going on a cruise vacation to Alaska in about a month?

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You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?  Another day older and deeper in debt.  St. Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go — I owe my soul to the company store!”

Well, I don’t owe my soul to the company store, but I certainly feel like I loaded sixteen tons this weekend.   Of course, this is poetic license and hyperbole.  It was probably only one or two tons.   Anyway, water aerobics was a real trial today.   I went because I knew it would be good for me to move my sore muscles around.

So what was it that caused this state of events?    To sum it up in a few words:  Jim and I cleaned out the pond this weekend.   Mostly I cleaned it out.   It took several hours Friday, all day Saturday, and several more hours Sunday.   It still is not quite finished.

You may wish to go over to this blog post where I have several pictures indicating the history of the place.  A little ways down in the post there is a series of three pictures of the pond.    This one was taken right after I finished digging it.

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Look over in the corners on the left and right sides.   Little did I know what a mistake planting those little clumps of cat tails was.   And I was so happy when they grew.

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Every once in a while I would get into the pond and sort of try to beat them back from the center.   They continued to grow, however.

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A couple of years ago, I noticed that one of the things that the birds had brought me was razor grass.   That makes beating back the marsh more difficult and painful.   But I finally steeled myself against the razor grass and got in there and really worked on getting rid of it.   I paid a high price for THAT one.

Needless to say, that experience made me reluctant to get into the pond when the weather was warm.   And my father’s decline and death last spring sort of took precedence over cleaning out the pond.   All last  summer, I was swearing to myself that  Something Was Going to be DONE about the pond this year.

And so it was.

We siphoned.   While the siphon was going, I began to hack away at the vegetative mass in the pond.   I used my trusty axe to cut pieces that were small enough to heave onto the shore.  I am about half done with the west side in the next shot.   The siphon has almost gotten to the point where it will no longer suck.

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Observe the pile of cut pieces out on the bank.   The bucket contains the water lily, and river lotus, which I wished to re-introduce to the pond.   The water canna is still in the pond, just to the left of the bucket.  That mass in front of you is the east side marsh, which has not even been touched yet.

After a while, it became necessary to bail, as the siphon just couldn’t deal with the pond bottom.  It was hard work, but eventually  we got the water all out.

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The above is looking at the west side.   It is completely clear of the vegetation that was in the shallow shelf.   Below  is a view of the east side.  I have already hacked a good two feet of vegetation back to where the shallow shelf begins.

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A shot with Jim in it, for scale.

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Here is a close up of that root wad that his hand is next to.

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Back to the axe!   One must be circumspect about that tool.   Part of what makes the job difficult is lifting the mass of roots away from the pond liner so that when you hack through the roots you don’t also hack through the rubber liner.   When I bought that liner, it was over $400.   I can’t even imagine how much it would cost today, 17 years later.   I am just grateful that it hasn’t broken down over the years.

Another reason to be circumspect is the fact that over the years there have been rocks that found their way into the mass.  Big rocks.   Believe it or not, there was a time when the vegetation in the marsh was small enough that it needed to be anchored so it wouldn’t float around.   (Ironic laughter here)  Hitting a big head sized rock with the axe is hard on the axe. We tried to avoid that.   Fortunately, when you get close to a rock when you are hacking at the root wad, the sound changes so that you can modify your aim and miss the rock.   No axes were harmed during the project.

So anyway, we did not try to beat the east side all the way back to the edge the way we did the west side.   I decided the frogs and salamanders needed some marsh.  I left about three feet of it intact.   I know I will enjoy the water irises there when they bloom, also.

After we beat it back some, we cleaned the liner and refilled the pond.   I spent some time clearing the grass back from the stone “patio”.   That part is not done yet, but it rained in the night and there is a lot of water out there, so I will put that off for a bit.

This is how it all looked yesterday afternoon.

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There are no fish in there any more, which means the salamanders and toads will have a much easier time propagating.   I know for a fact that there are seven salamander newts, because I meticulously saved them during the baling process and put them into the bucket with the lilies, and then carefully put them back into the pond after it was full.

A job well done.   And my body knows all about it, too.

Something a little less physical also going on:   The bargello quilt strips for Jesse and Lynette’s quilt are cut.

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I have about 25% of the strip sewing complete.   I think I might just work on that today and let the pond and the gardens alone.   Just for today.

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