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Archive for the ‘Gardeners’ Category

We are getting some badly needed rain.  It has been threatening all morning, flashing and muttering under its breath, teasing us with brief sprinkles.

The radar shows that all of this activity is moving along to the south, which is odd because most of the lightning and clouds I am looking at are to the north of me.  At any rate, I am glad it is raining.   We need for the ground to be nicely wet and more rain promised in order to distribute the beneficial nematodes that are reputed to dine on Japanese beetle grubs.  With a good rain under our belt, and more promised, we can order the supplier to ship them.  With any luck, the weather will cooperate and keep the ground nice and wet after they are applied.

I am happy that there is a storm, Impy is NOT.   I don’t know what horrible trauma happened to him in his kittenhood, but he is terrified of thunder and slinks off full speed ahead for the nearest closet as soon as the first distant rumble occurs.  This morning has been just terrible for him.  With the sporadic nature of this storm, there have been periods of calm in between the heavenly percussion performance long enough for him to stick his whiskers out.   Inevitably, as soon as he is bold enough to exit his sanctuary, a random clap of thunder will send him scurrying back under cover.

We have hypothesized that Impy can understand the weatherman and has listened to all the instructions regarding what to do to be safe in a stormy situation.   If you don’t have a shelter to move into, you should stay in an interior room (preferably with no windows) and put a pillow over your head.  When you hear thunder, you should keep yourself as close to the ground as possible while you move to shelter to minimize the danger of being struck by lightning.   And for God’s sake, don’t go stand under a tree.

Our local YMCA is so careful about lightning danger that they clear the pool if there is any within a few miles of us.   Consequently, this morning our water aerobics class was only 15 minutes long.

I have been surfing the interwebs excessively, so I finally decided I ought to get something worthwhile done instead of endlessly posting on facebook.  I made the bed, and cleaned the catboxes.   I did the dishes, and I am contemplating the idea of vacuuming.   I am pretty sure I can spend enough time on my blog that I simply won’t have time to do that chore before I have to leave for my mammogram.

While I was washing the dishes the storm finally blew into our area and produced a measurable amount of rain.   I was musing as I scrubbed my pots about how one would depict the skies opening up as a response to a prompt of “Open” on an the Art Journal Adventure.   The view out my window captivated me as I worked and pondered.  The finches are busy at  the feeder, they don’t care it is raining and neither do the squirrels, who use their tails as easily as an umbrella as they do a sunshade or blanket.

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The rain will be good for the garden too.  The peas are about an inch tall, and the lettuce that we tended all winter is going gangbusters.   I heartily endorse the use of cold frames in this climate.   We ate beautiful lettuce all winter.

So as I allowed this train of thought to pass through the station of my mind, a huge ground strike flashed down just to the northeast.

I was standing at the window, scrubbing a metal pot with my hands in running water, and I recalled the wisdom that says you can get a pretty bad shock if lightning strikes near your water line when you have your hands in running water.   Suddenly I thought “If that bolt had struck the house and electrocuted me where I stood, I suppose my last thought would have been ‘Impy was right’.”

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I’m sure that is not the longest title ever put on an ariticle, but I’m sure it is right up there.  We have been working very hard getting the yard in shape.   It won’t be long now before we will have to mow the lawns.  The peas are up and looking very nice.

There is a LOT of work to do around here.   Yesterday I worked on the East Prairie; cleaned out the last of the branches of last year’s tiny white asters.   Do not be fooled by that name, the flowers are tiny but the plants can be absolutely rampant.   They got about 5 feet tall last summer, since they had no competition except for the poke weed and some wild lettuce named fireweed (for some arcane reason).

Let me just say that in my head, fireweed is that amazing magenta flower that grows all over the Alaska Interior, not this 6 foot tall Ozarks giant that has insignificant flowers that the pollinators adore.

Anyway, I got that cleaned up and then we went out to dinner, which was scrumptious.   After we got home it was a dead calm so we burned the little brush pile out in the savanna.  That has been there about a year and a half, ever since I beat a path through the forsythia thicket so I could work on removing elm sprouts.

Today I cleaned up the garden area around the sauna.  Now that has turned into quite the place.  My job, now that all the forbs have gotten established, is to keep the honeysuckle and the elm trees from moving in.  It blooms all summer with plants I collected seeds from while walking the dog.   When I first planted this garden, I put some beautiful day lilies in there, but now that it has turned into a micro prairie, the day lilies have a lot of competition.  They bloom, but it is a struggle.  The little birds love this garden.

After I got that done, I decided to have a beer and see if I could see any birds at the pond.  I was rewarded by a gold finch, who came down to the waterfall for a drink.

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He didn’t stay very long.   I waited for a while, and Jim came to join me.   We sat for a while, and all of a sudden a junco dropped by.   This little bird knew darn well we were there, and did not come down to drink.  It took a while for me to capture him looking in our direction.  It is not safe for little birds, you know, and he was trying to look in all directions at once.

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Then I went off for mosquito dunks, and on my way back to the pond I sort of wandered around looking at the yard.

There are about five million violet seedlings in my path, something for future reference.  They are invisible in this shot, which is all about the grape hyacinths and the dragon’s teeth.

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Other than that, I think it is looking pretty special.   I wandered past the Green Man on my way to the pond.   I can actually see him this time of year.  The bittersweet vine really fills in.  Right now it is barely sprouting.

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Right behind him is the pond.   While I was getting this shot, there were a grackle and a robin in the pond taking a bath.  By the time I got around the corner, the grackle was done and had vacated the area.

The robin was very wet.

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He sat there for several minutes as I stood frozen on the opposite side of the pond from him.  After a while, he decided that he was not sufficiently bathed, and so he hopped back into the pool.

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Well.  That’s better.

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He is even more wet.

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But , apparently, not wet enough.   Back in he went for another splash.

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We have a pretty good sized pile of prunings from the yard, so if the wind calms down at sunset we shall have an Equinoctical bonfire.  That will be nice.

Happy Spring!

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We had our roof replaced and the house sided last month.  Looks pretty good now, like a brand new house outside.   Too bad the inside does not match…  I definitely need new floor treatments.

However, during the course of the work, the siding guys simply had to walk next to the house, which involved walking in the garden on the north side.  This garden mostly consists of hostas, with a few hellebores and bleeding hearts thrown in.   It started out as a real shade garden with several varieties of shade lovers in it, but over the years the less hardy plants died out.

Truth to tell, some of the original plantings, which I established with great forethought, turned out to be unwise choices.   One of those, notably, was the lily of the valley, which was summarily evicted after I discovered it busily strangling the hostas nearest to it.   The violets that I was so sure would look very nice along the house turned out to be a noxious weed and empire builders.   I have been trying to eradicate them for some time, and if I live long enough I may eventually succeed.

But I digress.   I decided that the north border needed to be revamped.  To that end, I removed all the rocks I had placed next to the house, leveled out the area and edged it with some pound-in edging.   The rocks got thrown into a pile over near the pergola.   After the edging was in place, I lined the rock border right next to the house with black plastic.   The idea is to have a strip of decorative rock between the house and the garden so that I do not have plants right up against the house, in the interest of proper air circulation.

It has taken me about a week to get ready to put my rocks back.   These are mostly very cool rocks that I have brought home from various gravel bars.   While I was doing the prep work, though, behind my back the rock pile became habitat.  I was not particularly surprised to find pill bugs and centipedes living there when I started moving the pile.   The big wolf spider also did not seem very out of place.

But this fellow surprised me!

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He (or she — I’m not good at sexing amphibians), had taken up residence under the pile of rocks and wished sincerely that I had not moved them.

I did pick the little fellow up, because I certainly did not wish to hurt him during my job.

As you can see with the scale of my glove added, this is a very small being indeed.  I think this may be the eft stage of the red spotted newt.  This is very interesting, because for a long time I have been aware of having what I referred to as salamanders living in the pond.  It turns out that the red spotted newt has an aquatic stage, and the guys in the pond are more than likely the red spotted newt in that aquatic stage.  This little fellow has found its way out of the pond to transform to its terrestrial stage.

I took it over to the rain garden, which seemed like a good place to relocate it out of harms way.

Indeed, it found the location satisfactory, and crawled back in and under the rocks there.

I am happy to find yet another individual creature that appreciates the habitat we have created here at the Havens.  It is really very exciting!

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I hardly know where to start with this post.

I am now certified as having satisfactorily completed my continuing education project.   That involved the commitment of a couple of grand to pay for the class in Neuromuscular Reprogramming that I just finished at the beginning of May.  It also required me to travel to California for a weekend each month for four months.   It was grueling, and gave me a new respect for the business Road Warriors who travel all the time.   Very few of my flights occurred without delays of some sort.

The class was well worth my time.   Neuromuscular Reprogramming is a technique of body work that achieves absolutely amazing results.   I am exultant and my clients are very pleased.   One of the side effects has been a huge increase in my business.   There isn’t a day of the week that I don’t have at least four massages scheduled.   Pretty good for the bottom line.

The side effect of that is that Jim has decided to retire from the work force as of June 28.   He won’t be able to start collecting Social Security until September, but that simply does not matter due to the increase in my income.   He will thoroughly enjoy being home for the summer and able to do his own projects.

One of those projects will be installing our new solar panels, which arrived this week.   I can hardly wait for them to be on line and watch the electric bill shrink to nothing while our carbon footprint diminishes as well.

The flower gardens are quite beautiful right now.   This is a view of the path in the Hosta Dell.   Don’t look too closely or you might notice all the weeds that took the opportunity to ensconce themselves while I was running back and forth to California.

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Of course, the vegetable garden has been a big project. We’ve been eating wonderful salads out of it for over a month, and it recently presented us with over 6 pounds of snow peas, which we blanched this morning and have in the freezer. I also picked a pile of spinach, which is already in the freezer.

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There is a sink full of broccoli raab that needs to be dealt with.  I will get around to that this afternoon, after I plant the veronica and the pink iris that one of my friends brought be yesterday.

So by now I’m sure you are wondering why I would title this “Labyrinth News.”

Simply this.   Back in November a most delightful woman named Twylla Alexander paid me and my labyrinth a visit.  She blogged about it here.  Her vision was to visit a personal labyrinth constructed by a woman in each of the fifty states.   I think she only has two states left to visit!   That is quite the journey, and during the course of it she has connected the owners of all the labyrinths she visited via email.

Now we are all agog over the near completion of her project, and hoping that we will be able to have a little cyber party to celebrate her accomplishment.   Well, and ours, of course!   And so, I make this post and I am hoping that it is possible for folks to upload pictures into the comments section.   I invite someone to attempt to do this.  If it works, then I will make a dedicated “Labyrinth Party Post” for us all to use.

Watch this space….

 

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A little while ago Jim and I made the trek out to the East Coast for two purposes.  One was to return a large cast iron cauldron that we had ordered which arrived cracked.   We took it back to the foundry to have it replaced with one that was not cracked.  The guy who packed it at the foundry just couldn’t imagine how it could have been cracked…   Personally, I suspect that it left the foundry that way and they were hoping that we wouldn’t notice until it was too late for us to make them do anything about it.   But UPS could have dropped it during shipping, which would not be surprising since it was in a box that was labelled “HEAVY” but even a person who was expecting “heavy” might have been surprised by the 87 lbs…

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It isn’t the largest cauldron ever, either.   It is only a 12 gallon sized, and they come all the way up to 60 gallons and more, some large enough to scald a whole pig.   I don’t know how you carry around a 60 gallon cast iron cauldron, actually.

The other reason for the trip was to visit the grandchild, who really represents a huge fork in our road.  He is developing in a most satisfactory way, thanks to the excellent parenting he is receiving.   I surely do wish we lived closer to that beautiful little family, but Skype helps.  One of the things that made the odyssey totally worth it?  Getting to see this:

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Another vision that really “made” the trip was this sign:

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This road has a serious identity crisis.  Not only does it not know what it’s number is, it doesn’t really know what direction it is going either.   Or possibly, it is all things to all people and going every direction at once.

Sometimes, I feel like that road sign could be the icon for my life.   Like most people, I struggle with the questions “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?”   “What is my purpose?”  “What is really important in my life?”   “Where is my place in the world?”

I do know my purpose, what I was put here on Earth to do, and that is to touch people and help them find the path to healing.   My work as a massage therapist has been doing that for well over 20 years now, and it has brought me peace and prosperity.   It has led me to connections with people that are deep and meaningful.  Recently I attended a class in California featuring Neuro-Muscular Reprogramming.   That re-connected me to Jocelyn Olivier and the Alive and Well School of Massage, the place where my training began.  Watch this space, you will hear more about NMR, which is a profound healing technique that I am anxious to master.  I see clearly that it is a fork in my massage road I am going to walk down, far down, and ultimately it will add longevity and depth to my massage career.

So that is one thing I am.   I am also a gardener…

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I like to create things, notably I am working on a quilt right now.  It is a bargello design called “Supernova.”   (This is a pattern I found in a book by Eileen Wright, which I have been thoroughly enjoying.)  I’m 75% done with the piecing.

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I am also a labyrinth tender:

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That “identity” has led me to connections as well.   My labyrinth is listed on the World Wide Labyrinth Locator, which brings strangers into my life from far away and turns them into friends.  Just a couple of days ago I was visited and interviewed by a woman who is visiting and writing about labyrinths in all 50 states.   I may or may not show up in her book.   After all, she may meet a better candidate than I am for her writing about this state.   Anyway, she had lived in Alaska for ten years and brought me a beautiful rock from the Mendenhall Glacier area of Juneau.   We had a thoroughly enjoyable visit.

There are no forks in a labyrinth, there is simply one path.   You begin at the beginning, follow the path through its twists and turns, and eventually you reach the center.

Sort of like life, actually.

 

 

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Do you remember that we have a row of espaliered fruit trees?  There’s a pretty good picture of the row in this post taken in spring three years ago while the apples were in full bloom.

We started out with two pears and six varieties of apples.   Very shortly after we planted them, one of the pears succumbed to fire blight.   Unfortunately, I did not know what was wrong with it before the fungus had been transferred to the apple just to its north on the row.   After several years of severe pruning and a lot of praying over that apple, it also died.

Last year, the apple I planted because it was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite, the Spitzbergen, also died.  Frankly, I didn’t mourn its passing much because for the life of me I could not figure out what was so great about that apple.  It was mealy, and not very flavorful.   However, perhaps it made wonderful applejack, as that appears to be the reason most of the Colonials were growing apples in the first place.

Last year was also the year I discovered that the rubber tree rings we had placed around the young apples in hopes that they would keep the weed eating job around the trunks to a minimum had turned into tree girdling apparatus.   The lesson here is, those rings do not work.   They don’t slow the weeds down much, so you wind up doing the weed eating anyway.   Once the weeds have gotten thick it is very easy to forget that those mats are there, and as the years pass the trees grow larger and larger.   Eventually they run into the mats and begin to girdle themselves.

Last year, all my apples were looking SO unhappy, and I attributed it to the drought and heat until one day I happened to be clipping the weeds around the trunks while I was watering them deeply and realized what was really going on.   I spent a couple of hours creatively and productively releasing negative emotions as I ripped the mats away from around the trees.   Fortunately, I noticed this problem before the girdling was complete, and once the restriction was removed the little trees recovered well.

I am so grateful, because this year they bloomed beautifully in spite of the cool spring, and were pollinated well despite the rain that fell on the blossoms.   I managed to get the fruit thinned in a timely fashion in between my peripatetic spring wanderings.    Then we installed a squirrel/bird barrier when the fruit started looking really good.

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This is one of the children of Jim’s fertile brain and is designed to be easily moved and installed.   Each panel has chicken wire as the fence, and they are independent of each other.   The whole thing can be connected panel to panel using wire ties.   Over the top we put a flexible black plastic bird net and clip it to the chicken wire with clothespins.   Apparently it is far enough off the ground that the squirrels have not discovered they can chew through it.   I think they get stymied by the chicken wire at ground level and don’t even bother to climb up to the top.

Whatever the reasons, the barrier serves its function well and keeps the squirrels and the birds out quite nicely.   If only it would do the same for bugs and fungus.   Despite that, I picked the crop this morning.    The results were I got 46.8 lbs. of apples that are essentially perfect:  no fungus, rot, or insect damage.  Some of them I will put in the refrigerator for future reference to eat out of hand.   The rest of them will be peeled, treated with citrus acid, and frozen for pies and crisps.

There are also 38.4 pounds of apples that have active rot going on.   Those I will cut up and start cooking for apple sauce as soon as I am done with this post and the client who is due to arrive within moments.

At the prices we have to pay for organic apples, this amounts to about $150 worth of apples.   The squirrel barrier cost us the same amount, so we break even this year.   The barrier is re-usable, a one time cost that as far as I am concerned, more than paid for itself considering that a couple of years ago I had a nice apple crop and the squirrels got ALL of it.

For the record, the Moonglow pear tree, which is supposed to need another pear tree to cross pollinate itself, produced two dozen beautiful and tasty pears despite the fact that the Bartlett pear that was designated as its pollination partner is long dead.   I think the ornamental Bradford pears planted in the savanna may be standing in for the Bartlett.

The apple crop consists of Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala and Golden Delicious:

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I sat down and ate one of the apples as I was picking this morning.  It was wonderful.

I took a little time to express my gratitude to the trees, the weather, my husband for the ideal squirrel barrier, and to the Universal Deity for the conditions which provided us with this very nice crop of apples.   Next year there will be more!

And this, dear readers, is why we go to all the trouble to grow our own food.

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“So, how much do organic potatoes cost, anyway?”   I asked my darling husband last night.

“Oh, about $4 for a five pound bag,” he replied.

“Well, I think that maybe growing potatoes is just a waste of my time and effort.”

Dear reader, you might ask what prompted this exchange.

When I was a youngun we used to sing a song very similar to the “99 Bottles of Beer” song that had words that said “The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah…”  It was a rousing tune, and a lot of fun for a six year old to sing in the back of the car when you are traveling across country.  Not so much fun for the parents to listen to, but fun to sing.

I submit that the words should be amended to say “The ants go marching one by one, oh no! oh no!”   Because if your ants are marching one by one, they will soon be marching in their millions, especially if they find something good to eat.

A few short weeks ago, my potato patch looked like this.

Granted, that picture is of the potato patch from last year, but this year’s patch looked just has happy and healthy.    Shortly after they blossomed, the potato plants swooned, for no particular reason that I could see.   They were not blighted, there were no potato beetles.   They just didn’t look very happy.

Soon, they looked very unhappy indeed

Having decided that we probably should cut our losses and dig what potatoes there were, last night, having been stood up by my massage client of the evening, I went out and addressed the situation.

This what I discovered.

Lets just see a close up of that, shall we?

No wonder that the poor plants were swooning.   Something had systematically eaten all the phloem and xylem of the plants, girdling them.   And someone was obviously enjoying the potatoes that the plants had been making, too.   Look at all the holes in that spud.

Who, one might ask, would be doing all that damage?   Well (if the title of the post has not already given it away), take a look at what I discovered when I broke the perforated potato open.

Yep, those are ants, marching one by one by one by thousands.   I mean, how many ants does it take to do that sort of damage?   Let me tell you, there was not a single potato in that patch that had not been attacked by ants.   Some of them had been harmed more than others, but ALL of them had damage.

I contemplated the storage problem this had produced, as all the harvest now had to be washed and cooked and frozen.   Potatoes full of holes don’t keep worth a damn, I can tell you.

Well, as luck would have it, after I had mourned my potato harvest, I attacked the crab grass that was attacking the edge of the raised bed.    We have put carpet remnants around the edge in a vain attempt to control the weeds near the raised beds.    So, as I was pulling at the grass,which had put its roots through the carpet, and was crawling along the edges of it seeking the water it knew was in the garden, I happened to flip back the carpet scrap.

It was the New Orleans of ant cities, a Tokyo perhaps,  inhabited in its millions.   Life was good in the ant universe; with all those potatoes to eat, reproduction was underway on an industrial scale.

I decided that a tsunami, or perhaps a storm surge was in order.    Watch out!  The levees have broken….

Okay, I’m not a very good Buddhist.   I systematically flooded the entire municipality of Ant, several times.   Gleefully I watched the inhabitants scrambling to safety on the escarpments above the town, and cruelly I sprayed them down into the flood.

I admit to a certain joy in the destruction.    As I was casually using my trowel to rearrange the dirt, the ants sent out their minions to stop me.

Pathetic things.  They are not fire ants, their jaws are so tiny that they can’t find a place to pinch me.   Well, except on the soft skin around my knees, where I have lots of tiny wrinkles left over from my weight loss.

I brushed them away casually.   Then I started thinking about what the ants might be thinking.   Was I some sort of Goliath, destroying their Lilliput?   Images of the Godzilla movies ran through my mind.   Were the ant generals down in their bunkers making plans on how to stop my ravages?

A mosquito whined near my ear.   I checked.   It was not being piloted by an ant, nor was it armed with tiny heat seeking ant missiles.   There were no bombs slung beneath it.

Whew.

I decided perhaps the heat had gotten to me, and I should go in and see about the beer situation.

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An exhaustive search of my organic gardening books and the interwebs has taught me that I need to make a tea from Jim’s cigar stubs to spray on the plants, or possibly I should be spreading diatomaceous earth about liberally, or on the other hand I should be using coffee grounds to discourage the hymenoptera.   Then there is the boric acid/sugar or borax/sugar organic poison route.

I believe I shall be doing all of the above.  Beginning today.

And perhaps I shall create a judicious flood now and again too.

Too bad, ants.   You should have stuck to eating the grass seeds and storing up the tiny seeds produced by the spurge, so that I could have more spurge sprouting in the pathways to weed out.

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