Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘garden’

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.

DSCF5647

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’.”

DSCF5607

Read Full Post »

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!

dscf5072

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!

Read Full Post »

It is no secret that if you have a plot of land there is generally four sides to it.  Given the predilection surveyors have to orient things on a logical grid, those sides usually conform to ordinal directions.

This is the case at The Havens.   There are numerous posts that feature our West line, which is where the stroll garden is, and the little pond.   On the North line is the barn and a very wild line of trees and shrubbery that shields us from the “view” in that direction.  Our South line is the street we live on.  Many pictures of the house, vineyard, and front gardens have been taken from that line.

Our East line parallels the main drag towards I-44.   When we moved here, it featured a broken down stockwire/barbed wire fence and a wild tangle of volunteer elms, cherries, mulberries, orange trumpet creeper vine, poison ivy, virginia creeper and God knows what else.

DSCF9390.JPG

It was a heaven for the local birds, and served to shield us from the wonderful view of the neighboring business, which sold mobile and manufactured homes.   Most of the mobile homes were repossessions.   It was pretty much an eyesore.

So much was it an eyesore, that I almost NEVER took any pictures specifically of it.   The East line only shows up as a back drop for other parts of the place I was trying to show, sort of like this one of the sauna.

DSCF3644.JPG

Despite that fact, I really sort of liked it, because there was always something going on back there.   On the north end of that line is a thicket of plums with a big currant bush.  The brown thrasher used that spot to raise her family.  There were usually cat birds living there, as well as cardinals using the vines for nesting areas.   The finches hung out there, along with robins, blue jays, the occasional hawk or owl.   The hummingbirds used the orange trumpet creeper vine.

I won’t discuss the owner of the trailer sales place except to say that he was the reason that we found ourselves in need of a lawyer.   Harassment is a gentle word for what he did. But as things turned out, he wound up selling his property to the Dollar General corporation.   During the course of the hearings at the City Council, we discovered that they intended to build a privacy fence between our place and their lot.

We decided to have the tangled mess cleared up to facilitate that event.  Our plan is to establish a garden over there that consists of prairie plants:  tall grasses like big bluestem and panicum; medium grasses like little bluestem, prairie dropseed, and sorgastrums; and a bunch of prairie flowers.   I also intended to plant shrubs as well, to re-establish the flyway for the small birds.

So we spent a big wad of money and had professionals come in and clear the line.  We had them preserve the line of forsythias at the back, as well as one oak, one large mulberry, and one black walnut

DSCF0836

Eventually we had all that chipped up tree and shrubbery spread out along the line to make a mulch layer.  I spent the fall and spring planting shrubs next to the very beautiful fence Dollar General built.

Last fall I planted seeds for the flowers and grasses.  They are young, but they are coming along.   I also have assiduously transplanted starts from my Petite Prairie, and those are the plants you can actually see in the above shots.

Above is the north end of the East line, where I planted forsythia about ten years ago or so.  You are seeing the west and east sides of that thicket.   Needless to say, during the interim the birds have provided me with lots of extraneous things in that patch of shrubs, not the least of which is a very healthy stand of poison ivy.   When the clearing was done, we had the stumps of the trees ground out, but we could not do that at this end of the line and also save the bushes.

I really wanted to save those bushes because I knew that that birds were using the line of trees for shelter and habitat, and I wasn’t willing to completely evict them all.   Anyway, we now have about 10 elm trees, two or three locusts, a maple and a couple of mulberries that are trying to assert themselves.   Since I am averse to using glyphosphate or other herbicides, the method needed to convince these trees that they are actually dead is to go out there and clip off the dozens of sprouts they are sending up around their trunks.  This is a job you have to do every couple of months or so during the summer for two or three years.

A few days ago I went back there to beat back the poison ivy, so that the sprout removal would be less fraught with danger from it.  I filled up a 33 gallon garbage bag with poison ivy.   I thought I had avoided getting it, but no such luck.   Both my wrists have outbreaks and I got exposed to enough of it that my eyes are all swollen up.  Oh well.   Sacrifices must be made, I guess.

Anyway, while I have been removing elm sprouts I found two old cardinal nests from last year.   And I also found the nest the brown thrasher built this year.

DSCF2961

I also saw the cat birds and a pair of hairy woodpeckers.  The other day I saw a whole family of indigo buntings as well.   So I guess our transition has not made my birds feel unwelcome.

Next year the flowers and prairie grasses ought to look quite special.   In the mean time, I will have to introduce myself to the City’s Compliance Officer and explain what the plan is so that I won’t get citations from the local authorities enjoining me to mow down the “tall weeds.”

I think I’ll begin by inviting him to visit the Petite Prairie.  Stay tuned for future developments.

 

 

Read Full Post »

I have never made any pretence of particularly loving rabbits.   They can be a nuisance, one which we went to quite a bit of trouble to fence out of the vegetable garden.  They serve their place in the world, though.   The fact that we have a healthy population of them at The Havens accounts for the presence of Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls.   I’m sure the black snakes are happy to find a tiny tender tidbit upon occasion.

I was out watering my potted plants this morning during the break I had between a couple of clients.   As is my custom, I was gazing about the place, admiring the view while I was waiting for the right amount of water to flow into the whiskey barrels full of beans and morning glories.  I am very pleased with them.

DSCF0076

The Petite Prairie is looking pretty good right now, despite the dry weather we have been having.

DSCF9807

The silky dogwood was looking a little peaked, so when I was done with the pots I made my way over there to give it a drink.    Of course, the hose had to kink during the trip across the lawn, so when I turned the spray nozzle on, nothing happened.   I laid it down and attended to the kink.    The water began to gush out of the nozzle, and very soon afterwards I heard a vociferous complaint from the bed just below the dogwood.    It was a very loud complaint indeed, and obviously was coming from an infant.

I investigated, and this is what I found to be the source of the racket.

DSCF0409

Honestly, this little baby bunny seems way too small to be able to make such a very loud noise.

After I photographed the Small One, I placed him carefully back in the nest with his siblings.    Of course, I had to document it all.

DSCF0408

My client had arrived, so I carefully put the grassy cover back over the babies, and went in to do her massage.    She admired the baby pictures.   Although we both  agreed about rabbits in general, we also both agreed that when they are so very small they are very cute.  No way could I exterminate them, even if they will probably be chewing through my iris stems when they get older.   I just found a Naked Lady stem that was full of buds that some rabbit decided looked edible.    I guess it wasn’t that edible, because it only chewed through the stem, it didn’t bother to actually eat the buds.   I have to admit I was perturbed.

So anyway, a little while ago, having finished the massage and my lunch, I thought I’d go back out there and see if I couldn’t get a better shot of them in their nest.

I was interested to discover that in the intervening three hours, Mama Rabbit had been around to tend to her youngsters.   The grass and twig cap on the nest had been seriously beefed up.   And if you take a close look at this next picture you will notice that there has been a further change.

DSCF0410

 

Apparently she had not quite finished furnishing the nest when I took the first picture.   Now there is a beautiful soft layer of rabbit fur encasing the babies.

I covered them up again.

They really are very cute.

Read Full Post »

Just this morning I posted this:

Out there is where the pipe vine grows. I planted it as a food supply for the pipevine swallowtail, in the fond hope that one would happen upon it and start a colony, but so far they have not shown up. I may be located too far from their usual habitat. But I love the vine anyway. Right now it is covered with little “dutchmen’s pipes”.

DSCF9755

Well, I am happy to be proved wrong.

I was just out on the other side of the fence transplanting a spiderwort that had volunteered in the Stroll Garden.   While I was out there I took it upon myself to remove an oak tree that was volunteering as well as the ten thousandth mulberry, also volunteering.

I was making my way through the jungle toward the burn pile with my trophies when I noticed a caterpillar dining on the pipevine.    Of course, I had to take a picture so I could identify it.

DSCF9767

Yes children!   That is the larva of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly.   There are other places on the vine showing evidence of happy diners.   I could not be more excited.

It just proves my point once again:   IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME.

HUZZAH!

 

Read Full Post »

For as far back as I can remember, and by some reports farther back than that, I have been a sucker for growing things.

gardener Ellie

That picture was taken when I was three.   We were planting peas and what I was doing was pulling the soil into the furrow.

The story goes that one fine day when I was closing in on my third birthday, it came nigh on to meal time and my mother put out the dinner call.   Needless to say, my one year old brother was johnny on the spot, having been put into his high chair willy nilly.   My older sister showed up fairly promptly, as did my father.   But there was an unoccupied chair at the table, and the question arose:   “Where is Ellie?”

Another call made from the back porch, and again, no response.   A posse was formed and the search for the miscreant began.   It wasn’t long before the forces of the law discovered the fugitive’s whereabouts.   I was crouched at the edge of the bean patch, delightedly engrossed in the show that was going on there.   Urged by the warm Southern California sun, the bean seeds were emerging from the soil, literally popping from the u-shaped form to erect with their little dicotyledons deployed to catch the rays and begin their job of growing.

My mother reports that I was laughing and cheering each victorious seedling, heedless of hunger or parental calls.  After a suitable celebration, we all went inside to eat.

My fascination has not abated.   I still like to watch the beans unfold.   I like to see the plants in my garden thrive.   Today I went out on a safari through my urban jungle to see what was going on.

The poppies are blooming in the stroll garden.

DSCF9751

Personally, I think they bear a closer look.

DSCF9758

I proceeded out to the pond to see if I could spy a dragon fly.   They were still asleep, it being quite early in cloudy and cool morning.   The water lilies were not open yet either, but there was a pond denizen in evidence.

DSCF9764

 

Out there is where the pipe vine grows.   I planted it as a food supply for  the pipevine swallowtail, in the fond hope that one would happen upon it and start a colony, but so far they have not shown up.  I may be located too far from their usual habitat.   But I love the vine anyway.   Right now it is covered with little “dutchmen’s pipes”.

DSCF9755

You might wonder why I entitled this post “Hosta love” since I haven’t mentioned them yet.   Well, I’m getting there.   Just be patient.

I have quite the collection of hostas.   They are actually fairly trouble free plants, and the huge variety of color and form make them a wonderful thing to fill dark corners.  I started out with just a few varieties in a garden on the north side of the house.  In addition to hostas, this garden contains hellebores, a couple of bleeding hearts and sundry filler plants.

This beauty is located there, and she is the perfect exemplar of what I love about the genus.

DSCF9762

Here is a broad shot of the area I call the Hosta Dell, that gives you an idea of what a beautiful garden you can create using hostas as the main focus.

DSCF9720

That is where you can find this variety.

DSCF9761

 

And this one too.   It may be the star of the show, but the two Heucheras behind it make a pretty fine back up section.

DSCF9763

 

I am very sorry to report that I have neglected to mark and remember all the varietal names of the hostas I own.   I started out with good intentions, but I was derailed by certain events that I had no control over, namely the blue jays’ penchant for stealing plant tags for nest material.  I always have good intentions of making maps with labeled plant locations, but then I move a plant or one dies and gets replaced (or not), and the mapping falls by the wayside, so to speak.  So I really couldn’t tell you these particular lovlies actual names.   Sorry.

Of course, all is not perfection in the gardens of The Havens.   I have a rose I need to move off the root cellar so that we can cover the area with more dirt in preparation for the solar panel installation.   The garden I wish to transplant the rose into was choked with weeds yesterday.   I have it 80% cleaned out, but the north end of the Hosta Dell is sadly in need of attention too.

DSCF9760

 

I guess I’d better stop procrastinating and get out there and get to work!

Read Full Post »

In the past I have mentioned that The Havens is a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat.  If you search the blog for “Habitat” you will find several posts on the subject.

I made a pretty comprehensive post about the vegetable garden a while back. Things have not changed a lot back there since that post, although we are in the process of removing the perimeter of grass that surrounds the beds. Right now this involves covering the area with carpet in an attempt to smother the grass. This is varyingly successful depending on the quality of the carpet used. But at least it is being discouraged. Eventually we will remove some dirt and put in weed barrier and something to walk on. Bark seems to work pretty well, as does pea gravel.  This is still to be decided.

I am excited to report that we have a screech owl hunting here. I have not figured out where it sleeps yet, but there are lots of trees with holes on the place so I’m sure it has a nice bedroom. However, it likes to sit on top of the frame that holds the swing out by the pond. I found one of its pellets the other day, all full of mouse fur and beautiful green beetle wing covers. The latter surprised me a bit, as I was not aware the screech owls eat beetles. But I did a little research and found out that not only do they eat baby rabbits (Yay!), they also eat other mammals, crayfish, insects, earth worms, small birds, and a whole lot of other stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily think that an owl eats.

In other news, we have been blessed (and I use that term advisedly) with another new addition to the habitat.   Apparently The Havens has been certified habitable by the local groundhogs (Marmota monax).  This species has  colonized the yard more than once.   The last time there was a ground hog living here the garden fence got another layer of security added, so I’m not too upset that we have a new colonist in residence.   So far she has stayed out of the vegetable garden.   Honestly, there is PLENTY for her and her family to eat around here without decimating the garden.  I noticed that she seems to like sweet cicely pretty well.

Anyway, I mentioned the extra level of security for the vegetable garden fence.  The previous ground hog had discovered that it could tunnel under the fence and access all that succulent produce within.   We acquired a live trap, and placed it strategically in front of the hole.

“Fools!” the groundhog muttered, as it dug a new hole a few feet down the fence.

We got another live trap and stationed it by the second hole.    It was just as easy to dig a third access hole…

We cogitated about the situation for a while, did a little on-line research, and then Jim went off to the farm supply emporium and acquired some chicken wire.  Attaching it securely to the outside of the fence about 18 inches up, at ground level he bent it outward and allowed it to extend out along the ground so that there was a strip of chicken wire about 18″ out onto the grass.   He got some landscape “staples” and secured the wire to the ground.

The groundhog thought about the situation for about 30 seconds and found a spot where the wire wasn’t really tight to the ground and wiggled its way under the chicken wire to its favorite hole under the fence.   This is where it made its strategic error.

Apparently beguiled and distracted by the crunching of  my fine lettuce, it did not notice us approaching the garden until the gate opened.

“Yaaaaaah!” is a pretty good approximation of its reaction to our sudden advent, especially since we happened to have Ruby with us.   Ruby chased the groundhog to its hole and then sped around through the gate to behind the fence to continue the pursuit.   The panicked rodent did not leave the same way it entered and found that the chicken wire was a lot more secure than it had seemed at first blush.  Tangled up in the chicken wire, it was having a huge groundhog heart attack since Ruby was bouncing around as it flailed its way out from under the wire.    Off it went to its tunnel, with Ruby in hot pursuit.

Jim addressed the loose wire situation, tightening it up and adding several more anchors.   The groundhog crouched in its burrow, apparently a victim of PTSD.  During the night, it moved away, never to return.  I guess the neighborhood was just too stressful for it.

Anyway, the new groundhog doesn’t care about the garden (so far).   It has lovely accommodations on the root cellar mound, and one of its progeny or its mate is busy digging an extensive burrow inside the barn.   We are not really too happy about the barn situation, as it is tunneling under the slab of concrete that makes Jim’s shop floor, and making a hell of a mess inside the rest of the barn with its dirt pile.   I have visions of the barn falling into the hole it is digging down there.

Anyway, neither of our tenants is going to be all that happy about their living situations, because we have plans for both areas.  We are planning to improve the barn substantially.   When that happens I sincerely hope that no groundhogs get entombed beneath the new concrete slab floor that is going to be poured.   But if they are, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Also, we have acquired solar panels, and we are going to install them this summer.   This is a long involved project that begins with the moving of the dirt pile that we have established back near the root cellar.   That root cellar never had enough dirt on it, and because of that it has never been stable in temperature, being too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer.   So we intend to have a dirt worker come along with equipment and move our dirt pile onto the root cellar.   Unfortunately, this is going to seriously discommode the groundhogs living there but they are not an endangered species and I can live with that.

Pretty enterprising mammal, though.   I was investigating the burrow the other day, and I discovered that the ground had found a piece of reflectix insulation that was in the barn and had hauled it all the way out to the root cellar and was attempting to drag the whole sheet down into its burrow.   I guess even groundhogs know the value of insulating their home!

So, there you are.   The Havens wildlife habitat is still a destination.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »