Posts Tagged ‘snakes’

Hard to believe that it will be the equinox and Jim’s birthday in just a few hours.   We have a pile of stuff to burn, so I suppose we’ll have a bonfire tonight. I had one last week because the pile had gotten unmanageable.   I had pulled out the black bean vines and harvested the pods.   So the vines needed to be burned, as there were plenty of sundry insect eggs deposited on the leaves.  The patch did REALLY well this year.   Bear in mind that it occupied the part of the bean bed not being used by the pole beans.   In an area that was 4’x16′ I harvested almost ten pounds of black beans, once I had them shelled and dried.   I think that is outstanding production. The cats thought the black beans in the shell were fascinating.   Miss Mallory, being blind, checks everything out by sound and smell.  The crate of bean pods sounded very very interesting, as I had to shove them down in it to get all the pods in there.   As it rested in the kitchen, it made intriguing crackling and rustling noises. DSCF0526 After I finished shelling the beans, I went out and dug the sweet potatoes.   Those vines had gotten delusions of grandeur, were determined to take over the whole northwest section of the garden.   They were well on their way to doing just that. DSCF0528 They did not seem to mind me walking on them when I was headed out to pick the tomatoes, which are at the back of the picture.   What you do not see in this shot is the fact that some of the vines had found their way under the fence and were on their way towards the neighbor’s yard.   Thank goodness this is a non-hardy tropical plant, or we could be in danger of being covered with sweet potato vines the way Alabama is covered with kudzu. They look so pretty on the garden cart. DSCF0532 That is 48.2 pounds of sweet potatoes.   I have a similar quantity of butternut squash curing in the back bedroom.  The freezers are packed with vegetables and fruit.   I just made a liter of herb vinegar for salad dressing.  I put up the last batch of sweet gherkins the other day. Anyway, the bonfire took care of the old cucumber and squash vines as well as the bean vines. While my back was turned, my dill self seeded. DSCF0516 DSCF0517 There is cilantro in this bed too, and the parsley plant just to the east of the dill has seeded the path next to it.   I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to plant parsley and have it not take.   Then you have a plant to go seed and throw seeds into a bark mulch and not get watered all summer, and voila!   Happy little parsley plants.  Go figure. Jim has been gone for a couple of weeks, off to visit people on the East Coast and to attend a class in making Windsor chairs for little people.   He got home yesterday, and it is REALLY great to have him back.   He isn’t a very noisy guy, but the place is preternaturally quiet when he is gone. While he was gone I spent some quality time with the slide collection from my father’s house.   Found some real gems that I will be sharing soon.   These two shots are from around the same era in my life.   The first is of me in my high school graduation gown and cap, sharing my diploma with Horace, my boa constrictor.   The second one was taken in the Sierra foothills as we released Herman, the bull snake, into the wild. PICT0167 img614 Yes, I kept snakes when I was a teenager.   I guess that is what happens when you are born in the Year of the Serpent, as I was. The chairs Jim made arrived here just a couple of hours after he did.   Here is a shot of the new little chair next to the Papa chair.  The little chair still needs to be sanded and painted, but I think it looks beautiful. DSCF0537 This is a chair that will be suitable for a child that is three or so, and will be useful to the young person until they start to shoot up around ten or eleven.   After that, it can be used for seating for a teddy bear, and then a place to stash your coat and purse when you reach working age. I convinced him to invest in the bending form for this chair, because I would like to see a small cottage industry happen.  When I suggested this to him over the phone, he pointed out that he had only been retired for two months, and I was already thinking of a job for him.  Well, if one can make a little money doing something one loves, why not?  This would be a great thing for a proud grand parent to give to a beloved little one.  At $450, it is not inexpensive but destined to last for centuries. Fall is definitely here.   The sumac is turning, as is the poison ivy.   The Petite Prairie is looking fantastic in the evening light right now, as the tall grasses are making their seed heads. DSCF0533 Stay warm.   Hug someone you love, you never know how long you have with them.

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In spite of the fact that February is just barely over, all the early daffodils at The Havens are convinced that spring has arrived.   So far the apple trees are on the fence and haven’t blossomed yet, but if things remain as warm as they have been, it won’t be long before the join the “Aye” vote.

This is one of the early varieties in my herb garden.

Just over a little ways from that is “Ice Follies,’ planted by the gate to the back yard.

Out in the front yard, we have “Jack Snipe” popping up.   This is such a cute one, the flower’s trumpet is less than an inch long.

Right across the walk, tempting Jack, is “Salome”.   She is only beginning her show, after the trumpet opens over about three days it develops into a beautiful apricot.  You can just see the beginnings of the peach color.

This one is also one of Jack’s neighbors.  I have no idea what the name of this variety is.   It  came in a naturalizing mix from McClure and Zimmerman.

Out by the pond, the forsythia has decided to cast its vote in favor of spring.


Lest you think yellow is the only color showing in the signs of spring, I have to throw a little pink in to the show.   This is pulmonaria, growing along the back of the house right next to the hellebore.

Another kindgom heard from on the “spring referendum” showed up yesterday.   Jim called me from my sewing project to look at who was sunning  herself on the Stroll Garden path.

It wasn’t that warm, so the garter snake was sluggish enough to sit and pose for a proper portrait.   Someday I will be lucky and catch the tongue flick.   Her tongue  is a lovely red.

I was talking to one of my clients the other day about how bored bored bored Mallory has been.   She told me that her cat just loves a small ball of yarn to play with.   Well “Duh!”   Of course that was a great idea.  Not only is it grand fun to unroll the ball and play with it, when your enteretainment team starts to wind the ball back up that is ALSO a grand idea.  The roller has to be careful about where the end of the string is towards the end or one can find the cat climbing your pant legs as she follows the end into the ball.

Now.   About that mop.

I have always used a mop made of cotton strings that clamps onto the mop handle.   Yes, I have to wring it out by hand since I don’t have one of those giant industrial mop buckets with the mop squeezer attached to the side.   And yes, it is a little heavy.   But I see that as a great source of weight bearing exercise that helps me keep osteoporosis at bay.   (I also view my cast iron pans in a similar light.)

A few years ago, some marketing genius came up with the “Swiffer” disposable mop.   You spray some sort of chemical concoction on your floor, mop with this product and “viola!”, when you are done you throw it away.

This accomplishes a few things.   First of all, your floor does not get clean.   The little mop you are using simply distributes the dirt evenly over your floor and the chemical you are using glues it down and puts a shine on it.   So you have a dirty shiny floor.

Then you throw the mop head away.   This helps fill up the landfills around the countryside that don’t really need more stuff filling them.   Then you can go out and buy a new one.    This extracts money from you a few dollars at a time and puts it into the coffers of a giant corporation which doesn’t really need more money except for the fact that they like to channel that money into the pockets of politicians who will approve legislation that allows them to move jobs off shore and reap lots of tax advantages ….

Wait.  I’m getting distracted from mops.

My cotton mop lasts for years, but when it finally wears out I can put it in my compost pile to rot and therefore help nourish my gardens.  Of course, sometimes it wears out faster than others.

Out on the wood shed frame, there are a couple of nails conveniently placed so that when I am finished mopping my floors I can hang my mop out there to dry.  That way it doesn’t stay damp and mildew in the storage closet.   The theory is that once it is dry, I will bring it in the house and stow it in the broom closet where it belongs.   The reality is that more often than not, I forget about the mop for weeks.

The squirrels, on the other hand, have spotters that watch the nails.   “Quick, come!”  they will cry when the mop is dry and forgotten.   “The magical source of bedding and home decor has appeared!”   Busily, they go to the hanging mop and cut off the cotton strings with their sharp teeth.  Then they run off to their respective houses and line their nests with it.

My mop is big, and it can sustain quite a long harvest of this sort, but it became evident the other day when Jim wanted to mop the floor that perhaps the harvest had taken the tool past the point of useful mopness.   Fortunately, we had a replacement mop head in the closet, and so after the bedraggled remains of the old mop were removed, he was able to do a great mopping job.  (Too bad floors don’t stay mopped.)

We decided to donate the old mop to the squirrel decor cause, and so it was slung over a nail out in the woodshed.   As the days went by, the mop migrated.   First it was discovered splayed on the lawn.  Then one day as we were breakfasting I brought the new location of the mop to Jim’s attention.   It was halfway up the elm tree where the squirrels have their biggest colony, entangled in some of the lower branches.  We were amused, bemused.

During the course of the day, I watched the squirrels busily work that mop.   First they disentangled the mop from the twigs it was snarled on.   Laboriously, they dragged it up higher into the tree.   There as it was draped over the fork, they worked on it for a while, divvying up their booty. Some of it was dragged into the hole in the tree.   The remainder of the mop wound up in the nest in a high fork in the tree.

This is a shot of the whole tree so you can get an idea of how much work those little rodents went through.   The squirrel nest is the blob in the high fork on the left.

This is a close-up of the nest, complete with mop.

Eventually the mop will disintegrate.   If it falls out of the tree, the cotton strands are biodegradable.   Some of them are already scattered around the lawn and the robins are already snatching them up for nest material.

I ask you.   Could a Swiffer do all that?

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