Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fall cleanup

I'm not one to do a thorough fall cleanup, but this year I did less than usual while waiting for plants to go dormant. By the time they did, the holidays were upon us, so that job fell by the wayside. Today was not a particularly nice day to be outside, but I needed some fresh air. The 'Betty Corning' clematis is now cut back to about a foot off the ground.

My gardening ennui is lifting. Today I actually placed an order with Pinetree Garden Seeds for the vegetable garden. As for the rest of the yard, I am thinking and rethinking this idea and that. I expect to flipflop more than a politician by the time I finally make up my mind.

For example, last summer I was gung ho on moving the above mentioned clematis from the corners of the den to the base of two redbud trees. Now I'm thinking I'd rather leave them in situ and build a sturdy trellis for each. Then I can plant annual vining flowers like morning glories (or something) to climb the redbuds.

Another idea rolling around in my brain is to add a small, screened-in gazebo to the backyard, so I can sit outside in the evening without being eaten alive by mosquitoes. The exact location is in flux, but currently I favor tucking it into the orchard area.

A definite "must" is to get some help with designing all this. Another "must" is to hire out the heavy lifting. Despite the help my SO provides, to get things into shape in a relatively short amount of time will take more brawn than we two sixty-somethings can muster.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Not feeling it

Usually this time of year I am pawing through seed and plant catalogs, drooling over the saturated photographs of all things gardening. This year, my gardening mojo seems to be on hiatus. It feels very strange, and I'm not quite sure what to do about it.

During the summer, I feel this way about knitting, but once the weather turns cool and crisp, the needles start to fly. So maybe, once spring begins in earnest, the urge to get down and dirty will return. The only problem with patiently waiting for that to happen is I need to be at least thinking about ordering what needs to go into the ground NOW.

As I mentioned before, I have been contemplating reducing the vegetable garden. Maybe I should take the whole year off, grow nothing but green manure in my raised beds. There are farmers markets almost every day of the week around here, so I anticipate no shortage of fresh produce. AND I would not have to do battle with sparrows, rabbits, and woodchucks.

What has been brewing in the back of my mind is a total redesign of the backyard, to introduce that "charm" I have also mentioned recently. And I may even outsource the heavy lifting - I'm getting too old to dig holes in solid clay. This will require some thought.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A good day to stay inside

The weather has been just crazy lately. During a normal winter, the temperature in the garage stays just above freezing, good for storing potatoes, onions, and garlic, and keeping perennial herb plants like rosemary, oregano, and thyme. This winter is not normal. The garlic is showing signs of sprouting and the rosemary is blooming. It has been too warm.

On the nicer days, I have been wheeling the wagon full of herbs out to the driveway, where they can get some light. Today is not a nice day at all - freezing rain is pelting the windows, blown about by gusty winds. I am so happy there is nowhere I need to go. Hopefully, the power will not fail.

The seed catalogs have been trickling in, but I have not paid them much attention yet. Instead, I'm contemplating reducing the vegetable garden a bit. One crop that is on the chopping block is tomatoes, which sounds sacrilegious to this backyard gardener. But hear me out. Tomatoes usually produce more fruit than I or mine can consume. Since I have cut back on carbs (and consequently pasta), I rarely have reason to make marinara or tomato sauce. I'd like to sample more varieties, like heirlooms, which is easily done by visiting local farmers markets. So I think I can forego growing my own.

I have also been staring out at the backyard, wondering how I can make it more charming. I'm not very creative, nor am I artistic. I don't have an eye for design or for color. I know what I like when I see it - native plants, lots of color - but how to translate ideas into something that will work in my backyard is something that eludes me. Currently, my efforts look more experimental than I would like. Fortunately, I have tolerant neighbors.

Some days I have even contemplated giving up the yard and moving into an apartment, but I'm not quite ready for that.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Let it snow

Today we received the first snowfall of autumn 2015. Usually, some kind of snow falls by Halloween, but the weather is late this year. Climate change? El Nino? Who knows.

Yesterday I did manage to water the new prairie plants on the south side of the house and top dress them in straw. The strawberry bed is protected as well. Today I put away the hoses and cleared the front porch of soggy Jack O' Lantern and dead coleus.

The flamingos are garaged and the driveway markers are set, so bring it on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

End of the musts, more or less

Last week I replaced the DOA cherry tree with another (Grandpa's Orchard gives great customer service), then my SO and I hauled in three loads of horse manure, and last Monday I planted the garlic. That marks the end of the must-do items on the yardening list. Of course, there is always more that can be done, but nothing that can't wait.

Look what the manure brought

Oh. Except strawing the strawberries and the newbies on the south side of the house. It's really windy today, and wet, so maybe tomorrow.

Pinetree Garden Seeds again wins the award for earliest seed catalog of the season. I haven't looked at it yet - it's just too soon, still recovering from this past year, although I am making plans for next (always).

The birds finally showed an interest in the homemade birdfeed thingies. A squirrel stripped the toilet paper rolls - must have been the peanut butter.

Taken through a wet-with-rain window

Monday, November 09, 2015

You can give the birds some feed but...

The g'daughter and I gooped together some homemade bird feeding thingies, made with a seed mix that included all kinds of goodies one would think the birds would like. But no. Not even the sparrows have shown any interest in our creations.

One recipe we used was from Alpha Mom and included gelatin as a binder. Most of it went into cookie cutters, which didn't work as well as I had hoped - too crumbly. I put some of the leftovers into orange halves, some into muffin liners. I have yet to see any evidence that the birds find this mixture palatable.

I have higher hopes for the peanut-butter-on-toilet-paper-rolls-rolled-in-bird-feed objects, although there is the risk that squirrels may tear these to shreds. So far, no takers there, either.

My observation is birds favor different foods in different seasons, so hopefully they will become interested in our offerings someday, before they rot.

Sunday, November 08, 2015


If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would not have known that it is sparrows (or at least one sparrow) stripping bark from this branch on my tulip poplar tree. Has anyone else witnessed this kind of thing?