Sunday, January 24, 2021

Old dog, new tricks

My attempts at starting some seedlings inside has been a total FAIL. Neglect is the issue. BUT thanks to Erin's comment, I am learning a new way to achieve my goal of an indoor herb garden. I'd never heard of a Kratky bottle, but found some info here. This sounds more doable for me, once I get it together. My biggest problem will be keeping Beau the Feline Destroyer of All Things Nice from messing with this set up.

I continue to be shocked by the flocks of robins and starlings I have seen this winter. Regarding the latter, the woman who helped me at Wild Birds Unlimited said she deters starlings from the meal worm feeder by scaring them off; the starlings fly away while the bluebirds hang around nearby. I tried this and it does work, for a while, long enough for the bluebirds to get their fill. Of course, I have better things to do than monitor the starlings, but it's an amusing after-lunch activity. I'm also going to try offering millet, to see if that helps.

A week or so ago, I received cortisone shots in both shoulders. It took a while, but they actually have helped. Indiana is now "orange" regarding Covid; I'm too young (thought I would never say that!) to receive the vaccine yet, but hopefully soon. And we have a new president (!) whose appointees reflect America in all its diversity. I tend to be a cynic but right now I am cautiously optimistic that things may improve bit by bit.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Feed the birds you have

I was reading a short profile of an actor who owns a horse that she plans to show. Her trainer told her to "ride the horse you have," meaning that some days the horse will perform magnificently and sometimes not. I decided to apply that philosophy to my bird feeders. Instead of fretting about the sparrows and starlings, I will just feed them all. That doesn't mean I won't try to lure the sparrows away from the peanut splits or buy corn-free suet blocks so they don't peck at those; I also ration the meal worms because they are expensive. I spent enough at a recent trip to Wild Birds Unlimited that they gave me a free bucket of Bark Butter, something new to try, to see if I can feed even more birds.

Last night, a little hail fell, followed by snow that melted, then froze into bumpy ice, followed by fluffy snow. I've been watching "Bordertown" and the winter scenes with white xmas lights reflected in the snow are quite lovely. Besides our own lovliness here, this morning's dog walks were delightful, as there was no wind. After breakfast, I puttered in the yard, just to enjoy the winter weather.

I've started "fall cleanup" by cutting down the clematis. Even though the 'Betty Corning' is not supposed to be cut down, it looks so raggedy that I can't help myself. I'm wondering if I paid more attention to shaping and training it in the summer, I could prune it properly and not have it trying to take over everything in its vacinity.

Regarding indoor gardening, I have not been having much luck. I wanted to transplant the dracaena that I have been rooting in vermiculite, but, huh, no roots. It looks fine but nary a root has appeared. Maybe I'm overwatering it? I also tried starting some herbs, but so far I have only a couple of basil seedlings, no dill or thyme.

There is shoulder surgery in my future, once I get both doses of the Covid vaccine. I can't help to want to schedule it so that it does not interfere with gardening. Yes, I can hire someone to mow, etc., but my yard is my therapy - physical, mental, spiritual. Even if the pandemic continues, even if the country remains divided, even if domestic terrorism is on the rise, I can look forward to disappearing into the garden for some respite. Stay safe!

Friday, January 01, 2021

Frightful weather for the new year

Time is an artificial construct, so it kinda bugs me when people make it sound like crossing from one artificial year to the next, on a particular artificial day at an artificial time is going to make a difference. And yet, a new year does feel newish, doesn't it? I'm just hoping today's weather is not a harbinger of things to come in 2021.

Flocks of robins have stripped the neighbor's ornamental pear tree of its fruit. Did you know that the fruit on hawthorn trees is called a haw and structurally is a pome, not a berry? Usually, the robins save the hawthorn fruit on my tree until late winter, but I noticed that most of it is gone, too. What are they going to eat now? Dried up pokeweed berries?

The seeds I ordered from Pinetree Garden arrived. I haven't been able to find my seed starting heating pad, though, so haven't planted them yet. I've been feeling rather lazy the past couple of weeks or so.

It looks like Indiana has fallen off the top twelve list of states with the most new cases of Covid per capita. The county I live in has changed from red to orange and held orange for two weeks, so some restrictions are being lifted. Not masks or social distancing, but things like how late bars can stay open; Hoosiers have their priorities, ya know. We'll see if the past weeks of holiday shopping and family gatherings change that. HNY!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Wrong again

I've been referring to a certain bird at the feeders as a flicker, but my SO (who is generally not bird savvy) commented on a red-bellied woodpecker in his backyard and all of a sudden I realized that my identification was wrong. Or maybe I've seen both? I will have to pay more attention.

Last week, while walking the dog, I saw some bluebirds. I told them to come visit the mealworm feeder in my yard and apparently they listened. I see them once in a while, but unfortunately the stupid starlings chase them off. I keep telling the starlings to head south but they are less open to suggestion than the bluebirds.

I ordered seeds from Pinetree Garden: French thyme, flat leaf parsley, Compatto dill, Fernleaf dill, dwarf Greek basil, bush basil, and jet black hollyhock. Before ordering, I checked what seeds I already had, most of which had been entered into a spreadsheet. I did not need zinnia, sunflower, or Mexican sunflower. I also refrained from purchasing any vegetable seeds. Seriously, there is a weekly farmers market just down the road all summer long; I don't need to grow beans or zucchini.

After checking out a few how-to videos on YT, I pruned off one bit of my Dracena marginata and potted it in vermiculite. It will be several weeks before roots appear. I'll keep you posted on its progress.

My self-imposed quarantine ends Tuesday. It hasn't been too bad, other than not seeing my SO in person. Xmas will be a repeat of Thanksgiving, just the two of us, this time with a pot roast. Indiana has the second highest number of new cases of Covid per capita in the nation, so we continue to hunker down. Happy holidays to you and stay safe!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Bees count

I'm sure you have heard of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Audubon Society. Now there is a native bee count, as described in this NYTimes article. Over the past several years (ever since spraying backyards for mosquitos became a thing) I've noticed a general dearth of pollinators in my garden. The privet used to positively hum when in bloom, but now, nothing. It's very concerning.

A BIG THANK YOU to ErinFromIowa for her suggestion to search on "How to propagate" plant name! It turns out my dracaena marginata is very propagatable. Or I can just whack it down to size and it will recover (theoretically). My plan is to cut off some of the new growth at the top and propagate that first. While I am not the best houseplant caretaker, I do like having some greenery around the house. Now I may have even more.

Indiana is no longer the worst hot spot in the country for Covid (as of today), but it is still bad. My son-in-law dropped by my house last Tuesday for a few minutes, then started showing symptoms Thursday and tested positive Friday. So, per CDC recommendations, I am quarantining, just in case and to keep others safe. After 9/11, the country united against what was viewed as a common enemy. Regarding the number of deaths, Covid is like 9/11 everyday, and yet for some reason the nation cannot unite to fight this new common enemy. It's very disappointing.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Low means low

A while back, my ancient hand mixer started to go kaput. I bought a new one, and then another new one, neither of which were satisfactory. My complaint? Neither had any speed that could be considered "low", so no matter what one was mixing - mashed potatoes, cookie batter, etc. - the kitchen ended up a mess from flung food. I guess it was my own fault, for trying to save pennies. After consulting with a friend, I purchased a KitchenAid 9-speed hand mixer (directly from KitchenAid, to make sure I got the real thing). I *love* it! From what I read online, the dough hooks won't knead bread dough, though, so don't purchase one expecting to do that.

My house is very standard, with standard eight-foot ceilings. This is a problem for this houseplant, which I believe is a dracaena marginata. Both my SO and my daughter have houses with high ceilings, but I haven't been able to convince either of them to adopt this poor plant. I'm wondering if I can cut it back. Opinions?

There isn't much to do outside right now, besides pick up dog poop and fill the bird feeders and bird bath. Reaching for the peanut split feeder the other day, I almost grabbed a nuthatch. He didn't see me and I didn't see him until we came near to a close encounter of the third kind. My neighbor's ornamental pear tree is loaded with tiny orange fruit, which a flock of robins was enjoying a few days ago. Today a HUGE flock of starlings passed by overhead, heading... northwest? What's up with that?

The dogs aren't inclined to spend much time in the backyard these days, so we've been walking more. Without gardening, I need the exercise as much as they do. The trees and shrubs look naked without their foliage, giving me a good look at their "bones" so I can plan future pruning.

According to the NYTimes "hot spot" map, which shows the country's Covid hot spots, based on average number of new cases in the past week, per capita, Indiana is the hottest hot spot in the nation. It's crazy, almost as crazy as the people who keep flying their Trump flags. Beam me up, Scotty!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Late to the dance

Even though everybody else tried their hand at sourdough started months ago, I finally decided to give it a go. After running through a 5-pound bag of flour with no significant results, I abandoned the project. Feeding it twice a day was like having another pet. Also, I was a bit ambivalent about using it on a regular basis. I need another hobby like a hole in the head.

The grass is still green, but just about everything else has turned brown or brownish. The one exception in my yard is the coralberry bush. It is holding its yellow fall foliage for quite a while. The red fruit adds to its vibrance.

Something odd I have noticed lately around town is some ornamental grasses are sending up new growth. Even my pampas grass is doing this. I blame the weather - unusually warm, a few frosty days, more warmth, etc. I just hope the plants are not weakened by yo-yo temperatures.

I think the sparrows are showing a preference for cracked corn over peanuts and sunflower seeds. However, the feeder I bought for this purpose tends to get plugged up. It's not just the feeder design, but the clumping characteristic of the corn. I recall having this problem before, which is one reason I stopped feeding cracked corn. (From where I am sitting, I can see a junco under the arborvitae and a downy woodpecker on the suet. Yesterday a hawk landed in the redbud right outside the window, but flew off before I could grab a camera.)

I'm experimenting with wintering over hardy chrysanthemum in the garage. One source says that this is doable; also, mums planted in the spring have a better chance of surviving winter outside, as their root system gets more firmly established over the summer. However, I doubt they will live very long; in the past, I've had mums live for a few years, then one by one, peter out. I still like the idea of growing yellow strawflowers instead; an annual, they need to be planted each year and periodically deadheaded.

I hope you all had a safe Thanksgiving. It was just me and my SO here. My kids stayed home, by brothers stayed home, my neighbors went camping to avoid maskless relatives. Indiana is not faring well regarding number of new cases per capita, schools in this area have been going totally remote because there is not enough healthy staff, especially bus drivers, to keep going. We'll see what the rest of the holiday season brings. Stay safe!