Friday, October 28, 2011

Cache and carry

In the spring, when the feeder population degenerates to starlings and grackles, I stop feeding the birds, usually until the snow flies in late fall or early winter. But this year in October I put out first some niger thistle seed, then some black oil sunflower seed, and was amazed at the ensuing activity. And now I know why: many birds cache food in the fall, to ensure a supply all winter long.

Chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and other birds will store nuts, seeds, and insects in knothole and bark crevices, under shingles and in the ground. That certainly explains the comings and goings in my backyard these days.

My current quandry is fall clean up. There is a lot of dead stuff in my garden. The dead vegetable plants will go into the compost pile, but what about the weeds? I can see birds feeding on the seed heads as I type.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Last mow of the season?

I've noticed that, while I think taking a walk around the neighborhood is boring, walking back and forth across the lawn behind the mower is totally acceptable.

The weather this weekend has been GORGEOUS. We had a frost Friday night, followed by sunshine and mild temps. Yesterday was already full (including a trip to Cook's Orchard for apples and cider), but today I made sure I spent some time outside. There was the above mentioned mowing, plus repotting of a house plant, emptying of garden containers, etc. Just enough activity to make my hips ache.

I purchased a copy of the All New Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew, a while back. It is a lot different than the copy I checked out from the library. It is also giving me some food for thought re the garden. There were already some major changes percolating in the old gray matter. Now there is even more. My brain is getting full.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Today's rain looked as thought it was going to drift south of my location, but no, it is raining here, albeit not very enthusiastically.  Our total rainfall for this year is above average; too bad it can't be spread out evenly throughout the growing season.

The wind has also been acting up here lately, gusting in the 40 mph range, which proved that weaving the patio canopy between the rafters is not a total solution.  I took the canopy down for this year; some grommets and tie downs will have to be employed in the future.

My SO and I recently took the new trailer for a spin, to pick up (free!) horse manure.  The bedding used with the manure is (weedfree!) wood shavings.  We layered the manure with the existing dirt in the beds by the patio.  (I was concerned the dog would consider the manure a new source of snacking, but she showed little interest in it.  Guess horse shit is not hardwired as a food source in her brain like rabbit poop and litter boxes.)  I will plant garlic in one of those beds.  Although this year's garlic harvest was adequate, we shall see if nature's fertilizer makes a difference (assuming I do a better job of watering next summer). 

I purchased some fresh niger seed and splurged on a new finch feeder, and now my yard is full of finches.  Although I usually wait until the snow flies to put out the bird seed, I also hung a feeder full of sunflower seeds.  The avian population is grateful.  (The stale niger seed went on the ground in the meadow; while the finches won't touch it, some critter or another will.)

Still waiting on a hard frost, although I have basically abandoned the garden.  The prediction is we are in for a doozy of a winter in these parts.  Since I have a new driveway that is not part gravel, I am actually looking forward to shoveling some snow.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In situ

The June 1978 issue of Organic Gardening (which I found in a box under the bed in the guest room - I was looking for an article on growing sweet potatoes) included plans for "easy compost bins".  We started with the plans for the "Rodentproof Composter" and with a few modifications, created this:

The color turned out a bit more fuscia than I planned.
My SO deserves 95% of the credit for this baby.  I purchased the parts and he did the cutting and assembling and painting while I "supervised".  (He's good with tools; I'm not.)  It is situated on the north side of the West Wing, where I can open a window and toss out the kitchen scraps without risk of stepping in doggie doo in the dark.

Feed me!
The sides are removable for easy access to the end result.

My SO makes my dreams come true!
Don't worry - the arborvitae shield it from the neighbor's view, and I plan to mix in plenty of compostable newspaper and yard trimmings, to keep it from becoming stinky. And if it does become stinky or buggy or whatever, we can always relocate it.
You know, if the city would let me keep a few chickens, I would not have to resort to crazy ideas like this one.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Bits and pieces

Rodent-proof compost bin in the making

Weaving canopy cover among the rafters keeps it from blowing away

Pathetic if colorful pepper harvest

New patio bed, with coneflower (and weeds) already growing in it

Praying one's mantis on one's sleeve

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


I belong to Arbor Farms Nursery's "club" and received a birthday coupon, good toward one perennial plant (priced $9.50 or less).  Of course, the unspoken rule is one does not go to a nursery and pick up only one free plant.  And the one I picked cost a bit more, so I paid the difference, plus picked out another plant from the bargain bin.

Maidenhair amongst the grasses
The bee balm and Shasta daisies growing in this general area have been losing the battle with their neighbors, so the bed is going to be all grasses, all the time.  This maidenhair should fit right in.

That was the bargain.  For my free plant, I looked and looked and looked some more.  Slim pickings this time of year.  I had almost settled on a sedum when I chatted up one of the employees re coreopsis and why they are not very hardy.  She mentioned that she liked 'Route 66'.  So guess what I ended up with.

'Route 66' coreopsis
The dark red and yellow blossoms will be perfect in the new sidewalk bed.  If the 'Jethro Tull' live through the winter, I will move them into this bed as well.  I do like coreopsis; maybe they will like this bed better.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

My tax dollars at work

Recent record rainfalls in other parts of the country got me worried about my own property.  Each spring, when the ground is saturated, the storm sewers just can't keep up and my front yard floods.  Were we to receive one of those deluges, I'm afraid my house would be underwater.  So I sent the city an email, to see what could be done.

One thing that can be done is the storm sewer casings can be removed so the engineers can see what is what.

One surprise was, while the inputs were obvious, the output was not.  My neighbor across the street had seen some storm sewer maps once upon a time and said those showed the storm sewer drained to the east.  But actually, it drains to the west.

There is a utility easement on the north side of my property - and presumably on the south side of the property to my north.  The sight line makes it look like, if any further digging must occur, it will occur on their lot, not mine.  I have shrubs planted on the easement, not always a good idea since the utility people can rip up an easement at their discretion.  Let's just home it doesn't come to that.