Sunday, November 26, 2023

Word of the week

Dehiscence means "the splitting or bursting open of a pod or wound". Milkweed pods are a perfect example of the former; I don't really want to picture the latter.

I frequently mention that I do my fall clean up in the spring, but there are also some chores that have to be accomplished now: moving the potted perennials and such into the garage, storing the patio furniture, cleaning out the bird houses, sanitizing the bird feeders, etc. It has been cold enough for the bird bath to freeze over, even though I plugged in the heater. I don't know if the problem is the outlet, the extension cord, or the bird bath itself. One of these days, I will have to check that out.

Here are the installed flamingos. I hope the neighbors are aghast. Online I found an artificial xmas tree that looks like a palm tree. Wouldn't that make the perfect backdrop?

Today it is snowing, and the snow is sticking... sort of. Later in the week, we expect rain, so this smattering won't last long.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Road trip

Sorry for my absence. It's been a couple of busy weeks, climaxed with a weekend trip out of town. My little family has started a newish Thanksgiving tradition: gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. Then my kids can do what they wish on the actual holidy, be it spend time with in-laws, hunker down at home, etc.

I rent a place (sometimes AirBnB, sometimes VRBO) near where my son and his girl friend live, and the rest of us traipse up there for a couple of days of eating, shopping, hiking, etc. I've abandoned cooking the traditional turkey meal, so we mostly eat out. No one complains (or they don't dare).

This time we drove down to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area to view the sandhill cranes. There is an observation deck, but that's as close as one can get to the birds (unless you are one of *those* people). There were *thousands* of them, filling the air with their gargling calls. We may go back in the spring, as that's when they execute their mating dance.

Since it was close by, we stopped to see the Dunn Bridge, which runs over the Kankakee River. My son is into bridges, especially covered bridges, while my daughter, a newish kayaker, eyed the river for a possible adventure.

As you may have noticed from previous posts, my yard art consists primarily of plastic pink flamingos. Recently, I've added red, white, and blue flamingos for summer display, and black sparkly ones for Halloween. My son and his girl friend found some xmas ones, which they presented to me this past weekend. I'm tickled (flamingo) pink!

I don't have much holiday decor, but I may have to get a spotlight or something, to showcase these latest additions once they are outside.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Good riddance, DST

Once upon a time, when it seemed the rest of the world was adopting Daylight Savings Time, Indiana did not, ostensibly because of the cows. Dairy farmers, who frequently had "day jobs", did not want to confuse the cows with shifting milk times. There aren't many dairy farms around anymore, and someone decided we should be like (almost) everyone else and suffer through a time change twice a year.

Before adopting DST, during the summer, Indiana time differed from Ohio and Michigan time, which some locals found confusing. After DST, we joined the Eastern Time Zone year 'round, which means that it stays light until 10pm here in eastern Indiana. Fireworks display times shifted from 9pm to after 10. I had to buy some dark, heavy curtains for the bedroom windows. And to me, a morning person, the days felt shorter, not longer.

Several times I tried to stay on standard time, but that gets confusing when the rest of the area is not. I've tried shifting my mealtimes, but the tyranny of the clock seemed to defeat that. I spent years complaining, but now try to keep my opinions to myself unless asked. And even though I sometimes say, "Just pick one or the other, Daylight Savings or Standard Time, and stick to it," I really prefer to have morning light.

With morning light, the days feel longer, the evenings shorter. I get going sooner while still finishing my day by supper. I feel more productive, more energetic, more "normal". But I know I am in the minority. Per usual. End of screed.

Back to the yard. We finally had a hard frost this past week. We even had snow flurries on Hallowe'en. Still, many trees, like my neighbor's ornamental pear and my Japanese maple, cling tenaciously to their leaves. The environs still look green, including the lawn, which I continue to mow. I like to mow, but this is getting to be a bit much, even for me.

This fungi that grows on the oak mulch is not listed in my mushroom book; I had to use Google Photo Lens to identify it as Diplocystis wrightii. There is a type of mushroom known as a Fairy Ring mushroom, but this is not that.

Diplocystis wrightii "fairy ring"

Diplocystis wrightii, up close

The winterberry holly shrubs that are in the back of the yard are covered with red berries, the ones nearer to the house are not. Similarly, the witch hazel bush that I had planted years ago is in bloom, while the ones planted last summer are not. The first example may be due to a microclimate - perhaps too much shade at a critical time? - while the latter is a puzzlement.

Witch hazel, in bloom

Witch hazel, up close

An opussum ventured onto the deck the other evening, apparently checking out the pets' water bowl. The dogs went NUTS - that creature was only feet away, but on the other side of the patio door. When I let the dogs out at night, for their final pee, I turn on a flood light, then the light by the patio door, then let one dog out, then the other, all in an attempt to give the local wildlife a chance to run and hide.

Have an escapist week.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Fall colors

We finally had a light frost, followed by what used to be referred to as "Indian summer" - the last of the warm days (one assumes). The sweet potato vines are kaput, except for the one in the flamingo planter. Almost everything else is in autumn mode.

The catmint decided that all the warm weather we have been having means that it should bloom some more.

The serviceberry is putting on a show.

The 'Limelight' hydrangea has reached its pink stage.

The northern sea oats are past the copper stage, now a solid brown.

The swamp oak looks more robust leaf-wise than last year.

Sean from Sanctuary Natives returned to replace the butterflyweed that did not survive its first year. He says he doesn't often get to revisit installations, so we took a brief tour of the yard. Something that I don't think he realizes is that all his planning of what plants to put where will eventually come to naught, as the nodding onion, penstemon, and columbine will spread willy-nilly. I don't mind, just as I don't mind the grape hyacinth, 'Dragon's Blood" stonecrop, volunteer violets, and other plants that have hung on, despite the upheaval from last summer. They are all welcome.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Mums the word

In the past, I have purchased "hardy" mums and planted them in the ground, but they were not all that hardy when it comes to Indiana winters and rarely survived. This year I purchased a few to contrast with the aromatic aster. Next year I will plant something like yellow Profusion zinnias, which are shorter than most zinnias. There will be all-season color PLUS contrasting yellow come fall.

Last Monday I saw a bald eagle soaring over the neighborhood. That was a lovely sight. Several crows complained nearby but didn't get too close.

We still have not had a hard frost (or even a soft one) yet. There are lots of green tomatoes on the plants, but the cool nighttime temps have left them and the sweet potato vines looking a bit grumpy. Not too many leaves have fallen yet; the city leaf pickup dates have had to be shifted to accommodate climate change. And so it goes.

Monday, October 09, 2023

Cool and rainy, just how autumn should be

I won't let anyone complain about the cooler temps or wet weather, since it is a vast improvement over the dry 80-degree days that immediately preceeded this change. I still have a tendency to overdress, but I have started to change over the bedding from summer mode to winter mode - first the fleece blanket, next the flannel sheets, then the wool duvet. Aaah!

Speaking of autumn changes, the red, white, and blue flamingos have given way to the Halloween ones. I wish these glowed in the dark. Maybe I can paint them with some luminescent acrylic? My son and his girl friend are on the lookout for some winter flamingos. Otherwise, the yard will be sans flamingos until spring.

This sad bean is the total harvest from my experiment of growing bush beans in a container. One of my mistakes was not using a deep enough container. Another mistake was leaving the container where critters could reach it. I'm not sure if the culprit was a rabbit or a raccoon. Next year, I will do better. (My son's comment was, "Charlie Brown would be proud.")

This critter on my doorstep is a giant crane fly. I don't believe I've ever seen one in my yard before.

The carpet of sunflowers surprised me by blooming. I haven't noticed too many pollinators enjoying the late display. We are past our usual frost date, so I'm sure these are destined for an early death.

The goldenrod is at its peak. If you look closely, you will notice the plant tags in front of and between each goldenrod plant. Those are where the new aster plants are. May they and the goldenrod co-exist in peace.

While I hope my tulip tree survives the winter, I have a plan B in place: two red maple trees to take its place. I might even plant a third one on the other side of the yard. As far as I am concerned, one can never have too many trees. Yes, they drop their leaves in the fall. But look who benefits! (I credit my leaf mulch for bringing back fireflies to my backyard.)

(I don't know the original source of this poster)

Usually, I mow around the trees, breaking up the leaves but leaving them to nourish the trees. Or else the mower blows them onto the mulched beds. Either way, they decompose naturally.

Speaking of mulched beds, one of my dogs has taken to digging in the mulch and eating something - grubs? cicada larvae? I wanted to cover the mulch with bits of fencing (poultry wire and hardware cloth) to deter him, but I couldn't find much. Then I remembered that it was already in use as a dog-deterrent - it makes up a haphazard fence around the rain garden while those plants get established. Apparently, when one has dogs, one never has enough fencing.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

STILL not autumn

Ordinarily, we would be expecting some overnight frost by now, but instead we are getting MORE temps in the 80's this week. Ugh. At least it rained, so today I plan to install the asters. And mow.

The tree service came to fertilize the tulip tree. The technician did not seem very optimistic about the tree's chances. I worked keep it alive all summer, so I hope to prove him wrong. We will have to wait until next spring to find out.

The 'Solidago Fireworks' goldenrod is finally starting to bloom. This variety is supposed to form clumps instead of spreading rampantly. I'm hoping this is true, as the asters are going in here.

When I chat with other gardeners, I'm a bit surprised so many of them start their fall clean-up prematurely, even cutting back perennials while they are still green. These folks seem to be looking at the calendar instead of the plant or the weather, and they think their yards need to be neat and tidy, even the parts that are hidden from public view. I might be more self-conscious about my yard if the privacy fence didn't block judgmental eyes from the "worst" of it. And my neighbors *are* judgmental. I think it is a Hoosier trait.