Tuesday, March 27, 2007

That's More Like It

Some of my neighbors have quite the daffodil display, and today mine caught up. Such a cheerful sight! The forsythia are right behind.

I still have crocuses (croci?) and in more colors.

There are many other plants making their green presence known: forget-me-not, coral bells, monarda, keys of heaven, Canadian columbine (one of them, at least), even the 'Betty Corning' clematis is showing signs of life. We had a mild winter until February when it turned brutal, but it looks like most of my botanical friends survived the bitter cold.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Dark Side

I bought something I thought I would never buy (after a snow blower): a leaf blower. The problem was all the clumps of dead leaves crowning the cotoneaster and mugo pine. I have tried all kinds of rakes to try to clean up the area, to no avail. So last night my SO and I trucked over to Home Depot to check out their leaf blowers (do we know how to have a good time or what?) My intention was to buy the smallest electric one they had, but did you know that the bigger models can also vacuum? I did not know that. And the more I thought about it, the better that sounded. Why stir up a bunch of dead leaves into a whirling mass only to have them land somewhere else, when I could suck them up instead? And shred them in the process? Sounded good to me.

After crabgrassing today, I was feeling lazy and contemplated skipping the blower/vac thing. But I decided to at least put it together, and once it was together, I had to plug it in and see how it worked, and once it was working, I thought I might as well suck up those clumps of dead leaves. My technique needs a little work - the extension cord kept winding up between my legs and I had to adjust the strap on the bag several times - but I did suck leaves. At the same time, I was acutely aware that I was vacuuming my bushes. How anal is that?

Time to tour the yard. BTW, I took these photos before vacuuming, so please excuse the mess.

The rabbits have not eaten the crocus... yet.

The tulips have made an appearance.

If you look closely, you will see the coreopsis starting to peek out.

The hyacinth are up, too.

And the daffodils are almost ready to pop.

In the foreground are chives, in the back spearmint.

And the rhubarb lives, although the strawberries are looking thin. I planted the rhubarb in the top level of a strawberry pyramid. I love strawberry-rhubarb pie, so it only made sense to plant them together. Right?

The rabbits gnawed on the burning bush this winter.

And I wonder who lives in this little hidey hole. Maybe a chipmunk? Under ordinary circumstances, a hosta grows here, so I am curious to see what happens later on.

Today was the first shorts day of the year, but I am trying not to get impatient. Two years ago, I put my houseplants out on the deck too early and lost a huge Norfolk pine. Last year I hit the greenhouses before they peaked, and had to return again and again to get everything I wanted. It helps that I am planning to take a week of vacation in May, just to play in my yard. Hopefully, I will be in better shape by then.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Running Hot and Cold

Saturday the weather looked beautiful, but there was a bitter wind blowing that kept me inside. Well, almost inside. I did swing by Home Depot for a few preparatory purchases: a new spreader, some crabgrass control, and more chicken wire for the ongoing battle with the bunnies.

The new broadcast spreader is to supplement my old drop spreader. The former will be reserved for the bad stuff (herbicides, pesticides, etc.), the latter for the good (Milorganite, compost, etc.) I chose a broadcast spreader this time, because I mow my grass high, and when I apply broadleaf herbicide on a dew-drenched lawn, the moisture clogs the drop spreader. And I bought the deluxe model because my lawn and I are worth it.

An aside: I am an organic gardener in spirit, but since I live in the surreal world of Suburbia, an attractive front lawn seems important enough to warrant a controlled amount of chemicals. I use some natural weed control strategies (like mowing high) and I have tried the natural lawncare products (but without very good results), so I have made the conscious decision to apply a limited amount of herbicides to my front lawn.

I also use a high-polluting gas mower. Again, I have looked into alternatives, but my yard is too big and my time too limited for anything more ecologically green. If only I could keep a sheep or two.

For the second spring in two years, my mower made it into the shop for servicing before I actually needed to use it. And my SO replaced the wheel on my Load Hog garden cart, which I happily used today while cleaning up the detritis from last fall.

Cleaning up some of that detritis revealed more spring arrivals, like this Stella de Oro...

... and 'Autumn Joy' sedum...

... and 'Dragon's Blood' sedum...

... and some nameless iris that has been here longer than I have.

The daffodils are trying to actually bloom, but not the crocus, which the rabbits eat anyway.

I was going to apply the Turf Builder, but the ground is still frozen in places. C'mon, Spring!

Get Along, Little Doggy

Another recent purchase is this new dog containment system, from Petco. Several years ago I installed an "invisible fence" type of system, but it has its shortcomings, currently a break in the circuit that I have not been able to find. This new system has its quirks as well, such as the collar issuing a "correction" when I turn off the base unit, so I either have to make sure Betsy is not wearing the collar when I turn off the base unit or simply never turn off the unit. Or remove the battery from the collar.

The Petco system has proprietary batteries for the collar which can be thrown out with the rest of your trash.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Signs of Spring

Despite temps in the 50's and 60's this weekend, there is still some snow, especially on the north side of the house.

But that has not stopped a few early risers from appearing. Besides the daffodils...

... some yarrow is starting to grow.

Last winter the rabbits did some serious damage to my new shrubs, so last fall my son helped me surround the susceptible plants with chicken wire. The rabbits had ignored the arborvitae, so we did too. This winter, with the preferred shrubbery protected, the rabbits decided the arborvitae weren't so bad after all.

And, for the first time in the fifteen years that I have been here, I have moles.

Despite a very odd winter - a mild January followed by a bitter February - my minitaure fruit trees survived unscathed.

Here is my xmas scooter, a gift from my SO. I think he bought it from Lee Valley, which is where I purchased the shears. Both were very helpful for cutting back the ornamental grasses. The cart is from Home Depot.

And for once, I did not overdo my first foray into the yard.

Friday, March 02, 2007

No Sheep for Me

There is a new book out called "No Sheep for You" and I (mistakenly) assumed that it was about someone like me, who would love to have sheep but is prevented from doing so by local zoning laws. But I ask you: What is the difference between a head of livestock and a pet? Why the discrimination against sheep, cows, chickens, pigs (well, we know why pigs), and horses? Is it the noise? Well, my neighbor's dogs bark a lot. Is it the smell? Personally, I love the smell of horse manure. I just don't get it. We have laws that limit the number of cats and dogs one may own, but no way can one keep a couple of chickens, let alone anything bigger.

Sometimes I daydream that my ex keels over (no, I do not wish him ill; in this reverie it is just a catalyst to set the rest in motion) and the kids decide they do not want to sell the old homestead, so I would live there rent-free, paying for utilities, taxes, and maintenance, keeping the property in trust for them, so to speak. Then I could have a few chickens (two-legged garbage disposals are what they are), some sheep and/or alpaca and/or angora goats and/or whatever else makes good yarn, and maybe a pony to pull a cart in the local parade. In this daydream I am also retired (haven't figured out where the money is coming from - maybe my blogs will support me by then) and healthy (i.e. no lower back pain) and the fences are magically dog-proof and a barn appears just as magically as the fences. *sigh*

My reality is one angora lop with an attitude. I'm beginning to think that angora crosses do not molt. Instead, they shed. And now that spring is on its way, Hip Hop is shedding. Talk about light and fluffy fur! The hair mats are 98% resolved, but now the race is to keep new ones from forming. I think I need a finer toothed comb. Maybe TSC has what I need.

Ah, TSC! I love to wander through there, but my Honda CRV looks out of place amongst the pickups in the parking lot. I suffer from truck envy.