Sunday, September 27, 2009

Make it stop

It may be autumn by the calendar and there may even be a nip in the air at night, but it feels like the late summer harvest just goes on and on. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini - oh, my! One zucchini is becoming zucchini bread as I type, some of the tomatoes are destined for chili, and today's Parade section in the newspaper has a recipe for "Confetti Cornbread" - cornbread with minced red, yellow, orange, and green peppers. I may throw in a hot one as well.

If it weren't autumn, these guys would not keep popping up in the mulch, though.

Dog stinkhorn fungus, aka Mutinus caninus.

And I'm guessing this fellow is preparing for a long flight to Mexico.

Besides this butterfly bush, several other flowering shrubs are still flowering.

I'm guessing first frost will put an end to that. The question is, Do I protect the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini from that first frost? Opinions are divided.

Other critters, of the avian persuasion, have been active in the yard. I am an eyewitness to seeing robins consuming pokeberries. I also spotted a brown thrasher amongst the robins, but he apparently could not take the competition. Besides the usual sparrows and finches, there have been quite a few noisy blue jays in the area, as well as a downy woodpecker.

Today's chores included mowing (again), harvesting (again), watering (again), plus the construction of a new lasagna bed. I hope to bed the entire garden down with leaves later on, but since I have so few trees, I am debating on which neighbor to rummage leaves from. Last year I invited the households on either side of me to simply dump their leaves into my (chainlink enclosed) backyard, but neither of them did. This year I may just drag a plastic tarp across the street when my truck-owning neighbor runs his leaf blower. Gotta get me some leaves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Odds and ends

Prednisone increases Betsy Beagle's appetite, but I have not increases her food allotment. So she goes out in the yard and catches crickets and EATS THEM!

Easiest way to give a beagle medication is to dip the pill in the butter dish. Not only does the pill smell and taste good, it slides down real easy.

There is a boxwood shrub growing outside the picture window. There is a spider web next to it that appears to be suspended in midair. Actually, one side is attached to the boxwood, the other side is supported by two threads that run from the porch gutter, a good ten feet away. And the spider is HUGE.

The contractor and I are dickering on a price for my new laundry room. We are within $40 of each other. We'll see who caves first. It will probably be me.

There is nothing like impending company to get one to clear off both the breakfast bar and the coffee table, clean the litter box, and vacuum the entire house, all in the space of 45 minutes. Good thing the bathroom was clean, not that anyone used it. Good thing no one used the bathroom because the toilet is not working. Again. (I have a spare.) (And my new laundry room is going to have a toilet, too. A single person living alone can never have too many toilets.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Berry good

Even though I feed the wild birds in the winter, I still like to provide them with as much natural food as possible. Hence, the berries. Next year I hope to plant winterberry under the arborvitae and add a Prairie Fire crabapple tree to the backyard, to augment what I have so far.

Several years ago, I attended an Acres presentation on bower birds. Something the speaker said has stuck with me (along with the slo-mo video of birds mating): many birds seem to favor food that is the same color as they are. I don't know how accurate this is, but I know cardinals and robins like red.

Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliant', aka chokeberry, grows on the south side of the backyard.

Cotoneaster grows on the east side of the house.

These plants are brambly, affording rabbits with good hiding places. They like the berries, too.

The Lonicera sempervirens, aka honeysuckle vines, grow on the north side of the backyard. Not red-red like above, but close.

What birds eat this deep purple pokeberry?

According to Greensboro Birds, grackles, blue jays, and bluebirds, among others.

The leaves of the Viburnum prunifolium, aka Blackhaw viburnum, are turning purple along with the fruit.

The first year this shrub fruited, the birds ignored it until late winter, when there wasn't much else to eat.

But now these berries disappear along with the others.

When I purchased viburnums for my backyard habitat, the nurseryman knew what I wanted the shrubs for. And yet, he sold me one that simply does not fruit despite its beautiful flowers (Viburnum sargentii 'Onondaga'), and one that needs to be cross pollinated (Viburnum Dentatum 'Blue Muffin'). I added a 'Chicago Luster' to do the cross pollinating, so I'm hoping for a good result fruitwise, maybe even next year.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In and out

I can tell I am getting tired of the garden because I don't feel like doing much outside. Even though I could have skipped, I mowed yesterday because we are expecting some rain in the near future. The maple out front is starting to drop leaves - must be autumn! And I watered because if I did not, it would not rain. And I picked some peppers and cucumbers.

My new stove and microwave arrived last Monday.

The stove is in place, but the microwave is waiting on my son-in-law's schedule. He is coming over today to scope out what needs to be done to mount the thing over the stove.

The contractor supplied me with some new numbers, and it looks like I will be getting a new laundry room! We still have to work out a few details, but the price is where I think it should be. Whoo-hoo!

My SO supervised the delivery of the stove, and he noticed that my worm farm was leaking. Turns out the bottom level was full of worm juice. I had wondered about that, but in my usual cavalier way, never actually checked on it. That level has a spigot, so I drained off the juice, diluted it, and used it on my potted herbs. We shall see how they respond.

Today I am doing a little blog clean-up on the sidebar. Check out some of the gardening blogs I follow. Re the list of vegetables I grew this year, I wish I had been more organized and could comment on the pros and cons of the different varieties of tomatoes and peppers, but somehow there were several label mix-ups in the course of the summer. Thumbs up on the Sun Gold and Sweet Tangerine tomatoes (I can recognize them!) It was my first time growing non-red tomatoes, and I liked them both.

BTW, Betsy Beagle is responding well to the prednisone. It's so unusual to have her following me around again. Hopefully, the improvement continues.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

So many possibilities for this title

At first, I could not believe my eyes, nor figure out what I was seeing growing from the mulch at the edge of my yard. My SO says it is a stinkhorn mushroom (genus Phallus, of course).

Not particularly well-endowed.

I know I have never seen one of these before because I would remember it!

Another fungi from the lawn, this one very fragile, about two inches across.

And miniature mushrooms.

Same mushrooms with a clover blossom for size comparison.

If I were a botanist, I think I would study mushrooms.

Or sedum.

The honeysuckle vine is producing fruit.

If I had unlimited resources, I would set up web cams all around my yard so I could verify which birds like which berries in my backyard.

I did more than just take photos today. There was the usual watering, harvesting, and mowing, plus my good neighbor across the street let me borrow his pickup truck so my good SO and I could take the final load of privet brush to the biosolids site. And since we were there anyway, we brought back a final load of mulch for the year. Yes, things are winding down.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eat your cake and pie too

Now that the outside stuff is shifting gears, time to turn my attention to the inside of the house. For my back, I ordered a new mattress that is due to arrive tomorrow morning. I actually started looking a while ago, but could not decide whether to get a Tempurpedic or not. After doing some online research, I decided NOT. I don't think I would be happy with it in the long run. I know some people who have them, though, and will be monitoring their progress as their mattresses age because I know, in about ten years, I will be buying another new mattress.

Let's move on to the kitchen. At one time, I contemplated big changes for my kitchen, that included removing the breakfast bar and moving a doorway. Once I replaced the family room flooring, however, I decided that my original plan to combine the kitchen and family room into a big harvest kitchen was just not going to work - the two rooms don't play well together. But I can make smaller changes to the kitchen, to spruce things up, like buy a new stove and an over-the-stove microwave/exhaust fan. They will be delivered on Monday.

And then there is the laundry room. Earlier this summer, my contractor provided me with a quote which I thought was too high. Today, he brought his plumber subcontractor to scope out the job, and said plumber deemed the job a piece of cake AND said that adding a toilet would be easy as pie AND his portion of the job would take half a day, if that. A new quote is coming.

Speaking of toilets, if I get a new toilet and I like it, I just might have the other two toilets in the house replaced. My original plan was to redo the bathrooms all in one fell swoop, but with the new laundry area, I feel myself abandoning some half-assed ideas I had to completely reconfigure both bathrooms and the three bedrooms. Besides, I don't really need a bidet.

On a separate note, poor Betsy Beagle was not doing very well. I had been giving her Rimadyl and Phycox, but in recent weeks, she had become overly lethargic, sleeping 24/7, and uninterested in much of anything, even sniffing after rabbits. Last Tuesday I stopped the Rimadyl, and she became more alert, but was also obviously in much pain, walking in baby steps with a gait that rocked from side to side. The vet thinks she has something akin to rheumatoid arthritis and suggested we try prednisone again, but in much higher doses. That was last night. Tonight she already is moving better. Even though prednisone has some side effects, it seems to be what helps her the most. Maybe once she is able to walk without so much pain, I can build up her strength, which should help, too.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Starting the wind down

The tomatoes are still there and the zucchini has some new blossoms, but the peppers are turning red and the flowers are fading. Time to start preparing the garden and yard for winter slumber. As each garden bed gives up its summer plants, I am doing the lasagna garden thing to it, layering newspaper, sphagnum moss, composted manure, and grass clippings.

We are also continuing to do battle with weeds, but also neatening shrub beds up with edging and fresh mulch. And the lawn - after a dryish summer, the recent rains are making the grass grow, so there is mowing as well. Plenty to do, but the pace feels less frantic. And there is that voice in my head that says "Next year I'll do..." - or most often says, "Next year I WON'T do...!"

One thing I forgot to do this year was plant some gladioli. Fortunately, the local farmer markets have plenty, and my SO brought some with him yesterday.

I ordered garlic, from Seed Savers Exchange this past week. They are running low, so there were only two varieties to choose from. Since I have never grown garlic before, I ordered some of each, to see how they do. I discovered my yard shed is the perfect place for drying onions, so I'm guessing it will serve the garlic well, too.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Signs of September

The impatiens on the front porch finally look lush.

The red sedum is starting to blush.

The berries on the cotoneasters are fat and juicy.

Nothing says autumn like chrysanthemums!

The late blooming hostas are blooming lately.


Starting to put the garden to bed for the winter.

Fall planting of snap peas.

The marigolds have recovered from August.

Serrano peppers looking hot!

Sky candy.

The coneflowers have gone to seed.

What does September look like where you are?