Thursday, April 29, 2010


Please bear with me while I get used to my new camera.  The photo above is saved at a lower resolution that the one below, 640 vs. 800 pixels, I believe.  I'm trying to see if there is a difference.

Those are forget-me-nots, by the way.

Below are the herbs and seedlings, taking advantage of the lovely weather.

Those pale looking things in front are leggy zinnias.  I started them too early, never got around to thinning them, forgot to feed them, and yet they are still alive.  I transplanted them into the 3B garden today, one clump of zinnias per clump of daffodils.

Unlike my previous camera, this camera is smart enough to know I want a picture of the serviceberries and not the crap in the background.

That was one of the most frustrating things with my previous camera - trying to get it to focus on the correct object.

The brush pile is home to bunnies.  The brush pile is scheduled to be removed.

Bunnies eat dandelions, but they also eat green beans.

My previous camera had a macro setting I could select.  This camera magically knows when to go into macro mode.

In case you don't recognize this shoot, it's an onion.

The garlic patch.

Both foreground and background are in focus.  Amazing.

Almost as amazing as the color of my Japanese maple.

I whisper sweet nothings as I go past.

Here are some marigold seedlings, started at the right time.

So, obviously, I have learned to upload the photos from my camera to the computer.  I'm still experimenting, though, and have much to learn.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Close enough?

There is nothing better to counteract a bad day at work than a few hours of gardening in the evening, so last night I planted the asparagus.  My experience with gardening can be summed up by remembering that sometimes, even if you do everything right, everything will turn out wrong, and vice verse, so most of the time, if you do something good enough, the results will be good enough.  Hence, the asparagus was not planted according to "best practices" but I think it will be good enough.  Also, the bed is on the north side of the shed, so will receive varying amounts of sunshine through the spring and summer, which theoretically should help extend the asparagus season for me.  We shall see.

Even though the spring average temps are about ten days ahead of time, I don't think our average last frost date is moving as much.  Last night it got down to 32.  I remembered to throw a sheet over the herbs on the porch, but the sheet shifted in the night, exposing some of the basil, which got nipped a bit.

In the garden proper, the onions are up, as are the snap peas.  The rhubarb is bolting already.  And the serviceberry looks like it will actually produce berries this year.  All hostas are present and accounted for, too.  Even the cotoneaster bushes that the rabbits chewed on look good.  This gardener is pleased.

Although my new camera arrived and I have even taken a few pics with it, I am still acclimatizing myself to its mysterious workings.  Like how to get the pics off the camera and onto the computer.

There is probably more I was going to record here, but suddenly my brain craves sleep.  'Night!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What dandelions?

The TrueGreen guy stopped by my house (uninvited) to offer me a free estimate on lawn care.  If he thinks the front yard looks bad, he should see the back!  I politely declined.

I did reduce the six potato grow bags down to one.  At least, for now.  I may start another one or two, as the season progresses.

The asparagus plants arrived on Wednesday, and I just opened the box today.  It's not that I am not enthusiastic, it is just that I should have prepared the bed last fall.  And the bed I want to use is kind of weedy.  And it seems like I always do this, jump the gun, which annoys my inner Princess Perfect.

Determined to accomplish something on my yard and garden to-do list his week, on Thursday I relocated the sedum that was living in the shadow of the asplenifolia, moving it back into the bed from whence it came.  It has grown since then, so I split it into five clumps.  It looks a little droopy, but I'm sure it will recover.  And then I moved the hostas from the tractor tire in back, the larger one going in front of the lilac bush (where daylilies used to not bloom - too shady) and the smaller one filling the hole left by the sedum.  There is a second sedum next to the sandcherry which also needs to be moved, but my back can take only so much in one evening.

And Friday, under threatening skies, I mowed both front and back.  In the process, I determined what is the problem with my Personal Pace mower:  ME.  Frankly, I simply need to empty the bag more often, as the weight of the bag is what is confusing the Personal Pace feature.  At work, we would call this an "operator error" or "training issue".

Yesterday it drizzled on and off all day, so I used that as an excuse to stay inside.  Today, I can see from the rain gauge that we receive 3/4" of rain so far this weekend.  My SO and I were hoping to start on mulch, but I'm not sure we will be doing much of anything outside today.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Time to soak these tired bones

Gardening doesn't seem like it is that hard, but after several hours wielding rake and hoe, I'm beat.

Today I planted the Yellow Stuttgarter onions (good flavor and good keepers), but only after working up the wrong bed.  I don't think I recorded what I planted where last year, because of course I would remember (and there are probably even photos on this blog to remind me, but I did not look).  After working up the one bed, I realized it was where the onions had been last year.  After working up another bed and planting the sets I realized that that was the bed I was saving for the asparagus.  Not that it can't go elsewhere, it's just I knew that particular bed had been heavily fertilized with compost last year.  And I forgot to mark the ends of the rows with gladiola bulbs, but maybe it is too early to plant them?  And I ran out of onion sets - what I purchased was good for about 40'.  I was planning on buying some more locally anyway.

I also planted the Amish Snap Peas in the pea fence.  Nothing unusual there.  So far.

Then I dragged out the potato grow bags.  All six of them.  I was not planning on using six, as some were supposed to be xmas gifts for others, but they were met with a lack of enthusiasm.  I mixed up what was left of last year's peat and a container mixture of some sort that I think I created myself and a bag of Miracle Gro potting soil and divvied it up amongst the six bags.  It didn't go far, so now I am rethinking my strategy and may just use one or two bags, maybe for "new" potatoes.

A couple of years ago my neighbor gave me a bird bottle in exchange for catsitting.  It's a ceramic nesting house that dates back to colonial days.  Today I finally hung it up, over the compost pile on the south side of the shed, where it will be protected by the neighbor's trees.  I'm curious to see what kind of bird favors it.

The hosta and coral bells that I thought did not make it through the winter survived.  Yay!

And I think that is all I have to report today.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The picture of spring

While drinking my coffee this morning in the West Wing, I looked out the window.  There was a robin in the newly budding tulip tree and beneath the tree were daffodils and a bunny in the green grass.  Looks like spring to me!

My order of asparagus plants has been delayed.  I live in Indiana but the name of my street is the same as an island in the Caribbean.  This apparently confused someone at Johnny's Selected Seeds, as I received a statement from them that my item could not be shipped outside the U.S.  I sent them an email, and if I have not heard from them by Monday, I will give them a call.

Still no luck on the camera search, but the old one is behaving now.  Here is a pic of Betsy and her snack dispenser:

Notice that the rabbit is sleeping.  Apparently, Betsy is not a creature to be feared.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yes, Virginia, you can freeze pizza dough

A while ago I had a dream, part of which involved my baking bread.  I had seventeen (?!?) loaves rising and didn't know what to do with them.  So I decided to freeze them.  That was only one part of the dream, and the only part to stick with me.

Fast forward a few days, and I was making pizza dough.  I found a good recipe online (here), but it made enough for three 12-inch pizza crusts, way more than I wanted.  I divided the dough into four balls and froze three of them.  From what I read (also online here), the secret to freezing pizza dough is to make sure there is absolutely no air in the bag.  I did my best, and my best must have been okay, because I thawed one of those lumps of dough the other day, and it baked up just fine.

My pizza sauce consisted of canned diced tomatoes cooked with green, yellow, and red sweet peppers, onions, and fresh basil and oregano from my indoor herb patch.  For cheese, I used mozzarella, asiago, and Parmesan, the latter two grated with my cheese rasp from Lee Valley.  The first pizza I made was vegetarian, the second included pepperoni.  I can't wait to be able to use fresh vegetables from the garden.  Zucchini pizza anyone?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Up close and personal

I tried to buy a new camera today, one on sale at Target, but the store I went to didn't have any left.  The other two stores in town do have some, so maybe I will get lucky tomorrow.  Meanwhile, we shall have to make do.

Here are some closeups of my current flowers:

Yellow daffodil:

Grape hyacinth:

Pink(ish) sandcherry:

Lavender rhododendron:

Not so closeup of blue creeping phlox:

Proof that the serviceberry did not get frosted the other night:

Proof that the smoke bush lived through the winter:

Ditto the Japanese maple:

I think the only thing I lost beneath the snow was a coral bells and maybe a hosta.  Since they are on the north side of the house, I have not yet given up hope.

This past week I mowed both the front and back yards with my new mower.  I am somewhat disappointed in the Toro.  It has some new features that are improvements, but the handle is too high for my comfort (and I don't see any way to adjust it, but I will look in the user manual).  But most distressing is the Personal Pace feature.  The mower toots along on pavement, but once it hits my lumpy lawn, it slows way down, presumably thinking the resistance it feels is from me and not the ground.  I find I am pushing it.  Maybe that is adjustable as well.  Let's hope. (Ed. note:  Yes, I was able to adjust the Personal Pace speed, and now it really toots along on grass as well as pavement!)

The grass clippings went around the garlic.  And the pea fence in in situ.  The weather has been great this week, but it is supposed to get near freezing this weekend.  I don't care.  I am going to plant snap peas and maybe potatoes, which arrived today.

I ordered the potato sampler from Seed Saver's Exchange, but exactly what the send is a surprise.  Here are the varieties I received:

  • Red Gold
  • La Ratte
  • Austrian Crescent
  • Purple Viking
  • Yukon Gold
  • Carola
  • Yellow Finn
  • All Red

The only name I recognize is Yukon Gold.  Some will go into potato grow bags, and I'm not sure what to do with the rest.  It never fails - every year I get carried away with my garden order.  And the tomato plants have yet to arrive!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Inspector Gadget

We had a frost last night.  I meant to throw a sheet over the serviceberry, since it seems like every year the blossoms get killed and produce no fruit, but, well, I was tired and it got dark out and somehow it just did not get done.  This morning the shrub looks okay from the house.  We'll see how it fares.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of new gadgets for the house.  Gadget number one is a refrigerator/freezer monitor.

At the point where this photo was taken, I had installed sensor number one in the refrigerator, although I am not particularly concerned about the temps in there as every time I pull something from its shelves (which occurs multiple times a day), I can tell whether it is cold enough.  I am more interested in sensor number two, for my new freezer.  It requires lithium batteries, so did not get installed until after a trip to the store.  And when I first put it in the freezer, the monitor would not register its existence.  After I pulled the batteries from the monitor and reinstalled them, though, everyone was talking to each other.  I purchased this online at Amazon.

Gadget number two is a CO detector.

I already have a CO detector, but it takes eight (EIGHT!) AA batteries for backup, while this one uses a single 9-volt.  Also, the first CO detector was designed to be hung on the wall, its cord snaking down to an outlet with an adapter.  My cat kept rubbing against the adapter, dislodging it enough to cause the eight (EIGHT!) batteries to run down.  After a while, I moved the thing to the bathroom, which is really not a very good location for it, but the outlet was out of the cat's reach.  This new one plugs directly into the socket AND has a button on the back, so if it is dislodged from the socket, an alarm sounds.  A LOUD alarm.  This one I bought at the Home Depot.

Today is a lovely day weather-wise, but I have commitments and will have little time for outdoor pursuits.  Last night I did get the driveway and front walk edged.  And the onion sets and glad bulbs I ordered from Pinetree Garden Seeds arrived yesterday.  I'm wondering if I plant some onions next to the porch to the French doors, if that will discourage the rabbits living there.

And, in the Eccentric Neighbor Department, I find myself talking to wildlife.  Like the hawk soaring overhead yesterday while I worked in the front yard, whom I exhorted to visit my backyard because there were tasty rabbits there.  Or the bluebird I saw this morning, who I pleaded with to kick the sparrows out of the house meant for him and his kin.  So, yes, that eccentric neighbor would be me.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Scaredy dog

We are having thunder and lightening tonight, and quite the downpour.  Not to the dog's liking at all.  She is better about fireworks, but nature's light show?  Still a problem.  It is the noise she that bothers her, but she is smart enough to associate the lightening with the thunder and responds to both with drooling, panting, and trembling.  Poor critter.

What have I been up to?  Well, indoors I attached the hutch to the cabinet, and filled the cabinet with the lesser-used small kitchen appliances and dodads.  The hutch holds all my cookbooks on one shelf; still debating what to put on the other shelf.  And there is room on top as well!  One drawer has become a tape-and-tool drawer, thereby relieving some of the burden of the junk drawer.  The other drawer holds two flat plastic storage thingies I bought from Lee Valley, one with restaurant take-out menus, the other with all those loose recipes clipped from newspapers or printed from online.

I can't quite commit to doing anything substantial to reduce the amount of sunlight that pours in through the patio door in the afternoon, so I hung some sheers to at least soften all that light.  It makes a surprising difference, not only in the light level but also in the amount of heat generated by that solar infusion.

Outdoors, I have been playing in the compost.  One side of the double bin has been dug out and scattered around all the shrubs and flower beds, except for the "meadow".  I also fertilized the garlic.  And much as I hated to, I got out the RoundUp and squirted Canada thistle until I ran out of juice.  Then I bought more RoundUp.  Canada thistle is the only weed that drives me off the organic bandwagon.  I had plans to experiment with injecting vinegar into the hallow stalks, but I just don't have time to screw around.  It is not even mid-April and my yard and garden have a serious weed problem.

When I bought the RoundUp, I also purchased some marigold seeds, which were promptly planted using the Burpee seed starting kit I bought at Target a while back.  The kit came with compressed peat nuggets that, when water is added, expand into peat turds.

And the nuggets stink.  I'm glad I am not planting something I eat in them.

Our weather lately has been great - warm and sunny - which has caused anything that flowers early to simply POP.  Colder temps are on the way, though.  I hope everything survives.  Sorry about the quality of these pics - my camera seems to be dying.

Naturalized daffodils in the "meadow".  I may lift and divide them this fall, as they are becoming quite thick.

The rhododendron, which I nurture with coffee grounds.

The smoke bush survived the winter!  Also, newbie pink hyacinth.  There are pink grape hyacinth here as well, but too small to see.  Also, note the forsythia behind the fence.  Gorgeous this year!

Close up of the pink hyacinth.  You can almost smell them!

Grape hyacinth are like weeds.  Not only do the bulbs multiply, but the flowers produce seed.