Wednesday, June 30, 2010

When is Ace Hardware not

I have been in the market for a good stoneware crock.  There are some at the Vermont Country Store, but the one gallon one is $36.95 plus shipping, plus an extra shipping charge of $5.  And they are made one state to the east of mine!  Surely I could do better.

So I tried Amazon.  Yes, there were crocks, from secondary sellers, including Ace Hardware.  They wanted $21.52 (yay) plus $19.99 shipping (boo).

So I went right to the Ace Hardware online site, where the same stoneware crock was available for $19.99 plus FREE shipping to the store.

But where was the closest Ace Hardware?  The phone book listed two, neither of them exactly close to my house, but one I drive past whenever I make a mulch run.  Maybe they had them in stock.  I called.  Thanks to my diminishing hearing, I didn't hear exactly what the young woman said when she answered the phone, but she put me on hold while she directed me to the person who could answer my question.  Except the hold "music" was a commercial for Do It Best.  Huh?

Someone finally came on the line and told me that, no, they did not have any stoneware crocks.  I asked him if this was still an Ace.  No, both of the Ace Hardware stores in town were now Do It Best stores.  The closest Ace is in a town north of here.

The next day, my SO and I headed for Wisconsin.  We stopped in Plymouth for some lunch, and right there, in the strip mall next to whatever fast food joint we ate at, was an Ace Hardware.  It couldn't hurt to look, so we did.  They did not have stoneware crocks, but they had knock-off Crocs for two bucks.

I figured I could always use them for gardening, if I don't mind the resulting dirty feet.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I guess I do have some pix

But Blogger is acting weird re photo placement.  Anyway, catmint above, Shasta daisy below. 

Now the text alignment does not want to cooperate.  Coneflower above, butterfly bush below.

After years of milkweed in my front yard, I have finally convinced them to grow in The Meadow.  Maybe someday there will be monarch butterfly pupae on them.


Yarrow in pink and yellow.

And an impossible number of mushrooms in the mulch.

Wish I knew wheather these were edible.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Measure once, cut twice

Last year, the rabbits ate the green bean plants, much to my annoyance.  So this year, I decided to be proactive and fence in the bean patch.  To this end, I purchased some PVC pipe and connectors and built a frame which I wrapped in chicken wire.  I knew at the start that my garden beds are approximately 4' x 20'.  Approximately.  So I cut the pipe into 4-foot sections and connected everything together and discovered that the beds are not quite as big as I thought.  And I did not take the connectors into consideration.  So I trimmed 3 inches here and 6 inches there and it's close enough.  The PVC pipe is not very rigid, so the whole shebang is propped up with stakes, but I think it will do the trick and also be disassemblable at the end of the season.

If it weren't so breezy and so freakin' hot out, I would have some photos to show, photos of not only the bean fence, but the yarrow and penstemon and butterfly bush and Shasta daisy that are making the meadow such a delight to look at.  And the promising potato and tomato blossoms!  After today, we are expecting a long siege of temperatures in the 80's with the chance of thunderstorms nearly every day.  Perfect growing weather.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chickens! Squirrels! Ducks!

Once upon a time, in a previous life, I lived in the country and kept chickens.  Chickens are great.  They are small, their requirements are minimal, and they take little care.  They are two-legged garbage disposals, efficient manure producers, and just plain entertaining to watch.  One or two learned to fly the coop, and their patrols through the garden kept it bug-free.  And the eggs!  The eggs were delicious.

Now I live within a city that outlaws "agricultural operations" within its borders.  There is a city park nearby that includes a demonstration 1930's farm.  They have chickens, but it's part of the educational experience the park offers.  And maybe that is the key:  education.  Because while walking the nabe with my daughter last night, we passed the private school on the hill that buffers my addition, and lo and behold - they have chickens, too!

I would love to have two or three chickens in my backyard, but I assumed such a thing was an impossibility.  After last night's poultry sighting, though, maybe it can come to be.  Must investigate.

In other animal news, my daughter and I also spent some time sitting in the West Wing, where we observed a rather clumsy squirrel trying to negotiate the telephone wire along the back of my property.  It's clumsiness was due, no doubt, by the birds that were harassing it.  Seriously.  One bird repeatedly attacked the squirrel as it scrambled down the line.  We had never seen such a thing before.

And this morning, what do I see in my backyard but a pair of mallards.  I know it has rained a lot this spring, but really, my yard is not that soggy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

You turn your back for one moment

I was on a business trip this week, Monday morning to Thursday afternoon, and while I was gone, this...

... turned into this.

And the snap peas plumped up enough for a first harvest.

Last night I had my first salad from the garden:  leaf lettuce, radish, scallion, and snap peas, with oregano and parsley for the dressing.  After eating such fresh food, I understand why those who rely on the produce section at the grocery store don't like vegetables.  The difference in incomparable.

I usually don't spend a lot of money on annuals for the yard and garden, but since I grew my own marigolds this year, I felt I could splurge a bit and add some color for my personal enjoyment:

Sometimes birds like to nest in hanging planters, so I will be curious if any do that with this one.  I doubt it, because it is about four feet from the West Wing westside windows, but we'll see.

Ordinarily, the plants on the east side of my house suffer a bit because the bed is mostly landscaper's sand.  This provides excellent drainage, but the plants get thirsty.  However, this year, we have had buckets of rain - over nine inches in May.

The photo above shows that, not only is the transplanted sedum happy, the ground covering 'Dragon's Blood' is equally ecstatic.  I have never seen it so dense.

After a slow start this spring, the smoke bush is, well, smoking.

I have had trouble growing anything at the southeast corner of the house, but this fellow loves it here.  We are looking forward to years of happiness.

And lotsa potatoes as well.

This is the first grow bag of potatoes.  It's difficult to tell from the picture, but the plant height above the bag is greater than the height of the bag.  And the plants are starting to bloom.  Can you say "new potatoes"?

While away (and missing my garden), I made a list of what still needs to be planted.  It is a bit late for some things, but I don't feel too bad about where I'm at.  All that rain has boosted weed growth, though, and more rain is in the forecast, making it difficult to get out there and tackle those weeds.  Thank goodness for grass clippings!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

I could blog about gardening or I could garden

And that goes for photos as well.  Since today is overcast, though, I may try to snap a few between showers.

Veggie highlights:

  • I planted a hill of cukes and a hill of zukes.  Both are up and on their way.
  • I managed to revive ten of the tomato plants from the paste collection, and in the process of transplanting them to the garden, mixed up which were which.  I doubt the individual fruit will be that distinctive visually, but one can hope.  Then maybe we will be able to have a taste test.
  • The snap pea vines are about five feet tall this year, and starting to sport pods.  The Blue Lake bush beans that I planted inside the pea fence on one side are up.  I planted Provider on the other side this past week, and only then remembering that I was going to plant the Provider first because they are supposed to be a good cool-weather bean.  Not that it has been very cool around here.
  • One of the garlic varieties developed scapes, which I dutifully trimmed off.  Both varieties are starting to turn brown at the tips.  All the onions are in the ground.
  • The potatoes are finally shoving their way through the straw.  I was beginning to get worried.  There is one more variety that needs to be planted, and they are going into more grow bags.  
  • More grow bags means I need to blend more container mix.  Vermiculite and perlite are kind of difficult to locate, and then can be found only in smallish amounts.  Does anyone know a good online source?  If you buy baled packages of sphagnum peat moss, Menards is the cheapest, then Lowes, then Home Depot.

Avian update:

  • The baby robin in the clematis flew the nest last Thursday while I was dragging the mower past the front door.  Still unable to fly properly, it scrambled through my open garage door, so I had to (gently) chase it out of there.  It continued down the driveway and across the street, parents in hot pursuit.  I hope it found a good bush to hide in.  The three eggs in the juniper nest are now one naked birdling.  Wonder what happened to the others.
  • Robins take baths even when it is raining.
  • The wrens were showing an interest in the bluebird house where the sparrows live, so I put up a second wren house.  Within minutes, wrens, sparrows, and goldfinch arrived to check out the new digs.  It was like an open house in a seller's market.  Only the wrens could fit inside.
  • Still no takers for the bird bottle.
  • I think the cardinals have a nest in the "John Clayton" honeysuckle.
  • Hummingbirds are back.  They seem interested in the wave petunias, but I'm not sure they actually get any nectar from them.

Pest post:

  • From where I am sitting in the West Wing, I can see a young rabbit in the garden, nibbling on whatever.  As long as it leaves the good stuff alone!
  • My SO and I filled up one side of the compost bin with Canada thistle, and there is still more!
  • While chatting with my neighbor the other day, I witnessed two carpenter bees duking it out over the prime real estate of said neighbor's shed.

My pretties:

  • Most of the marigolds have been transplanted.
  • The smoke bush is starting to smoke.
  • The blooms on the 'Chicago Luster' viburnum lagged the ones on the 'Blue Muffin', so I don't think there will be berries this year.  I wonder if it is the difference in the ages of the two shrubs, and in future years, their bloom time will overlap?
  • The phlox are about done.  Now they look kind of ugly.
  • The Stellas are blooming, as are the coneflowers.
  • Roses are red, and so are keys of heaven and columbine.  Tiger lilies, on the other hand, are orange.