Sunday, November 29, 2020

Late to the dance

Even though everybody else tried their hand at sourdough started months ago, I finally decided to give it a go. After running through a 5-pound bag of flour with no significant results, I abandoned the project. Feeding it twice a day was like having another pet. Also, I was a bit ambivalent about using it on a regular basis. I need another hobby like a hole in the head.

The grass is still green, but just about everything else has turned brown or brownish. The one exception in my yard is the coralberry bush. It is holding its yellow fall foliage for quite a while. The red fruit adds to its vibrance.

Something odd I have noticed lately around town is some ornamental grasses are sending up new growth. Even my pampas grass is doing this. I blame the weather - unusually warm, a few frosty days, more warmth, etc. I just hope the plants are not weakened by yo-yo temperatures.

I think the sparrows are showing a preference for cracked corn over peanuts and sunflower seeds. However, the feeder I bought for this purpose tends to get plugged up. It's not just the feeder design, but the clumping characteristic of the corn. I recall having this problem before, which is one reason I stopped feeding cracked corn. (From where I am sitting, I can see a junco under the arborvitae and a downy woodpecker on the suet. Yesterday a hawk landed in the redbud right outside the window, but flew off before I could grab a camera.)

I'm experimenting with wintering over hardy chrysanthemum in the garage. One source says that this is doable; also, mums planted in the spring have a better chance of surviving winter outside, as their root system gets more firmly established over the summer. However, I doubt they will live very long; in the past, I've had mums live for a few years, then one by one, peter out. I still like the idea of growing yellow strawflowers instead; an annual, they need to be planted each year and periodically deadheaded.

I hope you all had a safe Thanksgiving. It was just me and my SO here. My kids stayed home, by brothers stayed home, my neighbors went camping to avoid maskless relatives. Indiana is not faring well regarding number of new cases per capita, schools in this area have been going totally remote because there is not enough healthy staff, especially bus drivers, to keep going. We'll see what the rest of the holiday season brings. Stay safe!

Saturday, November 21, 2020


When I look out the bedroom window on the south side of the house and see the now dormant perennials along the fence, I get a little excited, anticipating what that area will look like next summer.

The first seed catalog of the year is always from Pinetree Garden Seeds. The past several years I have not cracked the spine of a single seed catalog, but this year took a look, as I want some herb and annual seeds. In no time at all, I dog eared a dozen pages. Nevermind that I no longer have any place to grow all those plants, now that I am downsizing the garden. I will have to winnow that list a bit before sending in my order.

One of the families in my neighborhood decorated for Halloween by propping up three partying skeletons on bales of straw in their front yard. Post trick or treating, those bales were then set by the street, presumably for pickup on trash day. I'm not sure our local trash hauler would take them, but I was willing. After clearing it with the woman of the house, I hauled those very heavy bales home in the back of my car. I use the straw to cover the muddy portions of the backyard (thanks, dogs!) in what seems like a fruitless attempt to keep more dirt outside than inside. At least this year I did not have to buy the straw.

I managed to get the hoses detached from the spigots (with a little help from WD40). I also checked out the gutters. Next year I will have to prune the areas around the downspouts more aggressively, as I could barely reach the leaf jams.

My SO and I are "double bubbling" for Thanksgiving. My daughter and granddaughter have been sick the past week (not Covid), so it is not just the pandemic virus we are avoiding. Besides, shouldn't everyday be a day of thanksgiving? Have a safe holiday.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Wet and wild

Today is one of those days we usually encounter in March - warm, wet, and windy. The springlike temps are falling, though. This weather is just full of surprises.

I have done a little pottery, enough to chat up "real" potters at local shows about their techniques, and even buy a piece or three. Instead of someday making myself some herb pots, I purchased some at the annual Just a Bunch of Potters show. Now I just need some seeds.

Otherwise, not much is happening in the yard. This past week, it seemed everytime I planned to do something - like disconnect the hoses and lay them in the sun so I could coil them up for storage - the weather crapped out on me. I did manage to get the outside of the windows washed. I also discovered that the window washing solution is good at removing green alga from the siding. This wind is good for stripping the last of the leaves from the trees, so I will need to inspect the gutters one of these days.

BTW, sparrows and starlings eat mealworms.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Everlasting strawflowers, birds, etc.

This is the first year I have grown strawflowers, also known as everlastings. One of its everlasting character traits is the ability to withstand a hard frost. So now I am thinking they might be a good substitute for the ubiquitous hardy mums that spontaneously generate each autumn. Just something to keep in mind for next year.

Try as I might, I just can't capture the reds in my yard. That doesn't stop me from trying. This pic has been edited to warm the colors and deepen the shadows and it still does not come close to the real thing. Of course, the skill (or lack thereof) the the photographer has a lot to do with this failure.

Silver grass

I read somewhere that sparrows really love cracked corn, so providing it may limit their ravaging the more expensive birdseed. Toward that end, I bought some cracked corn, which required another feeder, which lead me to also purchasing meal worms and a feeder for those. (I know that the meal worms are dead, but because they are also dehydrated, they shift around easily inside the bag, which makes them look all squirmy - ugh.) So now I am feeding black sunflower seeds, striped sunflower seeds, peanut splits, peanuts in the shell, thistle seed, cracked corn, suet (which always seems to contain corn, probably as a binder), and meal worms.

While I continue to try to outfox the sparrows, I think I have won the squirrel wars. I have not seen a rodent in the feeders since the last adjustment of the baffles. I do see them in the yard, though, or running along the fence or the telephone wire or laying on the shed roof. It looks like they are trying to figure out how to leap from one perch or another to the feeders. If the dogs spot them, much chasing and barking ensues.

The coneflower and rudbeckia look dead, dead, dead, but the goldfinch still find something to eat in their dried seed heads. There are titmice and nuthatches and at least one flicker who are regulars, but so far no cardinals this year. And occasionally a Cooper's hawk makes an appearance, not for birdseed but for birds.

Locally, we gardeners have been encouraged to not put dead annuals in the trash, but to either compost them or chop them up and leave the leavings on the soil. So that is what I have been doing, with the coleus and zinnias. The perennials will be left standing until spring. Instead of thinking of their desiccated presence as "weedy", I will view them through the lens of "winter interest".