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Showing posts from May, 2012

New Bird Feeder!!!

I have a new bird feeder!!! Ok, well technically it's not new.  It's actually been sitting in my grandma's shop for years.  It hung from a wall, collecting dust.  It also had a dead fly standing on it, although my father disagrees with that statement.  He said the fly was frozen in torpor, or hibernation, or something.  I don't know if flies do that sort of thing, but it sounds pretty cool, so I'm going to go along with that. Anyway, I had needed a new bird feeder for a while, but I cringed at costs.  I couldn't find a single bird feeder for less than $15, and while fifteen wasn't exactly a bad number, the feeders that cost that amount were flimsy, and made of plastic.  Not something that would fill me with happy thoughts. So I bought nothing. Then I found the perfect feeder in my grandma's shop after asking my father if he thought she had any that weren't being used.  If you're wondering why I asked him , rather than my grandma herself,

Rhubarb Madness

Last night I learned a lesson regarding why you shouldn't covet. I was jealous.  My grandma has the biggest, most beautiful rhubarb plants on the planet, while my own rhubarb succumbed to black walnut toxicity . I wanted her rhubarb.  I needed it. Fortunately, I didn't have to snag any of hers.  A family member that lives beside her has rhubarb as well, and since he doesn't cook anything beyond reheating dinners in the microwave, it would go to waste if I didn't pick some of those glorious stems for myself. So, I did.  Furthermore, I hauled my husband and my mother out there to help, with my daughter coming along for some exercise.  I wanted lots of rhubarb.  The more, the better.  We went over and discovered that his rhubarb was even bigger than the rhubarb in my grandma's yard. And just like that, I was hit with rhubarb madness. We loaded ourselves up with rhubarb.  There was so much in our arms that we couldn't use our peripheral vision.  The g

A Simple Pot Holder

So, I've been talking a lot about my garden plots.  I love my garden, and I love caring for it.  This is pretty obvious to just about anyone that's read my blog.  There are limits to how much someone should talk about a single subject, however, and it's time for a break from it. What on earth could possibly make me realize this? A pot holder. No, seriously. My grandmother was a vendor at a church bazaar, and quite naturally, this meant that she looked at everyone else's wares, as well.  Her eyes were drawn to one table that was holding an item she knew I'd like. A simple pot holder. You're probably wondering why a pot holder would be such an awesome gift.  It's just a pot holder, right?  Nothing special.  Nothing awe-inspiring.  It's just a pot holder. Wrong. It's a cool pot holder. Why?  Well first, it's something that can be used a lot.  It's not some silly trinket that you buy and love for a few days, then throw int

Rhubarb Envy

I'm spending this memorial weekend at my grandma's house on the shore of Lake Superior.  It's a gorgeous area, even if it is a wee bit too chilly for me, being from the desert southwest and all.  She has an ocean view, apple trees in her yard, and wildlife galore surrounding her.  In a word, heaven. She also has rhubarb... And I'm green with envy!!! Remember my excitement over finding rhubarb in the wild area of my backyard?  Since that discovery, I had taken to nuturing the rhubarb, removing any wildflowers that threatened it, and ensuring that the soil remained moist.  Then... I went to my old home in the desert.  I came back to this: Ugh. My husband is not to blame for this.  My rhubarb's death had nothing to do with his care.  Rather, the black walnut trees  are victorious in round one of our battle.  Rhubarb is very sensitive to black walnut's phytotoxin, and this is exactly the way the phytotoxin kills the plants around it.  The plants sta

A Dumb Rabbit

Normally I think very highly of the animals in my yard, even if they're doing things that undo my work on the gardens.  Today, however, I make an exception to this rule. I've decided that I have a very, very dumb rabbit in residence. You probably think I'm being rather harsh.  I mean, it's a cute and fluffy bunny, right?  How could I possibly think this little guy is so dumb? Because he is. No... really. See, I don't expect animals to do calculus, or anything.  I don't even expect them to make the right choices all the time.  I just expect their actions to make some sort of sense .  I'm generally not disappointed in this regard.  This rabbit, however, is the exception to the rule. My daughter and I were outside when I discovered it.  I pointed it out, and we slowly walked nearer, being as quiet as possible.  The rabbit froze. So far, this makes sense.  No problem here. It relaxed a bit, so we moved in a couple of steps.  It stood erect,

My Peas, Some Pee, and a Wall

There was one huge change besides my potato plants that was very exciting to come back to.  My sugar snap peas , which I had planted about a week before I left to the desert southwest , had grown tremendously.  Upon leaving, all that could be seen were tiny, newly sprouted seedlings.  I came back, however, to this: As you can see, they looked a little flimsy.  This is simply because there had been such a small amount of rain the entire time I was gone.  These little guys were horribly thirsty.  Once I gave the peas some much needed water, however, they perked right up. Part of the reason they did so well, actually, may be because of a visitor to the yard.  It appears that a large dog has been sniffing around.  What in the world would give me that idea, you ask? It decided to pee on my peas!!! It's not very obvious in this picture, since it has finally rained here, so you're seeing a dark water stain toward the bottom of the wall.  The shadowed area abov

My Husband and the Potato Plants

The area of my garden in which my husband had the greatest success was the potato grow bag I had created.  The potato plants were absolutely gorgeous when I went out to see them! Large, vibrant leaves stared up at me from the grow bag I had placed the seed potato pieces into.  My husband had obviously taken great care to ensure that they were in perfect health.  Of course, I think I probably nagged him about them enough that there was no way he could forget about them! The potato grow bag was the area that I was most nervous about.  The sprouts were still young, and if they weren't cared for properly the stems could grow to be quite frail.  Leaving them in somebody else's hands while I went to the opposite side of the country was terrifying. My instructions were simple, and my husband probably heard them at least 3 or 4 times a day!  Yes, I was a wee bit nervous... 1.  Keep the soil moist. 2.  Cover the shoots with soil whenever they show their happy faces. 3.

Strawberry Survival

The first thing I did upon returning from my old home in the desert southwest was check on my daughter's strawberry garden.  I wasn't sure what I would find.  She loves her strawberry garden , and if it had managed to die while we were away she'd be crushed. Fortunately, they were still alive.  Not thriving, but alive. Pretty scrawny, huh? They hadn't received enough water while we were gone.  It had only rained once, and my husband told me that he hadn't really watered them much.  Indeed, if you look at the leaves you'll notice that some of them have browning along the edges.  Also, there are no new leaves.  The plants elected to not produce any extra foliage in order to conserve the water that was available to them. Am I mad?  No.  My husband has a talent with technology, which is something I'm sorely lacking in, so that's what he spends time with.  Caring for plants is not in his list of common skills.  He kept the strawberries alive, which

A Nervous Return to My Plants

When I finally arrived back at my home in Minnesota, it was too late to check on all of my plants.  Of course I tried anyway, but it was too dark to see what my time away had done to my gardens.  I knew it had only rained once in the 2 weeks that I was gone, however, so I was nervous.  I did, after all, leave my plant care in the hands of a person whose talent is fixing computers, rather than living organisms. Yep.  I was frightened.  Visions of apocalyptic proportions raced through my mind. The next morning I inched my way out the door, ready to meet my fate. I was relieved to discover that things weren't nearly as bad as I thought they'd be.  Some plants were desperately in need of TLC, while others were doing quite nicely. My husband had completely overlooked the begonia that I planted on World Naked Gardening Day , and it looked rather... well... Let's just say it looked like it had been starved and tortured. The good news?  There's a flower bud t

Pit Stop for the Bees

The swarm had left, but the excitement wasn't over! At 1:30 the next day we discovered a few stragglers in the same spot as the swarm had been the day before. Looks like they needed a pit stop.  This time, the queen definitely was not there, and there were probably only around 30 bees at the spot she had occupied. By 4:30 the number of bees in the area had dwindled.  If I was to hold them in my hand, the group wouldn't be any larger than a tennis ball... and even that may be an exaggeration.  It was a very small group. Here's a close-up.  I held the camera about 18-24 inches away from the bees, and had it on zoom, so at first it may not seem like much of a difference. I'm going to take a wild guess and say there are less than twenty of them in the picture.  I know enough to know that I know very little about bees, so I called Aurelio Paez in Anthony, NM.  He's a bee keeper that will remove swarms from people's yards, and he was glad to answer a

Bee Swarm!!!

Bees are awesome.  No, bees are really, really awesome.  I have a special place in my heart for bees.  Honeybees specifically, but all bees in general are pretty amazing. Never before, however, had I seen a swarm.  A swarm is actually a natural occurrence, and isn't really a scary thing, at all.  When a queen leaves the hive because its population has gotten too large, she brings an entourage with her.  This can be over half of the entire colony.  They all leave in search of a new place to make their home.  People have referred to this huge amount of bees flying so closely together as a black cloud. Naturally, this is pretty exhausting for the queen.  When she tires, she'll stop to take a break in a somewhat protected area. While a few bees go off to scout around for the perfect location, the rest stay near the queen, swarming around her in order to keep her safe.  During this migratory state she's vulnerable, and so her protection is of the utmost importance to t

My Beloved Grapes

While I didn't always garden without chemicals (My old home still has the nasty bags of weedkiller and pesticides that are a constant reminder of that), I made the changeover about 4 1/2 years ago when I planted some concord grape vines.  Not only are the grapes themselves edible, but the leaves can be used for cooking. I didn't want any chemicals to touch those grapes, so I switched to organic methods to control pests, as well as weeds.  Later, I let mother nature take over , and that's when my two vines began producing large amounts of sweet berries. Since I hadn't been to my old home in a very long time, I was steeling myself for heartbreak.  I expected dried out vines and brown leaves.  I thought that my beloved grapes would be nothing more than a memory.  Boy, was I surprised! Not only were they alive, but they were healthy!  The mulch I had placed around them helped provide nutrition and increased moisture retention in the soil.  My beloved grapes are g

Surprisingly Few Weeds!!!

I wasn't sure what I would see when I got to my old home .  It had been quite a while since anybody had cared for it.  Nobody had gone through to pick the weeds, and nobody had watered the lawn.  I was ready for an overgrown disaster area. You can imagine my shock when that was not what I found! The grass, quite naturally, was yellow and crispy.  My old home is in a desert, after all.  The interesting thing, though, is that even with that, it didn't really look bad.  There were some spots where green was still trying to poke out, so I knew it would recover with enough care. The weeds, while gigantic, weren't really all that bad, either.  They were huge, yes, but there weren't many of them.  Removing all wildflowers from the backyard took less than fifteen minutes.  Easy! And yes, they had to be removed.  The city has an ordinance in place that requires all weeds to be removed before they reach 12 inches in height.  Allowing them to grow any higher can cause yo

Follow the Route.

Not too long ago, I drove to my old home in the desert southwest in order to finish up everything that needed to be done to put my house on sale... or rent.  I'd really love to rent it out.  It's really hard to give up your dream home, and that home brought me so much joy. Driving to the other side of the country was quite an adventure, however! I headed out with my parents, who also wanted to return for a bit.  For the most part, the drive went pretty smoothly, until... We approached the exit for I40.  I prepared to exit, and my father, who was ahead of me, kept going.  In a panic, I called. "You're going to turn off on the next exit for I40, right?"  I asked, trying to keep my voice from making my panic obvious. "No.  Why would I do that?" "Because we're supposed to???" "No we're not.  We're going through Dallas." I sat dumbstruck, unable to form the correct words for a reply.  Finally, I managed to sque

Chili Stem Anguish

Lesson Learned:  Sometimes fencing really is important. What you're looking at is the stem of my sister's fresno chili.  My mom's dog walked into my sister's Secret Garden and stepped on it, snapping it at the base.  He also managed to crush into the jalapenos, causing leaves to tear off.  All in the space of an hour. You can imagine my reaction.  I was devastated.  Clearly, the dog did this to spite me.  It was written all over his face.  He wanted to see me cry in anguish.  I just knew it! Ok, well... maybe not... but it sure did feel like it at the time. I had to put up some fencing to protect my sister's Secret Garden.  Rather than do it right away, however, I decided to mope around.  Moping, after all, is very cathartic. My anguish didn't last long, though, because when I went out to give my respects to the broken stem the next morning I saw something that made me smile. The base survived!!!  Not only that, but all of the

The Secret Garden

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to talk about what I did for my sister on Mother's Day .  Fortunately, the reason I couldn't talk about it was that I was busy creating her present.  Always a good reason! My sister's food choices tend to fall in the Mexican and Italian cuisine categories.  Knowing this, I wanted to plant her a garden that would make her food preparation easier.  While I designed my spaghetti garden by using seeds, I decided that she needed to have one that had complete transplants, in order to make the job of growing it that much easier for her.  It's a gift, after all, so she needs to spend more time enjoying the harvests than watching seeds sprout. Watching seeds sprout is more of my thing than than it is hers, after all. First I had to find a location for the garden.  That turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. She has an old dog run in the yard that doesn't get used.  Occasionally she'll place something inside to get it

My Mint Addiction, Part 2

( Continued from yesterday ) What in the world was I going to do?!  Where was I going to put all of that mint?  What was I thinking?! See, I briefly mentioned before that mint can become rather invasive in this area.  That being said, I needed to be sure I didn't end up with mint growing throughout the yard. I'm renting, after all, so no matter how much I would enjoy an invasion of minty goodness throughout the yard, allowing this to happen would not be particularly polite.  If the next renter doesn't care for it, after all, it'll invade the yard, turning it into a jungle of minty vines. Well, ok.  Maybe it's not quite that bad, but you get the picture. Mint has the ability to sprout roots through any stem that has been allowed to fall onto the soil.  Therefore, any low lying stem can cause additional plants to form.  As long as I'm here, this is nothing to worry about.  I eat far too much mint for this to become a problem. Key phrase:  As long

My Mint Addiction

Mint. If I had an infestation of mint in the yard (which is possible in this area) I'd be the happiest person on the planet.  That is, I'd be happy until I used every last bit of it in my various fruit and vegetable juices. In mint heaven Withdrawal Yeah, I really love mint. I had actually planted some in one of the planters in the front yard at the end of last month, and was very happy about it.  But then I realized that one plant wasn't nearly enough for my mint addiction.  After about three days I had harvested as much as I could.  Any more and the plant would be cut all the way to the root. That would not be a very good idea. So I went back to the gardening center to grab a few more for myself.  So many varieties could be found!  I couldn't very well buy one of each (although the thought did occur to me), so I settled on one more sweet mint, a spearmint, and a peppermint. The problem with an addiction, though, is that you have to find a way t

Mother's Day Ideas

Happy Mother's Day, everyone! As we celebrate Mother's Day across the country, we need to remember that even though the jewelry stores may press us to go buy that expensive necklace or that gorgeous flower arrangement, most mothers are happy to receive something that doesn't put us into debt. Think about it.  Mothers want to be appreciated.  Sure, there may be some mothers that think a necklace that we really can't afford is a sign of appreciation, but most are happy to get something that was made with our own two hands.  Maybe a simple card drawn with a crayon, using the hand that's not dominant, thereby creating a childlike effect that brings back memories. Here are a few ideas for those of you who have decided to wait until the very last minute to find that perfect gift!  1)   Instead of buying her a bunch of cut roses that will die in a matter of days, go out and plant an entire rose bush for her.  The cost is the same, or even cheaper, but the fact tha

My Yard, My Garden, My Sadness

As I sit on the rocks that hold my raised garden in place, I'm overcome with sadness.  Very soon I'll be heading back to my home in the desert southwest to get it ready to place on the market.  This is sad for two reasons: 1) I'm leaving my garden in the hands of my husband - a computer geek.  Yikes!  Granted, I'm trying to leave my husband with as little work as possible, to make it easier on him, and I don't think I'll come back to dead plants.  He's a responsible person.  He'll take care of it.  It just kills me to leave my garden in anyone's hands other than my own! 2)  I'm selling the most wonderful house on the planet. No, really.  For the most part, it's my dream home.  All that's missing is a large yard (My dream home should have a yard that's over an acre).  It's gorgeous and comfortable.  It has a sun room overlooking the beautiful back yard. The rooms are large, but not too large, and the kitchen is a foodie&#

Happy Icicle Radishes

While the radishes I planted in my root vegetable garden are growing at a much slower rate than I would like, the icicle radishes I planted in my tiered garden  are coming up quite nicely! The icicle radishes are the rows on the right side.  There are also three radishes that were planted in between those rows.  Basically, I'm doing a test to see just how much growth is effected by the spacing in between plants. Indeed, the difference in icicle radish size is significantly different.  The plants I set in rows are actually smaller than the three that were planted in between.  I didn't over-plant the rows of icicle radishes, or anything, but I did set them at the minimum spacing allowed. You're probably wondering why I chose to test this in the first place. Basically, I had read in various places that planting by the square foot rather than in rows allows for tighter spacing between plants, while ensuring a properly large size.  Obviously, I didn't plant in squ

DIY Potato Grow Bag: The Next Step

When I first tried to plant potatoes I had absolutely no idea how to go about doing it.  I knew that potatoes were grown in mounds, and I knew that potatoes required a decent amount of water. But that's all I knew.  I threw a bunch of potato pieces into a plastic bin with a large amount of dirt and waited for the results.  My stems were weak, they produced few leaves at all, and the leaves they did produce were thin and tiny.  The resultant plant wasn't something I'd run to brag at everybody about. So this year I made my own Potato Grow Bag , and I actually did a bit of research. So far, I've been pretty successful.  After the wind and hail the potato pieces began to sprout shoots. Look at those leaves!  So green!  So healthy!  So vibrant! All three potato pieces have sprouted, and all three have produced healthy shoots.  All is going well, which means that I'm now able to start the next step: Cover it all up again! No, seriously... After the shoot

The Overgrown Porch Area

After looking at the corner of the porch for quite a while, I realized it was time to clean it up.  While I enjoy keeping the section of my yard near the garage wild, I didn't exactly want a second wild area near my porch.  It was overgrown.  No... it was beyond overgrown.  It was a mess. This area has potential.  While the plants have grown tall enough that the rocks bordering this corner are hidden, the rocks actually bring a tranquil beauty to that spot. I want to bring that back. It's going to be a lot of work, so I've decided to start one section at a time.  The edge that I focused on in this picture is what I decided to work with first.  I grabbed my trusty weed picking tool and got to work. 30 whole minutes later, I had a spot devoid of weeds... and any other life, for that matter! Pretty impressive, yes? The pile I had uprooted was rather impressive, too. That's my foot for scale.  I can't believe such a small area could produce so much

Woodpecker at My Feeder! Finally!

I promised an update on the suet feeder I hung from the black walnut tree in my front yard, and today I'm going to follow through with it. Finally! I know, I know... it took a while.  I would've posted about it a lot sooner if it wasn't for my camera deciding that it was going to have a mind of its own.  I still haven't forgiven it, by the way! At first, my suet feeder attracted absolutely no wildlife.  I had begun to think I had done something horribly, terribly wrong.  The day before I was going to give up and take it down in order to place it in a new location, though, I found a flock of crows on one of the branches (Is it 'flock'?  Or maybe gaggle?  Ravenous Pack?).  One of the crows was pecking at the feeder. This wasn't exactly my image of an ideal situation, considering that what I wanted was a woodpecker, but it was a start. The next day I saw a squirrel eating from the feeder.  He played with it, bouncing it about, then finally found a f

Devastation of the Squirrels

Ugh.  Squirrels. As mentioned before, I have this strange love/hate relationship with squirrels.  I think they're the most fascinating creatures around!  They hop, rather than run.  They make for the best camera shots, due to their many humorous poses.  I can watch squirrels for quite some time without getting bored. But they also dig.  The digging wouldn't be a problem, but for one small thing:  they dig in my front porch planters.  The half jug covering my peppermint was lost to the foraging of squirrels . I've also had to fill holes frequently in order to have a level garden bed.  Even with all of that, however, I've been only slightly put out by the squirrel residents in my yard. But they had me seeing red this morning.  Remember my winter sown canterbury bells that I was so proud of?   Complete devastation. ( insert large amounts of hair pulling and piteous moaning here ) I can't help but look at the larger than normal hole and think that the squ

Naked Gardening: A Perspective

Yesterday was wonderful. World Naked Gardening Day is something that I'll now be looking forward to for next year!  It was such a wonderful experience.  I could never have imagined the state of peace that you feel when you garden while completely naked.  Exhilaration?  Sure, that's easy to understand, considering it's not quite a societal norm, but peace? But yes, that's how it felt.  Peaceful.  Not only that, but it was comfortable.  I thought it'd be a little messy, and maybe even itchy, because you know, it is dirt I was working with, after all, but I found naked gardening to be less restrictive than normal.  And no, it didn't itch.   There's just something tranquil about working with nature... naturally.  I find it hard to explain.  It gives you the feeling that everything about the world is good.  You recognize that nature doesn't care if you're naked or clothed.  It accepts you for what you are. As strange as that may sound,

Happy World Naked Gardening Day!

Happy World Naked Gardening Day! No, I'm not making that up.  It was actually a friend that first mentioned it to me, and the idea was intriguing.  Not only is it a day dedicated to gardening, but it's a day that I get to garden, well, totally naturally!  How on earth could I possibly ignore this? Sure enough, I found a link for it, and I was pleasantly surprised.  Sure, there were people gardening in the nude throughout the page I found, but they didn't look at all like models.  They were real  people. I found one paragraph on the website particularly important: " All that's involved is getting naked and making the world's gardens--whatever their size, public or private--healthier and more attractive. WNGD has no political agenda, nor is it owned or organized by any one particular group. Naked individuals and groups are encouraged to adopt the day for themselves." This isn't about exhibitionism.  This isn't about getting a cheap thrill.