Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ticky meadow or Yawn Lawn

There's a price that we pay every week for planting lots of trees, when we mow. Weaving in and out of our leafy obstacle course takes some time and skill. I found out a couple of weeks ago that one branch on the pear tree is much woodier than it was last year. It didn't give when I pushed it aside, so it conked me on the head and then it knocked my sun hat off.

Meadow-like, pretty, tick habitat

Yawn Lawn

I'd be perfectly happy letting much of the lawn revert to meadow.  We let parts of it get rather long this past week, but we started finding deer ticks walking about our bodies. I realized that despite it being 86 degrees, sunny and humid out, I needed to spend the afternoon riding in circles on our little Kelley green lawn tractor. I pulled on my no longer fit for viewing in public clothes that have iron stains from the hard water and paint splotches from assorted projects. I also prepared by smearing on my "sensitive skin" zinc oxide based sunscreen that looks like thinned diaper cream. I pushed on my floppy, sweat stained straw hat with a chin strap, and my giant extra dark bug-eyed sunglasses that I only wear in the yard since both my husband and kid exploded with laughter the first time they saw them.  Yes, I was a fashion hazard, but I was comfortable and protected from the sun.  After all this, I poured myself a big decaf iced coffee in an insulated travel mug and headed for the shed.


I spent the next two and a half hours going around and around trees, then back and forth on the straightaways. Meanwhile, I was dodging the free-ranging chickens, who like to follow the mower around because it stirs up the bugs. When finished, I stepped off the mower and looked at myself. The sunscreen provided the nicest adhesive for dust, dirt and bits of grass. My skin was khaki.  I spent the next half hour scrubbing off sunscreen and the associated grime. 

It took three hours total at that point. Done for a week, when I will do it all over again.

Garden Looking North


The garden is zooming along. The arugula is done. The lettuce is almost done, I planted more, but it has been too hot for the seeds to sprout. The Swiss chard has kicked in and the collards are coming along.  They are some of the bumps under the row covers. Sugar snap and snow peas are abundant.  The summer squashes didn't sprout, so I just planted fresh seeds. I'll be planting the pole beans to grow up the corn stalks later today.

Garden, looking south

Opalka Tomato

Popcorn and  squash, with peas and sunflowers in the background.

Last, but not least, Bubbles desperate for more food, has climbed inside the feeder and is only visible by her tail feathers.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Glossy Fox

Seven weeks since we lost our dog, we have missed her in the everyday activities in odd sorts of ways. Having a dog means that I don't need to scoop up that piece of pasta that escaped when I dumped the colander into the bowl. I knew it would not be there more than a couple of minutes, even if she was asleep in the next room.  Now she is gone it means that if I place a marker on a table where the cats can play hockey with it, I won't find its shredded remains the staining the floor in a couple of hours. I always knew the temperature and weather first thing in the morning, and if there was dew on the grass.  I always knew someone had arrived long before the knock on the door. I knew if there was someone she particularly liked on the other side of the door, as she aroooooooo'd in hound fashion, and did a breakdance spin.  Now, we need a doorbell, because I don't hear folks knock over the sound of the washing machine or dishwasher.

Not having a dog also brought home a new implication today.  When we first moved in we saw a fox once and never again after that.  Today, over breakfast my daughter spotted a huge,  glossy fox standing on the lawn near the big old stump looking at the chicks from a distance. My daughter and I ran to the door to scare him off (I'm assuming it was male), and stood on the top step, just stunned by the size of him.  "We need a dog." were the first words out of my mouth.  I don't think that it was a coincidence that this beautiful predator showed up less than two months after the hunting dog passed. The fox turned and trotted into the leaves of the pawpaw patch, not much perturbed. At that moment I felt something wiggle by my leg. My daughter yelled, "Aggie!", as our indoor sloth of a cat decides to make a break for it.  Luckily, his brain runs even slower than he does and he was caught and returned inside.

A few days ago a neighbor's cat (looks to sleek to be a stray) tried to hunt the chickies, but discovered that chicken wire is difficult to see. the hard way. The big girls were giving their warning noises and she decided not to mess with the big girls  after all they have several obvious pointy parts to avoid. She got into hunting pose, wiggled her behind around and around like the cheetahs on TV and the through herself with full force into the fence and bounced off.  She shook herself off and decided to try again another way.  She found the open gate to the big pen and proceeded to the enclosed run for the little chicks.  She repeated her funniest videos type performance a couple more times and then completely freaked out, not being able to figure out how to get out of the fence.  She bounced several more times until she realized that she needed to leave the same way she came in and then dove for the woods.

Now to figure out what to do. The little chicks are reasonably well protected on all sides with chicken wire, but they are getting big and need more space. The big girls have an open topped fenced yard that a fox could easily scale. The girls jump that fence just before lunch daily, so they can roam freely through the yard.  I can tell he's not a hungry one, but he might return to have a little easy hunting practice.

We have been trying to get the young girls out for a bit in the evening to enjoy a bit of the greenery for dinner, but given the cat situation, we have been chaperoning these sessions.  Here are a few photos and a couple of videos of them on their second venture out of the run.
Freya, Bubbles and Circe enjoying some greens.

Diana behind the wire, Effie in front of the wire.

Freya and Circe
 Listen to the sounds the chicks are making, sometimes they still sound like bitty babies and other times they sound like strangled geese. I know they'll work it out eventually to sound like chickens.

Finally, if any of the folks who like to read about the garden are still with me, I am digging out a flower bed that has not been completely redone since we bought the house.  My husband put butterfly bushes into it last year, and we've removed much of the ornamental grass, but the big wads of vinca and spearmint choking out the front of it had not been attempted, until now.
The two big chickens are helping.

Spearmint roots wrap around the rim, the whole plot is pot bound.
There are plenty of spearmint plants, vinca, wild grapes (and poison ivy) in there for anyone local who might be interested.  I was given some fancy dalias last week and I need to get them in the ground, so this plot should be done in the next few days--after the rain moves through.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I've been out in the garden every morning and evening for the past week, it is finally starting to show the work that has been put into it.

The Joseph's Coat Roses are in bloom, I had hopes the yellow part of the flower would have been a bit brighter, maybe it's a nutrient thing...

The irises transplanted from my Mom's yard in MA are looking ready to be divided later this summer, time to dig a new flower bed!

In the veggie garden:
Sunflowers are starting to take off, several neighbors have asked me if I am going to plant them again this year, they really got a kick out of the 12 foot monsters. Right now they just look a little leafy.

My new thing for this year, popcorn...we'll see how this goes!

The lettuce is already providing plenty of salads and the collards, kale and Swiss chard are taking their dear sweet time.  The brassicas are hiding under the floating row covers to protect them from caterpillars and harlequin beetles that will chew them to the nubs.

 The fruit production seems to be moving along...
Baby apples

Blueberries, not yet blue

Strawberries, ready to pick for dinner

My husband's babies, Sarracenia Pitcher Plants, in bloom.

Later this afternoon/evening's project--planting asst squash, pumpkins,okra, and a few extra popcorn seeds, they will soak for a few hours first.

The other big project:
The Blue Behemoth
It looks worse than it is.  It is getting new axle bearings, so it is on jack stands, our neighbor is a bored former Dodge mechanic who is helping us out for fun, that is a huge help.  It is a '95, but it has spent all of it's time until a month ago in Hemet, CA--so there is no rust!!  It spent the first 17 years as transport for a retirement home, so there is space between the seats for folks to put their walkers, or just stretch out those extra long legs!   The next three years it was a musician's haul-mobile and then it moved him and his family across the country, and then two weeks later it became ours! It has 50% less miles on it than my car. The engine needs one O ring, it came with new brakes and will be the vacation and hauling mobile.  The interior was absolutely disgusting, and the windows were covered by stickers of Elsa and Ana from Frozen, but two afternoons and four cans of carpet cleaner later it is pretty clean.  I'll steam everything once it is mobile again.  Ahhhhhhhhhh, to go camping and have free space under my legs and to be able to move and inch or two to the left or right without bumping into gear!  Summer's coming!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Let Me Think About It Monster

Around 28 days remain in the school year, so we are preparing by looking at the day camps available.  Music? Fine Arts? Sports? Computer? Hunger Games? We looked at them all,the ones offered by the school district, by the county parks and recreation, by the local community college, private, everything. Some were a half day, some were a full day, some were a half day, but were an hour or more away from home...what does Mom, the chauffeur, do when camp is in session for four hours or less?

The half-day/hour away camps were crossed right off the list.

The unbelievably expensive horse camps crossed right out.

The drama camps were immediately vetoed by my daughter, though they would do her some good.

The cheer camps were not an option, we skipped the ballet from three years old and gymnastics every week by choosing to buy groceries during those early years.  Besides, she wouldn't be caught  wearing the giant hair bows in public, even when she was three, she yanked those things out.

The computer camp she wanted the most turned out to be when we will be camping out West, we crossed it off. The others just wouldn't do.

 In the midst of our conversations a friend texted her that there was a Hunger Games camp offered by the community college and that they should sign up together.  Her eyes lit up, and her words tumbled up on top of one another.  She was waiting for her friend to text her an image of the camp description.  Meanwhile, I handed her the paper brochure and asked that she read it carefully. On closer inspection the Hunger Games camp was not what it appeared to be.  A little phrase at the end of it noted that  it was an academic camp and that a great deal of time would be spent in the classroom researching the information needed to survive outdoors. My daughter flopped in the red chair and harumphed that it sounded more like school than a Hunger Games role play.  She wanted to learn the information about the plants, starting fires, strategy and such, but wanted to learn it outdoors and then role play the game with her friends, do it like in the movies, go through training and then into the games.

I continued chopping vegetables for dinner.

I pointed out that I had been trying to teach her about the plants in the woods ever since she was little, but she really didn't want to hear it from me.  I pointed out that I had been doing the same with some of the outdoor craft that one needs to master, building a fire and so on, she had pretty much ignored me.  Her fires smoked and then went out.

I pointed out that I could teach a bunch of that to her and maybe a couple of her friends.

The scrunched brows, lifted, the eyes lit up, the wheels turned and I thought, "Oh no, what is cooking inside that head of hers?"

"We could run our own Hunger Games camp! My friends could come and we'd learn stuff from you and some of them know stuff too, that we could use and we could do it for a whole week and..."

I put the chef knife down and thought, "Oh no, what monster have I created?!"  Then I realized that this was the first thing that she had been truly excited about in a long time, so I stuck the monster image away in the back of my brain and entertained the idea.

I said,"Let me think about it. Something like that would take a good deal of time and preparation and I would need to consider quite a few things. It would be a huge project and I don't know if I'm going to do it, but let me think"  She pushed to plan it immediately, and I pushed back saying I needed time to consider it and that it might be a "No.".

For the rest of the day she was floating.  The energy the idea had given her made her bob through her chores and even be pleasant and on-time the next morning.

When she returned from school she stated that she needed to use the computer "as a tool" (meaning she was not going to play a game and use it as a toy, which has a time limit) and that it was TOP SECRET, at least for now. She shut the office door and tapped away at the keyboard, while I chuckled as I prepped another dinner.  Twenty minutes later she emerged and asked me to enter the office to view the TOP SECRET document she had created.

It was a PowerPoint that contained the fourteen names of kids she had recruited for the camp at school that day.  It contained research for Nerf guns and pricing. It contained a list of the different expertise topics, including martial arts and knife throwing, of the fourteen kids she recruited and some logistical planning.  If I could only get her to do that level of detail for her 4-H poultry project!

What proceeded next was the--I said I would think about it, not that I would do it, and fourteen kids are too many, etc. conversation.

I will probably do something, with tops six kids including mine.  Find some edible plants, find some that need to be avoided, learn to start a fire, learn to tell direction by the stars, read a compass, sleep in a tent without freaking out, outdoor sorts of things mixed with ice cream eating, hot dog roasting, and sprinkler running.  The next day, let them role play Hunger Games for a bit,  the average session only lasts about an hour until they get bored, and wave goodbye in the morning.