Friday, March 31, 2006

spring has sprung

The grass has ris (actually that's garlic below) and I don't know the rest of this rhyme.

Fields across the street will be emerald green with corn in a few months.

Daffodils and Sweet Woodruff popping up everywhere. Hostas will soon fill the space.

Better to have a bleeding heart than no heart at all. Especially a super-big red one that will practically fill up a bed on it's own.

White lilac that I thought would have had it's bud frost killed, cause they came out so early. Looks good though.

And happy chickens. I've gotten two of them to go to sleep in my hand. I think it's the singing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spider Haven

Judith has a great post about a spontaneous trip she took to St. John, UVI. In it, she makes mention of the fact that it was a long walk to the outside privy at night and that there may or may not be taratulas out hunting. This totally freaks me out. I am not a spider person. Not at all. After living alone for several years after college I managed to figure out ways to kill spiders without having a man present 24/7 but they were Rube Goldberg methods in which I would don shoes and heavy socks and stand on buckets with long mops or poles and repeatedly pound the spider until I was certain it was no longer of this world or squeeze large amounts of viscous fluids on them to slow them down. I have relaxed a little about spiders as I've aged and now feel the need to kill only the very large. I'm sorry, I know it's wrong, they perform a valuable function, they are a predator, valuable part of the ecosystem, blah, blah, blah....I hate them and they scare me. One of my most memorable spider episodes occurred on a trip to Ocracoke, NC. I had just graduated from college and didn't have much money so I joined with my sister and we rented a quaint little house on the island. It looked quaint in the picture anyway. Well, my then boyfriend (now husband) and I got there first. Unpacked, looked around a little, and headed out to get something to eat and have a few beers. My sister and her boyfriend at the time got there while we were out. They apparently looked around a little more closely than we did. When we got back my sister was hysterical....."We can't stay here, we can't stay here!" I asked her what the matter was. It wasn't the nicest house and the cleaning left a bit to be desired, but it wasn't as horrible as she was making it. Her face was ashen, but she has a tendency to over-react. But her boyfriend's face was ashen as well. "There are spiders everywhere" they said. Sure enough, we walked through the house and there were spiders everywhere. Big ones. There were legs sticking out from behind switchplates, spiders hanging from the ceiling in the bathroom, spiders in between the windows and the screens (so you couldn't open the windows). There were plank ceilings and there were many little funnel webs over the beds in both of the bedrooms. I was freaked out now. This was a lot of spiders. I really, really don't like spiders. But that wasn't the worst. Soon to be husband was irritated. He thought we were over-reacting. He went outside to have a cigarette. My sister lunged for the door. "Don't open that" she said. "They are everywhere outside too and those are really big". It was nighttime, and as I glanced out onto the screened porch, I could see very large funnel shaped webs going up into the nooks and crannies of the porch ceiling. We walked outside and then I heard my soon to be husband scream for the first and only time. He pointed to the floor and crawling up out from between the floorboards was the largest spider I have ever seen in person. I know that there are tarantulas and such in the southwest, but this was North Carolina....what the hell? It was easily 6 inches across, legs and all and had a huge fuzzy body that was at least 3 inches. It was brown and had visible fangs. He almost pushed past me to get back into the house, but was stopped by the locked door. My sister screamed through the glass that we had to check ourselves before she would let us back in, lest we inadvertently bring them inside. We called the realtor and begged for another place, but with no luck. We were stuck in "Spider Haven" a term we coined based on the name of the house 'Marsh Haven". The realtor did say that an exterminator would be by in the morning. Some relief, but not enough. We killed as many as we could find but didn't get much sleep. In the morning we noticed more about the interior of the house. There were little crystal spiders hanging in windows and spider drawings in a sketchbook and entries in the guest journal about their appreciation for all the spiders. Some people even named the larger ones. Crazy. About noon, the 'exterminator' arrived. A redneck in a dilapidated pick-up truck with a can of Raid. They must be joking, I thought. He killed a lot though. He'd spray Raid up into those funnel webs and these huge spiders would come rushing out and then he'd put his hand all up close to them and squash them with a sea shell. Enormous spider carcassess littered the screened porch. We were even able to sit out there at night and play cards and drink beer for the rest of the vacation. But somebody had to thump their feet every few minutes to deter whatever might be crawling up from between the porch boards. Soon to be husband did get an enormous spider bite that must have come while we were sleeping though. He had to go to the little island emergency center because it kept getting bigger and he was paranoid that it was something poisonous that bit him. Spider Haven was an experience. And not one I ever want to go through again.

Chickens are hard to photograph

So I picked up my chickens yesterday. I stopped at Tractor Supply on the way to Pickering Valley Feed Store (where the chicks were) and picked up a feeder and a waterer and food and a brooder lamp and bedding. I brought three different sized boxes because I didn't know how to transport them. I was super nervous. This is why I don't

have children....I felt completely overwhelmed and unprepared to get these 6 little balls of fuzz. I cannot imagine how freaked out I would be with an actual baby. Anyway, went to the feed store and told them I was there to pick up my chickens and the manager goes to look for a box to put them in. What does he pull out? A fried chicken take-out box. I'm serious. I'm like "uhhhh...that's a take out box with pictures of cooked chicken on the side....that's a little morbid, dontchya think?" He looked down and laughed and said "Yeah, I guess it is a little it's too small for 6 chicks. I'll find you another box." I asked the guy a million questions that I probably already knew the answer too but felt unsure and then we headed home. It was about an hour back to my house so I was a little nervous about keeping them warm. If they get cold, they huddle together and smother one another and chicks can suffocate. Even though it was 60 degrees outside, I rode with the windows up and the heat on. Twice on the ride home, I didn't hear any peeping and panicked and pulled over to a convenience store to make sure they were all still alive. We get home and I scramble to get everything put together because I'm picturing them slowly smothering one another. Finally I get them in their box and we can't get the light right.....all the chicks huddled under the lamp...too cold....lower the lamp....chicks run for the corners.....raise the lamp.....too cold again...chicks again head for the middle and start piling on one another. Finally after way too many tries, they looked around and decided it was just right. Then they were happy, drinking lots, eating lots and something I wasn't prepared for. When they fall asleep, they look like they are dropping over dead. Falling face first into the bedding and spreading their little wings out (see photo below). They are super cute though. I figured out that they do like music. In the car on the way home they calmed down a little if I turned music on. So last night before I turned in, I sang to my fuzzy chicks....that song about the inchworm measuring the marigolds...I thought that might give them good little chicken dreams. They did the nodding heads and face first into the bedding right away and seemed well rested this morning. This is fun and I suspect that what little chicken I do eat will be shortly disappearing from my diet.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Free association

Confidential to the disturbed individuals that google "monkey paw ashtray'.....go away. When I inquire as to the search words that led people to this site, the number one search phrase is "monkey paw ashtray". That's just wrong. And creepy. Based on this post about a Christmas house tour I once went on where a room was deocrated with a monkey motif and there was a real monkey paw ashtray, these weirdos are drawn here. The only acceptable reason to be googling those words is if you're a little goth kid and are thinking of naming your band Monkey Paw Ashtray.

There are pregnant animals running all over my yard. And formerly pregnant ones. I'm going to be busy later in the spring as I invariably have to scoop up, catch, replace, and remove various baby squirrels, rabbits, and birds. The fattest rabbit I've ever seen is living under the shed. I don't want to hazard a guess as to how many little rabbit kits she is carrying around. Or where she will leave them. Of course we'll figure that out on the first day that my husband mows and they scatter in every direction about 6 inches ahead of the riding mower. And the formerly rotund squirrel that could barely hoist it's butt up to the feeder is now suspiciously svelte, indicating a large litter of little squirrels deposited in one of our trees. I look forward to a month from now when an entire squirrel family will run wild up and down the lattice work and up and down the silver maples out front, causing my two 70 pound dogs to tap dance madly across my hardwood floors and leave nose prints on my windows and doors (the brown one thinks he just might catch them if he jams his nose a little harder against the glass) as they run from one end of the house to the other to 'get those squirrels'.

And apparently we have a shortage of affordable bird housing in the yard. I hung up those two cute little nesting baskets, to deter the purple finch from building in the wreath. In a little over twelve hours both baskets had tenants, furiously jamming twigs and dryer lint into their newfound accomodations. And the purple finch is still in the wreath. I guess we need more bird houses or something.

The chickens arrive tomorrow. I am so totally scared. I really hope I don't end up killing them. I'm probably being paranoid for no good reason, but I just feel like I don't know enough. I will keep you updated.

I cleaned on Sunday. Everything was getting pretty gritty what with the work we're doing on the house. Large balls of dog hair were starting to collect in the crevices of the stairs and under furniture. Is there anything better than starting off on Monday with a totally clean house? Squeaky clean floors under foot and a pristine bathroom that looks unused? All laundry done? Well, there probably are better things, but that's pretty darn good.

And super thanks to Susie Sunshine for making me famous over the weekend. Well, not exactly famous, but I got an all time high daily readership of 71. Way exciting. She recommended this blog and called it "thinky and pretty and gardeny all at once." That is such a complement. Thank you.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wild things seeping through the cracks

Every now and then, amid the daily torrent of bad news and pretty much the world collapsing around us, you see a news item that makes you smile or notice something that makes you think that everything isn't all that bad. The coyote in Central Park is such a story. How cool. Wild things are among us and slowly making their way back despite our best efforts at annihilating them. And yesterday a co-worker and I went for a walk at lunchtime on a nearby greenway. Thsi greenway follows a little creek and while the immediate area is pretty, large industrial and commercial developments are visible through the tree line. This greenway is within Harrisburg City limits and is well traveled by both fitness enthusiasts and n'er do wells. What did we see? Three freshly gnawed beaver trees. Within city limits......right where I drive past every day. Wow. There probably haven't been beavers there since the early 1900s. Huh.

Nature or nurture?

Why do I garden? Why am I interested in cultivating flowers and vegetables and trees? Do you think it is something that I learned or something that has just always been some people have a passion and are good at sports? I can't decide which it is....learned or inate. I've known people that have fabulous gardeners for mothers that have absolutely no interest in getting their hands dirty. And the reverse, people that loved to garden but never had any parent or grandparent take up the shovel. But for me I suppose it is a little of both. I come from a long line of gardeners on my mother's side. My great-grandmother (Gran-nan) and her second husband (Gramps) were amazing growers. They lived outside of Harrisburg in a small house with a yard that was half a city block (albeit a Harrisburg city block, which run small). When I used to go there, there were homes crowded on all sides but her yard was like an oasis, full of Japanese maples and Magnolias and towering pines. Huge azaleas and lilacs filled the yard and it didn't take much to forget that you were within city limits. For years, they also had a large vegetable garden, but I never got to know that. Vegetable gardening stopped when Gramps died, just before I was born. I can remeber digging up marbles in the yard that Gran-nan said he used to shoot at cats that dared venture too near the vegetable patch. The picture below was taken in 1944, with my mother sitting on Gramps lap. There isn't much detail of the garden, but the little pine tree growing behind them....well, it grew a lot. I got stuck in it when I was 12 because I climbed so high I panicked and my mother had to go get a ladder to get me down. Sometimes I drive by that house, which is owned by another family now. They don't take care of the yard as much as she did, but most of the trees and shrubs are still there, huge as ever.

This is my grandmother in the early 1920s. I guess my Gran-nan was always a good gardener, even with young children. I wish I could tell what that flowering shrub is in the background. I don't remember irises in her yard. They must have been gone by the time I was born. My Gran-nan gardened well into her 80s. I was 15 when she died and experiencing my snotty teen years, and totally not into gardening. But I wish I had been. I'm sure I could have learned so much. And maybe gotten some pass-along plants and cuttings. I love the floppy red dahlias pictured below with the yellow middles. These were right outside her back porch, in about the only spot of sunny, open-space left in the yard.

My grandfather was a very-serious gardener as well. And I did manage to learn a lot from him. He was mostly into flowers and trees, although he did keep a small vegetable garden in the backyard. I remember spring onions for some reason. He always had those and I can't believe he got me to eat them when I was little. He also helped my mother with her vegetable garden when we were young. It was pretty impressive for several years, but then was turned into lawn when my brother and sister got bigger.

The photo below is of my mother, posing in front of one of my grandfather's pride and joys....the wisteria. My grandmother referred to it as the giant purple people eater, and as a child I did believe for years that it could actually ensnare and eat people, so I gave it a wide berth when passing by. I think it finally got out of control after my grandmother died and he cut it down.

Thankfully, I was able to save much of his gardening knowledge. He kept detailed binders of information and notes about when to prune and how to propagate and when to plant. I take those out often and just page through them, reading the years and years of accumulated advice. After he died and before the house was sold, I dug up the 4 Japanese Maples that he had started from seed and planted in a little nursery area at the rear of his property and moved them to my new house. They have tripled in size the last few years. I also took peonies that grew alongside his house, in an area that hadn't seen full sun in 20 years. They get full sun now and they seemed grateful the first year they bloomed after being transplanted in my yard.

Here I am inspecting whatever he had planted in the planter outside the back door. It almost looks like roses. An espaliered Pyracantha is along the wall to the right.
My mother was a champion gardener as, vegetables, lots of roses. She had a huge rose garden (over 70 plants) when I was a baby. When I was a toddler, I developed a vicious allergy to them and was sick for most a summer. The doctor called it rose fever and my mother had to tear all those bushes out. I always felt guilty about that, because I never exhibited an allergy to roses again. My mother was probably the one that introduced me to naturalistic gardening. She put together beautiful rock gardens and woodland gardens with ferns and hostas and bluebells and mayapples. That is probably still my favorite gardening medium, I just don't have the appropriate areas for it. I get too much sun and my soil is too dry mostly.

So is it nature or nurture? Are we born with the love of dirt, or is it learned? With me, it's both. What about you?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Conservation district tree sales

I sent in my tree orders for the various conservation district spring tree sales today. I've participated in the Lancaster County Conservation District tree sale for the past several years. A sycamore I bought the first year (Spring 2003) is now very much taller than me. And a cluster of river birch I bought 2 springs ago is just as tall as I am. They were barely a foot high when I planted them. I'm excited to see what they do this year. Remember the tree planters rhyme.....1st year sleep, 2nd year creep, 3rd year leap. I would say that 90% of the trees and shrubs that I've purchased are doing very well. Dogwoods didn't do well, especially the ones I planted near the black walnut, not realizing they were intolerant to juglone, the toxin that black walnuts secrete into the soil to annihilate the competition, although I've read someplaces that they are tolerant. Anyway, I researched juglone resistant plants and ordered some that most sources agree are tolerant. I'd like to build a hedge in the corner of the property that houses the black walnut. A hedge for wildlife and also to act as a windscreen. One thing about living near farms that I was unprepared for was the wind. There is nothing to stop it and it just whips across the fields. Nice in the summer because it always seems cooler, but utterly miserable when it is cold. I absolutely hate waking up on a sunny saturday, eager to do something outside, only to be greeted by giant gusts of wind on a day when it is supposed to be in the mid-40s but feels barely above freezing. So....for this hedge I bought 3 arborvitae, 10 serviceberry, and a few more American Cranberry bush. I had cranberry bush under the black walnut and they seem to like it there. I also bought a black cherry, a black gum, and a tulip tree to add to the little wood lot at the other end of the yard. From Dauphin County Conservation District I purchased 3 Rhododendron and 5 Winterberry Holly. The Rhodies will go at the front of the pine stand and I'm not quite sure where the hollies will go. I do know they wont' go under the black walnut because they are intolerant of juglone. From Cumberland County Conservation District, I
bought 10 Concolor firs, again to act as a windbreak. Also from Lancaster County, I bought 3 Hydrangea paniculata and a weigela. I keep complaining that I can't get everything done, but I keep adding to it. Thankfully, the pickup dates for the three districts are on different days, fairly far apart. I'm glad, cause this will be a good amount of work getting all these shrubs and trees planted properly.

Photo: American Cranberry bush

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Saturday I went to buy more Jiffy pots at my local hardware store and as I pulled in the parking lot, wonder of wonders.....the garden center was open. I felt like skipping from my car. This garden center is medium sized, part of a fairly large True Value Hardware Store. But the people that run the garden center must read the same seed catalogs and magazines that I do, because they get great plants. They usually have all sorts of heirloom vegetable seedlings later in the spring and annuals and perenials that you just don't find anywhere else. Certainly not at the big box stores. Me and the few other people brave enough to browse the aisles in 40 degree weather with 30 mile an hour winds were positively floating. We all smiled at one another and pointed at the lovely specimens put out for sale. So of course I got pansies. 2.99 for a six-pack. The orange one is called 'Whiskers Orange'. Haha.

And they had these cute litte nesting baskets for $2.99 as well, so I bought them to hang from the front porch to discourage the purple finch that builds a nest every year in the twig wreath that I hang on the door to the living room, forcing us to use another door for over a month. Keep your fingers crossed.

And here are some of the bulbs I bought when I purchased the adorable weeping pussy willow featured on Knit a garden. And the galdiolus bulbs I bought at the garden show awhile back. My garden shop also had poppies and several varieties of cold weather veggies, which I did not buy. I had hoped to plant peas (sugar snap, snow, and regular) along with sweet peas, beets, swiss chard, and onions over the weekend, but the only free time I had it was usually very cold and windy and I just couldn't get excited about it.

There was a transition over the weekend. I took pictures last Friday of flowers about the house. Some of them are done already, like the purple crocus and the snowdrop. But the hellebores are holding strong and the daffodils are opening at the front of the house. I didn't realize aconites were as long lasting as they are. On Friday afternoon, I cleaned out the future chicken house. It needs a little modification, but it should work nicely. I need to remove the two un-opening plexiglass windows and put in glass ones that I can prop open, so I don't unintentionally cook the chickens during the summer. I got two chicken 'how-to' books yesterday and became a little paranoid about chick mortality, so....I ordered two more. Four Buff Orpingtons and 2 Plymouth barred rocks. I'm nervous but really excited.

Oh, and a seedling update...peppers are on the march! By Friday afternoon, less than a week after I planted them.... this is what I had. As of this morning, all but a few along the perimeter were unsprouted. I feel confident though, after my visit to my garden center, that I can leave them in these sprouting trays for a little while still. The seedlings in the greenhouse at the garden center were 5 times the size of mine and in trays with much smaller plugs. But soon enough I will be very busy. I'm so glad it's finally spring though.

Friday, March 17, 2006

In over my head

So those 128 tomato seeds I planted? On Saturday? Well they were 95% sprouted on Wednesday night. I was not prepared for this. I was totally not prepared to find 121.6 tomato seedlings pushing up against the plastic cover at 10 o'clock at night when I checked on them. They were supposed to wait until the weekend. The gardening books said 6 to 10 days!!!!! Not 4!!!!! So I hastily rigged a flourescent light over the little buggers, watered them thoroughly, and nervously glanced at the 128 pepper seedlings lying in wait next to them. Please, please don't sprout yet I silently implored them. I'm not ready. I obviously had not thought this out thoroughly. How ever will I transplant 256 tomatoes and peppers into larger pots? Thursday evening , there were one inch little tomatoes reaching for the light. Large enough to tempt the two cats, circling like sharks below the table. I hastily rigged a barricade. Stacked paint cans, cat carriers, old screens, whatever I could find, to protect my tender little charges. They will have to be moved today. I have a bright upstairs bedroom that I believe gets enough sun, so they hopefully will go in there. I'm paranoid about damping off now. Somewhere I read that watering them with Chamomile tea protects against damping off. Anybody know? And as if I did not have enough on my plate, what with the mini-jungle growing in the basement and the renovation of 4 rooms in my home that is moving painstakingly slow, I ordered chickens. The chickens I was supposed to get from my friend, as a result of her buying a property that came with them...well, that fell through. And I was really disappointed. I wanted chickens. So I looked around and finally found a place where I can buy only 4, so I bought 4 Buff Orpingtons. I pick them up on March 28. They will live in a large box in the garage for a month or so and beyond that....well, I don't know. That involves shed cleaning and construction and just way too much at the moment. I probably shouldn't have gotten them. I am nervous about taking care of them and who I will get to look after them when we go away for vacation or I'm away for work. Chickensitters are hard to come by, I think. I'm in way over my head right now. Why does this happen every Spring?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Garden Voices

Check out Garden Voices! It's a compendium of entries from gardening blogs all over the country and from other countries. Lots of really interesting garden blogs that maybe you've never come across.


Why would a garden blog delve into the science of interpreting the bumps on your head? Well, I'm not. That's PhRenology. I'm talkin' Phenology which is something we all know little bits and pieces of and have heard since we were kids from grandparents and such. It stems from Greek for "science of appearances' and is the study of cyclic events of nature. Some of these I've heard and some are new, but all are good old-fashioned indicators of what to plant when.
  • Plant beets and carrots when dandelions are blooming
  • Plant potatoes when the shadbush (Amelanchier arborea) bloom. Which is a phenologism itself since shadbush is named so because it blooms in time with the Shad runs. Are there any shad running anywhere anymore?
  • Plant lettuce, spinach, and peas when the lilacs show their first true leaves or when the daffodils bloom
  • Plant beans when lilacs are in full bloom
  • Plant cucumbers and squash when the lilacs fade
  • Grasshopper eggs hatch when the lilac blooms
  • Plant tomatoes, peppers, and early corn when the dogwoods are full blown or when daylilies start to bloom
  • Plant corn when elm leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear or when oak leaves are the size of a mouse's.
  • Plant perennials when maple leaves begin to unfurl
  • Prune roses when the forsythia blooms
  • Plant pansies, snapdragons, and other hardy annuals after the aspens and chokecherry trees are leafed out. This indicates no more hard frosts.
  • Or, when you see new growth on green ash, grapes, and bur oaks, it's safe to plant annuals
  • Or, when peaches and plums are in full bloom
  • Plant morning glory seeds when maples are fully leafed out
  • When Morning Glories start to climb, Japanese Beetles arrive
  • When Foxgloves open, Mexican bean beetles appear
  • Plant aboveground crop vegetables on a waxing moon (from new to full)
  • Plant underground crop vegetables and flowering bulbs on a waning moon (from full to new)
  • Cut down trees on a waning moon
  • When wasps build their nests in exposed areas, it will be a dry year
  • When the locusts bloom in May, it will turn cold and rainy (this happens every year, I swear)
  • When the sun goes to bed red, 'twill rain tomorrow tis said...same as red sky at night, sailor's delight, red sky at dawn, sailors take warn
  • And of course, fond to me, since I'm surrounded by corn "Knee high by the Fourth of July"

Any that you know that don't appear here? I'd like to hear some from other regions, becasue these are so very 'MidAtlantic'.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Symplocarpus foetidus

Not so Virtual Homestead posted pictures of skunk cabbage coming up on her property. I envy those that have streams or wetlands on their land. The addition of hydric soils and wetland hydrology opens up an entirely new world of plants that simply will not grow elsewhere. One of my favorites is the Skunk Cabbage. Forget Hellebores and snowdrops....Skunk Cabbage steps on-stage in early to mid-February. This positively prehistoric plant actually makes it's own heat through a chemical reaction to thrust it's spathe up through the earth, heating to as much as 36 degrees F above ambient air temperature to melt a snow cover. The red-mottled spathe conceals the seed head or spadix tucked inside. You would think Symplocarpus would have a hard time finding a pollinator, given that it's still pretty cold out when the time is right. The combination of the heat of Skunk Cabbage and the putrid smell it gives off draw....what else? Flies. A lot of reference books say that Symplocarpus smells like rotting meat. I've never smelled that. It smells like Skunk. Many times, out doing a wetland delineation, I've stepped on the very tip of the spathe emerging from the ground without knowing it and spent a good five or ten minutes looking for the skunk that surely must by lurking about. The skunk cabbage has the largest leaves of any North American herbaceous plant, unfurling up to a startling 5 feet in length. All those leaves unfold from the two small buds that emerge with the spathe. I would love to have a time lapse video showing that happening. Symplocarpus is an obligate plant. What does that mean? The United States Fish and Wildlife Service publishes a list called the National List of Vascular Plant Species that Occur in Wetlands. It gives an indicator status to almost every plant known in the continental United States. The indicator status suggests where that plant likes to live. Obligate suggests that 99% of the time, that plant will be found in a wetland. The opposite of obligate is Upland, meaning 99% of the time, that plant will be found in dry conditions. Field Thistle is an example of an Upland Plant. Then there are three designations in between, indicating varying percentages of occurrence in a wetland as opposed to an upland. Anyway, skunk cabbage really, really likes wet feet. I'm not sure that you are able to buy Skunk cabbage, in case you wanted to add it your wet area. I've never seen it. And as they have a suprisingly extensive root system, they are almost impossible to successfully transplant. So if you have Symplocarpus, consider yourself lucky. I'll just have to enjoy it when I come across it.

Monday, March 13, 2006 was so nice over the weekend. Well, Saturday anyway. Sunday was a little wet. I got lots done outside and many many flats of seeds started. I started 128 tomato seeds (Brandywine, Genovese, and Elbi) and 128 peppers (paprika, pimientoes, and two kinds of red bell). I'm hoping that I'll have enough to have a little seedling sale in early May. I also started two flats of flowers with the random row of basil and onion and dill thrown in. Now they are in the basement on their comfy heat mat, hopefully sprouting their little hearts out. My husband, apparently eager to fire up a power tool, tilled half of the garden too. So at least that is done enopugh that I can plant peas and onions and sweet peas and potatoes soon. I did a great deal of walking about the yard on Saturday too. I have to admit, even though this is my 35th spring, every year I am amazed by the ummm.....tremendous rushing force of spring. There comes a point early every Spring where things just seem to be growing, well, with extreme force. And it doesn't stop until July sometime. Between Saturday and Sunday, I know that I had clumps of tulips appear 4 or 5 inches above the ground where there had been none the day before. This unfettered fecundity freaks me out a little. It's almost as if you should be able to hear it. It would be sort of a groaning, straining, buzzy noise...maybe with a touch of thundering animal herd in the distance.....all these cells being made and furiously dividing and sugars being consumed, things just appearing all at once, just this crazy, frnzied push. Oh, and turns out I do have aconite. All of them popped up at some point on Friday. No leaves protruding shyly before hand, just flower and all popping up all at once. I suspect dirt was flung on my windows by this jack-in-the box type appearance. And the hellebores at some point each developed three more blooms. How nice. I thought they would be earlier though. They are getting lost in the riot of crocus and snowdrop and mini daffodil and aconite and sweet woodruff in the beds off the front porch. And now there is no end in sight. The season has started (at least in my mind) and the slow days of January and February, spent imagining the garden this year are over and things will continue to move faster and faster. And it feels so very good. It will be 78 degrees today. I can hardly stand it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Stuck inside the office with the spring fever blues again

I hearby declare it spring. I am not waiting for the vernal equinox. It was 60 degrees at 7 am this morning. And now it is near 70. Huge swaths of whistling swans and Canada geese flew over last night and this morning. Crocus are up and I actually do have 3 aconite. Woohoo. They were apparently just a little late. Anyway, you heard it hear first. It's spring. No need to pine away any longer. Just get started. Get moving. Till, plant, throw open the windows and air out the place, beat some rugs, buy some pansies! It's here. We will be cooking out this evening and otherwise acting as if it summer, all the while acting positively giddy. Awesome.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Garden Podcasts

I don't have an IPod, but a co-worker showed me (I'm hopelessly technologically ignorant) how to download the ITunes player onto my work computer and then download podcasts. There aren't a ton of gardening podcasts out there, but I've found a few really good ones that I enjoy. My favorite is Wiggly Wigglers which is a vermicomposting company based in England. They talk a little about vermicomposting, but mostly about conservation, bringing wildlife into your 'garden' (our yard), responsible farming methods, the evils of corporate groceries determining what we eat, etc. It runs 30 minutes or so and is totally enjoyable.

Another I look forward to is KUOW 94.9 Weekday's gardening Notes with Steve Scher (download from the ITunes Store). This is a call in show based in Seattle that usually has a theme for each show and spends a lot of time talking about fruit trees. The host and co-host are amazingly well-versed in all aspects of gardening and even though it's the west coast, I've learned a lot of valuable information, in addition to finding new sources for plants and trees.

The Land Stewardship Project's podcast is also a good listen. They talk about sustainable agriculuture, sustainable communities, globalization, and the importance of growing your own.

Maybe I'll stop being such a technophobe and buy an IPod, cause I would love to be able to listen to these podcasts in the car. Check them out.

Walmart to oust L.A.'s largest community garden

March Malaise

I haven't posted in a really long time. Last week and this week have been really busy, but there was a kind of low grade depression there too. Every day was cold and terribly windy and on the weekends, I didn't want to do much else than sit and look out a window. Even my husband walked around the house and kept repeating "I just don't feel like doing anything". But this week is better and this weekend it is supposed to be in the mid-60s so hopefully that will make me all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed again.

Vegetable and flower seeds need to be started this weekend (should have been done last weekend) and fruit trees need to be pruned too. Any remaining perennial stalks need to be cut back, and I should start some seeds outside in flats, like poppies. The shed needs cleaned out, although the chicken issue is up in the air as my friend and the seller of the farm with the chickens can't agree on who should pay to have the septic renovated. So much to do. I didn't make it to the Philadelphia Flower show but my friend and I went to the Mid-Atlantic Garden show in York, Pennsylvania on Sunday. It was small but very nice. I bought two packets of Gladiolus and a Rex Begonia.

My favorite display featured a potting shed, gazebo, and chicken tractor partially made of reclaimed materials. Wouldn't you just love to have this potting shed? How adorable. And the gazebo was made of a reclaimed grain silo roof and barn timbers.

The red wagon thing is a chicken tractor which you can pull anywhere you want in your yard and let your chickens roam and fertilize and eat bugs. There are two chickens in that little white enclosure to the right of the chicken tractor. Anyway, it was a nice way to spend a Sunday and it got me excited again about planting and the thought that any day now, it will be Spring.

Last fall I wrote that I had purchased Winter Aconite and Hellebores and Pheasants Eye daffodils. Well, my hellebores each have one bloom (which was more than I was expecting). The Pheasants Eye are pushing their way up through the soil and I look forward to their spicy scent gracing my table in late April sometime. But the aconite were a no show. I planted 20 and not one popped up. I suppose I will have to call the bulb company this spring and let them know and hopefully they will send me more. Anyway, on the way to the grocery store on Saturday, I passed an older lady's house whose gardens I have always admired. And under the tree in her front yard was a rich spread of aconite, with the sun shining on it. It was so pretty, I had to stop and take a picture. I want aconite under my big trees just like this someday. How pretty on an impossibly cold, very blustery day in March.