Monday, June 27, 2016

Gardening


The first cucumbers are ready, as well as the first picking of green beans. I have cut Swiss chard twice and pulled some baby beets.
Rain accompanied the thunder storm on Thursday evening and by Sunday afternoon the soil was just right for weeding.
At 93 F. it was too hot to be in the garden!



 I spent the afternoon puttering with the plants on the porch. 
I snipped off faded blossoms, trimmed and repotted a lank Swedish ivy, moved the store-bought rosemary from its peat pot into a proper home.


Bobby Mac flopped on the floor after I swept away the mess of soil and plant bits.


The nasturtiums need to be groomed at least twice a week.
I moved them from the cement landing below the side steps as they were getting too much direct sun.
I carefully picked off shriveled blooms and sun-bleached leaves. 
There is a cosmos in the pot--rather incongruous; I mistook it for a tiny signet marigold when I lifted it from the border--by the time I realized my error it was flourishing and I left it in the pot.
Strangely, the signets didn't produce any volunteer plants.


Begonias and  repotted ivy in the shady corner of the south-facing porch.


The tuberous-rooted begonia is on its 3rd or 4th season. 
It spends winters in the small storeroom in the basement, reviving in the spring when moved to daylight and watered.


The spring flush of bloom in the border has 'gone by.'
The self-sown cosmos have taken over.
Jim planted several tomatoes much too close to my flowers, but I let them stay.

As the midday heat drained away I went to work on the grass that has grown alongside the border.
I use my garden fork to loosen an area of soil then down on my creaking knees to pick out the grass and other small weeds.
Last summer I battled the emergence of turnips which had been sown as a cover crop before the former owners had this 'topsoil' drawn in.
I had hoped we could do more to amend the soil before it was time to plant veg.
In reality, I was hoping Jim would find time to construct some raised beds.

I was surprised to find this morning that there had been a shower sometime in the night.
By late morning I judged the soil dry enough to continue weeding.
I worked along both 'legs' of the border, then down a row of green beans, picking beans as I crawled .

  Our neighbor/renter came to borrow Jim's small tiller.
When he returned it later, he ran it along the edges of the remaining veg rows.
I spread the two bags of mulch I had on hand--discovering that one contained the usual brown mulch, while the one more recently purchased was inky black. 
I need several more bags of mulch--will get it all at the same garden shop, all the same color!

I took several short breaks during the day, but was pushing myself to finish what I had started.
I was sweaty, aching, grubby, still more needing done when I quit.

The sun was low in the western sky when, showered, shampooed and wearing fresh clothes I plodded down the lane to the mailbox.
I hadn't visited the goats or the barn cats, so detoured to scoop up a kitten for a moment's cuddle, and then quick pats on the little goatly heads poked through the fence.

I made myself an ambitious mental list of projects to delve into with Jim away for a week.
[One does not have to prepare proper meals when the man of the house is not in residence!]
Thus far the garden chores have had priority.
During the past hour I have felt fatigue settling heavily on my bones.
I am thinking rather longingly of the wide bed with its crisp cotton sheets.
Tomorrow is another day!



Double orange daylily discovered by daughter G. along the old Gradyville RD in 2013.
We decided it was unusual enough to warrant digging up a clump for each of us.


One of three unwelcome garden pests discovered Sunday morning.


The south-facing border before I began weeding.

Cosmos.


Sky before the storm Thursday evening.


Eerie half-light during the storm.


As the storm rumbled away a double rainbow appeared, back lit by the setting sun.


Darkness moving in.


Willis by clary sage--photo with flash.

Weeding in progress.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Officially Summer

Clary Sage


Although the leaves are large and coarse, the flower stalk is elegant. 
Clary is a biennial. I grew it first in Gradyville but moved before discovering if it might self-sow or need new plants raised each year.  I should perhaps have started some this spring ready to set out in the fall and insure a continuity of bloom.


Phlox, "Laura"  [or is it "Jenna"--I planted both, will have to check the labels.

Platycodon/Balloon Flower.


I moved a stringy root of this from the Bedford stone house with some mis-givings about its chance of survival. I was happily surprised to discover that it has settled in. 


I wonder what caused the frilled petals of this self-seeded cosmos. 

A late poppy, likewise ruffled.


Bobby Mac toiling from the weedy pasture to the house on Sunday afternoon.
He was panting with the heat and has seemed lethargic, not as ready to dash outside.


Willis--who loves to lurk in foliage.
I am not a summer person. I remember as a child, longing for summer, only to droop when July heat and humidity dominated our Vermont weather.
In Kentucky summer begins in mid-May--give or take a few days.
By the solstice the heat has enveloped us like a thick damp blanket. 
Laundry pegged on the lines in mid-morning has to have a tumble in the dryer when brought in late in the day. The freshness of a cool shower and clean clothing melts away after 15 minutes outdoors.
The indoor cats sprawl in odd places, the outdoor cats seek the shade.
A walk down the lane at mid day to check the mailbox leaves me breathless and mildly cross.
The goats lounge in the pasture or alongside the barn, reviving in the evening to browse, the kids to caper and play.
Growing vegetables seems to be an endless battle with bugs and blight. We watch the weather forecast, hoping for the showers that have thus far 'gone around.'
We cope--with cold drinks, fans, the portable A/C and the de-humidifier.
Outdoor work is scheduled for the early morning hours before the sun climbs high in the sky.
I am thankful for the comparatively slower pace of 'retirement'--what we don't get done today can be postponed until tomorrow!




Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Goats and Cats--and a Dog [In No Particular Order]


The billy goats, Dandelion and Caraway, prior to their break out from the pasture.
When F. arrived home, he set to work reinforcing existing fences and constructing a sturdy 2- strand electric fence to separate the goat pasture from the area below our garden.
The billy goats were kept under surveillance in the dry goat pasture for a week and the four non-milkers moved across the lane to what had formerly been the domain of the bucks.


My favorite of the mature goats, Zenobia, who is the oldest goat in the herd. Her distinctive black 'beard' doesn't show well in this photo.


Dandelion with his head through the gate.


Bobby Mac showing off as he keeps me company in the garden.


Charlie is likewise a companionable soul, often getting in the way of my hoe, wanting my attention when I am weeding.


For a few days the dry goats stayed in the long pasture which borders the shady side of the lane.
They were alert to my footfalls whenever I walked down the lane and quickly formed a procession on their own side of the fence. 
I have found that goats are very conversational. 
At convenient spots along the fence,  heads were thrust through to be patted and complimentary remarks were exchanged. 


One of the goats, Evonnia, found a way to escape the pasture. Returned by F. she refused to stay in.
When I walked down last evening I was surprised to find that the ladies had been returned to their original pasture and the bucks were back across the lane.
F. assures me that the boys have considerable respect for an electric fence.
I will miss the enthusiastic greetings of the does.  If I wish to fuss over them I will need to go through the barn and out to the hill pasture gate.


The baby goats at their grain trough.
When I was caring for them, there was persistent pushing at the fence above the trough.  One little girl goat managed to get her head stuck three times.
I lashed a variety of found objects to the fence as a deterrent. 


This is Munchkin, who patrols the hill pasture. The dry goats are her usual 'group' to guard.
She is friendly, takes her job seriously, doing a great deal of barking.
When we drive up or down the lane she races along the fence, whirling in circles as she nears the end of the pasture.


Charlie and Willis frequent the garden, sometimes disagreeing as to who is 'top cat.'
Willis takes his role as the farm overseer to heart.

Charlie is an amiable nitwit!


Sally, one of our outside cats. Sally likes to assist if I am weeding the strip below the porch. 
She and her sister, Sadie, have developed testy ways in response to the years of lordly dominance by Willis.

One of the mom-cats who lives in the goat barn.

Misty morning in the pasture.


Delphinium, waiting her turn to be milked.
She habitually stands in her grain bucket, removing her feet only to put her head in the depths of the bucket and slam it against the wall. 

Willis--Himself.



Saturday, June 11, 2016

Early June Gardening


The lavender that spills over at the foot of the porch steps is past its prime bloom.
I had my camera nearby as I pruned sage plants which had gone straggly and took several shots of this butterfly which I hadn't seen before.
Most of the shots were even more blurred than this one.
There is always a companionable cat or two when I work in the gardens.  I was concerned that the hovering butterfly was about to become prey.
Two hummingbird feeders are attracting visits from a pair of ruby-throated hummers who are once again nesting in one of tall spruce trees below the side porch.
Although I have tried through many seasons, I've never taken a clear photo of these busy 
darting birds.


Bees love the lavender. Working in this small plot I need to be wary that I don't upset a bumble bee or a smaller honeybee.
The garden sage in the background produced showy spires of blue in May, then the plant began to look shabby. I've snipped off the faded stems of bloom in hopes that the sage will produce some woody stalks and healthy leaves.
Purple sage has looked unkempt with a litter of clinging dead leaves.  I recall it had this untidy habit in my previous herb garden. 



This solitary 'toadstool' sprang up in the rough path that edges the perennials set in place last autumn.
It caught and held a sparkle of drops from an early morning rain.
By the following day it had melted and collapsed.


Hawkeye Belle--a favorite of the roses planted in my Gradyville garden [the one ignominiously buried under a new parking lot!]
I moved this 'offspring' to the bedford stone house in 2014, then here last summer.
The bush is still small, but the first blooms are encouraging.


I saved seeds from last summer's cosmos.
This one and the white one pictured below are volunteer plants.
It appears I will have a perpetual supply of cosmos.



Some seeds found a toehold at the base of the retaining timbers. Strangely, the plants have bloomed while still small and stunted. The same happened with the poppies. I suspect I should have thinned out the huddle of plants rather than letting most of them grow on.


Nasturtiums are a favorite. I raised them every summer during our Vermont years, letting them billow from a half barrel planter.
I bought these as starts from the nursery. I've no doubt I will find some morning that they have been consumed overnight by squishy green caterpillars--the usual fate of my Kentucky nasturtiums.


Garden helpers--Bobby Mac and Willis parading along the retaining timbers.


A spray of daisies flattened in the rock-lined drainage ditch.


White foxglove, seed-grown and cosseted on the porch last summer, planted in the last warm days of mid-November.


The untidy rugosas have had their spring flush and need to be trimmed back as they lean too far into the side porch walkway.


Sutton's Apricot foxglove at its peak before the last rain.
Seed pods are forming now and I've tied the stalk to the fence so that the seeds will ripen and can be saved.  I nurtured seedlings from three foxglove varieties last year: the white, shades of rose and the apricot. Less than a half dozen of the apricot germinated. Only two have bloomed, the second one a less hardy plant with blossoms in a pale peach-pink.


Lavender a week ago in peak bloom.
The unpruned sage is very visible in the background.
The weather turned hot today--about 90 F--after a week of nearly perfect June days.
Mornings were cool, the sun's heat at mid-day tolerable.
I labored outside, hoeing the row of beans, the Swiss chard, the hills of cucumbers and melons, loosening the rain-compacted soil around the tomatoes. 
I ripped and hacked at weeds in the perennial strips, tweaked weeds and an excess of self-sown cockscomb from the area between the concrete steps and the edge of the porch.
It doesn't read like a great accomplishment!
Considering what yet needs to be done, I'm feeling a bit daunted by aching knees and shoulders. 
This business of 'aging' shouldn't be allowed to interfere with my passion for gardening!
I daresay I must learn 'moderation'--some fussy way of working for an hour and
 knowing enough to quit.
I don't like to quit a task once I've gotten started.  In the case of gardening, once the knees of my jeans are grubby and my fingernails are dark with embedded earth, it seems a shame to hoist myself to my feet and abandon the rest of the patch!
With the weather tipping into the heat and humidity of summer I know that garden chores will need to be accomplished very early in the morning. 
The first exuberant blooms will fade rapidly in the simmering heat, plants will soon need to be cut back, mulch needs to be renewed. 
I am torn between the longing for 'more garden' and the reality of diminished stamina.
Creating a fertile area, civilizing a patch of ground that has known only rocks and weeds is a demanding chore, not accomplished in one season.
Perhaps it is time to explore the possibilities of 'container gardening.'