Monday, July 6, 2020

Raccoons on the Rampage



14th June, a Sunday, was perfect weather to putter outdoors. I had previously planted a clematis in the new garden, placing the trellis against the west wall.  In a few days it became obvious that the heat absorbed in the exposed concrete was too intense for the clematis.  Jim moved the trellis around to the wonky wooden fence below the east wall.  I replanted the unhappy clematis and put another beside it.  Both were sturdy little plants from a reputable mail order nursery; they had been grown on in the shelter of the greenhouse after arriving in early May. I tied the vines to the trellis and placed several flat rocks at the base.



This was the devastation that met my gaze when I went outside early Monday morning.
We decided that the rootling had been done by a raccoon. 
A raccoon visited the cat kibble feeder on the lower porch several times during late winter and we hadn't begrudged it the food.
Somewhat reluctantly we decided to bait the Hav-a-Hart trap.


The next morning we had the supposed culprit. Jim was loading the trap into the back of the pickup when I noticed that the raccoon was a female. Immediately we thought of nursing kits left to starve if we trucked their mom away. 'Its your plants, your choice what to do with the coon', said Jim, leaving me to decide.  My soft heart caved, hoping the attack on the clematis was a one-time mistake. We released the coon. Pondering the situation later, I recalled that the mother coon's nipples had been shriveled and dry as though her kits were already weaned.



Tuesday morning. Note that these pots were on the front doorstep.


Wednesday morning.

Thursday morning.

Friday morning, on the lower porch.


On Saturday morning this large and belligerent male was in the trap.
Howard hoisted the trap into his truck and we drove down narrow winding back roads to release the coon in an overgrown field. 
Subsequently we caught and transported two smaller raccoons.
There has been a heated discussion on the local online 'magazine' re dealing with unwelcome visitations from raccoons.
One writer stated that a friend loaned her a collection of 'rubber snakes' which discouraged nocturnal visits to planters and bird feeders.
Another contributor ranted against the practice of transporting coons to remote areas and rather self-righteously confessed that coons trapped on their property were taken to the farm of a friend who 'uses them to train his dogs.'  
Jim doesn't shoot animals, but I contend that a quick bullet would be a more merciful end than being turned loose to be torn apart by hounds in training!


I replanted the clematis vines twice before they were left to grow in peace.
I was able to salvage and re-pot most of the plants thrown about during Mr. Raccoon's nightly rampages. We have since seen a youngish coon mooching about on the front steps but it has caused no upsets. 
We've had visiting raccoons in other locations, never any who created havoc.
I've always considered them rather appealing with their pointy masked faces and bushy tails.
Since the destruction ended with the removal of the large male, I hope he was one of a kind.

I started this post using the new blogger format. I loaded 3 photos, couldn't load the remainder so reverted to the older format.











Saturday, July 4, 2020

June Gardening


More photos than words, trying to catch up with the intense round of gardening that has been our focus since late in May.
We have put in vegetables at the Dry Creek property as a sort of communal 'family garden', having planted the available space in the home garden.

This is the coolest June we have experienced in Kentucky, wonderful weather for working outdoors.
Rain, sometimes in torrential bursts, has broken the spell of dry weather.

A refined variety of milkweed for the benefit of butterflies.


Lauren's Grape poppies sprang up in several spots amongst the Knock-out roses.


A David Austin rose, one of the last to bloom before the plague of Japanese beetles began their destructive work.


The raspberry pink foxgloves started last season from seed.


Prairie Coneflower, the petals more delicate than the common variety.
I can see that it should be staked to be at its best.


First stage of the garden behind the west retaining wall.  Jim suddenly took an interest in this project I had contemplated without any real idea how to proceed. 
We brought the stones from the creek bed at the other property, along with topsoil for a raised planting area.
I had pointed out that the treated timbers were already here, salvaged from the fences we took down.








One of the Dry Creek gardens.

Preparing the garden at Dry Creek.

Beans began the climb up the fence.

We've been eating cucumbers for three weeks


A stand of purple coneflower, most of them started three years ago from seed, a few plants moved here have colonized.

Purple basil.





The earliest planted nasturtiums are tired now, but the seeds dropped will soon be reviving the planter.
I began sorting photos for this post during the last week of June, so both flower and vegetable gardens have changed since. 
I sheared back the rose hedge, clipped the fading blooms from the nepeta, cut down the foxgloves.
July is the season of long hot and humid days, a time to work in the gardens early in the morning.
The great rush of planting is over; now we harvest, combat the 'bugs' and weeds, try to ward off tomato blight.



Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Scent of Rain


Sabbath quiet on the east porch. Mottled sunshine over the garden, a drift of clouds, pale grey at the edges.
Whirring of wings as hummingbirds land on the hanging feeder.  Bluebirds fly into the fringe of trees that line the south ravine, dart back out of sight behind the house.
I move the heavy gardening book from my lap to rest against the arm of the rocking chair.  Clancy, the half grown kitten, has landed in my lap.
A light breeze lifts the perfume of the Old Vermont Pinks in the new garden below. The tallest spires of foxglove move.
I am lost in my book--English gardens, herbs, flowers, stately formal gardens, cottage gardens, rustic country plots.


The wind quickens, bringing the smell of distant rain.  Putting the book aside, I watch the tops of the trees swaying as dark clouds move in from the west. 
A muffled rumble of thunder and the cats who have kept me company exit the porch, scudding through the sun room and into the house.

Rain moves in fast, great sheets of it borne on the wind.
Through the porch screens I watch as water pummels the flower strips, splashes from the barn roof.

Picking up my book and a cushion from the rocking chair I follow the cats inside.
The shower is brief, but rather fierce, over in a scant 15 minutes.

Outside again trees drip, closer by, the eaves drip. 
The tiny tree frogs we call 'rain crows' make their distinctive creaking sound, call and answer from several across the lane.
A quarter of an hour's respite and again the thunder rolls, heralding another deluge.
Teasel-Cat and I settle for a chair by the east living room windows, the book again positioned to accommodate a cat



When the rain stops I shove my feet into boots and venture outside.
In the greenhouse a swallowtail butterfly beats against the wall, pauses to cling to a spray of tall grass above  the bench. I grasp it gently by one wing, release it at the door and watch as it flutters away.


The storms have moved off, leaving a steamy warmth. The peonies raise their heads.



The sky is brilliantly blue, clouds pillowy, pristine.


Walking up the lane to the mailbox I note that this shapely tree in the fence row has triumphed over the harsh freeze that stripped its first crop of leaves.


Our neighbor's barn lot, unused since the death last fall of his giant jack, has grown a cover of buttercup.


The dooryard shimmers, the air has a rain-washed freshness.



The grass of the meadow is nearly ready for David Beachy to hay again.



Willis waits for me in the shade where the lane bends past the garden area.


Willis takes his escort duties very seriously.


At twilight we walk out and notice that the rain and several hours of steamy heat have caused a veritable explosion of green beans poking through the wet garden soil.



It is nearly dark when I cross the yard to close up the greenhouse. 
A few seedlings need watering. 
Jim has set buckets to collect rain water, better for the young plants than the heavily chlorinated county water.
A frog balanced on the edge of a bucket startles me, plopping over the edge.

The night air is heavy with the scent of wet grass, pinks, pansies, wild blackberries.
The rain crows rasp, the birds have gone to their night time roosts.
We are--finally--at the edge of summer.






Tuesday, May 19, 2020

From Frost to Flowers




May 6th--and the peony bushes sheltered under the improvised tent Jim made, hoping that 3 nights of frost wouldn't ruin the spring crop of blooms.
When I cautiously removed the tarp on the 4th morning, many of the stems were bent and the buds looked a bit dry.



As the weather began to warm up, I noted that ants--seemingly necessary to stimulate the blooming process--were at work.




You can see the effect of the cold on the outermost petals.


This was the first peony to bloom. The edges of the petals were dry and bleached looking.


This simple white bloom is my favorite of my peonies.


We were at Lowes several years ago [while doing renovations on our Amish farmhouse] and of course I wandered away from the aisles of plumbing and wiring items and out to the garden center.
In the very middle of a display of red and pink potted peonies was this one and only.
I gently moved others out of the way until I could reach and claim it.


The pink peony--probably the vintage variety Sarah Bernhardt--is a division moved from our first Kentucky property. 


It was autumn when we sold the Amish farm and moved up the ridge to build our present house. 
I had peony roots sitting in nursery pots to make the move with us.  By the time Jim could 'turn' a strip of ground near the house site, it was mid October.  The peonies were crowded into the chilly soil, no idea of color placement.  I think this fall would be a good time to give them more 'elbow room.'


Yesterday [Monday] the afternoon dissolved into fitful showers.
I stood at the kitchen window mournfully watching as the peonies bent beneath the pummeling rain.
During a lull I ran out and gathered a few blooms, heavy with cold moisture. 
Robert-the-Cat helped to arrange them and wished to be part of the photo op.


I put in a few iris this spring--transplants from Gina's garden and a root or two that I discovered at the site of the former [burned] house at the lower edge of the property.
I didn't expect blossoms this season, but there were a few buds, mostly seared by the frost.
It was a pleasant surprise to find this smoky purple bloom.


Frost damaged in tight bud, but still inspiring.
Sutton's Apricot foxglove, raised from seed last year.


Foxgloves are biennials--blooming in their second year.  Foxgloves self-sow and keep new plants coming on. This is an offspring from the Camelot mixture started at the farm in 2018. 


I'm hoping this is digitalis mertensis, a perennial foxglove. Only a few of last years seedlings survived to be planted out. The dappling on the outside of the petals is frost damage. The 'spots' on the inside are meant to be.


This is a 'baby' of the Camelot lavender--lifted from the garden in February and potted on.
I have a raft of smaller 'babies' in the greenhouse; no idea where I'll find room for them, but how could I ignore a plant brave enough to pop up in mid winter?


Pale coneflower--a prairie native raised from seed last year.  I'm impatient to see this in full bloom--less robust in appearance than the usual coneflowers, it will have pale pink drooping petals.


Note the smaller nasturtium plants; These were coming on beautifully in the green house.  I covered the pot for the freezing nights, but the seedlings on the side nearest the wall looked like wilted lettuce when I removed the wraps. I was about to uproot them in despair, but decided to trim off the frosted leaves, a good decision. Nasturtiums become straggly in August, but if I allow seed heads to mature and drop into the soil, a new crop will grow and flower until October.


I am delighted with these seed grown 'pinks' which remained green through the winter and have already become thriving clumps.


Willis and I continue the 'discussion' about ownership of the new herb garden by the front walk.
Willis has flattened two small plants of feverfew and made a cat-shaped depression beside the thyme seedlings.
I have prodded him out, scolded him.  I shouted at him and stormed out the door when I saw him sprawled again on top of the thyme.  
I suspect he knows he is infringing on forbidden territory, as he glared, put back his ears, and made himself invisible [he hopes] between the self-sown poppy and the big pots.


Innocence!


 I have poked more pieces of discarded cutlery around  my fragile seedlings. 


The sun appeared mid-afternoon, leaving us with a clean-washed palette of puffy white clouds on blue, a green meadow beyond the wet gardens.
Perhaps tomorrow I can continue my digging project near the west retaining wall.