Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Case of the Unidentifed Egg

A long day--the usual household chores, email exchanges with a cousin as we work together once more on family history projects.
I went out  before noon determined to weed as much as possible of the 'greens' and young beets in the lower garden.
The sun was hot, bird-song was muted.
The scent of honeysuckle and roses hung on the light breeze.
I inched along the rows, resting my knees on a foam cushion.
Using a slender pointy trowel to loosen the roots, I lifted out clumps of grass, leaving some of the 'volunteer' sunflowers in place.
I finished clearing around the Swiss chard and kale, but left the row of beets for another day.
[I am learning what passes as 'moderation!]

Hoisting myself up from the ground I trudged into the house, greeted by the odor of beef simmering in the crockpot under a layer of onion, carrots and potatoes.
I gulped a glass of iced tea, headed for the shower.
Clean again, I assembled flour, butter, sugar and frozen blueberries, in preparation for a dessert.
Instead of making a proper pie, I rolled the pastry to fit a large oblong pan, simmered the berries with sugar and cornstarch mixed with a bit of water to make a thick filling.
I turned the berries into the prepared shell, topped it with another sheet of pastry, and slid it into the oven.
Jim came in from the garage, Matt and Gina arrived to share the meal.

To read the 'rest of the story' click on the link below.
That will save me the time needed to re-format and I think you will enjoy the wry 'headlines' of
Ed Waggoner, the editor of Columbia Magazine.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Swiftly Passing Days

I seem to spend a good deal of time in the garden--or in the house recovering from gardening--and yet, the garden work is never done.
Along with the flowers, the potato plants are growing apace, the corn and green beans have emerged at last, and  we've had fresh kale and chard
Strawberries have been made into several strawberry shortcakes.
I've been pricking out seedlings and transplanting them into bigger pots, all lined along the front porch.

I've been perplexed by a strange wilt or blight that has attacked some plants.  I've lost a lavender, had to prune back the purple sage.  In the upper flower strip one clump of Michaelmas daisies has developed a sad wilting patch in the middle, same for the penstemon.  I've no clue as to the nature of the culprit.
Weeds are also burgeoning faster than I can make the rounds to grub them out.
On Tuesday morning, walking around the yard and garden, looking at the things needing to be done, I felt daunted, unequal to the upkeep, but unwilling to turn my back and let the gardens take care of themselves.
That heavy sense of frustrated inadequacy stayed with me for a few hours, as I puttered at various tasks indoors and out.
As usual, after a bit of feeling 'down' I come to terms with the fact that I can only do so much, and after all, the weather and the variances it brings are quite beyond me.
I can't solve the quandry of the small peaches falling off the trees [why are they doing that?] nor can I banish every bug and blight that threatens.
[I am determined to erradicate the small colony of ants which has invaded my kitchen!]
I can only plod along, doing the best I can and enjoying those fruits and flowers which sturdily flourish.

The boy cats are determined to furnish me with the results of their hunting.
I've had to dispose of a poor dead chipmunk and several birds, brought to me with life extinguished.
Jim and I have also snatched several young birds from the jaws of certain death.
These young cats are very well fed.  There is no need for them to catch their own food--they are simply being cats.
Tonight J and I along with our daughter, her husband and our grandson were poking about the dooryard at nearly sundown, trailed by Willis and the boy cats.
Suddenly there was a thrashing, fluttering ruckus at the north west corner of the house. A mother bird, a wren perhaps, burst from the hydrangeas, shrieking in fury and fright.  Tiny fledglings scattered across the grass while several more of them dithered about on the edge of the roof.  Nellie pounced on one, J. pounced on Nellie. Edward hurled himself into the bushes, Bobby McGee stalked baby birds along the north side of the house.
I scooped up Nellie and bundled him through the back door.
Devin cornered Bobbie.
J. turned on the garden hose and shot a stream of water into the hydrangeas. Edward burst from cover, vaulted into the cat yard with J. right behind him.
I can't say just why I am more distressed by the death by cats of birds or chipmunks than I am when presented with a limp mouse or stiffening shrew.
We can attempt to limit the cats' access to the dooryard while birds are nesting, but that's most of the spring and early summer. Its another one of those inevitable situations that I can't fix!

As the iris and peonies have faded, the achilleas are coming into bloom.
I appreciate the 'millefleur' composition of the flowers and enjoy the astringent scent of the foliage.

Edward in the garden.  He imagines himself invisible.

Tomatoes are forming.
I expect it is time to apply copper spray in hopes of having ripe tomatoes before the usual blight
overtakes the plants.

The strawberries are smaller this season, but sweet; we are picking from the remainder of the
 three year old plants.
The original plants spread, giving us an abundance of berries last year--so many that there are
still some in the freezer.
J. tilled in a section of the plants that had become over-run with clover and we set out 25 new ones of an everbearing variety.

The towering Angel Wing begonia spent the winter in our small front entry, its leaning stalks tied to the uprights of a divider that defines part of the space.
I manuevered it sidewise through the front door onto the porch where it is listing into a nandina shrub.
This variety of Angel Wing grows very tall, but the stalks lose their lower leaves, becoming very gawky.
Trimming it back is on my list of things to do.

Tis the season when box turtles carry on their courtships and migrations with flagrant disregard for their own safety. Matt found this one in the backyard.
Although we tried to persuade it otherwise, it eventually lurched through the grass along the drive, headed for parts unknown. 
As I walked down the drive to the mailbox this noon I focused on a bobbing black shape, tiny head raised, making slow progress toward the safety of the grassy verge.
On the way to the dentist earlier today, I recognized the dark blob of a barely moving turtle in time to make a violent swerve around it.  A mile farther I saw the crushed shell of a turtle who hadn't been lucky.

I'm hoping the foxglove will send up a colony of new seedlings.

Double Red Knock-Out roses massed along the east wall of the garage.
All of the roses have enjoyed incredible bloom free from the scourge of Japanes beetles which beset them last summer.
I leave you with this sunny and peaceful view--the weeds and wilt invisible from this kindly angle.

Behind me on the bed as I type, the 'mighty feline hunters' are sprawled sleeping,
 no threat to bird or beastie.
Tomorrow is another day!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Changeable Weather and Gardens

An exquisite heirloom peony.
EAch day recently has brought an almost hourly change of weather.  Sunshine, billowing dark clouds, bursts of rain and wind. The sun comes out and all is warm, but I'm learning to have a warm shirt or sweater handy for when the wind whips up and sun slinks behind the clouds.

Red peony, planted two years ago.
On Tuesday and Wednesday I hurried to the peony/iris garden, kichen shears in hand, to rescue peonies before they could be dashed down with rain and wind.
For my efforts I've had two gorgeous bouquets and two nasty tick bites.
[I believe the ticks are lurking on the billowing leaves of the peonies and leaping in their maddening manner onto my shirt and immediately burrowing under the waistband of my jeans to attach themselves.]

The cool, wet springtime has encouraged Johnny-Jump-Ups in odd places.

The hoped for greenhouse didn't materialize this spring and J. has kept the garage busy with his tractor projects, so no access to the wide south-facing shelves.
Therefore, pots of seedlings and house plants outside for the summer are crowded onto the edges of the front porch.
Grandson D. brought me the dark-leaved begonias when the FFA greenhouse at school closed for the season.  The little plants were crowded into tiny black plastic cells.  They are now happily expanding in roomy pots.

I pricked out some of these seedlings today and potted them on.

Photos of my porch could never feature in a prim house and gardens sort of magazine.
Using the available space to shelter and grow plants is more important than a stylized display.

Pointy leaves and emerging gum balls of the sweet gum tree against the southern sky as rain came in from the north.

J. took this shot of the fuzzy baby peaches.

Another of J.'s photos. Blueberries forming on the plants set out last spring.

We picked strawberries with wind whipping around our necks and the first raindrops spattering.
J.'s photo of strawberries and the rescued flowers.

Lowering skies in mid-afternoon.

Rain, thunder, shimmering green darkness, and finally a rainbow.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Helpful Felines

The boy-cats are interested in nearly everything that I do.

I had four roses to plant on the front lawn.
Nellie is fascinated with my excavations.

"You rang?"

Nellie [left] and Bobby.
Edward is in the house--lazy!

Rough and tumble.

Nellie: "Maybe I'll take a nap in the hole."

"Anything more we can do to help?"

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Quilt Top Finished!

I finished the Gettysburg quilt Monday evening, spread it out the next afternoon to take photos.
The light was poor.
I'll take proper photos once it has been quilted and bound.

I can seldom make a quilt without tweeking the pattern as published.
For this one I decided to construct the Log Cabin blocks in matching sets of four and create a mirror  image layout.
Since the blocks are turned differently to create the 'barn raising' diamond effect, the likeness of the blocks is not as noticeable.

The pattern quilt finished at 82 inches square which I felt was an awkward size.
I enlarged the three borders to create a 92 inch square.
Had to order batting online which arrived yesterday, so tomorrow I'll box up the quilt, backing and batting to ship to Knox Hill Quilts in Vermont for Marion to finish with her long-arm machine.
I have two projects in mind to tackle as relief from gardening, but first
my fabric cupboard needs a good sorting!

The Week Just Past

May weather has been capricious during the past week.  A frost warning for last Sunday night sent us hurrying to the garden to drape tarps and old blankets around the peach trees with their burden of tiny fuzzy fruits. A long tarp was pulled over the blackberry brambles and weighted in place.
We woke on Monday morning to find that the frost had missed us by only a few degrees—last time we hoped for the best we lost the peaches and berries.
J. decided there was a sufficient slot of fine weather coming to mow hay. I gathered up the boy cats and shut them in the house.  They have been very intrigued with hunting mice through the tall grass.
I took an hour to walk across to the creek, swollen from recent rains.
Sunlight dappled the water and a few swallowtail butterflies hovered at the water’s edge.
They were not obliging about photos!
Locust trees along the creek bank are in bloom adding to the sweet warm scent of the air.
Locusts are blossoming in the woods behind a neighboring barn.
The plainest shabby things are scenic in the fresh shimmer of an early summer morning.
I have been drawn over and again to the flowers in my garden. Even a few hours changes the look of the iris and peonies.
I am still very much in the learning curve of my camera’s capabilities for close up work. I have experimented with a setting which is meant to bring the subject into sharp focus while ‘softening’ the background.  These shots have lacked definition. Reading the camera manual seems to suggest that when using this setting instead of moving closer to the object, one needs to back away and use the zoom lens. I’ll try that soon.
I took these shots of the big soft blooms of Roseraie de l’Hay on Friday morning under an overcast sky. The air was heavy with impending rain and the scent of roses and pinks filled the side yard.
The rain on Friday night shattered the blossoms and the ground beneath the bush is layered in fading petals.
Jens Munk
Hawkeye Belle
Therese Bugnet
A hardy little shrub rose whose name tag went missing.
Double-Red Knock-Out—impervious to drought, rain, wind or Japanese beetles!
Blanc Double-de Coubert
First poppy of the season.
I salvaged only one clump of foxglove from last spring’s seed-started plants.
A strange thickened flower stalk on the foxglove.
This is in the newest flower strip near the clothesline.  I’ve spent many hours this week working around the outside of this garden, cutting in the edge and removing sod and weeds. This is where I planted the two yellow peonies last fall.  One disappeared over the winter.  The second one has made a feeble appearance and I’ve been hovering over it, coaxing it along.  I went out on Friday to discover that deer have been around the garden and have nibbled at the peony.  I think only a small miracle will save it. So much for pricey rare things!
Edited two hours later to report that while potting up the begonias I began thinking about that pathetic and pricey peony.
I dis-interred it from the garden, noting that in a year's time it had managed to produce a tuber about the size of my little finger.
I put the pathetic thing in a pot amd brought it around to spend the summer on the porch.
I'd love to think that by September it might become a sturdy plant which could be trusted to winter over in the ground.
I’ve labored devotedly over my gardens this week, mostly in my flowers but also replanting the corn and beans which succumbed to earlier cold wet weather.
After hours on my knees I tottered inside to a hot shower and clean clothes, then, having done the most minimal of household tasks, I retreated to the bench on the porch with a glass of iced tea.
The porch is lined with the house plants brought up from the table in the basement where they spent the winter under a florescent strip light.
Grandson D. has brought me hanging plants from the FFA greenhouse at school and dark-leaved begonias which need to be potted on.  I bought another big sack of potting soil and some inexpensive and colorful plastic pots.  The plants await my attention.
I wish I could slow the season, have a few days longer to cherish each flower in its prime.
This morning the peonies were heavy with rain, many stems bowed to the ground.  I cut an armful and brought them inside.
Already the blossoms are at peak.  By morning there will be a fall of petals on the tablecloth.
The last of clematis Nelly Moser.
Seed heads of the lovely white clematis.
I’ll leave you with a few more photos from Sunday.
Knock-Out Rose
A sweet-scented bouquet in a tiny charity shop jug.
A Luna moth posing against the north side of the garage.