Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Horse Chestnuts, Dandelions and Garden Pests

July 31, 2018

I’ve taken gobs of photos this past spring and summer. It seems summer flies and it’s suddenly gone. Here it is now the first of August and leaves are already turning gold and falling. From the heat? Maybe. But the plants already know, summer is nearly over.

I’ve missed spring in years past. I notice the buds, next thing, the trees are out, all bushy and full, their blossoms long gone. How had I missed it? So I try to pay close attention to the blossoming of spring.

It begins with the dandelions – bees’ first feast!

Nice for the bees, not a great look for your front yard

I love to see fields of dandelions, however, by the end of April it’s a declared war, humans vs. dandelions, daily raging battles, humans extracting dandelions from suburban lawns – a war that can overcome the average adult strapping male.

Dandelions are clever imposters, posing as a fill-in for a gorgeous bouquet

So vibrant!

Ha! You think you can get away with this?

Yeah, like we don’t recognize a clump of dandelions

Oh, you think we don’t recognize that you’re not tulips? We’re totally on to you. Your gig is up!.

By early May tulips and daffodils command the show

Rudy finishes his inspection – May 5

Crab and May Trees flower and alight with buzzing bees

Then the lilacs bloom! – and fade so quickly. Don’t miss it! Fill your kitchen with their marvelous fragrance.

Bury your nose in their velvety moist blossoms!

My absolute favorite tree of all blooms in late May. I watch for it. There’s a big ol’ ancient one in town beside the Broadway Bridge on the Snake River.

“Oh Megan, pose in front of it!”

“Okay, mom, if I must.” June 2, 2018

The 6-inch blossoms stand stately on their limbs like lavishly decorated Christmas trees.

There’s a red variety too. I took a photo of one in Tautphaus Park:

I’d love to plant one of these trees in our back yard. Oh wow! Here’s a plaque by the big tree Megan is standing under identifying what it is:

‘Horsechesnut’
Shouldn’t that be two words?

Horse chestnut??? Hmmm. Well, okay.

By the first of June the flowers were all planted in our pots and flowerbeds – marigolds and zinnias, impatiens, petunias, red and blue salvia. Tomatoes and green peppers. Let the battle begin! You know, against slugs, fungus, heat, insects, weeds, crowding, drought, poor soil, under-fertilizing, over-fertilizing, over-watering, not enough dead-heading. And one more pest – our next-door neighbor’s dog, Einstein. Here – I’ve captured this ‘pest’ problem in this video:

Einstein is an escape artist. It’s simply impossible for his owners to keep him in their fenced back yard. They have given up. You will see in the video the ladder we propped up against the fence beside the arborvitae three summers ago to keep Einstein from jumping directly from his back yard into our garden. But, no matter. He simply jumps their fence and once he’s escaped his yard, we obviously can’t keep him out of ours.

This helps explain why I’ve been remiss all summer in writing my blog. I’ve been crazy busy. “Gardening” among other things. Figuring out why some stuff grows okay and a lot of it doesn’t. I’m not posting any closeup photos of our flowers. There’s just too much explaining to do. I keep learning, though.

This year I learned from the local nursery how important it is to apply their special brand of fertilizer on the flowers and vegetables – at least once a week!, to achieve, say, the desired effect for your next dinner party of showing off your happy bushy flower pots. Except if, on your petunia leaves, you start to notice what looks like a serious case of spider mites or maybe lace bugs, and you run a sick leaf down to your local greenhouse for their expert diagnosis, you might learn that applying liquid fertilizer to plants at the beginning of a 90-degree day will likely burn the leaves as if they’re infested with tiny bugs. On the other hand, with the application of liquid fertilizer on a 90-degree day, you could also maybe burn any existing pests off the leaves? I know. It’s hard to tell about these things, other than to admit your giftedness to kill plants.

Alas, by late summer the plants know to stop growing. So you can relax. I practice relaxing at home on the couch by example of our dog, Rudy.

Rudy demonstrates the proper way to flop

I’ll have you know, we think we’ve made some progress in discouraging Einstein’s over-the-fence leaps directly into our garden with the installation of a wind vane whirly thing we bought at my brother Eric’s shop.

Wind vane

With the persistent Idaho winds, it stands out as one very happy thing in our garden, downright exuberant in a high wind:

Oh, and all those blooming trees are now bearing fruit! We happened upon my favorite spring blooming tree this past week. You know, the “horse chestnut.” Sure enough, it has chestnuts all right.

Can’t wait to walk here barefoot when they ripen and drop off

Chestnuts coated in prickly spikes (Huh. that sentence rings like a new verse for ‘White Christmas.’) I picked a developing horse chestnut to show you, but it was too prickly to put in my pocket. David held it long enough for me to take a photo.

Horse Chestnut

Yeah, well maybe we should plant a horse chestnut tree in that corner by the fence as an added deterrent to Einstein. David did some research – found a link (click here) that tells all about the Horse Chestnut tree or ‘Aesculus indica.’It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen in October. It’s common along the Himalayan Lowlands and its leaves are used as cattle fodder in parts of Northern India. “It is used in traditional Indian medicine, for the treatment of some skin diseases, rheumatism, as an astringent, acrid and narcotic, and in the relief of headaches.” Huh. I believe, with all this stress of gardening, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Except all those horse chestnuts dropping to the ground in October would turn that area of our back yard into a snow-covered no-mans’ land with those horse chestnuts to greet us at next year’s spring thaw…

And I’d likely exhaust myself trying to keep the dumb tree alive, anyway. Maybe just turn our whole back yard over to dandelions.

The Continuing Battle with Slugs (… Continued)

July 10, 2017

Part II – Boy, I sure did come up with a nifty solution to controlling garden slugs – containing little piles of slug bait in plastic open-ended water bottles, setting them under bushes in my garden, facing away from the sprinklers, ‘come here little sluggies’ – good to go!

I put those plastic baited bottles out on a Sunday about two weeks ago.

By the way, I’ve investigated several non-toxic ways to control slugs – and settled on ‘slug bait’ per elimination of options, as follows:

(1) Crush eggshells into small bits and spread around your plants. You need a boat load of eggshells, by the way. Plus, think about it. The slugs drag their bodies over the sharp edges of the shells and cut themselves to death. Too violent!

(2) Fill large jar lids with beer and a little yeast and place lids flush to the ground in your garden – This concoction will attract the slugs, they crawl in and drown. Death of slugs by drowning? Isn’t this a waste of good beer? Alcohol abuse! Plus, how can you enjoy your flower beds knowing you have to deal with those stinky lids containing drowned slugs?

(3) Wake yourself up at 2 am to catch the slugs in action and hand pick them off your plants. (Don’t think so.)

(4) Use organic slug bait. They eat it and disappear.

Case dismissed.

Perfect! I set out 6 half-bottles of bait nestled under plants and bushes in our gardens … (as explained in my previous blog).

Set under the bush facing away from sprinkler – brilliant!

Over the next few days the sprinklers ran twice and I gave no thought to slugs or slug bait, the flowers were doing fine, thank-you. However, the dog started acting strange. Not his usual hyper self, he would stay in bed in the morning when we got up instead of bouncing up to greet us. He whined a bit during the day, hid under the dining room table, and would get up and shake his head – did he have an ear infection or something? He wasn’t eating normally either.

Then on Thursday night, four days after putting that bait out, I let Rudy out to ‘go potty’ before bed. Hey, where is he? I waited by the back door and finally called him. He came running to the back door – what is that stuck to his nose? One of those plastic bottles of slug bait! Stuck to his nose like a honey jar! Oh my goodness! Has he been into those all week? I was careful to shove them way back under the bushes so they wouldn’t been seen! Plus, this one had been saturated with the sprinklers and the bait had formed into a soup – apparently yummy to slugs and miniature poodles. OMG!

I read the label on the slug bait in detail. It said, “Harmful to pets, may sting their eyes?’ Huh?

I ran Rudy to the vet the very next morning (Friday). Besides being in need of a serious teeth cleaning, the vet also discovered a hard lump on his left side. Cancer! That’s what I get for my carelessness and willingness to talk myself into using chemicals in the yard. Your pets get into them and develop cancer and die young! (Rudy is nine years old.)

So the following Monday the vet put Rudy under to clean his teeth and remove the lump. When we picked him up Monday evening (8 days after I put that slug bait out) – the vet explained, Rudy had one broken molar which they removed, along with his bottom front four teeth. (Those teeth must have been giving him a lot of pain.) His expression went from his pre-surgery “let me tell you something with my lower front teeth”:

“Please give me that steak off your plate”

To, uh, post-surgery inverted fangs:

‘Give me the steak off your plate or I’ll puncture you with venom”

Rudy’s lump turned out to be benign, thank goodness, a warning to pay acute attention to the toxicity of every chemical we use, in and outside the house. The slug bait is non-toxic to dogs, birds and humans as well. The vet called the manufacturer to confirm this. Whew!

There are several brands of slug bait that are approved for organic gardening. (“Sluggo’ is one.) We used this brand:

and it says right on the front that it is approved for organic gardening. There really is no excuse not to use a non-toxic slug bait, especially if you have pets. Of course, our neighbor with the immaculate gardens who gave me her expert advice of putting slug bait out in plastic bottles, doesn’t have a dog – another reason her gardens stay in immaculate shape!

One more note, it says in several places in the fine print on the label “use product as directed.” It even states separately, “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” The label says to “scatter bait granules, ensuring uniform coverage around the plants, .5 – 1 tsp, per square yard. Do not place in piles.” (!!) ( Does it count if the piles are inside plastic water bottles cut in half?)

Yeah, so I removed the bottles of bait ASAP after Rudy’s exposure. Except for one, because I only found five, when I had put out six, they were so well hidden. But not to worry. Rudy found the sixth one, fished it out from under some tall plants in the back corner garden.

Rudy saves the day, uh, sorta

Moral of story, if you must use chemicals, make sure they are non-toxic, read the directions for use on the label, and follow the directions on the label.

As for Rudy, he’s back to his old self again, albeit he’s not so frisky and adept at chasing and snagging his frisbee in the back yard – he misses those bottom teeth!

But he’s eating just fine now. In fact, so fine, that he pooped four times on our walk through the neighborhood yesterday. Good thing I was carrying extra bags. Retrieving those doggy nuggets can be a challenge. I’ve decided as an added bonus for you, dear reader, for reading this far, I’d post a puzzle, a little brain exercise here at the end, a little surprise, if you will, called, “Find the turd” (compliments of Rudy):

A doggie exercise for your brain – did you find the nugget?

Yeah, well now I’d like to figure out what the hell’s going on with our ‘hen and chicken’ patch.

Should I lop those, shall I say, ‘protrusions’ off so as to avert a full-blown alien invasion? Is it radon exposure? Are those sex organs? Is this normal? Shouldn’t the hen and chickens just fill out into a flat succulent bed? Do these plants come with directions?

Gardening Blog # 18: The Continuing Battle with Slugs

July 7, 2017

So much of my spring and summer decompressing seems to involve gardening, so much so, that I’ve already blogged about it 17 times. My gardening blogs are a treasure trove for the would-be expert gardener, documenting my real life experience on such topics as how to grow well endowed man-carrots, how to separate 1/2″ grass clippings from your harvested lettuce (you don’t), how to re-erect hollyhocks toppled and laid flush to the ground by their top-heavy blossoms (creatively applied bungee cords), and how to distinguish goathead weed from pigweed. You will read all about this and more in my previous blogs.

During the last year or two I blogged about our incessant slug problem. I even collected several slugs on a plate, took a close up photo and posted the photo on my blog. It was a disgusting photo, which was good, because then you would be as happy as I was at the end of my blog when the slugs were all poisoned and dead. Here, I have resurrected the photo:

“Oh joy.”

Except, slugs are so hardy, hungry and prolific, the advice I offered at the end of my blog was to simply stop planting flowers and plants they gorge on, like marigolds, zinnias and salvia. But I love those annuals. No matter how much I vow to change up my garden from year to year, I always end up with basically the same garden: a few late blooming perennial corn flowers, interspersed with dazzling yellow marigolds, red, orange, and purple salvia, and perky wide-eyed zinnias, which, to a garden slug, is a 24/7 Thanksgiving buffet.

Well, early this summer I happened into a long conversation with a savvy, horticulturally gifted, green-thumbed neighbor (as evidenced by her highly respected, stunning and immaculate lawn and gardens) – on a stroll. She caught me digging weeds out furiously in one neglected garden and stopped to chat. She was impressed with the looks of our front maple tree, she said, and wondered what could be wrong with hers that it was looking sickly. (Aphids, come to mind.)

Our conversation very quickly turned to slugs. Now, considering my neighbor a gardening genius, imagine my elation and relief when she freely offered me her secret to controlling garden slugs. Of course it involves slug bait. You sprinkle the granules around each already-chewed plant when the ground is damp, after watering. Except, as soon as you water again, the bait is washed away and the slugs are right back chewing your plants down to the nubs. So, what you do, and my neighbor has been doing this for years, is save a few small empty water bottles; screw the lids back on. You cut each bottle in half, and in each half you sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of bait. Then you set the bottles of bait under plants and bushes facing away from the sprinklers. The slugs come after the bait, and the bait stays dry and protected from the sprinklers. Cool!

I was on it immediately.

Exhibit A: Average every day empty water bottle:

Exhibit B: Slug bait

Exhibit C: Voila!

Exhibit D: 6 of them well-hidden under plants and bushes, (or so I thought):

Can you see the bait? Perfect! Check that duty off for the summer. Take that, you slimy, disgusting, leaf-knawing, garden-wrecking slugs! Now watch as our gardens grow and fill out into carnivals of succulent leaves and blossoms!

Yeah. That’s the idea. So what could possibly go wrong here? ….

Dog, Squirrel, Bird Feeder, Chia Head

June 19, 2017

Every well-kept back yard should probably include at least one bird feeder, or so I’ve been thinking. So before the snow melted in late February I visited our local greenhouse and bought a bird feeder and a large bag of bird seed. Hung it on an ancient limb right off our deck.

Our resident squirrel noticed it first. Of course, our dog Rudy is on high squirrel alert!

He’ll take care of squirrel!

There!

It took a couple of weeks for chickadees to discover the bird feeder.

Chickadees are feeding. Yay!

They knocked off enough seed to feed squirrel.

Under Rudy’s watch..

He’s on it!

Squirrel loved to taunt Rudy

Gotcha Squirrel!

Squirrel didn’t seem too intimidated

Here, I took a video

Aah, just a squirrel. (Rudy has a short attention span.)

I moved the bird feeder out there on that crab tree so I could hang a flower pot by the deck.

Chickadees loved the new location. Except they were picky eaters. They would peck and fling the seed off the feeder to get at just the particular seed they wanted.

No problem. I have plenty of seed. Except the feeder would go from full to empty in two days. Sometimes there would be five chickadees feeding at a time. One chickadee could launch himself from the neighbor’s spruce tree and dive bomb the feeder – land on it directly instead of from a nearby branch. How fun to watch!

Uh-oh. I knew it! Squirrel was on the feeder! Devouring the seed like a giant furry tomato worm.

All right. This is getting out of hand. Plus, had I been paying attention to how fast we were going through that 25-lb bag of Nature’s Nuts Wild Bird blend?

Sure to make humans nuts

Judging on the amount left in the bag, I’d say we’ve gone through 23 lbs of it. At this point, 100 chickadees in our vicinity are surely too bloated to fly. Hey but wait a minute, what’s this happening in the succulent garden below the feeder? Does that look like a happy family of hen and chickens to you? What the heck??

That’s supposed to be a bed of hen and chickens?

I went and got my spade and dug into the mess to investigate. OMG! That wild bird seed has sprouted and a large part of our garden has grown a full head of hair. I actually discovered this ‘chia head’ garden situation yesterday and subsequently spent two hours digging up, piece by piece the top four inches of the area under the bird feeder, teasing the hen and chickens loose from the globs of ‘hair’.

Here you get a side view

I’m holding up a tuft of ‘hair’ for you to see

Multiplied by 300

Here you get another close-up with hen and chicken limbs interspersed.

Hen and chicken carcasses


And a super-close up of what I was digging out of there:

“You’re grossing me out!” you say. Yes, it was gross. A gross amount of hair and still-unsprouted seeds, that is.

I did my best to restore the garden back to its pre-bird feeder days. Whew!

There’s still at least ten thousand un-sprouted seeds scattered around. Will have to keep an eye on the situation.

So there sits the empty bird feeder. What to do with it? Smash it against the back cinderblock fence? What about the thousands of bird feeders I’ve seen in people’s yards??? How do they cope with wild bird seed feeders?

Oh, I know. Maybe they’re actually hummingbird feeders.

Hmmm, well, while I’m on the subject of gardening, would you like to hear about my latest trick to combat slugs?

No?

Goathead Encounter

June 25, 2016

A few nights ago David, Megan and I took a long walk after dinner. Whereas, on my walks I’ll typically circle the same route on neighborhood streets, David likes to explore. With him in the lead we’ll charge off through a field toward train tracks or some distant warehouse, hey let’s check it out! On this particular walk the warehouse turned out to be the Pepsi Distribution Center. The delivery trucks were all parked and abandoned for the day. The doors to the warehouse were open, and it was stacked to the ceiling with Pepsi products. Man that’s a lot of pop!

When we returned home I shed my shoes right inside the front door. Pooped, I just left them there.

Don't leave your shoes in the front entry

Don’t leave your shoes in the front entry

Then about 5am the next morning the dog wanted out. I dragged myself up zombie-like to follow him down the stairs to the back door. (David and I take turns with the dog. It’s my turn.) I stumbled down the stairs behind the dog and then bumped into my shoes in the front entry. OW! OW! Hop. What the heck! I swear, one of my shoes bit me! I stood there in the dark while the dog was doing his business, rubbing an itchy wound on the inside of my foot by my ankle.

When I got up later to start my day, my first order of business was to pick up those shoes and put them by the back door where they belonged. I had an appointment I needed to race off to. Quick, get in the shower! I come racing downstairs wet and barefoot and suddenly – OUCH! Something impales my foot! I reach down and jerk out a large thorn lodged in the ball of my right foot. I leave a splotchy trial of blood on my way to the bathroom where I wash the wound, rub it with neosporin and slap a band-aid on it to stop the bleeding. Then I limp into a pair of flip-flops. Ow! That puncture wound really hurts. It throbs for the next hour.

So what the heck is it? I’d obviously picked that thorn up on our walk – through the field. It was still lodged in my shoe when it bit me at 5am. Then it fell out when I picked up my shoes to move them. And sat there in the front entry just waiting to impale its first victim …

Here I took a couple pictures of it:

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'goat's head'

‘goat’s head’

Then I did an internet search on plants with thorns. … and found it. It’s this weed that grows in rough patches of grass ‘Tribulus terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris

Looks innocent enough. Yeah, well within five days of blooming its dainty yellow 5-petal blossoms morph into a ‘fruit’ that easily falls apart into five nutlets. Nutlets? How about, burrs with 2-4 razor-sharp spines. These nutlets strikingly resemble goat’s heads. Thus, the name ‘goathead’. Other common names for this weed are devil’s thorn, devil’s weed, devil’s eyelashes, or ‘puncturevine’ (no kidding).

These devil’s horns are sharp enough to puncture bicycle and lawnmower tires. ‘Nature’s miniature version of a tire spike,’ is how one caption describes it. Why would such a vile creation of Nature exist? This is such a mystery that the Bible attempts to explain it. The Book of Genesis claims the creation of thorns as one of the punishments for the original sin of Adam and Eve, you know, alongside pain in childbirth.

Maybe give God credit for more noble intentions: The Scottish thistle became the national emblem of Scotland founded on the story of an invading Norse Army that was thwarted by an encounter with a thistle in the dark.

Obviously thorny plants and bushes strategically planted below your windows would be a good defense against burglars. This could help explain the knee to waist-high weeds sprouting up along houses in your neighborhood. These neighbors aren’t derelict, they’re smart! All the more reason for would-be burglars to target your house, with your pest-free, manicured, greenhouse gardens and lawns.

If, perchance, you have patches of goatheads or puncturevine sprouting in your lawn, not planted intentionally to keep wayward kids, cats, dogs, skunks, rabbits, marmots, and burglars off your property, don’t worry. For ways to cope with and/or eradicate this noxious punctureweed go to this website: Goatheads.com

If, for example, you have patches of devil’s eyelashes sprouting in your fenced yard where you keep your dog, then purchase their ‘Ouchless Faux-Paws dog shoes” to keep your pets’ paws safe from those loathed stickers. Though, since these thorns can puncture bike tires, you might want to get a written guarantee on those shoes … just sayin’.

Goathead gloves protect your hands when pulling puncturevine, but again, you might rather opt for extermination plans ‘b’ and ‘c’ offered on the same website: puncturevine-eating weevils, or … propane torch. Or maybe just sell your house and move … in the winter, when the goatheads are covered in snow, to hide the surprise for the new owner.

And you know, instead of building a wall along our southern border to staunch the flow of illegal immigrants (yeah, right, Frump-head), how about we just propagate puncturevine, goatheads, devils weed, Tribulus Terrestris, say, for the first 200 yards of terrain all along our southern border. That oughta do it. Yea.

And stop using Round-up! Although I suspect goatheads are resistant to it anyway.

Hoary Winter, Omega Spring!

April 29, 2016

I took a bunch of photos this past winter, it being so cold, snowy, and, well, hoary. For several weeks through mid-January into February, southeast Idaho experienced a persistent weather phenomenon known in meteorology as a “temperature inversion.” Colder air gets trapped over the valleys under a cap of warmer air, which settles over the higher elevations. For a while, it was warmer in West Yellowstone than here. We’d wake up in a cold fog, which froze like baklava in layers over tree branches.

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Magnificent hoar frost! Also known as ‘rime.’

I’d step outside as if through a wardrobe, into Narnia.

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I had to admit, it was beautiful.

It seemed we were always shoveling. We don’t own a snowblower, but most of our neighbors do.

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I developed a severe case of snowblower envy, watching our neighbor through our dining room window, whizzing through snow drifts, blowing the snow sky high in great arches that settled into huge crusty ridges along his walks and driveway. He’d be backing his truck out at full speed before we could fully contemplate our own laborious snow removal plan.

Who's going to shovel?

Who’s going to shovel?

Simple. David shoveled. Or in our case, scooped.

First the front walks and driveway:

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Then the back deck:

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While I … took photos.

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But then a few hours later we (myself, eventually, out of guilt) would be out there shoveling again. Three inches of fresh snow at a time was about the max either one of us cared to deal with.

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We shoveled paths in the snow for Rudy to navigate so he could take care of business –

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“Rudy, go potty!”

Don't pussy-foot around with David

Don’t pussy-foot around with David

Alas, like the meltdown in Narnia, the inversion lifted, warmer temps settled in and the snow melted away.

March 3. 2016

March 3. 2016

Check out the back yard. Hey – look! Pine cones?

Those aren't pine cones

Those aren’t pine cones

NO! DOG TURDS! EWWWW! You’d think at least some of them would have dissolved in the snow pack. But Noooo. Every single turd dropped over the past 4 months is perfectly intact. I plucked them out of the grass one by one.

Rudy, you messy dog!! You must have left us 600 “twerds” to pick up in the back yard! (‘Turd’ with a French accent since he’s a poodle.)

Making a mess in the house too

Making a mess in the house too

Oh boy, now you’re destuffing Lambchop.

March winter squalls … Not so welcome. We want to put the shovels away!

March 9

March 9

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Several spring storms blow through – bringing hail, snow, and sleet, sometimes simultaneously…

March 14

March 14

But then, bird nest sightings!

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Robins appear. Some are fat with eggs

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My photo is pretty lame, but let me tell you, that was one fat robin I spotted from our kitchen window.

Then, in April, we experienced another extended weather phenomenon known to meteorologists as an “Omega weather pattern.” We were shown a Satellite/radar visual of it about every night on our local news – I finally took a picture of the ‘Omega Pattern.’ Here you can see:

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A giant ‘high’ settled square over Idaho and the west, which locked in a persistent ‘low’ over, uh, the mid west and Texas. The Omega pattern hung over us for 8 days or something, bringing sunny temps 10-15 degrees above normal, while Texas and other areas east of the Omega rim got pelted, soaked, deluged and flooded out. (Sorry, Houston.) I think it is still raining there. The Omega pattern shifted slightly east, then flipped upside down or something, still locking Texas and the lower mid west in a low.

So…spring popped! All of a sudden everything is in bloom. You want to see those same snowy shots of our front yard I took in January? Can you picture my neighbor with his snowblower?

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That’s a giant May tree. Here you see the blossoms up close

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Remember Narnia?

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Our big ‘ol giant Maple is about out

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Flowering crab and plums adorn about every street

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Then there’s the tulips! Bunches of perky yellow tulips bloomed on the west side of the house:

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In our back center garden:

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They just started blooming this week in front of our house, facing north

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Turn on the sprinklers!!

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Oh joy. Never fails. A busted sprinkler head.

David has already mowed once. Dig out the dandelions! Pull weeds! What flowers to plant this year?? …

“Uh, Where’s Rudy?”

WUh?

WUh?

“You stay out of the gardens!!”

‘Pigweedy walk’ / ‘Monsanto is the Devil’

July 13, 2015

Two responses to my latest (‘pigweed’) blog were just too precious not to share in a separate blog. So here goes…

This first one arrived as a ‘comment’ to my previous blog – from my brother-in-law, singer-songwriter Dennis Caraher:


That husband of mine don’t like to talk
He says “I don’t have time, I got windows to caulk.”
But I don’t mind that he loves to balk
I can clear my mind out on pigweedy walk.

Pigweedy walk. It’s calling me home.
Out on Pigweedy walk I am never alone

It’s there that I found my heart’s answer
Right in the ground and it don’t cause cancer
I don’t need much to make my life so great
No way I will touch that damned glyphosate

I go to work and my soul starts to sing
I clutch and jerk and claw and fling
It’s better than therapy, better than confession
Take it from me and start decompressin’

Pigweedy walk. It’s calling me home.
Out on Pigweedy walk I am never alone
Pigweedy walk. It’s calling me home.
Out on Pigweedy walk I am never alone

(fade out)

I’d like to hear the guitar riff that goes along with it. Dennis could perform this orignal hit on YouTube and get the whole population decompressin’ – doin’ the ‘pigweedy walk.’

Speaking of YouTube hits, my sister Stephanie sent me this link in response to my pigweed blog – Kind of a fun video about the evils of Monsanto, as in, “Monsanto is the Devil.” It’ll get you dancin’ and a-jivin’ like a fightin’ for survivin’ bumble bee.

Well, all I can say is, if you never have believed in the Devil, you might oughtta believe in the Devil now.

No Roundup on my prostrate pigweed!

July 12, 2015

Pulling weeds is a great activity to help you decompress from your anxieties, worries, obsessions, list making, etc. Pulling pigweed is especially rewarding. It sprouts and spreads like wildfire in the gardens, but even mature prostrate pigweed pulls out easily by the roots after a good watering. On days where you’re particularly angry, you can plant yourself in the middle of a neglected flower bed, clutch the base of a large prostrate pigweed, jerk it out, and fling it with gusto into a pile; clutch, jerk, and fling; clutch jerk, and fling. Great therapy. You can just claw at the little plants.

prostrate pigweed

prostrate pigweed

I’ve been persistently clawing at the pigweed sprouting around the bricks in our back walk. And I’ve kept the walk looking pretty good:

IMG_1023

Except for the last few feet, where the roots are really embedded.

pigweedy walk

pigweedy walk

What to do? I’m absolutely not using Roundup on the weeds, period, which (as everyone knows by now) causes cancer, contains that horrible chemical glyphosate, which disrupts your gut bacteria (gut issues, anyone?) and, it turns out, is toxic to humans even in minute amounts. And, by the way, Monsanto has known since 1981 that glyphosate causes tumoric growth and carcinomas in multiple organs and tissues. (!)

So this morning I mixed up a natural herbicide from stuff I had in my kitchen. My sister Lisa sent me the recipe – from Consumer Reports:

Mix:
1 gallon vinegar,
2 cups Epsom salts,
1/4 cup Dawn dishsoap (or similar pure dishsoap)

Pour in sprayer, spray on weeds.

EASY!

I mixed up 1/4 the recipe and drizzled it on the pigweed in the walkway this morning.

just applied the homemeade herbicide

just applied the homemeade herbicide

I Googled ‘pigweed’ just out of curiosity. Some species of pigweed can grow 3 inches a day and reach 7 feet or more, choking out crops- creating huge problems for farmers. But the American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds. A pigweed that grows in the southeast, amaranthus palmeri, is resistant to Roundup. Other ‘superweeds’ are horseweed and giant ragweed. Nutsedge, which takes over lawns, is also resistant to Roundup. You saturate the Nutsedge with Roundup, the Nutsedge thrives, and the grass around it dies. Just ask my son, Aaron, who lives in Georgia. (Hey Aaron, did you try getting a flame weeder and burning it out?)

So who’s smarter? Humans or weeds?

You just as well try this natural herbicide to get rid of your weeds. Well, unless, of course, you’re compelled to plant yourself in your garden or lawn and maniacally clutch, jerk, and fling, claw at, or dig out your weeds. Or get a flame weeder and burn them out.

You know, to decompress …

What’s eating you, uh, your garden?

July 5, 2015

Just a reminder, dear reader, before you go any further … my blog is not specifically a ‘gardening’ blog, it is a ‘decompression’ blog. As in, me, decompressing…

Lately I’ve been decompressing over the infestation of aphids, fungi and other pests in our back yard. I’m determined not to use chemicals and to implement a more organic approach to controlling pests. So far I trapped three beetles in our earwig traps – but have since ditched the traps because (1) beetles are adorable and (2) earwigs are probably not the culprit eating our salvia in the first place (3) I should stop hating earwigs so much even if I can’t get the thought out of my head that earwigs crawl inside sleeping people’s ears, eat their brains and cause infinite torture. Ewwww!

Moving right along to the aphid infestation (per topic of my last blog) I have received invaluable feedback from my readers. One of them grew up on a farm. Her dad’s crop was infested with aphids. He let loose bags and bags of ladybugs and they got rid of the aphids. Voila!

Another reader mentioned insects that herd aphids and milk them. Whew. Yes. Farmer ants feed on the ‘honeydew’ or sugary secretions (yuck) from the aphids. It’s a ‘mutualisic relationship’ in which the ants nurture the aphids and vice versa. Interesting. But not particularly helpful in getting rid of aphids.

One more reader suggested I have a ladybug wing-clipping cookout party on my deck – you know, clip the wings on the lady bugs so they don’t fly off to your neighbors’ … which, the fact that lady bugs fly off is a big problem. You would invite family members to such an event. My sister was proactive on the subject, commenting that, given the side effects of her asthma meds, she would for certain cut the ladybugs in half.

I tried last week to purchase a ladybug brigade to eat the aphids on our huge old crab apple tree. Called all the greenhouses in town – none of them have ladybugs for sale now. “It’s too hot and they aren’t shipping them because they’ll fry in transit.” I’m starting to feel really bad for ladybugs now – with all the horrible things humans can do to them. At this juncture, may I suggest: “Pray for ladybugs.” (Maybe set aside a national “Pray for ladybugs” day – first thing in the spring?)

So, back to our 3/4 dead aphid infested crab apple tree: We did not (A) use chemicals (B) cut the tree down or (C) implement a lady bug brigade. Out of default (and the fact that we haven’t heard from the arborist hired to cut tree down in over a month) we have implemented Plan D: Do nothing. Which, how surprising to see such positive results with absolutely no human intervention whatsoever:

June 30, 2015

June 30, 2015

Up close you see a healthy crop of crab apples!

"Keep the tarps handy, honey"

“Keep the tarps handy, honey”

I didn’t see any signs of aphids on the few leaves I didn’t look too closely at. (Hey, I’m just not in the mood today for close encounters with aphids, okay?) I’m thinking maybe nature took care of the problem with the heat wave we’ve been under the past 10 days? I did do a Google search on ways to get rid of aphids. One way is to pick them off the leaves yourself (are you kidding?). Another way is to ‘displace them’ by shooting them with the hose (and then you stomp all over them once they hit the ground?). You should be very pleased with this link I found – for horticultural soap spray – an “environmentally friendly application used to eliminate small soft bodied insects such as aphids, whiteflies, spider mites and mealybugs.” Great. (Subjects for three more blogs?..)

To make insecticidal soap:

•Combine one cup of oil, any variety, such as vegetable, peanut, corn, soybean, etc. with one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid or other “pure” soap (Dawn, Ivory and Lemon Joy are mentioned on many internet sites). Be sure to avoid any dish washing liquids which contain degreaser, bleach, or those that are for an automatic dishwasher.
•Mix two teaspoons of this “soap” mixture to every cup of warm water and put into a spray bottle. Mix only what is needed for a one-day application.

“Horticultural soaps disrupt the cell membranes of the insect, resulting in suffocation.” Hmmm. Tough way to go.

Meanwhile, something somewhat alarming and uncomely has been happening in our neighbor’s lawn:

Don't ask, don't tell?

Don’t ask, don’t tell?

which abutts our driveway.

What do you bet, when you pull that dead grass out you’ll find it’s missing its roots. I’m not going to do it, though.

I’m just not in the mood today for a close encounter with grubs. You know, those critters (I made reference to in my last blog) with six front legs with claws for digging and the machine-like jaws for chewing? Should I, dear reader, post a link providing magnified close-up images of grubs and grub infestations for you? No?

Our Back Yard Paradise

June 27, 2015

We have an ancient crab apple tree in our back yard and a huge old Canadian maple tree in our front yard. Here is a picture of our crab apple on April 27 – in full bloom!

Crab Apple in full bloom!

Crab Apple in full bloom!

Uh, not exactly. The crab apple looked 3/4 dead this year before it even leafed out. Took a branch to the local greenhouse – they diagnosed it with an iron deficiency plus infestation of aphids – (tiny disgusting sap-sucking insects or ‘plant lice’) and then recommended about 60 bucks worth of iron and chemical spray to save the tree. What to do? (We had already done the ‘iron deficiency’ treatment last year.) We didn’t want to spray chemicals all over the tree. Turns out, lady bugs eat aphids, and you could also purchase containers of 500 ladybugs for 10 bucks. Couldn’t we just invest in, say, 3000 lady bugs?

Meanwhile the front maple tree started looking sick. We called an arborist to come look at it.

“Aphids.” he said. (Surprise, surprise.)

“We were thinking of buying lady bugs to eat the aphids.”

“Yeah, well, you let the lady bugs loose and they fly off – you can’t keep them around, and aphids will kill your tree.”

(Darned lady bugs)

“We don’t want to spray chemicals.”

“No problem.” He said. “We can apply a systemic chemical in the grass around your tree that is absorbed through the roots – kills anything that eats the leaves.”

“Do it!’ we said, because that meant we could make the disgusting tree lice go away without doing anything ourselves and we wanted to save the tree (and throwing money at problems somehow makes me feel better).

Meanwhile the crab apple in the back looked so sick we just decided not to worry about the aphids and just hire the arborist to cut it down. (Uh, plus did I mention how much we hate the mess in the fall raking up mounds of rotten crab apples?)

IMG_0782

Except, the arborist’s schedule was a month out. That was three weeks ago. We’ve ignored the crab apple tree but now it looks a bit better, albeit, not exactly up to neighborhood standards, but we’re now thinking it could survive the aphid infestation and iron deficiency, or whatever it is, through the summer.

Gluttonous aphids!

We didn’t buy the lady bugs initially for fear they’d die from eating the poisoned aphids on our front maple tree. (Is this situtation getting easier, or more complicated?)

At this juncture I’m thinking of buying the ladybugs anyway, because (1) It couldn’t hurt, since they can devour aphids no matter where they fly off to – but they just might be smart enough to recognize a back yard feast large enough to sustain them through the rest of their lives (2) throwing more money at the problem usually makes me feel better and (3) lady bugs are pretty cute, albeit a bug of any sort terrifies Megan, like the other day, when she about wet her pants, frozen in a panic, while I calmly captured a lady bug off the side of our downstairs bathroom toilet and escorted it out the front door.

So that’s where we’re at. The back yard crab apple tree is still alive and we’ve decided we might not cut it down this year – although it does look pretty ratty:

June 21 - the tree's a 'keeper?'

June 21 – the tree’s a ‘keeper?’

It might just make it through the summer. Especially with the help of a lady bug brigade.

The front maple is doing fine, thank you very much,

Bugless and stunning

Bugless and stunning

and is definitely up to neighborhood standards, even if the leaves are poisonous to insects (is something wrong with this picture?).

Can’t wait for our next battle with grubs. You know. Those critters in larvae form with large front legs for digging and huge jaws that chew on the roots of your grass, killing off entire lawns. I know this because we went through it last year. Our neighbors across the street dashed over here to alert us to the infestation right away. Because the next thing, every lawn on both sides of the street and down the block is infested.

This morning I was out looking at our hollyhocks. Ah, yes….

IMG_1043

Rust, I believe it’s called. Puccinia malvacearum.
Yep. Our back yard is a fungus Paradise, as well.