Quantcast

Archive for the 'Gardening' Category

Visions of Spring

February 21st, 2010

A rainy day today with colder days and freezing nights on the schedule this week.  But yesterday?  Oh my goodness, it was a glorious 50+ degrees Farenheit yesterday!  I took full advantage of the intermittent sun and almost balmy temperatures by wearing a t-shirt around all day!  Okay, most of the day.  The cold came back in the afternoon and I put on a sweatshirt.

But with visions of spring in mind,  I took advantage of the temps and hooked up a hose to wash cars.  The boy helped and it was great… gave them a good clean up, and even washed and mopped out the garage that was so dirty from winter road grime.   Yeah, the cars will be dirty again in a day or two, but it felt good to clean them up all the same.  

As if to join me in my reverie, I saw several bluebirds darting around the trees playfully and singing to each other.  A cardinal sat high in an ash tree calling to mark his territory, and throughout the day I saw and heard a half-dozen groups of geese migrating. 

These were the white-fronted geese,  flying incredibly high with their flute-like whistling calls.  I haven’t seen them since October, but they were probably looking for open water.   I took this picture as they flew over the house and it came out with a neat halo around the sun.  

migrating-geese

I also managed to clean up the old truck with the messed up clutch.  I’m still fiddling with it trying to find a solution other than a $600 repair bill.  Bleeding the clutch on these old trucks is a painful affair.  The best recommendation I found includes using 3 people for the job.  But hey, I almost got it working.  Tightened up the system, added more fluid, checked out the mechanism, pumped it like heck… it seemed fine. 

It even worked well enough to carry the garbage cans up to the road.   Of course as I proceeded to turn around on the rural highway… clunk!  The clutch goes out right there on the road.   So I’m sitting in the road (fortunately on the correct side) with my clutch pedal on the floor, and the boy in the seat next to me saying, “I told you we shouldn’t take the truck!”   

Anyway I finally managed to jam it into reverse, and we headed backwards at a good clip down the quarter mile driveway, making a big rut in the soggy grass along the way, and eventually parking it near the house.  That’s a good place for a tow truck just in case I give up fiddling with it.  Arrggh! 

But it really was a beautiful day out there :)   And I managed to find those daffodils…  Just peeking out of the soil, not nearly as far along as last year.  No surprise with the cold and snow, but they’ll be here soon!

daffodils-coming-up 

And tulips!  I didn’t expect these to come back up.  They were planted a few seasons ago and are usually eaten by rabbits and other critters.  I don’t remember them last year, but hopefully they’ll flower too.

emerging-tulips

While I cleaned up outside the little Shiba slept on the hillside. We gave him treat and he promptly growled at me… thankless!

shiba-with-bone

*******

* By the way, I wanted to put a plug in about comments for those who use Blogger.   I love to peruse different blogs and make comments, but some of the Blogger comment settings only seem to allow Google or other “name-brand” or Open ID’s for registered users.   A lot of us don’t use an “Open ID” and really like to use the “Name and URL” option for leaving comments, so I recommend considering allowing “anyone to comment” as a setting if you can.   Sometimes folks will come by here and make a nice comment, and I’d like to say hello on your blog too! I think you’ll find you receive more comments from folks who are not using Google or other Open ID registration.  Just a thought; have a great week…



Flowers, Veggies and Doggy Noses

September 24th, 2009

A steady, gentle rain today, and gives one time to catch up on a few things.  I want to take a minute to thank everyone for visiting (and commenting) here at Fox Haven.  Writing, blogging, whatever you call this form of expression…. it gives us a chance to “think out loud” perhaps, and reach out to folks in a different way.  That’s not my intent per se, but I’ve really come to enjoy this little part of our world.  I know there are always a lot more people browsing or lurking a bit, and I understand that very well. I tend to lurk on other blogs and sites far more than commenting too it seems.

In some ways,  reading and commenting on a blog on a regular basis is like investing some part of yourself, or sharing who you are a bit as well.  Is it a risk for some people?  Maybe too personal?  I don’t know, but I know it’s hard at times when a blog disappears for unknown reasons and we wonder where those good folks have gone.  Change and a shift of focus is understandable in anyone’s life though.   Sometimes we face challenges that are difficult to write about, or not shared with our readers, or we simply need a break.  I wonder who could qualify as the longest writing blogger?!

Maybe we feel that we’re only showing half the picture of our real lives, or we wonder what’s the point?  Honestly I don’t know that there is any point, at least for me, beyond keeping a journal of our lives and examining aspects of ourselves that perhaps could be shared later on.  It doesn’t really matter- I enjoy writing and sharing pictures, and hope that others enjoy it too.   When it comes right down to it, I would like to think that what most people write and share about their lives is a lot closer to who they really are.   So with that, I just want you to know that you are welcome here any time, and I appreciate how many of you do take the time to come by… :) 

Meanwhile, back on our weedy acreage (the weeds are stiffly standing their ground against my efforts!) I’m still mucking about pruning, cutting, planting, ripping things out and generally trying to keep ahead of nature’s efforts.  If I strike a balance, then I’ll call it a victory… but there’s always something else to do.  Just as with rainbows there are moments of beauty all around us though.  These perennial asters get my vote for flowers of the month- they seem to get bigger every year, and the honeybees enjoy them too.

honeybee-purple-asters

Near the house I planted a couple of Burkwood Viburnum shrubs a few years ago. They’ve finally settled in and are covered with nice red berries this year.  In the spring they have the most fragrant white flower clusters- it’s really amazing, but such a sweet fragrance only blooms for a few days it seems.  The birds will certainly enjoy the little fruit this winter.

burkwood-viburnum

Yesterday was a misty morning with dew hanging everywhere, including this spider’s web. There are so many spiders about now, their webs even gather in your hair when you least expect it!

dew-on-spider-web

Contrasts are always interesting, and a few days ago I stared at the walnut tree standing tall against the stormy sky.  What a stark picture it made with leaves mostly gone yet the nuts still hanging on.  As I looked I felt a small chill… so gray and dark!  It almost seemed a portent of the coming winter. Brrr…

autumn-walnut-tree

 

But then I smiled and thought, “No you don’t!  Winter is months away!” remembering we have many warm days yet to come.   And the garden is still growing too.  We’ve got all kinds of veggies on hand, and too many cucumbers to keep up with. 

Yesterday I set a bowl of mixed vegetables on the ground and the dogs ran up… Kuma, our little Shiba Inu to the right, and the namesake icon for Fox Haven (little does he know!).  To his left is the protruding nose of Justin, our elderly Basset Hound. The yellow lab was standing off to the side looking like, “Me to! I want some!” but he must wait his turn. Actually I didn’t give the vegetables to the dogs, but do you see the one thing that doesn’t belong in the bowl?  There were two of them… and that’s what the dogs were really after!

vegetables-and-dogs


I love the fall season so much, even if I’m still playing catch-up around the house.  I’ve let some of the hedgerows and borders grow more this year, and these deep yellow blooms of goldenrod were the result. This honeybee worked the flowers vigorously, with a red Knockout rose in the background.

honeybee-on-goldenrod

The leaves on the trees have even begun turning now… with the first yellows and browns at the tops.  Those of you further north must be ahead of us by now.  In a few weeks we’ll see the blazing variety of colors and watch leaves sailing through the air.  Almost as if to join the change of the seasons, our young one has a birthday this weekend.  He’s growing up so fast.  That will be an interesting conjunction as he grows older, to feel the change of the seasons of his own life, as part of the world around him too.   Soon we’ll be out catching the falling leaves, and jumping in leaf piles.   It’s time… Autumn is here.



Summer’s End, Changing Seasons

September 19th, 2009

The mornings are becoming so much cooler… around 50 degrees F.   It’s so refreshing, but a bit too dry, as we’ve had little rain for the past month.  Many leaves from shrubs and trees are dropping early from the lack of water, so it’s time to make the rounds again with the big water barrel in the cart as a little insurance for those favored landscape plants.  

That includes the garden of course… and the first beans are ready to eat!  I planted the seeds around the first week of August;  hopefully we’ll get nearly a month from them before the first killing frost.

fresh-green-beans

I was impressed with the huge blooming Sweet Autumn Clematis this year. It was fairly small in previous years but I trailed some branches with a string guide up high on the little red garden shed. It was so fragrant!  The bees covered the flowers for a few days at their peak.

sweet-autumn-clematis

The most prolific flowers for us in September are those in the goldenrod and aster family. They grow everywhere with many varieties, including these spires nearly five feet tall. I haven’t seen the bees working the goldenrod feverishly yet, which means they are still finding asters and other wildflowers they like better.   

tall-goldenrod

This time of year also produces a bit of sneezing and itchy eyes, and I always thought goldenrod contributed to that. But upon further research the pollen from goldenrod is generally not airborne, and is too large to really affect people. It’s actually the ragweeds and asters that have the most airborne pollen that ends up in my nose and eyes while outdoors! Who called them sneezeweeds? They certainly are…

Here we are at the end of summer, and I still feel like there’s so much to do!  I managed to pick the last of the elderberries I could find last week, bugs, spiderwebs and all.  This cluster had some incredibly large berries- in the freezer they went, soon to make some jam and jelly.

elderberry-cluster

I’m thankful we can still enjoy these warm days. The season’s changes are fast upon us, with new colors, sights and sounds. I saw a small flock of nighthawks moving south, and a duck on the pond the other day. The vultures have gathered in flocks too for their own small migration. The barn swallows left last week… one day they were chasing insects around the tractor while I cut grass, and the next they were nowhere to be seen. The leaves are almost gone from the walnut trees now, and acorns are dropping all around us with squirrels racing around the oak trees…



Sights and Colors in Early September

September 3rd, 2009

The mornings have been so cool and the days full of sunshine.  Everything is still green, but you can see signs of autumn coming.  By late afternoon it’s nice and warm around 80 degrees F- and all the critters are about.  Today I thought I would share a mix of sights over the past week.   One thing I’ve noticed is that all the bees and wasps are nearly desparate for nectar.   They are covering every available flower as they rush towards winter preparations.  Here the bees are taking nectar from a pink sedum.

honeybees-pink-sedum

The honeybee is one of the few species of its kind that winter over as a community.  I believe most our other wasps, bumblebees, yellowjackets, etc. die with the coming frost except for leaving one or more queens to survive through winter. Those queens find somewhere to hide and lay dormant, emerging in the spring to begin an entire new colony.

This is an early morning picture just after sunrise- the bees are waiting for the sun’s curtain of light to drape across their hives with warming temperatures and cue them to start foraging.

beehive-sunrise

The honeybees must survive as a colony through the winter, depending upon stored reserves of honey to carry them through. They form a tight cluster or ball inside the hive to keep warm through shared body heat and metabolism. I’ll be making winter preparations for the bees next month- for now they are keeping very busy.

The young boy picked his little muskmelon (cantaloupe) the other day. This one ripened small, but we watched for telltale signs of light browning and beginning to split from so much moisture inside.  The plant spread out to a huge vine, but only produced 3-4 smaller melons.

little-muskmelon

But sure enough it was wonderfully ripe. We kept it in the refrigerator and he loved having it as a snack after school.  Yum!

yummy-muskmelon

It’s also been time to pick elderberries again.   Last year I combined elderberries and grapes to make some really tasty  jam and sauce… it’s fitting that we are on our last jars this month. Even if we’re not quite ready to make more, I pick the elderberries and put them in a plastic bag in the freezer.  Not only does it keep them from spoiling, but it freezes the little bugs on the berry clusters and makes it much easier to pick and wash them.

spider-elderberry-poke

I went to reach for a cluster here, and found this nice Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) in the way.  The spider didn’t mind as I reached over his web to the drooping corymb of berries.   The larger berries at right are of course from wild Poke- not edible for us unfortunately, but the birds really love them!

I came across a neat fungi in the yard and got down on my knees for a close up picture. I didn’t realize I had captured the basset hound in the background.  He’s the “old man” of the place, in his eleventh year now.

fungi-dog1

And a friendly Monarch butterfly landed among the day lily leaves. It seems the butterfly had a broken wing, perhaps from an encounter with a bird.  It still managed to flap away through the air.  The monarch migration has begun, peaking in our region as they travel south about the second and third week of this month.  Here’s a couple links where you can check the fall map for monarch migration routes, and the peak migration dates for your latitude.  We don’t normally see that many- their route is too far east or west I think.  But one year I saw dozens around that timeframe.

monarch-butterfly

In the past I’ve only see one species of milkweed plant for the monarch larvae to feed upon.  But last week I came across some milkweed vine (Asclepias family).  The monarch larva also feed upon this species so I was excited by the find.  However I do have mixed feelings about vines growing around the landscape- they seem to take over!  These large green pods contain thousands of big, white fluffy seeds that fly everywhere.   I recently dug up several thorny thistle plants with purple flowers- they too have fluffy seed heads that float on the wind.

milkweed-vine-pods1

Near the bee hives the oak and hickory rounds are gathering in a big pile for splitting. These are from a few trees that have died and been cut down over the past year.  The wood is still excellent for using in our woodburning stoves for winter heat.  They also make great seats for fishing!

oak-hickory-rounds

In another garden/food experiment, I made some fermented pickles last week. These were very interesting- not vingegar cured like most modern pickle recipes, but instead they undergo natural lacto-fermentation and become true sour dill pickles like in the old days.  I’m sure a few of you make or enjoy real saurkraut, and the pickle fermentation is similar.  Here we are adding some more cucumbers to the brine.

fermented-pickles

They were really good and after 7-10 days of fermentation I placed them in quart-sized mason jars with the brine and then into the refrigerator which essentially stops the fermentation.   Lots of recipes call for boiling the brine, and then processing the pickles in a canner. You can do that for long-term storage, however doing so kills all the beneficial bacteria and the probiotic qualities of fresh fermented pickles. Next year I would like to grow better cucumbers (and cabbage) for pickling- these are more for fresh eating, but they did okay for pickles. You can google quite a few different recipes, and try it yourself!



Days of Change

August 21st, 2009

A bit of a busy week…  the season of the yellow bus begins again!

 

school-again

rainstorm

 

We had an enormous series of rainstorms this week too.  Short-lived but pretty intense.  No worse for the wear except for some tree branches on the ground, and it looks like the bees took cover inside their hives.

 

 

 

 

 

squash-bugs

 

 

 

In garden news, the great squash experiment finally ended with mixed results when I found these little guys crawling around on one.  But most of the squash plants remained critter free this summer while growing next to a patch of Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). 

This little plant was on the outskirts and the squash bugs were having a feast.  I think it really helps to plant the aromatic herbs and flowers near the vegetables however.   Not to worry in this case… the bugs received a bubble bath in return!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The days are growing shorter, and everything is changing once again. Summer flew by too fast, and the afternoon light through the trees has that end of summer charm, beckoning of autumn. Not yet! I’m not ready…



Garden Days, Early Mornings

August 8th, 2009

We’re in for a few very hot days this week, which is more like our typical August weather. And what better flowers to herald late summer than crepe myrtle? I transplanted this bush a couple of years ago and this is the first bloom after settling in to its new home. I have to admit that I almost ripped it out of the ground in early spring this year! The bark was exfoliating and it just appeared so dead. Go figure- the branch or two I tried were indeed dead, but not the bush itself. Thankfully I figured it out and we have beautiful flowers to enjoy.

crepe-myrtle

The garden is finally coming along and perhaps the warming weather has helped. We’ve got just a few muskmelons growing… or canteloupe if you prefer!  The young boy loves canteloupe so this is his plant.  Think he needs to pull a few more weeds (me too!).  This one looks pretty good at about 6 inches, but easily has a month or more to go.

muskmelon

And we’re finally getting decent cucumbers. I think in my exuberance I planted them too close together and too abundantly. My guess is that the resulting mass of cucumber plants inhibited flower pollination- and the leaf cover was too dense. I noted the bees had been having a tough time getting to the flowers last month. With poor pollination and crowded conditions… we got puny and malformed cucumbers. So I thinned many of the plants and increased the moisture available- now they seem to be happier to produce a decent looking cucumber!

cucumber-muncher-burpless

But the tomatoes are another issue. We’ve got some kind of tomato leaf wilt going on. All season the lower leaves on the plant eventually become spotted and yellow, and slowly die back- any ideas? The plants are producing tomatoes now, but the leaves keep dying up the vines.  This is an Orange Oxheart heirloom tomato- the leaves are dying back about 3 feet off the ground now, but there’s 15 large tomatoes growing on this one plant!

tomato-leaf-wilt

I thought perhaps it was the cool weather and rain early on this summer, but now it seems to be a fungus or virus of some kind- its even affecting the hybrid Champion and Big Boy plants.   They were all purchased as starts from the same company- maybe they came with the problem? Otherwise they’ve had plenty of fertilizer and water so I don’t know what’s going on.  We didn’t have the problem in previous years.  I think the other plants would be producing a lot more if they didn’t have the problem, but we’ll see how they do this month.

Otherwise the banana peppers and squash are doing pretty well, and the beans have just sprouted.  If I keep up with the weeds we’ll be doing pretty well.  We didn’t put mulch anwhere this year and are dealing with the result.   By the way- I was watching the bees yesterday and today, and it seems that we have a few raiders attacking them.  I watched, amazed, as a Bald-faced hornet flew up and grabbed a honeybee!  They wrestled to the ground, and then the hornet flew off with the bee in its grasp- poor thing.  Hornets and wasps eat other insects and these guys found a ready supply it seems. 

The days are growing shorter, but this morning was awesome. I got up before the sun and really enjoyed the sounds of the night as the dawn came.  A few frogs from the pond, crickets in the bushes and owls hooting through the forest.  Quiet and peaceful otherwise, as I watched the moon drift down toward the trees.  A satellite tracked quickly across the sky full of stars, a reminder of our presence in space.  Slowly the darkness gave way to light, and the birds and insects came alive.   A good cup of coffee with a cool morning breeze is a nice way to start the day.



Catching Up with Summer

August 3rd, 2009

It’s been a “catch-up” week at home, along with a little county fair fun tossed in.  This has been the darnedest summer with such cool morning temps- altogether enjoyable really.  Hard to believe it’s August, on the backside of summer already. The garden has struggled quite a bit, probably more with lack of attention than anything else.  But a few days of weeding and watering has it looking a little better.

august-garden

Managed to plant some more potatoes, and new beans, carrots and beets- another experiment to see how things work out for a fall harvest.  If we have room, I’ll plant some peas again.  The tomatoes are just starting to ramp up finally too.   You can see the planted rows and the cucumbers trying to climb the fence… they’re just beginning to produce some nice ones.  Matter of fact, think I’ll fertilize today again.

The county fair was nice the other night- I’ll write another post about that.  Except for the part about driving home, which was a little scary.  We’re heading home on a small country road at night, overgrown with trees, and an oncoming truck swerved briefly across the yellow line and back.  I didn’t think much about it as that driver corrected, but apparently he drifted again and something on the side of that truck smashed into my driver’s side  mirror on the ’93 Ford, which then swung back and smashed my driver’s side window- kablamm!  We ended up with glass exploded all over us.  Thankfully no injuries beyond a few cuts on arms and fingers, and we pulled into a car wash vacuum place down the road to clean up and check things over.  What were the odds?  The other truck just kept going- it was either their mirror or something sticking out, but apparently it didn’t bother them.   I just wanted to make sure we were all okay.  So now I’ve got plastic covering the window until finding a place to fix it.   Crazy.

In better homefront news, it was also time for a honey harvest!  I’ll write about that another day, but needless to say it was really fun to see the fruit of the bee’s labor for over a year. They worked their little tails off this year and I ended up taking off over 50 pounds of spring wildflower honey.  I’ve been bottling the honey, and preparing for labeling… haven’t got that far yet, but  it’s really tasty.  The young boy enjoyed cleaning up a bowl of drippings- nothing like fresh honey from the hive.  If things work out I may put some up for sale :)

honey-bowl

One of our stops last week for cheap fun was a visit to the Shepard of the Hills trout hatchery near Table Rock Lake.  You can fill a little cup with fish food and throw it to the fish- which is perfect fun for the kids.  The trout appreciate the food as well! 

rainbow-trout-at-hatchery

Missouri has four hatcheries for managing trout fishing in many of our beautiful spring-fed rivers, with naturally reproducing populations in several rivers.   Some of these rainbow and brown trout grow to trophy size.    But we camped by the lake, which was a lot of fun- and the yellow lab really enjoyed swimming at the shoreline.  He has grown into a beautiful adult labrador retriever.

yellow-lab-at-2-years-8-mon

After getting home earlier this week it was time to cut the dam again.  One of those yearly chores I enjoy after it’s finished, but not the doing part.   It keeps the pond dam in really nice shape and is a necessary part of the maintenance.  I thought I was going to pass out from the heat and exertion, but water and gatorade really helps. Maybe I’ll put a Twitter feed on the site, then I can just pull out my cellphone and send a message. There I am, lying in the weeds …  “Just came to after passing out while brush cutting the dam, I’m staring at a frog…”

dam-grass-cutting

The picture only shows part of the dam… but it’s 265 feet across the top, and nearly 33 feet down the face.  I don’t cut about 50 feet on that one side by the cedar- it’s still too brushy and rocky yet.  Took about 3-4 hours to finish, except for the damp spot that I’ll cut with a weed eater. Sure looks better though, and tons of trees, brush,  and poison ivy won’t grow up there now.  Small accomplishments in the countryside.

The school year is almost upon us once again, and there’s a host of unfinished things to do.  I hope your summer is going well!

*****

One final note, sad but also bringing clarity and relief, the remains of a navy pilot from the ’91 gulf war were found this week.  Contrary to years of reports of his status as missing,  Michael Scott Speicher apparently died at the time his FA-18 was shot down in January, 1991.  I didn’t know him personally, but knew of the search and his status for a very long time.  We shared a lot of the same airspace, rituals and traditions, and I’m very glad they found him.   I know his family hoped he was still alive, but are also proud and relieved to find resolution, and to have his remains returned home.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Speicher’s family for the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country,” said Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. “I am also extremely grateful to all those who have worked so tirelessly over the last 18 years to bring Captain Speicher home.”



Garden Time

July 10th, 2009

It was time this week to clean up the garden and harvest a few veggies. We pulled out the pea plants and dug the potatoes and cleaned up the rows. We probably took 25 pounds of red pontiac taters out of our 25 foot row- they looked pretty good all things (moles!) considered. The plants look very green in the picture but they were pretty wilty already. When you pull up the potato plants it’s like finding buried treasure- then you go back through with a “potato fork” which looks like a small pitchfork, and you always find a few more.  In a couple weeks I’ll plant some more of the red pontiac’s and see how we do this fall.

red-pontiac-potatoes

The cucumbers are just strange- they call these “Burpless Muncher” cukes, and they’re supposed to be longish and smooth. They are smooth, but most of them are short, fat and curly! They’ve had plenty of water, so I’m not sure why they grew like this. They taste the same, but they don’t quite look like picklers that I was hoping for this year. We’ll see how they do as the plant matures.

cucumbers

The banana pepper plants are really doing well… if you’re squeezed for space I’ve proven that you can cram 6 yellow banana pepper plants right next to each other and they will still grow a lot of peppers!  

banana-peppers

It’s fun to see everything growing, to enjoy the garden’s time in summer- and soon we’ll plant a few more things.  But first it’s time for a weeklong trip back east- we’re scrambling to get packed up this morning.  I may try to write from the road, but we’ll see.   Have a great week!

Summer Hot and Pesky Critters

June 24th, 2009

Can you say heat wave?! It’s been incredibly hot the past few days, and the plants are really feeling it.  Not to mention the people… there’s work to do outside, and inside of a few minutes your shirt is just soaking wet.   Have to remind myself to drink lots of water.   The garden needs the water too, but the peas have finally succumbed to the heat as the flowers just wilt too quickly.  Yet the warm season plants such as tomatoes and eggplant are really starting to grow- for everything there is a season, right?   We even had our first summer squash the other day.

I’m curious to try the yellow banana peppers- the plants are really producing many right now and they seem to love the heat too.  They’re supposed to be sweet and yellow at maturity- but they’re all staying greenish so far.  This one is five inches long now.  It’s supposed to turn a brighter yellow on the plant but I think I’m going to pick it!

banana-pepper

*******

The other evening after a hot day the storm clouds were building to the west.  This one looked like a beautiful windswept face.

thunder-face-cloud

*******

In other garden news (unfortunately) it’s japanese beetle season!  Which is a little much these days.  Those of you further to the west probably don’t have them around yet.  They only arrived in our area a few years ago, but they’re marching steadily west it seems- how far they go is the question. It seems like they’re all ending up here!

They are not a native species, and were introduced accidentally in the early 1900’s in New Jersey on nursery plants.  But as they invade new local environments they have no natural predators and just go crazy.  They are particularly fond of roses- which are covered with them in the summer.  But they’ve also stripped our little cherry trees of leaves already.  They emerge in June and July in our area, laying eggs in summer, which hatch and become larvae that burrow deeper  into the soil and overwinter until the following year.

They’re also really annoying… nickel sized bugs flying and buzzing everywhere like alien space invaders.  “Buzzzzz!  Whoa! What was that!? ” is your first reaction… then, “Oh…”  Here’s a few of the lovely critters munching on a rose bush:

japanese-beetles

I’m hoping some enterprising bird learns to enjoy eating the little buggers at some point, or that the population explosion diminishes over time.  Probably futile wishes, at least in terms of a few years.   In order to control them around our landscape, we’re using beetle traps.  These consist of a flower scent and a sex pheromone that seems to drive the beetles crazy.  Here’s a picture of a hundreds of these beetles that have fallen into the plastic bag trap.  I put this trap up the day before this picture and it’s already getting full.   Kind of gross, but it makes the point.

japanese-beetle-trap

We have three of these bags set fifty yards from the garden, and it draws the beetles away from more valuable landscape plants.  Thank heavens they don’t eat anything in the garden that I can tell so far!   Who knows- maybe I should put the bags a few acres away- for all I know I’m attracting them here.   Another choice would be to spread insecticide throughout the landscape to kill the larval grubs in the ground where they live.  But I’m too stubborn and don’t want to spread chemicals around… everything washes down hill toward the pond, and I have no idea of the toxicity of those chemicals over time.   There’s another control agent we could try- a powdered form of Bacillus popilliae, which is a bacterium that causes milky spore disease and provides natural control against grubs.

We’ll see how it goes with the traps for now.  Lovely oddities of nature, but it drives home the importance of not introducing non-native plant and animal species where they don’t belong throughout the world.

Morning Thoughts in the Garden

June 14th, 2009

It really feels like summer with the warmer and humid weather.  Finally a good bit of sun for the garden to really take off.   I’m more excited by the day to see the vegetables growing.  Some may wonder, “Can you really be excited simply by watching a garden grow?”  To which I say, most assuredly, yes. It’s like God is present all around you with the beauty of the moment, day, season… It’s an enjoyment or appreciation perhaps, but to see food grow from seed where none grew before is almost magical.  And it represents other things too… hope, simplicity, tangible results of effort, even saving a few dollars here and there.  And it’s fun to remember how much you can actually do at home.

hollyhocks

 

The hollyhocks are in bloom too- these grew on a couple of stalks last year, but now there are three times that many growing very tall- reaching past six feet.

 

Everything is starting to produce, so now it’s a matter of keeping the weeds down and the bugs away from the goodies.  In another experiment I’m going to try training cucumbers (below middle) on a wire fence.

 

 

I supported the top of the fence because cukes can get somewhat heavy, but we just don’t have a lot of room for them to spread out.  If you’ve grown cucumbers before you know they could take over the whole garden if you let them!

beets-cukes-and-peas

The sugar and snow peas are finally here and even the beets look halfway decent with the tops filling out.   The beets don’t seem to get very large though, and I’m wondering if that’s because our soil is too compacted? I didn’t till this year, but instead topdressed the rows with a couple inches of mulch and organic compost.  Much of that probably washed off in the rain.  Perhaps I’ll do the same next year, but only after tilling the row to loosen it up.

potatoes

That may also be better for our potatoes (above). They’ve come along really well, but the soil is pretty thick.  Some of you professional potato growers have figured out that loose mulch works very well and makes  harvesting that much easier.  Maybe we’ll try that next year too.

snow-pea

 

This morning I went out to pick some of the peas- they grow so fast once they get going!  Fortunately the spring has been cool and wet, but I don’t know how long our pea harvest will be.  This will be the first big week for them.  Last year we grew beans that lasted almost all summer.  But I enjoy peas so much more than beans!  Maybe we’ll plant them again in September for a fall harvest?  Never tried that before.

 

 

 

*******

On a different note in recent gardening news, a lot of folks are worried about looming passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (HR 875).    While the idea and intent make sense in terms of safer foods for everyone, some organizations (here with comments) and people (here and here) believe small farm and livestock operations, organic gardening, farmer’s markets, and even backyard gardens could all be affected negatively by government regulations run amok over time.   In some areas of the blogosphere the subject nearly incites panic.

With all due respect to our most principled and esteemed lawyer friends :),  I find one of the comments to the Slow Food USA Blog posting from April 10th particularly appropriate:

“The fact that Rep. DeLauro is “shocked” that people have taken notice of her piece of ambiguous and questionable legislation should be a wake up for our nation that our politicrats are expecting us to continue being sheep. There is nothing wrong with the American public demanding greater transparency and a much more well-defined bill to be set on Obama’s desk once the legislative process is complete.  When politician’s don’t hear from anyone but corporate lobbyists, lawyers, and special interest groups is when the legislative process goes awry.  Kudos to the radicals and the misinformed public for asking questions and demanding clarification…if even they are “inflammatory”, “hysterical”, or “misguided”. ”   Glenn Grossman

After a little reading and practical reasoning however, the fears don’t appear to be justified.   But fears are borne from lack of clarity and/or transparency of intention.   There are simply too many questions left unanswered and that’s where the concern arises.     I have to say I’m squarely in the camp that opposes bigger government intruding into our lives.  Meaning I don’t enjoy seeing more government… more regulations… more laws to juggle and comply with and obey.  I don’t believe the government can protect us from all evils, including ourselves, nor should it attempt to.   But hey, the folks on capitol hill just want to do what’s best for us, right?  I have visions of FDA inspectors running around looking for ways to justify their existence…

*******

Here at home the leaves on the trees are becoming that deep summer green once again.  It’s nice to see shade, and places where dappled sunlight falls through the trees.  Somehow it brings thoughts of quiet afternoons or exploring places not seen.

sunlight-through-trees

While I walked around early this morning I saw that the heron was back again.  It had an even bigger fish in its bill as it flew away.  I just shook my head…  the dogs wandered around with me, looking for the rabbit that haunts the garden.

basset-and-lab

Old man basset hound tells the yellow lab  “Woo…woo…wooooo… this is my spot!”  How about those ears!?

 

« Prev - Next »