Saturday, August 28, 2010

Strange but true

When you spend as many hours as I do outside (doing or just watching) you see things that amaze and astound. I've seen things this summer that have had me exclaim out loud: You gotta be kidding me!!

I've watched pint-sized hummingbirds harass innocent sparrows and robins, diving, chasing and otherwise being naughty little bullies.

And just this morning while watching the birds and squirrels feast on the stale bread I put out, I couldn't believe my eyes. A little bunny (awwww, so cute) joined them and chowed down with the rest of them. A rabbit eating bread??

There have been other events, but this one takes the cake. Yesterday morning I watered my geraniums. They were all there. Later, one of them wasn't. It hadn't been dug up by a squirrel because the plant was gone. I looked everywhere. Who took my flower???

This morning I was looking out toward the arbor garden and was delighted to see that the white hibiscus was still blooming and now was popping up through the top of the arbor. But wait. Way on the other side? Hmmm.

I investigated and found this.


Now this might have creeped me out -- bigtime. But in retrospect I not only know when it happened, but was pretty sure who the culprit was.

I had been upstairs in the afternoon with the windows open working on my other computer. At one point I looked out and saw the resident female red-tailed hawk dining on something on the arbor. Good hunting, I thought and went back to the screen.

I guess she must have swooped down on something that was right on or near the geranium, then main course and salad went sailing off with her.

Now only the salad was left. So I got it down and put it back where it was.

No harm done, I guess. But it's just lucky I'd seen the hawk yesterday else finding that plant up there would really have given me shivers for a while.

I wonder what I'll see tomorrow?

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Ahhhh - cooooool

Ahhhhhhhh.....what a great morning. Check out the temp.

The past couple of days have been cloudy and kinda dreary. Then the front (rainless, of course *sigh*) moved through. No water, but the summer's heat has been broken. Current forecasts for the next week still include high 80s, flirting even with 90, but the nights will be in high 50s, low 60s and the humidity will also be down.

I love this time of year...you can work all day and not feel like you're in a steam room. This gardener is ready for lots more sleeveless days and sweater nights!

The coffee tastes especially good this morning as I sit on the deck and make an ambitious list of Fall projects. A cool dawn and hot caffeine. What a great combination and sure to get me in trouble as I make too long a list, once again biting off more than I can chew.

Ah well, anyone that can reach the end of their project list probably just ran out of paper.... ;-D

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Along came a spider....

I found this in the crab bed this morning.

It wasn't there yesterday. It's a conical hole about 5 inches deep and a little wider than that. You can see a pile of excavated soil to the right of the hole.

What really caught my eye was that it was lined with spider web. Not across the top, but lining the inside of the cone.

The web indicates a spider. I have no truck with spiders, they are good hunters. But I'm sorta apprehensive about a spider that can move that much soil over one night! I've never seen the like before. Is it some kind of trapdoor spider? Do we have trapdoor spiders in Ohio?

If anyone can give me any info here, I sure would appreciate it!

Meanwhile, I'll keep a close eye on this little development....

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Divesting

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and unload. Doesn't matter if it's as simple as taking out a plant or as complex as letting go of a long-held goal. There just comes a time when you realize that not only has something (or someone) not lived up to expectations, but is, in turn, holding you back.

The crab bed bugged me. I couldn't really enjoy it even though I babied a couple of the dying English lavenders up front. Finally I just tore them out and wondered if I should put in new ones. Thankfully it's time for mums. Ah, just what was needed - a shot of gold in that pale blue bed. And right about then the red salvia started to bloom and now it's all happy-happy joy-joy in that bed.

And there there were the tomatoes behind the wall in front of the privacy bed. Due to the pervasive heat they produced early and then suffered from the same heat. They still had tomatoes a'comin', but I wasn't all that thrilled. Besides, I was burned out - it's been an oppressively hot and humid season.

So today I picked off all the rose quartz grape tomatoes and pulled the plug on the plants. They were more work than they were worth.

And now look. A wonderful view of the magnificent display of the 6+ foot sprays of salvia subrotunda back against the privacy fence frame. Waaaaay better than looking at a couple of skanky tomato vines.


And for almost a year I've lived with this pile of wood stacked against the same wall. The guy was supposed to come and split them last fall so I could burn it this past winter. Never came. I called this spring. "Will get it soon." Never came.

It's coming up on fall again. Yesterday a kid came by looking for work and offered to split it for me. Yay! But it was too late. The stumps were riddled with ant and some kind of icky grub. So I paid him to haul it away instead. *sigh*


Holy cow is this better looking or what? Well worth the bucks. Too bad I didn't get to enjoy some nice fires out of it last winter, but trust me, the last thing I wanted to do was introduce bugs into the house or garage.


And here something else. Every few years I am seduced by the romance of an herb garden. So I grow them. But I never use them! Why am I wasting this great space with something I guess I really don't want?

So I cut them to dry, pulled out the roots and planted something bright and cheerful. You may have read that I rescued 72 geranium plants (click here for full story) from a nursery dustbin some weeks ago. They have recuperated under my tender ministrations and beginning to flower. Perfect for these bins. Presto-chango! -- lots of colorful blooms that will go until freeze.



The view from the deck has improved 100%. The beds look brighter and the plants look healthier, happier.

I, too, have set aside some things that have been keeping me from growing. I've got my groove back. Now, after this bit of divesting, we're all looking forward to the future.

There might even be a promise of rain....

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Critter tales

Cicada

Lots of these this year. They must love the heat because they sing from morning till night, even well into the evening.

Here's one resting on the deck. I'd seen the harlequin markings on their back before, didn't notice their green eyes.








Black Swallowtail caterpillar

I'd posted previously about the cat on the potted dill. Imagine my delight to find this cat on the carrots back in the veg bed. It was chomping away like crazy.


And the cat on the dill was still chowing down at a good clip.

I checked both of them Friday morning and then went inside to process a big pile of tomatoes. When I took a break about 2 hours later, neither of these dears where to be seen.

There was, however, a very noisy blue jay squawking up a storm. I hope the cat gave him a bellyache.

RIP guys. Circle of life.... *sigh*


Unknown moth

I have no clue what kind of moth this is except that it is BIG! I'll bet it was almost 3" long.

Very impressive. It's resting on my butterfly net that I leaned against the garage under the night light. He didn't stay long once the sun came up.

I hope he just flew away, and didn't end up like the swallowtail cats.


Toad

I have quite a few toads this season. Since it's hot every day and every night, I don't close the garage door all the way to the floor at night. I leave a 3-4" gap. That way, when day is breaking, some toads can come into the garage and spend the day in dark cool concrete corners.

Once I closed the door all the way one evening and next morning when I opened it, a toad suddenly appeared from the dark recesses, hopped past me toward the door, gave me a look, and continued on outside to spend time under the deck.

Well, excuse moi!

Empty butterfly wings

I'm seeing a lot of this lately. Empty tiger swallowtail and monarch wings. And I know what is happening.

One day I watched a swallowtail plummet to the ground and thrash around. I hurried and picked it up, wanting to put it back on the butterfly bush. But it's wings were fully deployed in a downward stroke.

I gently pried them apart and gasped. There was a large bald-faced hornet attacking the butterfly. I flicked it off (stupid? yeah, probably), tossed the butterfly into the air and I made a quick exit from the location. But the hornets are having their way with the butterflies and I see signs of carnage all the time. I ache for something so beautiful being brutally attacked and eaten. Hey hornets - pick on something your own size - like carpenter bees! Get a REAL fight! Friggin' bullies!

Red tailed hawk

This is not the best shot (my camera is weenie) of the resident red tail. I watched her just a couple of hours ago suddenly hop up on one of the full compost bins and make like an eagle on a gold coin. Full spread wings, shoulders back. She posed there for a good 5 minutes.

At first I thought she might be sunning herself after a bath, but she didn't look wet, nor were there any droplets when I rushed back to look after you finally flew off. Go figure.

Anyway, you just never know what kind of crawly, creeper, climbers, flyer or flutterer will visit the gardens in any given day. It's like watching a really good soap opera.

Without commercials!

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tassle topper

Okay, as well as thatched roofs here is something that has topped its tunnel with a tassel.

I don't know what insect has laid eggs inside this bamboo stake, but the plug sure is festive!

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thatched roofs

I've been keeping an eye on the bee nest back in the stump garden.

It's thriving! I have no clue how many bees are in this particular nest, but it must be plenty. I can't imagine it's the only nest of it's kind in the gardens, just the only one I'm aware of.

They are clever little gals. A couple of weeks ago I saw that the daffodil blades were pretty toasted and gave the access hole very little shade.

So they built their own! Look at the little grass thatch they wove over their door.

Eventually, with wind and weather the roof fell in. No problem for these girls.

They just built another.

That side of the stump bed is quite the production. Every now and then I'll see new air tunnels open (or close). The grass mulch gets re-arranged. And there are bees flying in and out all day long.

I can't even estimate how many of this type of bee are on the blooms this year. Hundreds and hundreds. It's gotta be the many plantings of agastache this year (more on my Flower page). There's not one bed that doesn't have it's share of busy bees.

Up on the deck there are regular patrols on the many coleus blooms.

There's even a big container of agastache. I love sitting there in the a.m., me with my pot of coffee, they with their pot of agastache.

We both get on our morning buzz. :-D

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cat happy


What a treat this morning to find this little guy munching down on my potted dill plant. This is the first time I've ever found a butterfly cat here in the gardens.

I've had (Eastern) Black Swallowtails flitting about for years, but I've never found evidence of them making whoopie. Gotcha! :-D

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Friday, August 6, 2010

The best job in the world


I watched the weather channel all day yesterday to see if it was now safe to start sanding the railings on the deck and general prepping for applying wood protector. All day long the forecasts assured me that the next 4 days will be sunny and dry (and hot *sigh*).

I won't bore you with deck details here (watch the 'garden projects' page for more info), but sufficed to say,
I removed the rain gauge so I could work around it and started on the deck. I quit around 7:30 p.m.

Tired, but feeling that I accomplished something, I plopped myself down in front of the TV having earned a little couch-potato time. I must have dozed off.

Around 10:00 pm something woke me. Wha? Oh, I heard wind. I looked out the window from the couch and saw the crabapple branches waving in front of the bay window. No worries. I drifted off.

RUMBLE! BAM!

I woke up again but didn't give it any thought. This is Pro Football Hall of Fame week in Canton and there are usually fireworks every night. I settled back down and....

FLASH! BAM!

Okay, now I paid attention. Unless there are rockets going off in my front yard... I rushed to the sunroom in the back of the house and OMIGOD!

Wind thrashed the trees. Sheets of rain lashed against the windows. Lightning. Thunder. Boom. BOOM. BOOM!!

I raced back to the TV, tuned to the weather channel and just caught the Local on the 8's. There, on the radar, was bright yellow and orange marching over Canton. Then the evening forecast came on: "...low 65, a few passing clouds, tomorrow sunny...." The background muzak was "Girl from Ipanema".

Outside the music was Wagner's "Flying Dutchman".

*(&$#@(*!!*

I want that job. I want to forecast weather. I want a career where no one holds you accountable when you screw up big time like that.

How much rain (much needed) did we get? Who the heck knows! The rain gauge is pretty useless when it's laying on it's side! But even then....

It's NOT AS USELESS AS THE WEATHERMAN!! And to think it's a paid position!

Oh yeah, I want that job....

P.S. As for that "sunny" day we're supposed to have today? This very moment - a shower.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

In the pink


When I woke up yesterday, it was hot, humid and hazy. I looked out the bedroom window and saw a sky washed with pink and mauve. I dashed out to the deck so I could stand under that marvelous dawn.

When I got outside I saw that the sky had spilled down to the earth, coloring the oppressive morning haze into a glowing pink mist. The picture just does not do justice to the magical light that bathed the gardens. I could have been standing in a fairy tale world.

The beds looked refreshed, even though I knew they were all parched, yearning for rain. Yet - for those few moments when the light was right - here everything was good and true and possible as I gazed on my little bit of the world through a fabulous, though fleeting, rose colored dawn.


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