Sunday, October 30, 2011

The fat lady sings!

Well, after a couple of rehearsals (2 light frosts, 2 (barely) freezes), the fat lady finally let it all out last night.  It got down to 27 under clear skies.  This morning everything was frozen and covered in a hard frost.

The last clematis bloom stayed for the final curtain - what a trooper it was this year!  

This frost/freeze has now taken the stuffing out of the annuals, salvias, cannas, dahlias and anything else tender.  There are supposed to be a few bright days this week after a bout of rain on Monday, so between pulling up the plants, cleaning up the beds, and wrestling up the leaves for mulch, it looks to be another busy spell for me ahead.  *groan*

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quick privacy

My shrubs along the side of my driveway help screen piles of debris, rotting wood, abandoned garden plants, equipment and other mess from next door (under the 1st 2 arrows).  They also help block the windows of the voyeuristicly-inclined other neighbor (under arrow #3).  But now the shrubs have been trimmed and both they and the crabapple are losing foliage.  Now the front of the turnaround, the deck, the interior of the garage and the inside of the sunroom are again exposed to prying eyes while I'm now faced with having to look at the ever-present mess right next door. After 9 years I'm tired of it.

So I rigged up a quick screen using rope, landscape fabric and clothes pins.  By overlapping the panels, wind can blow through the screen without opening any gaps.

I was afraid that a black wall (even a temporary one) would look less than pleasant.  But, honestly, I liked it immediately.  I may hang more fabric to the left of the red-twigged dogwood and close up the view over to the viburnum.  We'll see.

Bottom line, I've decided to double the length of the privacy fence and run it all the way down the turnaround and end it across from the corner of the garage.  Just imagine how much nicer that will look and how secluded my outdoor living space will become!

But that will have to wait until next Spring.  

Since the owner with all the piles of rotting wood etc. actually lives in another house, this one (which always looked a mess when they lived there) is getting even less attention now.  When I extend the privacy fence, I'll include a gate somewhere.  After all, should someone neater with more property smarts moves in, we might be able to exchange views.  But until then that gate will remain firmly shut.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kind of a drag...

Lawn drag, that is.  Monday it rained so I played inside.  But Tuesday was bright and mild, though everything was still wet from the rain AND another light frost that morning (flowers still un-fazed).  Time to haul the leaves from the front/side of the house to the garden beds in back.  The pic shows the first load using an improved lawn drag.  

Previously the tarp was attached to the 8-ft 2x2 boom by bits of rope through the tarp grommets.  But the ropes kept abrading from friction on the lawn/ driveway and breaking off, so I rigged up a better way to attach the tarp.  I removed the ropes, wrapped the end of the tarp totally around the 2x2, then, using 3 2' metal straps to act as a giant washer, I screwed the tarp to the 2x2 along the whole length.  LOTs of strength now for hauling heavy wet leaves (which are the only kind I think I'll have this year.  There was yet another .4" in the rain gauge this morning!*glub*).

It took a couple of hours to move the leaves from the front to the back, heavy work raking due to wetness.  But since the leaves WERE so wet, I'm totally bypassing the mid-way process of last year - leaf wacking.  This year I'm just dumping the larger, less shredded leaves onto the beds.

I had enough leaves to mulch the wall-zin bed, the brick-zin bed, front of the veg bed and a decent section of the bee ring bed.  

While working, I was amazed at the number and variety of butterflies and bees that were mobbing the aster, zins, and honeycomb butterfly bush.  I saw white cabbage butterflies, clouded sulfurs, a common sooty wing, a couple of monarchs and a red admiral.  You'd think it was August, not October.

While the ring bed butterfly bushes stopped blooming several weeks ago and have been cut back from 8' monsters down to 4' size for overwintering, the honeycomb buddleia in the arbor bed continues to astonish and amaze, with it's soaring height, dense foliage and luscious blooms that are still coming on strong.

No wonder it's attracting so much attention!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

First frost - LITE

Well, that wasn't much of a frost.  Most 'first frosts' are really freezes - either just skimming the birdbath with ice or freezing it solid.  Last night's frost was almost nothing.

So today everything, those that I covered up by the house and those that spent the night out in the field, are doing just fine.  *sigh*  It's almost too bad.  I mean, it's one thing to go at cleaning up the beds when plants look ratty.  But how can I yank stuff out that still looks oh so good?

I decided to rustle leaves instead.  I spent many an hour on the lawn mower, banking leaves into piles, berms, and shrub/tree surrounds.

If it doesn't rain tomorrow, I'll start dragging leaves back to the beds.    While I was wandering about snapping pics of my progress, the nabe called out that I should be taking a pic of his pile instead.  "See, mine is way bigger than yours!"  I said that he did have a nice pile.  "But, gosh.  You only have one??"  LOL

Meanwhile, I've still got trees that don't even know it's Autumn!  

Leaf season is a long one here at Melissa Majora.... *woof*

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The beginning of the end.... (Part I)

...of the growing season, that is.  Supposed to dip into mid-30s tonight with frost.  But if things can survive tonight, then there is warmer temps for the next week.  So I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the far flung flowers and covering up those close to the house (dahlias, mums).

As for those that have already succumbed from the heavy downpours this week (3" total) and high winds (steady 25 mph with gusts over 50), it's time to say so long.

My compost bins won't handle all this stuff, so I had to resort to something a little bigger than my hatchback to take the excess to the county compost site.

Ah, that's the ticket.

First thing in - that sorry roselle shrub.  Even in the garage, it didn't like the below 45F temps, so there was no way was it going to bloom.  The growing season here in NE Ohio just won't allow the plant to mature.  Darn.

The winds pretty much mowed down the 2 driveway zin beds, so they got cleaned up first.  The zins were yanked and then I came back and pulled up all the weeds and ground ivy.  (The weeds and ivy I'll use in my compost - I use the greens to cover my winter kitchen scraps.)  Both zin beds are ready for leaves.

I figured the veg bed would be another 1st day project.  I pulled all the pepper plants.

That leaves only 3 kinds of kale, the rhubarb, and several perennial flowers back there.  Obviously I'll have to do some weeding before I lay on the leaves.

After several hours, it was time to call it quits.  The roselle has lots of company now.

About the last thing I did was cut what little parsley there was in the 2 pots by the glider (flat leaf parsley doesn't do well in pots), and a generous bunch of rosemary.  The parsley would take a frost, even a freeze, but the rosemary is much too tender.  So I'll freeze the parsley and dry the rosemary.  I'll also sprout new plants for next year since rooting them in water worked so well last year.

And I want to leave you with this pic:

Here's the very last 2 blooms on the H.F.Young clematis.  This was the first planting project this year and what a terrific result, with almost non-stop flowers all season.  What a show!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's official. Wettest year ever!

If you're tuning in from the drought-stricken south and central, I'm sorry, but yesterday, just a little after 6 pm, Cleveland records that Northeast Ohio broke the record for combined rain/snow precipitation since records were establish in the 1870s.  Click here for the story.

Looking for the silver lining

While my calendar doesn't reflect snow melt, I do have rain totals.  The first rainy day this year was January 1st, when we got .6".  Definitely an omen.   I brought in the rain gauge, afraid it would freeze and split.   I put it back out in March when we got lots of snow and rain.  I only recorded rain:

March 4.25"
April 4.75"
May 8.7"
June 3.6"
July 6.75"
August 4.9"
September 4.6"
October (to date) 5.15"
Total (to date) 43.3"
(My 2010 totals only come to 27.3")

(And, lest we forget there are still more than 2 months left in the year to go!)

In fact, yesterday we got over 2.5" from a system that starting dumping early in the a.m. and went until nearly midnight.  We got a respite this morning, but it's spinning around and will punch us again, probably before noon. *glub glub*

I shouldn't complain, there ARE lots of silver linings.  From the 'big picture' (water table benefits, local farm crops) to the lushness of my sanctuary plants and non-stop supply of grass clippings this year.  I also count that Craig totally fixed the roof leak in the sunroom and it's high and dry *knock wood* in there now, and Andy fixed the gap in the basement interior gutter system that overflowed a bit during July and it's low and dry *knock concrete* down there.  And just 2 days ago I cleaned out all the back of the house gutters.  Great timing, no?

The system should rain on us more today and Friday, but Saturday should bring 3-4 days of cool dry conditions with nights dipping into the low 30s.  Ah well, another silver lining about all this rain - at least I didn't have to shovel it! ;-D

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wind and rain and more wind

Saturday the wind near ripped the grass right off the lawn.  Sustained winds off 20-25 with gusts over 40 (closer to 50 really).  I felt bad for the nabes that had only just had the leaves cleaned away.  You'd never know it to look outside now.

Since I was tucked well inside, I amused myself by making a vat of ham and bean soup.  The twist was I was determined to use up about a pound and a half of dried pinto beans.  I've tried cooking pintos before, but I just could NOT get them soft.  So this time I figured I'd let them simmer and get soft if it took all the way to Thanksgiving!

Well, it didn't take that long, but it did take at least 5 hours before they softened up.  Then I stashed them in the 'fridge overnight and finished the soup today.  I added my own grown red potatoes, onions and peppers as well as a pound of store-bought carrots.  And while I simmered the whole shebang for another 2 hours, I'm still not completely happy with the firmness of the pintos.  Just how the heck long do these things have to cook??

Anyway, the soup is delish, taste-wise (although it's several shades darker than when I use the usual pound of 15-bean mix). Maybe the beans will soften up when I freeze them for later meals.

Meanwhile, to work up an appetite, I spent a little time in the veg bed today.  Click the pepper pic for an update.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A really dirty post

Just how cruddy can wood get?

Find out by clicking the pic.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sassy AND frassy

The sassafras trees are looking especially resplendent this year due to the recent stint of surprisingly nice weather - above average temps, clear skies and no wind.  Usually by the time the trees color up, most of the leaves have been blown off.  But not this year.  WOW.
Meanwhile, when presented with 8 GORGEOUS days in a row, yours truly has been criminally busy around the house and gardens.

First off (but in no particular order) many trees and shrubs got purchased and planted.  I'll post about them later, but here's just one example:  the new Yoshino cherry tree for the front yard.  I was seduced by the picture and the 50% off price.

Now, after 8 great days, it's raining again and should go on over the next 4-5 days.  Time to put up some entries on the blog. For more, click on the next four pics for updates on THOSE projects.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Hey!  Where did all that crabapple wood go?

Click the pic for more clues.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Black death? or just rainy weather....

After 5 cold and rainy days, the sun is peeking through.  A quick walkabout led me to discover this oddly colored monarch chrysalis hanging from a leaf of re-blooming lavender agastache.  Some Google research suggested that this chrysalis may be infected with Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus ("Black Death").  Other info was more hopeful, that the coloration may be due to the recent soggy weather.

Either way, this is the very first monarch chrysalis I've seen in the gardens - ever.  I'm surprised I've not seen more because this season the gardens were positively swarming with monarch.  And tiger swallowtails.  And Eastern black swallowtails.  And skippers.  And.... you name it.  I've never seen so many butterflies in one place outside of an enclosure!

Let's keep our fingers crossed for this little one.  It's supposed to be sunny and warm for the next 6-7 days. I'll keep checking on this and let you know.

I found some other interesting sights during my walkabout.

Click on this bee pic for the rest of the story....

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chilly? Nay. Downright COLD!

It only got to 49 yesterday and rained on and off.  Today is the same.  Dark, windy, showers.  And it's even colder to boot!  Tomorrow is looking like more of the same. :-(

Well, if it's so darned chilly outside....

I'll just have to CHILI up the place inside.  Here's what's simmering on the stove right now.  The first hot, savory batch of the season.  Ole.

===== Later that same day

Since I had 10# of ground turkey and only used 2.5# in the chili and it's still cold and wet outside, I went from the stovetop to the oven.  You can never have enough Italian meatballs on hand.  Ciao.

Hmm.  Still have 5# of turkey left.  What next?

===== Even later

Okay, who didn't see this coming? LOL