Friday, June 29, 2012

Shelter from the swelter

You'd think that since I'm not outside due to the sweltering temps (over 90 with over 100 heat index) that I would spend more time on the computer posting up entries.

But no.

Heat is enervating.  I can't work outside.  I don't WANT to work inside.  So I drink iced tea and read.  (Lather.  Rinse. Repeat.)   I get stiff reading, so get up and wander around the house, looking out the windows.

Everything is is baking.  I put fresh water in the bird bath this morning.  It already looks scummy.  Plants are wilted.  Waves of heat shimmer off the asphalt driveway.  Leaves on the new crabapple trees have been turning yellow and falling the past 2 weeks.

Even the squirrels have pretty much given up trying to dig up any buried stash.  The ground is like concrete.  The heat is slowing them down, too.  One of them didn't make it across our road.  I suppose I should have been more surprised when I looked out the front window and saw the body had attracted a vulture.  Yep.  Better to just stay inside and pay for running the A/C.

Meanwhile, the heat makes my eyes feel gummy and reading doesn't make them any better.  *blink blink* 

I made an effort to update the vegetable page, and now this one.  But it's just too taxing to do any more.  I'm going to head back to the couch and fire up the iPad and read some more.  Hopefully, I'll doze off.

Back when I find some motivation.... *pant*

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blessed RELIEF

Albeit only temporary.

Yesterday it only got to 71.  Today it is (right now) 72 on my deck.   The wind is straight from the north (thanks, Canada!)  - a brisk wind at a consistent 15-20 mph.  And no humidity to speak of (only 33%).

Any curtains, blinds or shades have been pushed aside and the windows thrown wide.

It's not just that the house is cool, but there is a decided WIND blowing through the rooms and it feels WONDERFUL.

Yesterday I used the cool weather to give the 'fridge a serious cleanout.  Then, because I didn't have to worry about heat build up, I baked a lovely Irish soda bread.  I also mixed up a batch of ciabatta bread batter and set it aside to rise for the required 18 hours.

Today I spent the morning trouble-shooting some household stuff at Mom's.  But after that I've been playing on the deck, potting up lots of geraniums.  That done, I baked the ciabatta loafs.  They turned out perfect!

Not to stop the train, I also boiled up a pound of tri-color rotini for a future pasta salad and have put 1.5 pounds of dry garbanzos to soak so I can simmer them early evening.  I'm looking forward to chick pea salad and some home-made humus.

As a finale, I'll drag out the propane grill, fire it up and char  a 6-pound bag of chicken breasts  for future sandwiches, salads, and wraps.  

Pasta, beans, bread, chicken - lots of food.  But no prob - the 'fridge is nearly empty since the clean up.  Plenty of room for some fresh fixin's.

Tomorrow returns to our regularly scheduled heat wave, with high 80s, then 90s for the weekend.  *pant*  That's why I'm cooking up a storm now because I just REFUSE to heat up the kitchen when outside temps are too much like oven temps.

Meanwhile, I'm putting the range through its paces while the cool temps and spanking breeze persists.  Hmmm, wonder if I should throw a couple of veg quiches together.  Oh yeah, look.  I found the eggs....


Friday, June 22, 2012

We got the 'baby bird blues'

It's not enough to put out some seed and fill the birdbath.  Birds are attracted to locales that provide nesting places and building materials (as well as a good insect selection - YUM!).

I encourage all the nesting (except ducks!) I can get.  That's why the beds are never fully manicured.  Dried daff blades and catmint trimmings and grass clippings and little piles of henbit/other weeds are left 'laying around' for the birds. I even put out all my dryer lint (sparrows LOVE it).

It's been a very bad year for robins.  I've found abandoned nests in the pieris, rose of sharon, and one rhody .  It's not that any robin chicks have fledged (I've not seen (or heard - they are distinctive!) even ONE so far this year. :-( )  I've found nests with broken eggs, abandoned eggs, and torn nests.  ( I remove these nests as they won't be re-used and by taking them away, the tree/shrub/location allows birds to re-nest.)

I think the robins went for the shrubs because they are more stable in high winds.  Unfortunately I think the squirrels have been harassing them.

There is one lovelyl bird that I'm very fond of.  I watched her gather nest materials for a couple of days, then disappeared for a few days (obviously to lay eggs way up in the star magnolia tree) and then became a fixture in the lawn and beds just off the deck as she hunted bugs and worms to take to her chicks.  I was thrilled that something was going right.

Then just 3 days ago, I found 2 half-feathered chicks dead in the grass under the tree.  High winds?  Probably, they had not been damaged or predated.  *sigh*

I grieved with the robin.  But today, after 3 days of bird mourning (hanging out with hubby?) she's back into building mode.   I watched her sort through the dwindling pile of shredded maple roots on the turnaround, selecting tough, but slender/flexible bits.  She took a lot. (The jays are also shopping there.)

Next time I went out I found out that she was already into plaster mode (glueing the framework with muddy leaves and such).  Evidence? She was getting her plaster from my deck containers of columbine and hyssop.   HEY!

So I netted them and mad some mud under my bins bench and crunched up  lots of shredded leaves at the ready.  (Yes, I still have leaves from last Fall.)  She found the spot in record time.  (They must smell the mud!)

Abandoned nests ==>  see all the mud plaster?

Anyway she's busy busy busy, making good use of the plaster.  After every beak-full, she hops up onto the birdbath, checks out the sky and surroundings, then flies up into the magnolia crown.

I sure hope this batch of babies fares much better than her last (several) tries.

(Update - the next morning I saw that a 2nd pair of robins were at the muddy leaves.  I watched her leave and saw she was building a nest in the rose-of-sharon where I'd earlier removed a nest with broken eggs.   I think both pairs of robins are rebuilding in their old locations.  Let's keep our fingers crossed. Oh, and for the jays, too.)

Although mud is a key ingredient to nest building, DRY is the key to parent bird health.  I've set aside a bit of plain old dirt in the sun which ALL the birds scratch up to powder and then take dust baths to help keep out mites, etc.

Bottom line, it takes a bit of 'messy' places in your gardens to really entice the birds to stake a claim and call the place home.

All the robins (and jays) are scarce now, so I'm assuming all the ladies are settled into their new digs and are just waiting for yet ANOTHER bird to visit.  The STORK. ;-D

You go girls!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Carpet of clover

This is my TENTH summer season at this house.  When I moved in the lawns were filled with - grass.  There were a few patches of white clover here and there in the back, but the rest of the place was a typical American green desert, lending no support whatsoever to bird, bee, or bunny.

Since then I've tried like crazy to redistribute the white clover.  The back lawns took to it pretty well, with more swaths of clover every year.  I don't know what the tipping event was last year, though, but this year the ENTIRE PROPERTY now sports a lush carpet of clover.  Even the front lawn, the last holdout for some reason, decided to join the party.

I had commented in an earlier post about the heat and lack of rain that the lawns hadn't been mowed for 2 weeks.  Well, it wasn't because I COULDN'T have mown them, but there was no way I was GOING to mow them.  The place is a real standout in the neighborhood. *heh*  Especially compared to the toasted fairways of the golf course.

And as for bees --  I've had more honeybees per square foot this year than any other year.  I estimate that there are at least 4 honeybees per square foot!  And I have 1.25 ACRES!  When I sit out in the lawn on these torrid days, the first thing you hear is HUM.  A low pervasive DRONE.  It's just incredible!!

I don't know if these are owned hives or feral.  It doesn't matter.  The bees are THRIVING!

Nope, not gonna mow until all the blooms are blown, brown and dead.  Then I'll hold off even a little longer - making sure the seeds have formed so I can spread them again for next year.

(I haven't mentioned the native bees.  They, too, are just everywhere.  I'll do up a post about them very soon.)

Meanwhile, the lawn hasn't been this white since winter!  :-D

Monday, June 18, 2012

Finally, some more rain

Our last bit of rain (.15") was 2 weeks ago.  Yesterday we we got another .15" in the morning.  That amount really amounts to - nothing.  That little barely makes it down the to the ground, wetting only the top of the various mulches.

But then, oh happy day, around 5:30, another squall line came through and, over the next hour and half, dropped another .6" of sweet sweet rain. (Total so far this month - a measly 1.75")

All my water barrels are filled (3 x 55 gal).  I even managed to catch some overflow from the garage barrel into a 32-gallon trash container (about 15 gallons).

But rain in a barrel does little good compared to the nice soaking the all the gardens got.  Things were starting to drop leaves, go dormant (the grass hasn't been mowed for 2 weeks).  The rain came just in the nick of time, too, as this week will see only more sun and lots of 90s.  *pant*

I'd used up all the previous contents of the garage barrel to set out most of the rest of the deck plants. There's room to swing a cat out there now and would be a nice place to visit --  if the temps weren't so torrid.

I'll foray out in the early a.m. and late evening, but otherwise I've planned no outside activities for the near future.  *sigh*  At least I can still enjoy the views from the windows while I plot, plan and otherwise dream of a better, wetter year.  You'll probably see more entries on the household and kitchen pages now. *heh*

(added later: rueful update -- Just back in from a quick walkaround, checked the shed barrels (full) and the veg beds.  The downside of long periods of heat and no rain require deeper mulching with available grass clippings.  The .75 total yesterday did not reach the soil under the mulched vegs.  With little forecast for future rain, the mulch is better to have than not.  At least when I DO water the plants, what they get won't evaporate away.  There's always pros and cons when it comes to mulch. But in my book - there's always more pros. )

(added even later: -- There's a chance for more rain tonight.  So I got busy... (CLICK HERE))

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nursing the nursery

I decided that I did not like having those dwarf bearded iris in the crabapple bed.  I don't truly appreciate the pale yellow blooms with dark brown beards.  No do I enjoy the long spiky foliage.

So out they went.  Oh look.  There were a couple of primrose behind them.  Hmmm.  Now they are going to be in blasting sun.  I'll have to relocate them.

There.  I like the iris not being there.

There again.  I like having more terra cotta colored pots in the bed.

Some of you sharp-eyed followers may have also noticed that the Golden Jubilee agastache has had a preemptive hair cut.  Last year what with all the rain, those plants topped out near 60".  They were messy, tended to blow over, and totally blocked my view of the arbor bed from the deck.

This year they will (WILL!!) stay at the 2-foot mark.

Now, regards to the post title:

There is a little owner-operated corner nursery that sell annuals, perennials, occasional trees & shrubs and mulch.  They also have a selection of local produce (the strawberries are in and they are heavenly!).

Thing is, Nancy (who's had the place for 33 years) is trying to run the place by herself!  Waiting on customers, scheduling mulch orders, buying, maintaining the premises, watering.  She's about at the end of her rope, since her daughter no longer wants to help her out.

A while ago, when Mom and I stopped to get her some annuals, I insisted on helping the owner.  It was blasting hot and the wind was dry, so I got the hose and just started watering.  I got about half the tables when her grandson came to help.  Nancy loved the way I watered and asked if I'd show her grandson what I was doing.  So I did.  I also left my name and number with the owner if she needed any kind of help.  Nancy tried to sell out last year, but the a$$hat she was dealing with left her high and dry with no final response, setting her back on getting things ordered for THIS season.

Anyway, the place is the FOUR SEASONs NURSERY just south of the intersection of Market Ave N. and Easton in North Canton.  She's right across from the Market Ave. N. driveway into Walsh College parking lot.  If you need some late plants, good produce, or some mulch, stop by and give Nancy your custom.  She could sure use some visitors.  Just not all at once. LOL  She's spread pretty thin.

To that effect, even though I start all my own plants, I stopped at the nursery Wednesday and loaded up on a tray of annuals.  (All 25% off right now.)

So, rather than planting up the new pots in the crabapple bed with my own Thumbelina zinnias, I just potted up from my new annuals.  There.  I've got three combo pots in the crab bed while the rest were planted around the birdbath.

I'm going to stop in at Four Seasons more than usual now that I know what's happening there.  Fortunately, I drive right by the place back and forth from Mom's house.

Maybe I'll bump into you sometime. ;-D

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Beds, blooms & books

Some surprises in the garden, in spite of the continued heat, drying winds and lack of rain.  As you may remember I WS'd 2 varieties of hosta 2 years ago (WS Spring 2010) (Bressingham Blue & Sunpower).  All those baby hostas are blooming this year back in the vegetable garden.  They get blasting sun until 2-ish, then all shade.  I've not watered them, but apparently they are established enough to tough it out.  And, no, none of them look like their parents.  The ones in the foreground (half of the bed) are BB's, while the back half are SPs.  But they all look the same, no sign of any parental genes.  (And no, there was no cross-pollination of the original seeds.  The BBs were from my yard and the SPs from my mother's.)  Oh well, they are of medium color and texture.  I'm sure I'll be able to find some nice spot(s) that need filling.

At the privacy fence, I'm stunned by the magnificent display of self-seeded annual delphiniums "Frosty Skies".  I'd grown them for a couple of years (WS'd), but they were never more than short-ish and sparsely bloomed.  I put a handful of WS'd seedlings behind that section of fence last year and just let them go, not even deadheading or cleaning them up in Fall.  Well, just look at all those volunteers busting their britches this year.  The plants are over 5 feet tall, thick-stalked, lush and bloomiferously beautiful.  Not only are they blooming white, pale blue and deep blue, there are PINK blooms.  Now where did THEY come from?  I've never had pink before.  And I can only imagine that "Frosty Skies" meant shades of blue and cloud.  But what a delight to see the pink amongst all that sky stuff.  I'll most definitely grow these again, so much so that I'm going to sprinkle seeds behind another section of fence further toward the center.

As for getting the annuals planted out, I'm still avoiding most of it.  Without rain, I'm sure that most of the seedlings wouldn't have a chance.  But I DID get the front of the privacy fence planted out.  I put in my burgundy cannas to the left of center, my striped green canna just to the right of the center and filled the back of the right with salvia subrotunda.  All these plants are tall Tall TALL and will do well against the fence.

Then I filled in the whole front of the bed with cut'n'come again zinnias for color and bee forage.  There are also a couple of tough little Bolero marigolds right in front of the gazing ball.  And that's it for that bed.  I'm still not ready to commit that bed to perennials.  There's always next year.  And (hopefully) there will be a lot more fence to have to 'deal' with next season.

Finally, back at the new 'butterfly bed', I'm not going to commit much there at all this year either (due to the heat and drought).  But for eye candy I've arranged some plastic terra cotta pots to look at. (Each time I look at them, I imagine different plants in each pot.  The mind eye sees color, while the rest of me likes not having to water. *heh*)  The butterfly bush, though blooming away, has not attracted any butterflies at all.  But, oh gosh, does it smell wonderful.

Temps near 90 right now and sticky humidity.  I just can't handle working in that, so I've been (*GASP*) READING these torrid afternoons in the cool of the house.  Ever since I got that iPad, I've enjoyed downloading electronic library books.  Not only do I like being able to adjust font & size, but it's fun to link out from the text to the dictionary or even Wikipedia.  The best part is that the screen is so bright that I don't have to park myself under a reading lamp anymore.  I read where I want.  And I don't have to even go to the library to check out or return books.  How spoiled am I getting? LOL

With the hot weather and no rain, this may just be the summer that I get to catch up on years of suspended reading.  Thanks, again SS, for this terrific tech toy.  It makes having to stay inside so much anymore not such a bummer.  :-D

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Other pages

While I've not been posting much here on the MAIN page -- I've been updating my linked blogs.  

There's been activity on the Vegetable blog.

And there's been a lot of liftin'/totin'/(even some cussin') going on posted in the Garden Projects blog.

The links are on near the top of the sidebar.  (The dates indicate the last update to that blog.)

So if I'm not on this page, click over to one of the others. 

Seeya there.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wonderful wonderful rain!

After 24 dry, hot, windy days, the weatherman finally delivered the goods.  Since this morning we've received half an inch of rain.

Last year we got 8.7 inches of rain in May.  This year only 2.65 (and that was within the first 8 days of the month).  Since then all that lush growth from the early warmth, suffered much.  *I* suffered much.  When I know we need rain and the days go by, I feel a little spring inside me tighten.  When rain does come to the general area but it refuses to fall hereabouts, the spring tightens more.  I find myself tense and irritated, seeming to channel the plants.  And good grief I have a lot of plants.

I even put off putting out the vegetables this year until May 31st - in spite of the 'lovely' weather.  After all, it's MUCH easier to keep so many plants watered while the are all sitting on the deck.

But I took a chance yesterday on the rain reaching us today, so I pulled an 11-hour day getting the vegs out, mowing/bagging & mulching, staking tomatoes, etc.   (And jeez do I feel it today!  *woof*)  I'll update the veg page soon.

Right now, I sit in the sunroom and listen to the soothing / healing drum of rain on the roof.

Wonderful, wonderful rain.  Ahhhhh.  I can finally exhale.