Monday, July 27, 2015

Argiope Aurantia, Photo By Amy

I didn't recognize this spider at first.  On closer inspection I thought, "Marge , why are you so slender?"  We have called these Argiope aurantia spiders Marge after Marge Simpson ever since we saw the first one many years ago.  The light dawned when I looked at this post from August ,14 2011.  She has lots of time to grow before frost!    She is still young, a newlywed perhaps or maybe a spinster. I didn't notice a male or the white zigzag he places on the web. She has a good spot and if she doesn't have a man around she will soon.  She will trap prey in the garden and she will grow.  In the middle of September she will be even bigger still.  Spiders work so much better than some stupid sticky trap. She and her new family are welcome in the garden.  In the house I have  a totally different attitude towards spiders!  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Black Raspberry Jam

We have nearly always found enough wild black raspberries scattered around the property to enjoy eating with our morning cereal or over vanilla ice cream.  Other wild plants would drive the berries out of one location but we would find them elsewhere.  Three years ago six cultivated plants were ordered from Miller Nurseries.  Five made the adjustment to our harsher climate and this year we have berries in abundance.  Homemade jam made with our berries sounded great but how does one deal with all of those seeds?

Tucked away in the back of a basement closet was a still in the box Squeezo.  Designed nearly one century ago, we had to give it a try.  The many parts do assemble into a workable unit although we have yet to get the sequence right on the first try.  Following the clearly written directions with pictures would make that task a cinch.  Dump a small amount of berries into the hopper and turn the crank.  Seedless pulp pours down the chute while the seeds exit at the end.  If the hopper is filled with berries, juice will squeeze out where the hopper slides into the main unit.  Black cap juice will stain a cement floor.

We did manage to fill four jars with enough left over to try on tomorrow's toast.  These may be the most expensive jars of jam on the planet.  It appears that Ball has discontinued manufacturing jars for freezer jam.  Merchants with this item still in stock are trying to cash in with exorbitant prices.  We did find some priced at three for five dollars.  We refuse to do the math for the remaining ingredients. This jam will taste great mid winter.  Its cost will not be considered.  We will be able to look back on the time spent picking the berries and remembering watching a mother turkey jump up to grab a berry for her breakfast.

Squeezo cleanup is another issue.  Processing two quarts of fruit makes the same mess as processing two gallons.  Everything is moved outside for the first round of cleanup.  The cone that allows the pulp to pass through while holding the seeds inside is the most difficult piece to clean.  High pressure water and a brush will ultimately leave the cone clean.

At the present time we have ten jars of black raspberry jam in the freezer.  It is likely that we will make this mess one more time this year.  The balance of the fruit will be eaten with breakfast or placed over ice cream.  From a taste point of view, this is one of the high points in eating what we grow.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Helen's Garlic

Our garlic was harvested about two weeks ago.  That is early for us but since the past several weeks featured nearly daily rain we took the garlic of the second consecutive July day without rain.  Each garlic leaf begins at the base of the root cluster.  Wrapped tightly around the bulb and stem, it climbs until it pushes away and opens.  The joint where it leaves the stem is usually watertight but when the leaves begin to brown their grasp loosens and water can enter the stem.  Once inside, the water works its way down into the bulb.  Nasty undesirables begin to grow on wet garlic cloves holding trapped moisture.  An early dry harvest was the only way to go.

The picture shows one bulb with a diameter exceeding 2.5 inches.  We rarely grow bulbs of that size here.  We know that the seed stock for this garlic was a gift from dear friend Helen.  Age weakened memories make the source of her seed one year earlier unclear.  It is highly likely that we gave Helen the seed garlic that she grew for the first time.  One year of growing in her river bottom soil greatly improved her crop.  We planted twenty of her cloves and harvested twenty plants.  Hers is the only garlic that returned one hundred percent of healthy plants this year.  Helen's garlic has jumped to the top of our list.  Sixty cloves of garlic bearing her name will be planted here this October.  We intend to continue growing this garlic for all of our remaining years with a garden.  There are many different plants in our gardens that were given to us by friends and acquaintances.  Each interaction with these gift plants stirs pleasant memories of the persons that made these plants available to us.  Helen's garlic will always have a home with us.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bee Sting

We have a history with bees here.  Early in our time on this land, a former student asked if he could place bee hives here.  Our quick yes was followed by the delivery of five hives.  Soon the young man left his children, his wife and his hives.  Taking care of the bees became our responsibility.  A bee suit and smoker were purchased.  I found that working in a cloud of bees caused me no alarm.  One afternoon Becky stood a some distance away to take pictures as I harvested some honey.  Apparently she had positioned herself on the line the bees were flying as they gathered food.  After taking several stings, she ran from the area with the bees following in hot pursuit.  I was never stung while working with the bees.  My feeling was the inner calm that carried me through 34 years of teaching eighth graders also quieted the bees.  Things went differently today.

We were working on the garden by the road this morning.  That patch of pasture grass at the end of the planting needed to be removed in preparation for expanding the garden area.  Dressed in my sun protecting clothing, only facial skin was exposed.  Suddenly something flew inside of the hood and entered my right ear.  An instant flashback to Star Trek had me ripping off the hat and hood and waving my arms wildly about.  A medium sized bumble bee left my ear and began flying about my head.  My sense of inner calm had been shattered and I was dancing about swatting at the bee. I've never moved like that before.  It first stung my cheek.  Then it landed dangerously close to my eye and stung again.  Trapped between my finger and thumb, life quickly left the bee.  My luck continues to hold as my eye is fine.  Becky couldn't believe that I didn't swell up at all.

Our plan is to continue the Autumn Joy sedum and Siberian Iris line to the sumac trees.  If the ground is prepared this year, we will have a chance to see if all of the quackgrass rhizomes have been removed before we plant.  If even a small piece is missed, it will quickly work to reclaim its ground.  Existing sedums will be levered out and cut in half with a huge knife.  One piece will return to its former spot and the other planted in an open spot up the line.  Our gardens will similarly supply Siberian Iris for replanting here.

These Black Dragon lilies are one of the few Orientals to have decent flowers here this year.  Their scent is best when it is unexpectedly encountered on the wind.  Placing one's nose near the flower does capture the fragrance and some pollen stains but it is nothing like walking into a sweet smelling cloud.  Bees gathering pollen are usually quite calm and uninterested in combat.  We frequently share flowers with no problems.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Avert Your Eyes! Sex In The Garden

Like the old song says "Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees and the flowers ..." but today it one of my very favorite garden visitors, Hemaris thysbe, the Clearwing hummingbird moth that is mating on the lavender bee balm.  Ed took this great picture.  The flowers were buzzing with activity.  It was just plain luck that we spotted these two.

We took the time to snap a second picture before we moved off to let them do their thing in peace.  In all the times I have watched these interesting creatures in the garden, I have never seen this before.  Sometimes I say that and find out later that I was mistaken. In this case I'm very sure because I love to watch them and the prospects of more of them around is thrilling to me.  Not everyone finds them so fascinating, but for those to do here are some past posts. Still Wonderful When Wet  , Garden Guests Galore,  Splendor In The Grass And Weeds, Hemaris thysbe, the Clearwing hummingbird moth    For me it is awesome!!!!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lily Time

Mother Nature continues to bring us nearly daily rain.  Last night's line of thunder storms dropped more than one inch of water on the garden.  With humidity above 90, garden work did not seem appealing.  Popping out for a few snaps did place us in some sunlight.  Frosted Vintage Ruffles has been with us for several years.  The complexity of the petals is amazing.  Lined ridges spring from the center and end in a ruffled edge.

Table Dancer was new to us last year.  All of this color grew from three bulbs.  It would be better for the plants if the bulbs were more generously spaced.  These are as far apart as possible to allow for covering all with a huge garbage can when late frost threatens.  Most of our oriental lilies were hit hard by the last freeze, frost.  Many managed damaged flowers above brown leaves.  Crushingly disappointing describes this year's display.  The relative performance of the daylilies and the orientals is pushing us toward the daylilies.  Lately our early spring weather opens with a hot dry period pulling tender plants out of the ground only to be followed by killing cold.

Wineberry Candy has been here for several years.  Laughing off neglect, it reliably flowers year after year.

Swallowtail Kite is rather new to us.  Its eye spot seems to glow and the flowers are enormous.

This accidental placement of a daylily with Shasta Daisies has defined a plan for us.  If three new daylily divisions were planted at the vertices of a generously sized equilateral triangle, a Shasta Daisy could then be placed in the center.  The structure of the expanding daylilies would provide natural support for the daisies.  Now that we have finally had daisies winter over, they are flopping onto the paths.  Impossible to attractively tie up, their present appearance is not what we have in mind for them.  If the daylily is chosen with consideration of the resulting combination of colors, the display might look amazing.  This placement is definitely on the list for next year's garden.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Peas Are Past. Pink Poppies Are Present!

There was a time when we tried to grow a substantial amount of our food in the garden.  Those days are in the past.  Each day is still 24 hours long but we accomplish less and less with each passing year.  Our focus has shifted to a few memorable meals in season.  Snow peas are at the top of the list for great meals.  This year the late frost with a freeze really hit the peas hard.  Three different plantings are made several days apart.  The smallest peas were hit the hardest.  Then the rains came.  We did not spend those few precious clear days pulling weeds.  Now we have a mess like this.  We did get several excellent meals with the snow peas but it is time to clean up.

Becky's pink poppies are always mixed in with the weeds.  We can always count on them for color after the vegetable plants are pulled.  Hand weeding is almost a religious experience here.  This morning was full of pleasant time well spent.

The mess is gone and these poppies of various ages will keep this bed in flower for many weeks.  Our resident mother turkeys with their ten youngsters would love to roll in the loose dirt.  Five circular cages were placed in the more open places to discourage their entrance here.  The area within the cages received flower seeds that we never got around to planting.  We do not know if anything will come of the late planted seeds but our chances are better than simply leaving the seed in their envelopes.  Turkeys get up early!  The outer cage wire will be put back in place before dark.  We want the pink poppies to be safe in their bed.

Make The Most Of Today

If you only had today like these Gentle Ed daylily flowers, what would you do with your day?

These beautiful flowers have just one day.  They certainly make the most of it.  I'm headed out to spend some time enjoying them while I pull a few weeds.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Boo Hoo, I Nearly Lost My Purple Balloon!

I have not lost my inner child when it comes to the garden.  I love this purple balloon flower dearly.  Purple is definitely my favorite color directly followed by pink or is it the other way around?   I guess it depends on the day.

I have always loved balloons and these flowers look like little purple hot air balloons just before they open.  Tracy Disabato-Aust says you can pop these without damaging the flower, but I wouldn't.  I couldn't.  I never liked to pop real balloons either and the balloon bud is the very best part!

Well, my balloon flower, Platycodon grandiflorus, has been found and it has more balloons to come. Like they say, "Get lost, get found.  Life is good!"

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hidden In Our Untamed Garden

With all the rain the garden is lush.  Just about anything could hide there.  The two wild turkey hens and their babies caught my eye first thing this morning.  They actually spent their whole day here just walking away until they could get out of sight behind a stone wall or and area of tall plant growth.

The spiderwort loves this weather and is covered with flowers.  It has been hiding under the Summer sweet for years, but this summer it has grown to the top of the stone wall. I love the purple fuzzy ball in the center of these interesting flowers!

In the past our history with Shasta daisies has been rather dismal.  This year the white flowers with yellow centers, or should I say yellow disc flowers with white ray flowers, are doing great.  They look great from a distance and would pass the speeding car test with ease.  Close ups of composite flowers are always fascinating!

Hidden beneath the raucous display of Gloriosa daisies are Ed's pinkster, cardinal flower, one of my favorite sedums, blue flax, a red hibiscus, closed gentian, Emperor of China chrysanthemums and more.  I think the garden looks wildly fantastic!

The late freeze/ frost greatly reduced the number of pink double poppies in the garden this year. In the past I have pulled out buckets full. The first batch of plants were eliminated by the cold and there are not too many in the garden this year.  Even so poppies that are not full doubles or ones that have thrown back to singles are supposed to be pulled as soon as possible.  This plant has been pulled, but bees have already spread it's pollen.  Add it to the list.  We do what we can, after all Mother Nature is in charge here.  We only referee.  Click on a picture to enlarge them.  Click on the pale grey text to go to a link!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Some Like It Wet

The garden near the woods is filled with plants that thrive on daily rainfall.  Both the corn and the potatoes seem to show new growth continuously.  These planting beds are five feet wide and two rows of potatoes were planted very close together.  Enough soil could be found to hill the outer edges twice.  Screened topsoil was shoveled between the rows to hill the center a second time.  Dried grass clippings now form the outer surface.  More clippings will be added later to prevent sun burn on potatoes near the surface.  Last year we harvested more potatoes than we could eat.  We really need to donate to the food bank following this harvest.

These purple flowers are growing on a variety called Colorado Rose.  It is an early red skinned potato with white flesh.  Holding certification as a Plant Variety Protection, we can grow it and use it for food but are prohibited from using our harvest as seed stock.  We were surprised to learn that these flowers are pleasantly scented.  All of the flowers have now been removed to encourage underground growth.

Canela Russet is another Plant Variety Protection potato.  We grew this variety last year and truly enjoyed the oblong uniform sized potatoes.  Its netted skin looks good even after the potatoes are baked.  Last year we failed to remove the flowers but the harvest was impressive despite our neglect.

This is our second year growing tobacco.  The catalog description warns about planting tobacco near tomatoes but is silent about the possible risk to potatoes.  Potato harvest is fairly close and the tobacco was just moved here from the pots where seed was started.  We will watch to see if any problems develop.  Government attempts to eliminate tobacco use by taxing the products exorbitantly  do nothing to address the hardship caused for addicted smokers with few funds.  We do not use tobacco products ourselves but grow it for someone else.  Government looks for drug crops from airplanes in this area.  Today I was overflown by a low helicopter.  It altered its path to get a closer look at just was is growing in this remote garden.  As far as I know, only the sale of our crop will put us at risk.  Since we give it away we should be legal for now.  If homegrown tobacco catches on, the tax man will closely follow.

Our basic garden plan here is to build stone paths between the planting beds using the stone that was removed from the soil.  Near the house, the glacier left more stone than soil.  Here the soil is almost free of stone and contains a fair amount of clay.  My path remains unfinished for lack of material but the clay soil holds sufficient moisture to carry the plants thru dry spells. Perhaps when the area to the right is developed, enough stone will be found there to finish the first section's path.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Don't Miss The Flower Spider!

No time to write a long post so we will use blog magic to go back in time to read about this gorgeous flower spider.  Click on the words flower spider. for your link to the past. When you get there you can do it again. I've gotta go!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Understated Elegance

Back when we were innocent novices at the mail order plant game, we assumed that the illustration would be reflected in the delivered product.  An assortment of Oriental lilies pictured Lovely Girl as one of the items offered for sale.  As it turned out this hardy bright stunner was a real find but it is neither Oriental nor a Lovely Girl.  The number of flower producing stalks increase each year.  Dividing the bulb cluster results in vigorous growth as what is pictured began with just two bulbs several years ago.

The reddish darker flower is just opening today.  Some time in the sun will tone it down to orange and white.  If these flowers were scented, they would be a popular named variety rather than undesirables thrown in the assorted bin.  We feel lucky to have them.  They are one of the few lilies to have come through the late freeze frost unmarked.

Our roadside bed is presently a riot of colors that do not complement each other. The colors are brilliant and the occupants of cars that whiz by at high speed can't miss the flash of color.  The left upper corner of the picture shows grass clippings spread under sumac trees.  If we can kill off the pasture grasses that grow here, we will try for a shaded woodland garden.  A bench will be placed in the shade to give us a cooler place to sit and admire our work in this area.

Destined to See is the name of this daylily.  The post title refers to this flower.  This was the first exotic variety that we purchased.  It has been with us many years and this plant was separated from the original last year.  Never having tried dividing a daylily, it required a great deal of courage to pierce the clump with two tined spades.  Both plants survived and flowers are opening on each plant.  That is a good thing since several other plants need division.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Hole In The Forest Canopy

On a recent trip to the back woods near the edge of our property, the increased amount of daylight present was the first sensation to register with me.  Then I noticed maple leaves overhanging the small clearing where the truck is turned.  Bad news quickly followed when the remains of the giant red maple tree came into view.  A storm of some significance had felled two of the remaining central trunks.

When we first began walking this land, this giant red maple impressed us.  Most of the trees here were comparatively young, growing where attempts to farm poor land were abandoned.  Why this tree was never cut remained a mystery.  It stood out in sharp contrast to its neighbors because of its unusual size .  Six massive side trunks grew from the central vertical trunk.  These were huge and I could never understand how the tree was able to support so much mass that grew so far away from the main trunk.

The grown over hole marks the former location of the first side trunk to fall.  The main trunk has an indentation there that allowed me to back into the tree under the side trunk.  Energy transfer between tree and man is likely fiction but I spent time on every walk up against the tree.  My mood was calmer when I left the tree.  I felt invisible and a part of nature since I was so far into the tree.

There must have been a thunderous crash when these parts of the tree fell.  A sudden snap when the first section separated would have made a terrible sound.  The larger upper section fell first.  Crashing onto the lower piece, it fell also.  It appears that current weather events feature localized storms of unusual intensity.  My tree would speak in  support of that point of view since it had been here for many generations suffering no harm.

Two of the smaller trunks are all that remain of this former giant.  We have no idea of what to do with the fallen parts.  There is a great deal of wood near the ground but red maple grows in a twisting manner making its firewood difficult to split.  Working among three sections that have yet to find the ground would entail considerable risk.  Nature will be allowed to follow its course here and these tree sections will become part of the forest floor.  We will watch with interest to see what grows in the former shade of a true giant.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Daylily Season Begins

To say that hybrid dayliles have captured our fancy would be a major understatement.  We presently work with thirty-five different varieties.  I vowed to purchase no new ones this year but winter seemed unending and the mail order catalogs were here early.  Eleven different new varieties were ordered, delivered and planted.  We have no idea where all of this beauty will be planted as they grow.

Molokai is the varietal name of this clear bright yellow blossom.  Ruffled edges and the pure color made me buy this one.  It is scentless but it catches the eye across great distance.  It should be moved and divided this year or early next spring.

Spiritual Corridor has been with us for several seasons.  It must be the fussiest flower that we own.  Light colored pie crust edges surrounding a flaming yellow eye spot makes a strong statement.  This one is pleasantly scented in an understated manner.  Twenty-two separate bud bearing stalks were counted.  This year the blossom count for this single plant should exceed one hundred.   This flower opened following a heavy overnight rain.  Sunny days will lead to brighter cleaner flowers.

If we are to plant so that the season of blossoms is long, we need a written record of when what flowers open.  Written here we will be able to find our notes when we are ready to plant the day lily garden.