Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Decorating with Tumble Weeds

I had an idea.  I felt like it was one of those lightning strike ideas that I would put into play, and it would create a spark of interest in all who view my wildflower garden.  See the tuft of stems sticking up from the clay pot (chimney liner) in the center of my wildflower garden?  Those didn't grow there.   I put them there.  Are you impressed?  

Puck was more impressed with the number of dogwood flowers on my little shrubs, but at least he noticed what I was doing.  So far, I've had to point to my brilliant garden design idea before anyone even noticed what I'd done!

This is what the wildflower garden looked like before I had my idea.  I left last years stems standing through the winter, and I enjoyed the rough texture and bird habitat that it created, but now that spring gardening fever has taken over my brain, I decided to tidy up the bed by removing the haphazard stems and weeds.  

I use the clay pot as a planter, but I didn't have any flowers to plant in it yet, so I decided to treat it like a vase, and use some of the stems I harvested to make a tuft of stems in the vase.  Okay, so maybe it wasn't a revolutionary idea, but I think it looks good enough to take photos of.  

Much better.  Still a bit weedy looking, but at least it gives the impression that it's intentional, and not just a spot we forgot to mow for a few years.  

Can you believe the irises are already blooming?  I'm in no hurry for summer to arrive.  

I still have pink tulips blooming, so I know spring isn't over yet.  I had to do some serious weeding, since there were dozens of baby bush honeysuckles that sprouted in this bed.  I think the birds eat the bush honeysuckle fruits and deposit seeds everywhere.  No wonder that stuff is taking over central Kentucky.

It's still early enough in the season that I welcome the sun light.  I recently watched a Ted Talk by a dermatologist who explained how the rays of the sun hitting our skin releases chemicals that reduce blood pressure and do other good things for the body.  Not just vitamin D, but something called nitric oxide.  So, it's not just a warm brain feeling that makes me like laying in the spring sunlight, it's actually doing good stuff to my body.  Cool.  

I wonder if animals get the same benefit of the sun's rays, even though they are covered in hair? 

The wild columbine is beginning to fade, but I took the time to break off all the old stems of the wild bergamot that were crowding them.  

Wild bergamot stems make for lovely clay pot filler too.  At least I think so.  When I drag people over to see my flowers and force them to admire my bundle of sticks, they agree too, so it must be true.  

While I was working, the wind was so strong that it blew my pile of stems away, making a giant tumble weed that scared the chickens.  This summer, when the sun is so hot it burns, and the air is so stagnant the mosquitoes can feast without trouble, I want to remember this windy day when the sun was welcome and all I had to do was decorate with wildflower stems.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Much Time Working In The Garden?

A friend of mine once asked me how much time I spend working in my garden.  She was considering planting a garden of her own, but wasn't sure how much time it would take.  I had a hard time answering this question.  What constitutes work?  When I reviewed the photos I took the day I worked on this single raised bed last week, I thought about her question again.  

Since I'm obviously addicted to taking pictures of my chickens, I was able to look at the time stamp on the photos and figure out that there was approximately an hour and half between the un-hoed bed I started with and the finished hoed bed I had in the end.  An hour and half seems like a long time to work on a single four by eight foot bed, right?  

If I really focused on the task and put some muscle into it, I'm sure I could hoe a bed this size in less than fifteen minutes without stressing myself, and that would include a few stops to catch my breath. 

But since I spent so much time watching the chickens hunt for worms while I enjoyed my tasty beverage, and taking pictures of chickens and flowers (twenty-two photos!), the experience was much longer.  And much more enjoyable!  

Look, baby potato plants poking their first leaves out of the ground!

Wow, a half a dozen eggs in just three days.  The chickens steady diet of earthworms and grass must really be working.  

So, I think the answer to my friends question is that for a garden like mine, which is only supplemental to the grocery store, I spend as much time in the garden as I want, but only a few minutes of that time really qualifies as work.  Some tasks feel like real chores if I try to hurry, but if what I really want is to spend some time outside stretching my muscles after a long day in the office, then I can turn a fifteen minute job into an hour and half, and consider it time well spent.  

How much time do you spend working in your garden?  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's All Apple Blossoms and Rainbows

While Brandon and I were working on the little farm house this weekend, we experienced some terrific downpours.  We managed to get our clothes soaking wet by making a mad dash to close the truck windows and rescue the dog, which resulted in some topless drywall sanding on my part.  The isolation of the farm might inspire me to do more chores without being properly attired, but I'm taking drywall sanding off the list now that I've tried it.  It turns out that shirts are great for keeping dust out of places is doesn't belong!  

Not only did the rain allow me to explore a nudist experience, but it made the most perfect double rainbow.  As soon as the clouds lifted and the sun beamed down I knew to look for the rainbow and I scrambled to find a sweatshirt so I could run outside and admire it.  A true nudist wouldn't have needed the sweatshirt, I'm sure.  

Do you remember the Care Bears, from the 1980's?  The Care Bear Stare was used by the bears to make cold hearted bad guys feel love.  In the cartoon, when the bears stood in a row and turned on the stare, a rainbow would shoot from their bellies onto the person who needed an attitude adjustment.  Rainbows do lift the heart.  I made sure to stand at the end of the rainbow and get a good dose of love.  

When I shared some pictures of the rainbow, Shanna said she always thinks of this clip when she see's a double arch.  I think that guy had a rainbow overdose!

It wasn't just the rainbows that were fantastic.  The entire sky was a rolling mass of clouds.

As the clouds moved across the sky the rainbow began to fade, and the last little tip ended by the apple tree.  

The apple tree was the most spectacular the day before the big storm, on Saturday.  The leaves were still small, so the thousands of flowers made the entire tree look white when viewed from a distance.  

I've never seen it with so many flowers before.  I wish you could have stood under the branches with me and got a whiff of that aroma.  It was wonderful!

Each petal has a faint wash of pink.  

This tiny bud may be my favorite photograph.  

From inside the house, the apple tree took center stage when looking through the big door window that installed in the kitchen.  

It won't be long before the sink will be installed too.  We ran out of paint before we could finish, but it's so close!

I have sanded the drywall downstairs, and half of the seams upstairs.  It's hard work, especially when I start gasping from the effort and I have the dust mask on.  Brandon tells me I should think of it as practice for our high altitude hike this summer.  If that's what it's going to be like to hike with low oxygen, I'm going to need to take a break every two minutes!

Brandon nearly finished building the shelves in the little cubby space upstairs at the top of the steps.  This space was walled off before, but I think it's going to be very valued storage in this small house.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring Blossoms

So many of the spring blossoms that I have admired and photographed are already gone.  It's happening so fast right now, spring.  Nearly every day I notice something new awakening.  I take pictures of the blooms, even when the lighting is poor, and the rain is threatening, because I know they may be gone before I get back to them.  

I take pictures.  I smell them.  I imagine them in vases, but I don't cut them.  

I want to share them, even when I can't think of anything witty to say.  Even when my photography is predictable.  

Even when the photo fails to evoke the bright wet way they glow for a few short days, dispelling winter, making it hard to be inside.  

I consider learning to make still frame photography, just so I can really see it happen, this blooming.

Maybe it's because I will be moving away from them, and will likely never again stand with my face inches from their's at this exact space, trying to memorize their scent, that I feel like I need to preserve them here, when I know what I'm preserving is a shadow and next year's blossoms will be out there.  The same blooms, different plants, but better because they are real.

I google poems about spring, to see how artists preserve the spring in words.  

Spring is like a perhaps hand
by E. E. Cummings, 1923

Spring is like a perhaps hand 
(which comes carefully 
out of Nowhere) arranging 
a window,into which people look (while 
people stare
arranging and changing placing 
carefully there a strange 
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps 
Hand in a window 
(carefully to 
and fro moving New and 
Old things,while 
people stare carefully 
moving a perhaps 
fraction of flower here placing 
an inch of air there) and

without breaking anything.

I want to lay down in them, but I don't want to get my pants wet.  

Hello, friend.  

The first invaders arrive.  This spring, a dozen bush honeysuckle sprouts in the flower bed. How did you get here?  Spring time sacrifices.

The wild cherry tree that Brandon and his dad harvested for our yard.  Not a dogwood, after all.  How could I have this tree all these years and never notice these pink leaf-like bracts before?  Surprises every spring.  

Talk about edible bounty, the ice cream truck went by yesterday for the fist time that I've noticed, and at 8 pm even.  It's the season of evening ice cream delivery. ha!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Garden Grand Opening - All In One Day!

After a long work day last Sunday, I took the photo above and was amazed at how much we accomplished.  This is already the biggest garden I have ever had, and I was so impressed that we managed to make so much progress in a single day!  Over the week away from the farm, my mental image of these narrow beds of planted seeds must have grown, because when I finally got to revisit them this weekend, I was surprised to find that it wasn't quite the sprawling acreage I envisioned. This is a good thing, since I was getting worried that weeding this garden was going to be more overwhelming than usual.  

If you remember, I spread carpet over the grass where I wanted to make a garden, with the goal of killing the existing vegetation and hopefully allowing us to plant our plants without having to till.  After two seasons of blanketing the ground, there was enough organic matter on top of the carpets to allow weed seeds to sprout.  When the rocks, bricks, and boards that I used to hold the carpet down were removed, which was a big job, they left impressions of themselves in these dense seedlings.  

This is what the soil looked like under the carpet.  Look at all those vole tunnels!

And snake eggs too!  The eggs had already hatched, but we found two different clutches, each with different sized eggs.  Earthworms were everywhere.  This soil is definitely full of life.  

Once Jamie removed all the miscellaneous carpet weights, we moved the carpet to fresh grass so we can expand the garden in the future, and Brandon used the bush hog to cut down all the tall weeds that grew in the paths between the carpets.  It was pretty easy to rake the loose soil into a nice seed bed.  

Please forgive me for the boring seed packet pictures, but I want to keep a record of what we planted where, and it's very easy to snap a photo.  So far, the lettuce seeds are the first to sprout.  

I even took a picture of our planting technique, just in case our future selves can't remember how we spaced our rows.  We tried several different row arrangements, but we were consistent in keeping a rakes width between the rows.  This seems so indulgent to me!  I'm used to crowding my plants in my small raised beds, and rarely give anything more than a hoes width.  It's nice to be able to spread out. 

Jamie and I selected spinach as this year's main crop.  We are even flirting with the idea of growing enough to sell, despite our complete ignorance on how to market spinach.  We decided that if we are lucky enough to grow a bunch of spinach, and can't figure out how to sell it, we will enjoy sharing it and eating it, so we planted a lot.  

We marked each row with a piece of lattice that came from the plaster wall demolition.  

Brandon was excited to try out the tiller that came with the little tractor, and we managed to manhandle it onto the tractor, only sacrificing a few smashed fingers in the process.  Fingers can grow back, but I worry about hernias and back pain whenever we start talking about using tractor implements.  Wouldn't a donkey and plow be easier?  And more adorable?

It took a little practice since none of the gears are marked on the tractor, and we had to try several attachment arrangements, but once Brandon got the knack of it, it did an excellent job of tilling the soil in the places where the carpet technique wasn't applied.  

Jamie had a good experience with some mashed parsnips, so we were ready to try our hand at growing them.  I predict that the clay soil will make for a stunted crop.  Cross your fingers.  

We planted the kale in a large bed in rows placed at a diagonal.  Diagonal rows might be pretty.  

Three types of spinach.  So much spinach!  This one, the Bloomsdale Long Standing, isn't a hybrid, so we could save seeds from the plants for next year.  I'll just be happy if we get it grow.  

We worked in the garden and on other projects around the farm until the sun set behind the corn crib, and we couldn't see any more.  Despite last years garlic and radishes, I feel like this was the official grand opening of the garden.  It couldn't have been a more perfect day.  

On our drive home, with all three of us crammed in the cab of the truck, and Puck squished into the floor board, we talked about the need for better garden notes and drawing to help us remember what we planted where.  Jamie used an app on his phone to make a quick sketch of the days work.  Professional quality design work, right?  Ha!
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