Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Optimism vs. Reality

The battle begins every spring with the pillbugs and then with the snails who glean in my small seedling trays that I move into the warm sun.  I speak of those who leave no trace of their arrival except the absence of green where once there was a stem and two leaves opening like clapping hands that gave joy to my heart.

About 40% of little infant plants remain and give a small reward by avoiding the decimation and putting forth secondary leaves and actually looking like living plants with a future.   These I remove as if they were delicate jewels and carefully plant in my flowers beds.  I plant EVERYWHERE, to give as much chance of survival.  I plant in the wet beds, the dry beds, the beds near the house, the beds far from the house.  I spray them with a noxious mixture that would make a grown man faint if he placed his nose near the stem.

But the larger vermin, rabbits or moles or whatever little crunchers, decide to visit and have a late evening snack or early morning breakfast.  Finally, as in real war, which certainly this is, without the treaties or declarations or drones, the groundhogs join the buffet table, and with their usual hog manners, make a mess of everything!!

What on earth am I talking about?  My SUNFLOWERS!  I keep trying to grow sunflowers as if I lived in California or Mexico and not the hurricane and soggy mid-Atlantic.  I grow them because I refuse to accept defeat.  I love their optimistic sunny, open faces.  They are like babies giggling.  They are like sunshine on a cloudy day.  They are like...well you get the idea.

This year I have a bunch of them!  Well, let me go count, because I tend to exaggerate.  I will be right back.  Sigh.  I have 26 plants!!  Well, 27 if you count the volunteer.  As a Master Gardener I can safely say if you plant an annual enough times, it will eventually reseed somewhere!

Some are as large at the crepe myrtle...but no blooms yet.  Did I mention I live in the woods and do not get much sun?

I planted some behind the daylilies...which do not get enough sun!

Some are tucked in beside that famous arbor I posted about a few years ago.  The bird nest in the house is full of  odd and rough twigs.  The Carolina wren is being very weird in nesting behavior with this second batch.  These fledglings will experience tough love.

I planted some close to the house and these are blooming.  Yes, I was hedging my bets and even planted a few in a pot as you can see on the lower right.

Some were planted a little late and are still small.

Most are staked, because we get some real drenching storms.

Here is the volunteer in my herb bed!

And the pollinators have arrived along with the eager goldfinch.

And I have arrived with my eager camera.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Light Dancing

Super Moon
Something like a Super Sale?
Glossy and Garish
Not to be missed
The 'Dance of the Fireflies'
Keeping angels at bay
Painting the skins
of the night
In liquid silver
Reminding romantics
How death defying
It is
To fall into love
Bolder than Wallenda
We bath in its charms
Senescent and adolescent

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Visit From the Girls

Summer involves a lot of travel for us and for our neighbors.  It is a time when we call and ask if the teenage son of one neighbor can water the plants while we are gone.  Another neighbor gets called to make sure their are no boxes or packages waiting at our gate.  One neighbor calls us to check his paper box to make sure they stopped the paper...which in this rural town, they NEVER do.  And this week a neighbor asked if we could watch his girls while he takes his family to the beach.

Gal watching is something my husband LOVES.  He has been begging me to let him adopt some gals for our yard, and I have been hesitant as his travel is even more demanding than "our" travel.  So guess who would watch the gals?  Anyway, I now have a week to see how difficult this might be.  They bring their own domicile so that makes it easier.

Our neighbor provides the food.  He even cleaned out the bedrooms!

It smells like sweet straw in there!

There are five lovely ladies.  A blend of two breeds, which I cannot remember right this minute.  But perhaps, one of my readers (Grannie Annie?) knows off hand.  I realize that people who raise chickens for a living may find this hobby house a little too cute.  But I do remember living on a small farm when I was young and we did have a real chicken house that you had to walk in to collect the eggs.  So I do have a clue.

Although this lady may have her doubts.

I guess I should have asked if they have names.  It is hard to carry on a conversation with "Hey, you!"

Still is it not beyond my silliness to collect caterpillars and add them to the house to see if the chickens will eat them!

These little houses are quite well designed.  You just pull up on the handles and wheel the house to a new area where the chickens can destroy a plot of lawn once again.  Maybe we will cut down on the ticks!

The red tailed hawk and his mate have been very visible this morning and I am hoping that is only a coincidence.  We do have our work cut out for us.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Guess What?

Last year we had to stay ahead of osprey landing their sticks on the roof of the cabin to our motor boat and trying to build a nest for their young.  Had they been successful, we would not have been able to take our boat out for weeks and weeks and we would have had a horrible stained mess to resolve on that cabin roof.

This year we get a new challenge:

"Hi, Sweetie, how's it going?  How about doing dinner at that midge hatch tonight!"

"Hey what is this person with the camera doing here?"
These barn swallows are nesting on the opposite side of our boat in the lift box.  The lift box is full of large gears and a cable that moves up and down when we turn on the switch.  I have not had time to get in a canoe or attempt to climb up into the boat, which sits a little high next to the dock, to see if they would be safe if we started the mechanics!  In two weeks my family comes to stay and I am sure they are looking forward to a boat ride since they live in landlocked Colorado.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

You Give Me Fever

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a weed, a medicinal herb and a bit of a toxin.  This plant has the reputation of reducing fevers and migraines according to herbalists.  It claims many other remedies.  But, it also has had mixed results in the medical community and can cause nasty side effects.  I plant it for its beauty.  It is hardy and can spread like a weed if I am not careful.  But my soil is mostly clay and shade, so it takes some real tenacity for any plant to take off.

And it does lend itself to photo manipulation!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Waiting Out the Storm

I had been home alone for these last 24 hours and the violent storm and tornado warnings last night prevented me from falling asleep before midnight.  My bedroom is within the shadow of a 200 foot tulip poplar that sits in the bottom of the ravine with its toes in all the wet mud that had become more soaked over the last week of rains.  We got at least 4 inches in 4 days.  The tree stands tall in direct alignment with my bedroom and the prevailing winds from storms.

I had spent the early afternoon in the basement watching a television tuned to the weather channel.  The program was loudly interrupted at intervals by those piercing and scary blasts that occur when a National Weather Service warning banner crosses the bottom screen below the images of the radar which is colored all in reds and yellows and even some purples bleeding across my county.

I was not afraid, but certainly alert.  I had put on shoes, grabbed the flashlight, my wireless phone, and several bottles of water as I headed to the basement and watched how the sky turned sooty gray in the mid-afternoon making it darker and more dooming.  Then I began to feel the air get very still and as I opened the basement door to look out it was as if a giant fist had just been waiting for me to open the door and pushed across my backyard moving walls of spitting rain, blasts of wind and loose leaves which filled the air.

I found it hard to push the door closed, but managed and pulled the deadbolt solid.  I went back to watching the TV until the power went down.  Then I sat in the dark and watched lighting begin to flash in the distance.  Soon it was closer and I could almost smell the electricity.  Then the thunder shook the house several times, followed soon by the rains which came in big fat drops continuing into the early evening and creating rivers in the yard.

When the electricity returned hours later I went to bed and prayed that the old tree would still be standing by morning.  I did hear gusts of wind on and off throughout the night, but nothing like the front of the storm.

This morning after my exercise, I was almost into the shower but stopped in front of my bedroom window when something flashing by caught my eye.  I could see the dozens of potential fruit that had been knocked to the ground from the storm which I later collected for the photo below.  This was from the pomegranate tree which I had posted about.

At first I thought the flash I had seen was a butterfly.  I stood against the window straining my eyes to see the movement of something in the leaves of the pomegranate tree.  And then I saw the emerald green and the flash of red of a ruby throated hummingbird as he twisted and dove among the red blossoms still covered from last night's rain.  Our hummingbirds do not linger in the yard and they are only seen by the observant watcher.  This was a treat!  So, I discovered happily that they like pomegranate trees.

The hummingbird thrust his head deep into the open blossoms and drank fully.  He visited each one before moving on into the woods.  He had brought inspiration and courage after such a storm.  I thought about where he had been able to ride out with such bravery as I had waited in the shelter of my basement.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Red Show

I have been so busy that I almost missed the blooming of these lilies. Every year their fiery red show catches my eye beside the driveway and this year they seem to have arrived and are beginning their departure toute suite.  So sad!  Well tiger lilies are soon behind, so maybe I will be able to enjoy those.

We have something new blooming in the yard this year and we are pretty excited as we have been waiting for years for it put on a show.   See if you know what it is...

First it starts modestly giving me just a peek.

This looks like a fruit but it is not.  It is the bud.

Here the bud is just breaking open in our two days of heavy rain.

First to be seen is the center stamens...notice the abundance of little fertilizers.  That is important in identifying this plant.

Then comes the petals sliding out beside all those yellow stamens.  The flower petals are very delicate and within a few days begin to fall littering the ground below with red fairy wings.  Have you guessed it?  Last year we got three blossoms and no fruit.  This year we have over a hundred surely we will get some fruit?  Stay tuned for the fruit, for then you will know!