Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Musings

A good investment

Alas, my plans to paint the tool shed are temporarily in abeyance. As I approached the tool shed to inspect its condition a few days ago, a little house wren popped its head out of the bird house I'd forgotten was nailed onto the front wall. She has little ones in there, so there will be no painting until they've fledged. Case closed.

Not a lot of gardening has been going on in this wretched heat and humidity. A little weeding, a little pruning. A few forays down to the vegetable garden in early morning to see if there are any female squash blossoms I can hand-pollinate. So far, I've had only male blossoms, which I'm told is not unusual early in the season. I'm not confident that local pollinators can do the job without me as I've had very poor fruit production on my squashes in previous years, despite excellent plant growth. So, around 6 a.m. on most mornings, you can find me traipsing down to the veggie patch, q-tip in hand to do some in vitro fertilization. I have such high hopes for my zucchini, spaghetti squash and acorn squash!

I have seen blossoms on the potatoes and bell peppers as well. The tomato plants have small green tomatoes but nothing yet on the pole beans or cucumber plants. The pole bean tendrils have already topped the 6-foot-high tripods I erected in spring and they have nowhere to go!

The apple tree outside my office window is steadily raining down green apples that are now the size of jumbo clementines. A doe arrives nightly at dusk. If I sit quietly on my front stoop, I can here the sound of her teeth crunching on those apples. I've also spotted squirrels and the resident woodchuck grab the prized fruit.

Last night, the coyotes were making a ruckus. What makes them bark and yip and carry on so late at night? Me wonders.

I never got around to establishing a compost pile this year, something I regret each time a plum pit or watermelon rind goes in the trash. I don't have a container, so it would have to be a freeform pile which I fear would simply attract scavengers the way that apple tree does.

One of my two elephant ear plants grew a second, humungus leaf:

How cool, how tropical! I adore these elephant ears! I see all sorts of outdoor decorating possiblities for them. They are like the outdoor version of the ficus plant, I guess, useful for softening the hard edges of a stone wall or flanking either side of a pair of outdoor lounge chairs.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Miscellany & To Do List

I have no "honey" living here with me, so instead of having a "Honey Do List," I keep a "Get Your Butt in Gear" list.

I've been thinking, for instance, that I should try to paint the tool shed this year.

I painted it oh, maybe 5 years ago (?) and at that time could tell it needed two coats, but I was tired of the job after the first coat and figured I could let it go. I only plan to paint it if I can use paint already sitting in the basement. I'm fairly sure I have more paint in the same colors as shown.

Also on my list is WEEDING the various beds in the back yard. They are quite overgrown. In danger of being wholly consumed, in fact. I've been spending most of my time in the front yard, which is more open and sunny. At times, I prefer the privacy of the back yard, but my neglect there is obvious now.

I cleaned out the second bluebird nest box now that the house wrens have flown. If you compare their coarse nest of branches and twigs to that of the tufted titmouse nest I cleaned out earlier this month, the difference is quite striking.

This is the house wren nest....

And here is the tufted titmouse nest...

The titmouse used moss and leaves, plus a bit of clear plastic, in its nest.

I have a pretty ground cover that grows easily among the cracks and crevices of my stone walls.

It's in bloom now, as you can see, but I've forgotten what it's called.

Here's a closeup:

And now for a bit of eye-popping color on this overcast day...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A One-Eared Elephant

My elephant ears are growing very, very slowly. Is this normal?

I bought two tubers (bulbs?) from Wal-Mart in April and this one, watered nearly daily and kept in a shady spot that gets morning sun, has finally produced one giant "ear," which I think is quite lovely.

But I want more!

I pictured a profusion of lush, tropical-looking green leaves. The other elephant ear is still showing little sign of above-ground activity. When purchased, I couldn't tell which end was up on this tuber. So I planted it with a wing and a prayer. A week or so ago, feeling increasingly impatient that nothing seemed to be happening, I began digging up the soil around the tuber to see if perhaps I had planted it upside down. I saw a number of delicate, white roots just under the soil's surface, so I let it be and hope that this one will figure out how to reach the sun.

In other news, I noticed an interesting four-petal clematis in my garden the other day:

Pretty, isn't it?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Late Spring Cleaning

The tufted titmouse that was nesting in the bluebird box has fledged its younster(s), so I decided to clean out the box in the hopes of getting another pair of birds in the box.

Here's what it looked like before I removed the nest.

There was even a strip of clear plastic you can see hanging out from the bottom of the nest. Here you can see a lot of white animal hair woven into the top. I regularly release the hair from brushing Luther and Waldo outdoors, but neither has white hair. I wonder if this was from a skunk.

A house wren has settled into the other nest box and has been feeding its voracious young for weeks. 

Today is the kind of murky, dank day when I feel like doing nothing. The humidity's high, the air's not moving and the sky is sunless. It's hard to work up enthusiasm for gardening on this kind of day.

Here's the kind of delicious salad I've been eating these days. I used plentiful salad greens from my garden with strips of teriyaki chicken, a chopped hard-boiled egg, toasted sunflower seeds, tomato and cucumber. Yum.