Saturday, February 28, 2009

year's first redpoll

Also, exciting bird report! As I was sitting here composing that last entry, a redpoll flew in and hung out on my feeder for a while. I've not had redpolls around at all this year, so that's a bonus. The nuthatches, both species, were going nuts on the suet, and there are juncos and chickadees all over the place.

As my mother says, things are just going to get more exciting from now on. And I remembered that as I drove by the river yesterday, the open patches were suddenly sprouting waterfowl. Do you know what this means? This means spring.

square foot gardening: in the planning stages

Garden season, as declared before, is open! And I am taking that to heart. This means that today, my efforts at avoiding work and cleaning have included figuring out the materials for my new square-foot vegetable bed, and realizing that I should probably start working on that soon-ish so that it's ready to plant in April with the early-season crops.

My dilemma right now is that if I want to go the whole way, I should probably follow Mr. Bartholomew's recipe for his soil mix ("Mel's Mix"), which is three parts peat, three parts vermiculite, and three parts compost.

To fill a space that is going to be roughly 1812 L, that is not going to be cheap. I mean, I have some compost here. And I can get it free from the landfill (although not until after April, either, which throws a wrench in my early-planting plans). But I don't have peat or vermiculite, and that stuff gets expensive when you start looking at buying roughly 12-14 30L bags of the stuff. I do have some soil that is composted sod, from when I started digging the veggie beds. What I am thinking is that I will use that first, then make the rest of the bed peat and vermiculite and our compost, as much as possible. It won't be Mr. Bartholomew's perfect mix, but it will be pretty darn nice soil.

In other news, I did plant shallots today. 24 of them. For transplant into that new bed, once the soil "can be worked in the spring."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

skunk dreams

The past couple of weeks I have noticed skunk signs. It's late February, so they should definitely be poking around more, and given the thaw we had two weeks ago I'm not surprised that they're out. I saw tracks last week, and sadly, I saw a roadkilled skunk two days ago.

And this morning, I heard a dog barking sometime between 6:30 and 7am. I thought, "that sounds close" and then I drifted back to sleep.

To have skunk dreams. They were so powerful I could smell the skunk. I could even smell the skunk when I woke back up. It took me entirely too long to figure out that the skunk smell had actually predated the skunk dreams, and that what I was smelling was likely that dog getting himself into trouble.

I can still smell it quite powerfully two hours later, although I've either gotten used to it or it's dissipating. My secret confession: I kind of like a hint of skunk now and then. It makes me think happy thoughts about the animals themselves. It also makes me happy to realize that my backyard skunk from last summer is still around and apparently quite powerful.

Friday, February 20, 2009

introducing Spike

I made the mistake of going to the nursery today. Well, it was planned. And I had a list. I was really good with the list, too. I only bought two small things outside of the list (and I do mean small).

The main reason for the trip was this lovely creature:

This is an attempt at keeping a bougainvillea alive. I'm not very good at house plants, as I believe has been discussed. But I was so taken with them in Cuba, and I really wanted to have a little piece of Cuba in my house. This creature, whom I haven't named yet, is going to be my attempt to bring some of my vacation home. She'll be able to live outside during the summer, and she'll come in and live in the sunroom and then the main part of the house in the winter.

I am hoping that she will end up reminding me vaguely of this:

I think I might call her Spike. Bougainvillea have very pointy thorns. They're sharp. I didn't know this until I picked her up. Plus, that's a tough-sounding name, right? So she'll be a tough plant. She'll have to be.

Monday, February 16, 2009

on my mark, get set...

75 posts! Soon I will be at 100. Certainly this summer, given the amount of posting I'm likely to do in the spring.

We managed to get the grapes trimmed today. It's quite lovely outside, and we're home to do so. I don't think we were too late (thus avoiding causing damage) so it should work out. It will be more controlled growth this year, and faster shade cover than the first year we were here, when we didn't really have shade over the back porch until late June or early July. And now, as noted, I declare garden season open!

The grapes are only going to provide the cover from above. So this year, I am going to try (one more time) to plant morning glories. I don't know why I can't get those stupid things to grow, but they just won't. I am considering, however, going with something more like a scarlet runner bean -- aside from the fact that the beans themselves are edible and extremely easy to grow, apparently the red flowers do attract hummingbirds. I've also been looking at cardinal vines, a morning glory relative (in the Ipomea genus) that reportedly is also very attractive to hummers. My one concern is going to be that in warmer climates it's an invasive... I figure if I grow it in a couple of containers, I should be okay. And possibly keep on top of seeds. But everything I've read suggests I'll be lucky if it actually flowers, let alone sets seed.

The other option, which is one I have considered before, is moonflower. It would be scented at night, and we do use that back porch a fair bit at night. So that might be a good idea, too. Although I really love night flowering tobacco for scent, too.

Decisions, decisions! I love it. This is possibly the best time of the year in the garden, when I don't have to actually weed anything -- things just grow in my imagination.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

hooray for birds!

When I woke up this morning, I heard a sound that I haven't heard in ages. And when one hasn't heard it in ages, one notices when it comes back.


The chickadees were singing. Just a little bit, and not their usual "chickadee-dee-dee" but the sweet sounds of their mating call...

We all know what this means, of course. Spring is on the way. YES!! Despite what the groundhogs saw (Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, thus six more weeks of winter), spring is on the way. I believe it. Even if there are six more weeks of winter, one of those I will be spending in the sunshine. Take that, snow!

I do love the winter, don't get me wrong. But I'm like those birds. I'm starting to get a little itch in my gardening fingers that signifies the days are getting longer. Sunday was, in fact, wonderfully mild. My gardening fingers are planning on ordering some seeds in the next couple weeks. I bought a new set of gardening gloves (I can't find the other ones, although I'm sure I will as soon as I start getting the tools out).

This week sometime fishy and I will get out to trim the grapes. That will be my first official gardening act of the year. And then I will declare garden season open.