Category Archives: House yard happenings

Musings, observations, doings less related to the community garden

A New Year…A New Home…

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Happy New Year! Quite a bit of snow fell during December.

Sending everyone New Year greetings, whether Gregorian or Asian!  It’s been a wild few months of fall 2016, having gone through the process of sorting, packing, and moving my belongings from my beloved home of 18 years; also, the source of all my previous postings for High Vibe Bounty.  It was a prolonged process I wouldn’t care to repeat very soon.  Hard to believe the planning started in June, but not a lot could be done without any storage units available in this college town, until classes started in late September.  I could only pack so many boxes, before being stuck with no place to put them.

That led to a bit of stall in being able to show my place for rental purposes, but it all came together relatively easily; it just seemed to be a never-ending process to get through the needed repairs and improvements.  Naturally, I said my good-byes to the yard, and harvested the CG bounty for the last time.  I think neighbors were feeling little incentive to harvest, knowing I would be leaving, but I did put out a request for help in weeding and removing the last of the tomatoes!  Deer netting is still up for protect any weeds that are enjoying our winter…lol.  What my renter decides to do with that space is her choice!

Meanwhile, I have a new home and new roommate, who won over my heart (and apparently vice-versa).  I may have mentioned earlier that his yard is a more challenging scenario, given some years of neglect (not his priority or forte), but I have been rehabilitatinging his old blueberry bushes for 3 years, and they are doing great.  This year will require more thought on how much old wood to actually leave, now that many younger stems have filled in my previous thinnings. It might mean a temporary decrease in fruit this year, but we’re still stuffed to the freezer limits with last year’s stash!

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Blueberries biding their time through rain and snow! That irksome jack-in-pulpit ground cover thought our warm fall was just prime for re-emergence before winter, and wasn’t phased by any snow!

Unlike my own property project, which was essentially a clean slate of lawn that could be covered over and established as I liked, my new yard is overwhelmed with ancient shrubs, overgrown with English Ivy from neighbors’ yards, and a plethora of weeds/lawn.  There is a nice patch of area for putting in a veggie garden, yet it does not produce as prolifically as mine did, given clayier soil, more shade from gigantic trees on south and west property lines, a the house itself on its sunny eastern side.  Last summer we removed two giant sweetgum trees that had become a nuisance to the house foundation, so there is more eastern light in the morning, which is great inside the house, and for the newly planted landscape mounds in front of the house.

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Giant sweetgum no more, making way for more sun, and a new perennials bed project out of the ground stumps/earth, thereby letting me move a few favorites from my yard. Deer proof/resistant necessary on the open street size.

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Randall showing his new expertise, gardening and computer-tasking, both at the same time…not! Pleased with a new front yard that should be relatively drought tolerant in a couple of years.

The concept of “sharing the bounty as a community garden” is now not the priority topic at my new home, since we have no community garden out front here; it’s all in the large BACK yard.  Still, this will be a project of continuing the high vibes of gardening with both food and flowers.

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It’s a big area to redevelop, especially when the left side floods!

 

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Kwan Yin keeping an eye on things from her temporary abode. Like all those planters? Uprooted, and moved from various places, mostly my old yard. But, where to put them?

One of the dilemmas of how to salvage this backyard space is how much time, effort, and money, we want to actually invest in this, since we need professional help to remove and restore things.  We attempted to control the invasive ivy and jack-in-the-pulpit ourselves last summer,using mechanical and chemical means (in order to stay sane), but it hasn’t apparently had much effect, at least on the “pulpit” invaders.  And they love root disturbance, just as do blackberries (a few of those as well).  I can compromise with patches of weeds in proper places, but I have little tolerance for them around edible plants, so there’s a considerable amount eradication needed.  And, with neighboring rentals that aren’t really interested in maintaining weeds, there is always a source for re-invasion, hence continual vigilance and maintenance (though that in itself is nothing new for any garden).  And, in the long run, how long will we stay here?  The neighborhood, so close to campus, is prone to noisy parties and more problems that don’t delight my sense of security.  We already had a nice teak removed from the front porch while on vacation in December, even with someone coming to the house twice daily to feed Juni and Aspen.  Still, we will expand the veggie planting area, and hope for more successful tomatoes and squash this year.

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Aarg! Jack-pulpit, blackberries, ivy, and holly bushes make this garden maintenance a challenge in the long run.

I do love that the backyard is essentially deer-proof!  There are a few that have been spotted on occasion, but they tend to stay in neighborhoods 5 blocks away, where they have more front yard options to browse.  I have found one in a nearby yard, but he couldn’t get into ours.  And with so many large old trees surrounding us, there is a consistently larger diversity of birds: flickers, woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos, red finches, goldfinches, bushtits, nuthatches, western tanagers, scrub jays, and the obligatory always-quarreling starlings and crows, who raucously knock the suet feeders off the hooks.  A grey squirrel comes many days to pick up discards under the sunflower seed feeder.  It is quite the menagerie to watch on a given day, viewed from the kitchen window.  Our hummingbird feeder just under the front porch eave is visited by a female and a couple of males, with no more than 20 minutes’ absence between them on their rotations.  Life is good!

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Keeping Anna’s hummers fed and zippy!

In between the gaps…a gallery

A glimpse into the menagerie of the community garden and general house yard through fall and winter 2013/2014.

Always like to show off what our browsers can do when they put their minds to it.  Push down that netting to get the delectable bean leaf tips! They've developed finesse so they don't get their teeth caught in the netting...

Always like to show off what our browsers can do when they put their minds to it. Push down that netting to get the delectable bean leaf tips! They’ve developed finesse so they don’t get their teeth caught in the netting…

Apologies to our beautiful praying Mantis, who is probably eyeing an insect or two under the netting.  What a beaut!

Apologies to our beautiful praying Mantis, who is probably eyeing an insect or two under the netting. What a beaut!

Tasty greens sprouting for fall crop.  Mature beets further right even overwintered well under the snow pack.

Tasty greens sprouting for fall crop. Mature beets further right even overwintered well under the snow pack.

The typical way we keep the squash, melon, and tomato harvest aired and dry during the mild, not-too-rainy days of fall....stored under my eaves.

The typical way we keep the squash, melon, and tomato harvest aired and dry during the mild, not-too-rainy days of fall….stored under my eaves.

A record-setting snow-then-freeze episode the very first weekend of December 2013, followed by a record-setting snowfall in early February 2014, made us very aware of how little we can predict anything anymore, or when our gardens are tested to the maximum adaptability, and how miraculously resilient plants can be.  The witnessing of when a healthy, mature plant “decides” it will not struggle to survive the next year, but yield to the new energies of the next generation of seedlings.

Where's the bench seat?!

Where’s the bench seat?!

How Deep? 020814

14″ AFTER the snow has packed down for 3 days…

The birds had to learn to eat snow on their feeder for a few days.  Thank goodness for seeds on the old flower stalks, although the snow buried a lot of those.

The birds had to learn to eat snow on their feeder for a few days. Thank goodness for seeds on the old flower stalks, although the snow buried a lot of those.

And spring brings the energy of renewal…

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Kwan Yin being sheltered by a bower of the Siberian kiwi vine.

 

Groovin’ those rows…we are in session…

“The hand” is much better, while requiring continued respect and modified use, which is easily overlooked in the zeal of gardening.  The same applied to our weather, at times greatly “improved,” then commanding our cooperation.

Synchronized planting pose…

Mapping out the new coordinates…making labels…director’s privileges

With a spurt of record-setting heat in early May, followed by more rain, the greens department, along with radishes and beets, are looking outstanding!

Greens galore…chard is trying to show off its senior status.            Where’s Juni?  Where’s Aspen?

 

Squash, melon, and cucumber seeds were planted a week ago, but have not yet emerged, as our weather has cooled.  The first sowing of green beans is just saying hello.  Tomatoes and basil continue to be secluded in the coldframe.

The house yard is coming alive now with various perennials, while transplanted annuals are “sitting” and waiting for some more warmth.  Sages and butterfly weed are always the last to indicate their reboot, and most wintered perfectly, and are now sprouting new growth.

Success in overwintering the artichoke plant!

An added bonus is the blessing of nesting chickadees in a driftwood birdhouse purchased last summer.  I was content to have it simply as garden art, but it is actually being use!  Entry is near the top of the log, with a tiny overhang on it.  They zoom in and out of it with no problem; not sure how the chicks will maneuver it without a perch.  Obviously, I will be watching!

Chickadees in residence…do not disturb!

Off to a fabulous spring start!

The Good, the Green, and the In Between

Now that fall officially has arrived we have seen some summer-like weather returning briefly.  No complaints!  Summer was just shortening up a bit too early in mid-September, so it seemed. But, nothing can be consistent; sprinkles invaded today, as I write.  Much of the house yard looks more relaxed for the moisture we’ve had; the cherry profusion zinnias are looking boldly pink again.  The sages ‘Pineapple’ and ‘Black & Blue’ are moving into full bloom, much to the delight of the hummingbirds.

 

Transitions- Sept 22 Equinox

 

Some actual ripe tomatoes have made their appearance, finally, having been discovered hiding under lush vegetation (now further cut back).  Fourteen pounds of ripe tomatoes, and 20 pounds of thinned back greenies and blushers in the last week is a definite improvement!

 

Beginning the tomato bounty-finally!

 

 

Classic fall! Ripening tomatoes and mildewy squash leaves

 

A nice picking of 5 large clusters of ‘Lakemont’ green seedless grapes from my second-year-ling has been a delightful surprise, and very tasty.  A good cultivar given the shiftier weather and less warmth needed to raise sugar content.  Looking forward to more next year!

 

A small but beautiful harvest of Lakemont seedless grapes off my first-year plant

 

Our ‘friend Bambi’ just returned a little over a week ago, though now I think he’s deterred.  Came with the change to cooler weather.  A few nibbles on the bush beans was the only damage in the CG (thank you!), sparing the lettuce seedlings in the next row.  After browsing all the leaves off my youngest columnar apple seedling, and half of the apricot, he continued more voracious sampling on a neighbor’s young apples, pears, and cherries.  Some netting and tree-bark rub downs with Irish Spring soap seems to be doing a good repelling job.

 

The ripening corner

 

Something in the way it froze last December

Rewind: an unusually hard, but short freeze around December 2, 2009, after a long, relatively warm fall.  Very little in the way of freezing temperatures for the rest of the month; much of January and February were very warm.

Fast forward: April had several frosty mornings, colder and wetter than average temperatures.

Results: more weeds than I’ve ever had in the yard, including big crops of maple seedlings.  Several “hardy” perennials appear to be dead, though they’ve survived harsher winters; I’m still holding out hope for some of the late-to-wakers.  Tender perennials, like some of the sages, I’d expect to lose, even with mulching.  Alas, my young apricot tree is diseased with bacterial canker (causal organism: Pseudomonas syringae), probably induced by weather-related stresses.  Double rats!

It’s always a puzzler when plants survive typical winter periods of cold temperatures just fine, then die after a winter of milder temperatures.  But, that one cold snap came so early in December, with little chilling preparation ahead of it, and some plants physiologically weren’t ready to cope.  Sigh….

First blush

February held our area in a uniquely extended pattern of lovely, mild weather, which encouraged many trees and perennials to start blooming 2 to 3 weeks earlier “than average”.  Fruit trees, rosemary, pussy willows, maples, and, alas, allergies are all ahead of schedule!

We love the beautiful first signs and color blushes of plants awakening with quickened life energy, no matter when they show up!

The signs of late winter.......when the euphorbia blushes.

Colors of spring showing up

The new mason bee nest is now charged with some straws with eggs; perched a few feet above.....

the dwarf peach in full bloom.....

One gets itchy fingers for planting when the temperatures rise to 60° on a weekend! But, not everything can handle the near-freezing night temps yet, so patience!  Instead, it has been time to prune roses, clean up dead plant stalks where they give way to easy tugs, pull up umpteen weeds that have had too much of a good thing, set up the mason bee nest, and take walks.

January doldrums

Holidays are past; caretaking of people and pets is past; friends are off to the southern hemisphere (Chile) for some summer bicycle touring; and we have rain, rain, drizzle, rain, showers, rain, with tidbits of sun and fog. But, no complaints; my issues with rain don’t happen until late winter.  Today it is mild weather and much preferable to freezing rain.

It’s a great time to get caught up on indoor reorganization, sorting, and simplifying; all the stuff I never get to during a gardening season.

Today has been a day to dash outside between showers to do some cleanup of flattened Crocosmia and lily stalks, and admire the weeds that are growing so well.  Suet and seed needed replenishing, as little flocks of bushtits, goldfinches, juncos, warblers, starlings, a nuthatch, and a flicker all made their appearances.  A couple of days ago a downy woodpecker showed up for the first time (that I know of)!  All great entertainment on a grey day.

Am I contemplating the next garden plantings and dreaming with seed catalogs?  Not really.  Give me another 3 weeks before I’m antsy.  I’m still in rest mode.  Not that I haven’t already contemplated some new varieties of veggies to try, but that was last fall.  Besides, the garden gang will be meeting at the end of the month for an informal tea, to get our ideas flowing.

However, I am contemplating consuming the last tomato of the garden.  Yes, there still were ripening tomatoes in December!

Garden tomatoes for a New Year's salad