Monday, April 27, 2009

Garden Folly

Sometimes I wonder what I did to draw the wrath of the garden gods. Surely, there must have been something. I have had a box of seed potatoes waiting for about a month for the weather to cooperate enough for me to get their new bed built and plant them. During our recent rainy streak, I built the bed, in two parts, in the sunroom. When the rain broke, Patrick and I finished assembly in the yard and I filled the bed. Early this weekend I finally planted to potato bed and watered them. And then yesterday, it hit the low 90's here. I fear I now have an entire bed of steamed potatoes. I suppose time will tell. Wish me luck, Please!

In other news, the oca I potted up have started sending up sprouts. It's very exciting! The leaves are still quite small; but I will try to post a photo soon. Fortunately for them, they are still in the shady sanctuary of the sunroom and have not been baked, boiled, or steamed.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yesterday's Garden

Okay, I admit the shot of the garlic leaf isn't exactly in keeping with the flowers. But the water made such beautiful designs on the garlic leaves I had to include at least one. The hellebores were beaten a bit by the rain. I had to hold them up to get a picture. But look at the petal shading! Can you see the rose bushes spaced between the tulips? That bed contains, front to back, crocus, hyacinth, tulip and roses, plus the clematis at one end. I didn't plant this bed. The previous owner set it up for successive blooms so there's always a show. The last pic is of the pear tree I was given last year. We thought it was dead, so it spent the winter in its pot on the patio out back near the dryer vent. My bad. Not dead. Look at that show! Now, I just hope I didn't kill it by leaving it in the pot all winter. Trees can die from stresses they experienced years earlier. Yet another MG class tidbit.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yesterday's MG Class

Yesterday, from 9 til 2, I spent at my Master gardener training class. It was a great class! We had two speakers, a grafting demo, and came home with plants and seeds! Woo hoo!

The first speaker introduced us to Maryland's "most dangerous" species of exotic invasive insects. We learned how to identify the insects at various life stages, as well as how to identify the damage they do. And of course we were instructed in ways to treat infestations (often the infected plants must be destroyed) and prevent their spread (one of the biggies here was Don't Transport Firewood!). Did you know that several of our biggest problem insects arrived in this country in wood packed around cargo in ships to prevent the cargo from shifting during transit? Serious bummer!

Our other speaker was a beekeeper. A tiny little man with an ardent passion for bees. In fact, he had requested to speak to our MG class. And boy was he a gem! I learned that honeybees originated in Southeast Asia. They did not arrive in North America until brought here by colonists. He also told us that while bees help pollinate many crops, there are about 90 crops in the US entirely dependent upon bees. Almonds are a big one. I looked it up. According to the Almond Board, there are 550,000 acres in almond production in the US, all of them in California. Almonds are the number one horticultural export of the US; and they're entirely dependent upon bees for pollination. Wow! And that's just one crop out of 90 that depends upon the bees.

One of the beekeeper's main thrusts was to encourage Master gardeners to consider plants that bloom at times of the year when the nectar flow in our area is slow, such as mid-summer. He recommended a number a plants, especially flowering trees, and even gave us seeds. I took seeds for two trees, the Golden Rain Tree and the Bebe Tree (Korean Evodia). Both flower in the middle of summer. I don't know what I'll do with more trees; but I'm sure I'll find places to tuck them in here and there. Libby and I have recently been "noticing" open spaces around town that are ripe for guerrilla gardening. Shhh...

Anyway, the rest of class was devoted to a grafting demonstration by one of our class members who is the propagation manager at a local nursery. It was an excellent lesson. The lady knows her stuff! Plus, she is always bringing us seeds, and today, cuttings. I came home with cuttings of lemon scented geraniums and a plant she referred to as Vick's Vaporub plant, as well as seeds for winter aconite. How cool is that?

Inspired by class, I came home and potted up the oca tubers that have not yet gone bad. I had really hoped to plant them directly in the garden, but it's so wet here I decided to try to get them started so I don't lose them all. Wish me luck! I should have snapped a picture before I planted them. They're interesting little tubers. They come in different colors. The ones I received seem to be either a red or pink variety. Some of the tiniest tubers were white, but I think they just hadn't matured enough to develop color. I'd be happy to get some of the white or yellow ones though. Stay tuned for oca developments.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Growing Challenge

A long overdue post on the Growing Challenge...

Almost all my seedlings were decimated by cute but gardening-illiterate kitty. So, I direct seeded a few tiny patches of spinach, radishes, and rocket in the few not-pouring-rain days we've had here. One of the radish varieties is an heirloom called "Watermelon". It's white on the outside and watermelon red on the inside. A confused radish, to be sure. This variety may be one I will save seeds from. I haven't tried it before. But it's doing well so far.

Actually, everything I direct seeded is doing well so far. This is a bit of a surprise for me, but a very happy one. I'm sure the neighbors think I'm more than a little odd when they see me standing in the rain gazing lovingly at the sprouts in the garden.

It's just that I'm completely awed by how strong, compact, and GREEN these seedlings are in the garden. No matter how much light I give them in the house they are never quite so robust inside. I suppose they have to be strong to survive outside. I sincerely wish I had just a little bit more of whatever gives them that survivability.

Whine, Anyone?

Okay, look... I know the many ways in which I am fortunate. I do. Really. I know there really isn't a lot of room for me to complain about my life. But dang... sometimes a girl gets tired of being kicked! It's not that any one horrendous thing has happened. It's the multitude of little irritations eating away at my energy, patience, and joy.

I have, thus far, been somewhat insulated against the economic woes I see around me. I have a little something to fall back on. A little something worth about half what it was worth a year or so ago. But recently my ex lost his job, which means the kids' health insurance and child support stopped. We had about a one week notice before the insurance ended. That week was rearranged to get the kids into every doctors appointment we could possibly fit in. The good news is that Libby got the new glasses she needed and they both got dental updates. But the day before the insurance ran out, Patrick was using a utility knife, slipped, and pushed three quarters of the blade into the middle of his hand. Despite his understandable protestations, I have to say we were extremely lucky. He didn't slice any of the workings of the hand. How he managed to avoid that is quite beyond me. But this episode has me running scared. And really pissed off that pushing for universal health care gets you labeled a 'socialist' here. Because, you know, capitalism doesn't get everything right and socialism doesn't get everything wrong. But I digress...

My next-door neighbors have a nice fence they had custom built when they got their dog, sometime before we moved in. We arrived with the intention of fencing our yard for our own dogs. In the interest of neighborliness and disclosure, I went to speak to them before ordering my fence. They were fine with us putting up a fence, but didn't want us to use the fence that runs along the border between our properties as our fence because they had set theirs inside the property line by six inches. Actually, the choices they gave me were A) at my expense, pay to have an entire line of their fence dismantled, moved six inches, and reassembled; B) run my own fence along that portion for an additional $1200 on my bill. My fence guy (who, coincidentally, is also their fence guy) refused option A entirely citing expense, reduced fence integrity, and sheer stupidity. He didn't like option B much either. He said it's not good to have two fences right up next to each other. It makes maintenance difficult, it looks weird, and it's dumb. He suggested ending my fence at the property line and building a bridge piece to cover the gap. My neighbors didn't like the idea. They were really hung up on making the true property line obvious (although somehow this hadn't bothered them when they chose to set their fence in from the line). I feel that I should also point out that the reason they had originally set their fence in is so they didn't have to ask the former owner of my property to trim his bushes. No, seriously. That's what they said. After two or three trips next door to try to come to some acceptable agreement that would satisfy the neighbors, the fence guy, and my wallet, they said they'd talk about it and get back to me. A couple weeks later when I'd heard nothing from them, I went ahead and ordered my fence. I downgraded the type of fence to a split-rail with wire in order to afford the extra $1200 section. In the end, it is probably just as well that I have my own fence along that side, so I don't have to worry about my dogs potentially damaging their fence. But this issue ate a lot of time and energy and just left me feeling like people are essentially stupid. I mean, we both put up fences to keep our dogs in! How complicated an issue can that really be?! Plus, it's all a crap shoot anyway. Two days after our fence was installed, Luna dug out to get just a little bit closer to the dogs behind us. Sigh. I have now pounded several four foot lengths of rebar along that section of the fence.

I have been looking ahead to the summer in the hopes of registering the kids early enough to get them into the activities they want most. Libby had three camps she really was interested in: a creative writing camp, a 'forensic science' CSI-style camp, and a drama camp affiliated with her current drama troupe. This is awesome. She's never had so many interests for summer before. Plus, she has been really, really looking forward to going to Chautauqua. We have been going for a week each summer, compliments of my parents since I can't afford it. Would you care to guess the problem with all this good news? Yep, all four of these things overlap time-wise enough that she can only do one. It will almost certainly be Chautauqua. How is this possible? It just makes me feel like pulling my hair out.

Pulling my hair out is , however, out of the question. Blood tests for my rheumatologist indicated I have a thyroid condition. That would explain all the weight I've gained and not been able to get rid of. So, the idea of being both fat and bald really is just out of the question. And it looks like I will be fat for a while. I spoke to my general practitioner about the test results. Apparently, my results were somewhat borderline. To him, that's not "bad" enough. To me, having something that shows up on test results as "barely there" but to which my body reacts violently- that's pretty much my norm. So I called an endocrinologist a friend used and liked. I'm on the waiting list. Which, I suppose, is fine. I don't have health insurance, so I pay out of pocket for all my health care. And with rheumatoid arthritis, I spend a fair bit of money already. Plus, I hate the diagnosis/medication process. Actually, what I hate is going for more tests every week or so until a best guess can be made and the best medication (that I can tolerate) determined. It's expensive and exhausting. And necessary. I know that. But I don't have to like it.

My garden, which is such a source of relaxation for me, is making me tense. I had big plans for this year and I am waaaay behind. I started a bunch of seedlings before getting a dedicated seedling shelf set up. So I had them under lights set up on the kitchen counter. And a certain kitty (not to mention any names, Felix) decided that the perfect place for a nap was wedged between light and seedlings. This, if you are wondering, produces rather flat seedlings. I swear to you, they all glared at me before gasping their last breaths. But it's almost okay, because it has rained so much here I have barely been able to plant anything. And the universe seems to be having a good laugh at my expense. The times I have free are consistently rainy (such as right now). The times I am busy, such as Wednesdays from 9 til 2 when I am at my Master Gardener class, have consistently been both dry and pleasant. What gives? Meanwhile, I have boxes of plants to be planted piling up in my kitchen. Strawberries arrived this morning. But they'll have to wait. Poatoes, rhubarb, and asparagus- plus a rapidly deteriorating small supply of oca I'd hoped to try this year- are all ahead of them. And the onions. Oh, and the hop root. I don't brew beer, but my dad does. He's been trying to grow his own hops, but really has far too little light. So I thought I'd give it a shot. As a plant, hops really intrigue me. They grow insanely fast. And it's nice to have a few plants like that around to bring you up when other things in the garden aren't cooperating. The question is where to put it...

Okay, so... I feel a little better after griping for a bit. I also feel guilty. Because I have so much to be thankful for. It shouldn't be so hard to keep my focus on that. Life could be very different. For instance, Libby recently decided she'd studied world history enough this year and decided she'd like to learn about some history of more interest to her. She chose to study african genocide- a comparative study of Rwanda and Sudan. (I know, I know, what normal, healthy 14 year old wouldn't want to study genocide?) So, I've been learning along with her. And you know what, humans really and truly have got to be the stupidest species on the planet. I do not understand how, after Rwanada, the situation in Darfur could be tolerated by the global community. Are politicians required to check their balls at the door? Coincidentally, April is Genocide Prevention Month. What other species requires a month devoted to education to prevent genocide? Nope, just us. To learn more about this issue, please check out .

Reality check? Check.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What Did I Plant?!

This picture is of some sort of flower I planted last year that seems to be coming back nicely. Sadly, I have no recollection of what it is. Any guesses?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Today In The Yard

Just a few shots of some of what's blooming here right now. More pics to follow as time allows.