Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seeds and cookin...

Happy Tuesday :)
Now is the time of year to look for clearance seeds... Well, more like a week or two ago was probably the time, but I actually got out of the house today.

And I picked up a LOT of seeds. The local dollar store had them on clearance, 90% off! So I picked up a bunch of different kinds of flower seeds :) 1.28 got me 17 packets of flower seed.
Then I hit the local hardware store to see what they had. They had already pulled their racks, but I scored a few packets of seed for 50 cents each, mostly more flower seed. And some more radishes, I will likely drop some in the ground yet this year.
Now I need to do a bunch more wintersowing research, lol.

And the luffas are growing like mad! I really really hope a couple of them are ripe before the frosts hit. They produce a crapton of seed and I want to have a couple new bath scrubbies this winter :) But if nothing else, they look absolutely lovely growing there. Not too much of a success with the overhead trellis though- I have the ropes spaced a foot apart and I think that's a bit too far for the luffas to be growing on.

Made mac and cheese from a box for dinner- of course I tossed in a goodly handful of shredded dried zucchini, broccoli, and sweet potato to fortify the junk food. When I make mac and cheese, I always melt my butter and milk together before adding in the cooked pasta... Here's a nice and quick way to dice up a stick of butter for easy melting:

This is also a great way to dice butter for other melting purposes, or adding into baked goods that need to granulate the butter, like biscuits.

Super Hump Day!!

Another three pounds of green beans picked, blanched and shocked, and on the dehydrator. I'm not sure how many pounds I've picked so far, I've kind of lost track. But I know for sure more than 15 pounds so far.
Today was an orchard day. I needed to get out and pick up all the dropped fruits. It's pretty much a mandatory thing for a healthy orchard. I dunno how many pounds of apples and pears I cleaned up, but it made a nice heap on the veggie row compost pile. If the critters want to snack on them there, fine, I noticed they really weren't eating them on the ground under the trees, lol. Sooner or later I'll get an orchard rake to make the task easier.
Picked pears, a lot of them were ripe!
The trick to pears on when to pick is do it when the stem end has a slight springy give and the fruit lifts off the tree when pulled horizontal. If you leave them on the tree to get ripe, they will overripen unevenly, inside to out. Right now all these are spread out in a large cardboard box in the solarium to finish ripening.

Picked a bunch more red apples:
Those lifted nicely off the tree.

Then some green apples- there was no way in hell I was going to try picking every apple on the loaded ass trees, so I shook branches instead.
The pips are dark brown on them and I was a little surprised that shaking works!
So what did I do with all those friggin apples? Topped and bottomed them, quartered them, and set them to a simmer with 4 cups water in my biggest stockpot to yield up their juice and get nicely cooked. Killed the heat once stirring them had a mashing effect, then attacked the stuff with a potato masher. Then into a cheesecloth lined collander to drain the juice off. This will be made into apple jelly tomorrow. Just how much I dunno, depends on how much juice I end up with. But I'm hoping for enough to do a batch each of cinnamon and non cinnamon.
After starting to pull off the mash, I started to feel awfully bad about the notion of discarding that much apple pulp. It has seeds and center bits and skins mixed in, so no good for apple sauce. I have an almost 2 gallon bucket full of tips and ends that could be used otherwise too. I think my answer is going to be dehydrating the leftover pulp and ends for add in for  winter season suet cakes.  Birds will eat the hell out of suet cakes. And they love apple and it's good for them.
Hardings also had cauliflower on clearance for 99 cents a head instead of the usual 3.59, so you bet your butt I picked up a few heads for pickling, that will get done tomorrow too. They also had frozen peas for a buck a bag, so I picked a couple up to go onto the dehydrator tomorrow. I am really keeping my fingers crossed for a fall crop of peas!

Got in one of my seed trades today, all flowers this time. Cesars Brother siberian iris, black eyes susan, heliopsis false sunflower, red and yellow blanket flower, pink columbine, and rose campion. I'm going to have to look up most of these to find out how to handle the seed! The gal that traded with me suggested what would work in my growing zone, and will be sending me even more seed in a few weeks when they are ready :)
Looks like next years flower plans are really well under control as far as seed goes- still need to finish setup for all that wintersowing! Heh, good thing I have till the winter solstice to figure out what I need to do :)

I decided to make chicken and spinach enchiladas for dinner tonight, super easy and super yummy.
And speaking of food... I need to figure out what to do about campout cooking in a couple weekends. Stuffed buns, jellies and breads, pickled goodies, salsa and chips, instant potato soup mix? Geez, I dunno.

Busy frigging Thursday!

I meant to get the lawn mowed before the weekend... Looks like that ain't gonna happen if I leave in the morning, lol.

So I made a mistake last night when I allowed the apple pulp to cool before dumping it in the colander, only got 4 cups of juice... So I reheated the mass and set it to drain again, and got the other 2 cups I was expecting out of the mass. 
While I was waiting for the apples to drain, I pulled the two packs of juice from previous batches from the freezer. In total I ended up with 12 cups, enough to do 2 batches of apple jelly, one with cinnamon, one without.
Ended up making the lemony cauliflower first then... 8 quarts of it!
I was gonna go pull garb together, but had a voicemail from the hardware store about seeds, so I ran into town.. I picked up 60 packets of veggie seed for 20 bucks, and got 94 packets of flower seed for free! That's right, 154 dollars worth of seed for 20 bucks, can't beat that. Quite a bit of it is going onto my trade list :)
Got home, and the apples finished draining- or at least as much as I needed them to drain. So I made the jelly, according to the directions on the box of pectin. 9 half pints each of cinnamon and regular apple jelly, yahoo!
Now I need to get my butt in gear and go pick out garb... And clean up the kitchen so it's spic and span for my love to use through the weekend since he's staying home and I don't want to leave him with a dirty kitchen to deal with...

So I'm off! Everyone have an incredible and wonderful Labor day weekend!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Plants and plants..

Saturday and I swear, it feels like the planting season is almost busier now than it was this spring!

This morning I noticed an unusual splash of color in the wee folk garden, turns out it was a rather lovely morning glory bloom
The picture really does not do the colors justice- it was more of a rich purple than blue, with the star in even deeper purple. Too bad there was only one bloom, there will be no seed.

Went out and collected a few more wild sweet pea pods today. If I keep this up I should be able to plant a gracious plenty patch in the yard next year.
And hooray! There is a bunch of ripe nasturtium seeds for the picking! I now have Fordhook mix, Alaska mix, and Cherry on the shelf drying. 

Also picked a couple more pounds of green beans. This batch will go onto the dehydrator too, but I'll start it in the morning. They really are magical- the more you pick, the more they produce. If this keeps up I will for sure be able to have a nice winter store of pickled, frozen, and dried beans, yay!! Top Crop Bean has really been the top crop this year.

The neighbor stopped by today and dropped off a large pot of freshly dug up Chocolate Mint, hooray! Kind of gives me the push I need to get the office side of trouble hill cleaned and dug up. I want to pull up all the pineapple mint that I can out of the herb garden and plant it over there too. Mint is super invasive and will grow into a wonderful cover for that currently yucky area. It's mowable too, hehehe, so it will smell great when I mow. And ticks tend to not favor mints. I think I want to find a citrus mint and an apple mint for around there too. The couple of ivys I pulled out of the solarium and planted down there is doing ok as well, so I just will leave it where it is. Sooner or later that too will grow in nice and thick.

And seed trading, wow seed trading. Ever since cleaning up my seed stock. So far I have gotten in 26 kinds of seeds, stuff I really wanted or didn't know I wanted. Been buffing up on the flowerseed stock for wintersowing :) I've sent out a lot more seed than that- I've sent out three newbie packets now. Very exciting is someone recently posted up a clearing out of seed stock because they aren't going to be gardening for the next year or two. It cost me a few stamps, but hopefully I will get some good beans for the garden :)

The germination test I set up the other day is already yielding results. A couple of the peppers have shown sprouts and been removed. A couple of the allium seed of whatever type from the corner of the solarium sprouted, and I put those in a pot. Figured why not, now's the time to sprout and grow other alliums. Whatever grows up I will plant in by the parent plant. Make a nice little patch of whatever it is there.
I decided to put the seed sandwich out on the office railing to heat up nicely in the sun all day, beats my counter right now.

And more wintersowing research... Turns out part of my craptacular growing in general has been due to not accurately knowing my growing zone. I was in zone 5b forever, now I'm in a tiny 6b area. And yep, just a mile inland to town of where they normally base the zone is indeed 5b. Like effect is entirely different here in a lot of ways.
So now I'm resetting all my notes to that. Heh, been going through a big ole stack of Organic Gardening mags from about 15 years ago. Sooo much good information, and apparently I did go through them at one point and highlight important info, lol. Now I'm tagging off the pages to put into the GbHB. I want to wintersow as many flowers as I can for next spring. And Ornamental Kale. I want to grow a bunch of that in the spring, and now I have a bunch of seed :) Where? Around the bases of two trees by the easement drive, where mowing is kind of a chore. Kale is biennial, so I can do a couple years worth of pretty greens growing around them, and mowing wont hurt too much.

What a glorious Sunday! It's been feeling like summer again, yay!
I got out and busted up all the crap I cut down from under one of the cedars- it took three trailer loads to get it all down to the firepit! And every moment of it I was thanking my lucky stars for wonderful neighbors kind enough to let me use the thing.
Heh, the neighbor mowed down the entire easement ditch today- it looks great, makes me happy I picked cattails when I did.

Got the mint border started today. This is what it looked like before I started:
Well, that's what it looked like after I started pulling all the wild grapevines off the mess and decided, hey, might want to take a pic before I start really tearing it up.
Unfortunately, the area is chock full of gravel. Fortunately, mint does not really need much digging in. So I pulled weeds, and dug out some stuff that I had to.. Picked out some of the bigger rocks.
And now it looks like this:
I know, not the most awesome sight. But the Chocolate Mint is now planted in. Yes, it will start growing in rather well before fall, and hopefully by this time next summer the area will be rather well filled with mint! I only tore up the chocolate part today, next section over will get torn up and that's where the pineapple mint will get transplanted to.
Working by the herb garden has struck me once again at how much weeding I need to do there, and how much trimming of herbs seriously needs to be tended to.

Got the green beans I planted yesterday on the dehydrator, along with the shredded trunks of broccoli from the weeks eating. I forgot about the broccoli till an hour after I had gotten the beans set up, but i don't really think it will make that much difference to the total drying time.

Yay Monday.. I think.. maybe I hate Mondays... sigh...

It was another day of working on the south side of the house. Started out with some weeding in the herb garden. Not so bad, they are starting to pull up easier now that I've done it several times, lol. Discovered my brilliant idea of raspberry brambles and chinese chestnut hulls around the base of the tree to help ward off the coons turned out to be a terrible idea because it makes it way frigging hard to weed in that area and thus it is not nearly as an effective barrier as it was when I first put it in. Sucktacular.
Discovered among the birdseed corn growing there some lovely morning glories. They had already curled up for the day, but I think they are light pink and white, wonderful! I'll have to look first thing in the morning to see if I can't catch some open. And nicely enough there were several blooms, so there is a possibility of getting seed from these, yay!
Then it was time to tackle the next area of the new mint beds... Started out like this.
In the lower right corner you can just see the edge of where I left off yesterday putting in the chocolate mint bed. Yes, that is another large clump of wild raspberries, and some other thorny berry briar as well.

Here's what it looked like after. I clear the ground down to dirt, so all that fluffy plant mass is new mint placed in, with the grassy stuff in the back being the edge, and the stuff on the right being day lily border.
To the right those blue things are the plant markers my love printed off for me when the mint was still in the herb garden. The pineapple mint actually came up pretty easy, and I did way more of a dump and some dirt tossed over the main root clumps with this stuff. Mint is hard to kill really, and since there was so much of it I didn't really need to be quite so careful with planting in like I did with the chocolate. I intended on going a bit further over, but I encountered a Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar on the milkweed growing there and I didn't want to disturb it. I left the rest of the grass where it is till I get more mints to plant in- since it's on a hill, the erosion factor is higher, so I figure it's smarter to just leave roots in place till I have the plant material to replace it.
And heh. All that greenery is from one plant put in last spring. A plant about the average size of the chocolate I just put in, of which there were about 10-12 plants. So yeah, if it does well at all, I expect the area to be well rooted before winter, and by this time next year be looking pretty plush.
I've been dumping the stuff pulled out from this area in the side 40 just like I did with the stuff from the sides of the solarium- I don't want to chance the stuff sprouting in my compost pile, and I figure I don't care so much if the stuff ends up surviving back there.

I couldn't get a good pic of the Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpiller, so I snagged one off the net for reference :)

Once I had the herb garden well weeded and the pineapple mint removed, the area looked pretty empty. So I decided to plant in some radishes and beets for a fall crop. Might as well use the space, and put in some seed while I can.
To the left is 6 rows of White Icicle Radish running front to back, the center is 4 rows of Colorful Beet Mix running side to side, the right is 3 rows of Black Round Radish running front to back. That big leafy clump behind the beets is the birdseed corn that has morning glories growing in it. And off to the right behind the radishes is my Rue plant, also with it's own nicely printed out marker made by my love. Each row is 4 feet long- the length of a bamboo rod. I don't waste string when making rows like this- just a rod at each end of the row. I use the bamboo rod to make sure they are straight and dig in my line.
I need to use the next mowing of the back corner to mulch in a lot of bare area. It's really helping with the weeding, and I know it's good for the general soil. Of course fall leaves will bring in the deep mulch- good thing I put in that lovely recycled bottle border this spring!
Speaking of which, I need to do a tamping down of the bottles that are there, and I think I might have enough bottles to put in another little section. Now that the main part is done, I can start working in the little bits. 

I think I've discovered that there is no where near the house that isn't filled with gravel. I was getting frustrated as hell pulling rocks out of here today. And I pulled out tons and tons of root bits. So I suppose even if I don't get radishes and beets this fall, at least I should get less weeds. And I did pull enough rocks out of the ground to really put a dent into the walkway between the herb garden and mint bed, so that's sort of nice. I want that whole opening spot to be gravel, and handily enough there's gracious plenty rocks right there! Dug out a couple rather big rocks, and those went into the drip spot in the corner of the solarium. I moved a small sunflower shaped birdbath thing under the exact spot too to help break up the area. In a couple weeks I will be able to start putting in daff bulbs, all excited about that.
Found out the herb garden is teeming with life too. Tons of worms. And pillbugs, little multilegged critters, black ants, tiny golden ants. I'm pretty sure the tiny golden ones are not fire ants because I wasn't nipped once.

Pretty much all the basil I transplanted into one of the black tubs is dead. I'm not sure if it's because it's too wet still, or if it's the mature horse poo is too dense or rich. I've had water problems with the other containers too, I will for sure need to dump them all out, and amend them. So I decided to sow in the tub with some lettuce seed. The other seed I planted is sprouting up pretty nicely, and it is a large packet of seed, so I figured why not.
The Green Arrow Peas are all looking good and sprouting up well. Keeping my fingers crossed about them, I would dearly love a nice pea crop before winter sets in, especially since all my spring planted peas puked out.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

And more done..

Happy Tuesday!

Went out to see if I had any wild carrot seed heads ready yet- I don't :(

However, while wandering down by the tulip border, I noticed that not only had the cilantro grown- it has already started setting seed :) This is what happens when you plant in the spring and then ignore till the end of summer, lol. Of course I collected the seed that was ready to be picked, there is still tons of them green on the plants :)

So I weeded out the entire tulip bed, gack. It was pretty easy going since I had just dug it all up this spring, but some of the weeds were HUGE! Also discovered a goodly amount of the parsley still chugging along- hopefully it will survive the winter so it can set seed next fall. Haven't a clue if any of the tulips survived or are still there, I will find that out next spring. But if the cilantro and parsley do well down there, I might sow in a patch of dill too.

Picked a few pounds of red apples and juiced them up- I now have the stuff sitting in the fridge for a day or two to separate. These aren't the best of apples- most are pretty bug pocked or small, that's why I'm juicing them instead of properly preserving them. I figure if I get a gallon of juice off these, I might just try my hand at making a batch of apple cider or wine. Apparently the first ciders were often made with the apples unsuitable for good eats, so I figure why not?

Picked a couple more pounds of green beans. I realized I didn't have any on the pantry shelf yet, so these got cut up into 1 inch pieces, blanched and shocked, and are now dried.

 Here's what a tray of freshly picked, shocked, and blanched beans look like.

Here's what those beans look like after dehydrating at 145 for 10 hours.

Here's what I picked- using my wonderfully huge colander I got as a present a couple christmases ago. It's 18"wx6"d so that's a lot of space for picking and rinsing!

Summer-riffic Wednesday!

Today has been wonderfully summery just like August is supposed to be, yay! Made me not want to be out in the yard busting butt in the sun too much, but I have caught up on a lot of computer stuff I haven't been to up on lately.

Off the Gardenweb, I have adopted two more newbies for my seed exchange offerings, and adopted my first milkweed newbie, yay!

I started going through all my old OG's last night. Tagging off pages, seeing what I have already highlighted- Winter months this year is going to get some dedicated time into transcribing those into electronic format. Making a GrowboxHill Bible.
Also discovered I really am zone 6- explains a lot about most of the gardening difficulties I've had. I grew up in zone 5, west pushing east over the lake. Now I'm east getting west push over the lake, apparently it really does make a huge difference.
I also started making my next batch of recycled plastic bag twine last night. This time I'm also using a recycled spool from my loves 3D printing plastic- much nicer to wind up on. Making twine is EASY!!! And a wonderful way to give another life to what otherwise often ends up in landfills. And so far, it's holding up much better under gardening stress than standard garden twine is.

On the left is regular twine, the right plastic twine. You can see some lovely yellow blooms of more luffas that probably will come out. In the lower left corner is the one tomato plant that grew well this year, and it's a monster.

The first luffa I caught growing now looks like this:
If no other luffas do well, I really extra hope this one does. One luffa of seed is priceless.

I also made a batch of fruit leather today, it's on the dehydrator now at 145. I had three yellow peaches, two white peaches, and about 15 Manyel plums sitting in the fridge. Looking a bit too withered for fresh eating. I sort of peeled the peaches, and cut out the bruised spots, peeled the plums. Of course I removed the pits, duh. In a couple of batches in the blender, with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, I pureed the pulp. All together it made one blender pitcher, or one liter of puree. Poured it out into the jelly trays and it took up all 6 with filling them to about 1/4 inch deep on each tray.
This is what the puree looks like when first spread out. Pretty unimpressive. The dark flecks are bits of peach skin.

This is what it looks like after the leather is dry. It's flexible, tearable, and surprisingly... it's tasty.

I started a big germination test today. 8 kinds of seeds-
cilantro, gathered from the garden-25
wild onion, gathered from the yard-25
allium of some sort? gathered from the corner of the solarium-10
banana peppers- yellow an young from watervliet-25
banana peppers2- from an orange mature from waterfliet-10
serrano pepper- from the mexican produce place in BH-10
purple bell pepper- from watervliet-10
orange sweet pepper- from the produce place on Berrien Center-10

The banana peppers 1 are currently undergoing a germination test in a smaller dish for the last few days, and nada. The seeds didn't look like they dried right either. So I'm giving them a second shot, but not too hopeful.

It's super easy to do a germination test.
2 plates, as in food plates
couple paper towels
sharpie marker

Put your first plate down. Mark it with sharpie your seed information and germ start date.
Get paper towel a bit wet
lay out your seeds
place second paper towel on top- wet again
place second plant upside down over first plate to make a "sandwich".
Place your sandwich in the warmest place in your house, usually the kitchen.
Let sit for a couple days, then check daily to see if you have sprouts.

Use 10 or more seeds, and use numbers that make an easy 100% like 10 or 25 at most. Don't do a 50 test, that's just wasting seed.
If I'm doing a dish of just a couple seeds, I let them sprout at will. If I'm doing a lot of different ones on one dish, I remove sprouted seeds when they happen, and then count up unsprouted seeds later. Sprouted seeds can really get invasive to the test.
If it's a seed I really want to keep, I can transplant it to somewhere else.

Lovely Thursday...

We got in some pretty decent rain during the night. Which is nice because that means I don't have to water the containers today :) It also rained enough to show up the "pour spots" off the solarium roof.
So I was able to get the east side of the solarium planted in before the rain comes back for the rest of the afternoon.

Fie rose bushes all in a nice row along the whole strip, and a few dozen irises replanted in. I grabbed the pots of irises that have been sitting in the container area all year and planted them in closest to me in this pic- I used bamboo skewers to mark where they are so I know what to look for in the future out of them. I know it does not look like much, but next spring the whole area should really take off and start growing in plush... I hope.

Then I got over to the container area and finally did some weeding that was seriously needed. Heh, when isn't weeding seriously needed, I'm the laziest gardener on the planet. So I pulled up a ton of weeds and left them on the concrete to die for a day or few before tossing them onto the heap.
The Bloomsdale spinach seed I sowed in with the dying Mr. Stripey tom a week or two ago appeared to be doing nothing. So I ripped out the whole plant and tossed it on the heap, added in a bit of dirt to the pot that I had leftover from planting in the irises, and sowed in a new round of spinach, this time a spinach mix from Pinetree seeds. I really do hope we get some greens in before the end of the season. Nicely enough the Green Arrow peas I planted up a bit back mostly seem to be sprouting and growing up.. And there are now even more blooms on the luffa and it's starting to eat the container structure, yay!

But now it sounds like the goodly rain is coming in, so it's time to sign off for now...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nature walk...

So I decided to go for a nature walk today. Felt like I deserved a treat after all that busting butt on lily beds, and I wanted to see how some of the wild seed was coming along.

I took pics of the milkweeds. The one up by the house and some more down by the pond- which I'm pretty sure there are two kinds of that are different than the one by the house, and perhaps three different kinds down by the pond, I'm not sure. I sent the pics off to someone on Gardenweb that can help me ID them.

Then I ran a load of kitchen towels and hung them out on the line to dry- duty before fun.

Then it was time for my walk, and all over I did! Went to the wild yucca and harvested some seed pods-
Went over to the wild sweet pea patch and collected the early pods that were ready to harvest

Took a pic of some very tall somethings growing out there
Then I went across the creek- man, you can tell no one has been using the trails over there since last year- everything is incredibly overgrown. So I didn't do too much exploring, didn't even get down to where the jewelweed patch was a couple years ago. But ah well, there's more area to explore heading north anyway.
Got to see three red-tailed hawks on the thermals, very lovely!
And spotted this little guy snuggled into the grasses:
Dunno what kind of snail it is, but sure looked neat all suction cupped to the plant like it was.

Then I got in under the trees- it's so lovely, and the trails there are pretty easy since some folks use them for four wheelers. I decided to take a path I never had before and ended up walking the top of the ridge over the ruins path. Took it all the way to the big lake where I found masses of jewelweed growing:
Jewelweed is a wonderful weed- it's lovely and invasive... But it's great for treating skeeter bites and poison ivy, and purported to be great for athletes foot and acne too. Hmmm, might have to go back out and pick some to make salve with.
By then it was time to turn back to home. I took the ruins path back:
This is a large lovely patch of pickerel weed that grows along the right side of the marshy area bordering the path. Maybe someday if I have hip waders and a lot of bravery I will harvest some seed from there.
And this is the vista off to the left of where that patch of pickerel weed lives. Don't let the grassy fool ya, it's all wet out there to the other side of the clearing. In the spring you can see a lot of standing water in this area.
Along the trail I saw this little guy, and he held still long enough for me to take a pic:
I'm not positive, but I think perhaps he might be a Blanchards Cricket Frog.

Saw some neat mushrooms along the path-

These were growing out of wood
And these were growing out of the dirt in the middle of the path.

No, I didn't pick them, I don't know squat about mushroom hunting yet.

And heh, I decided to cut across to the dune pond, and skirt around it. Holy crap adventure walk there. On the other side I found little purple flowered weeds with bumble bees having a snack fest.
I have no idea what the weed is, but it is pretty and apparently makes the bees happy.

Along the walk I collected a LOT of turkey feathers. They lose them here and there, but there is one spot along the paths that I'm guessing is a serious hangout because there were many feathers right there.
Turkeys are good mojo, and their feathers are gifts from Mama N. Once I have enough collected I'm going to make myself a lovely fan of the feathers.

I decided to trot the back line across the properties to get back to the house. Was mostly tall grass and low scrub, so not too bad, lol. And when I got home, I only had one tick on me, which my love promptly destroyed. Still, it was good to get back in the house and cleaned up, it was quite the hike!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I hate ditch lilies

Another lovely day here at Growbox Hill.. A bit cool for this time of year though. But I guess I shouldn't complain, because when it's hot like normal I don't want to be outside working my butt off.

Got a bit more work done down at bee corner by the raspberry bed. Man that's some rough going. Pulled a barrow of tall weeds and trimmed down yet another pile of weedy tree crap. And pulled a bunch of weeds grown too big along the fenceline. Took me forever, but on the bright side, I have now started our second compost pile- this one down in the veggie row. Still need to pull a bunch more weeds before covering it with a goodly layer of poo, and maybe a nice layer of autumn leaves- then I will black plastic the whole pile over after fall rains but before the ground freezes to really cook the hell out of it by the time I uncap it late next spring.

Still can't get the weed wacker to start. Not too surprising since I haven't used it since early last spring. Need to figure out what's wrong, fix it, and use it.

Started digging up the ditch lilies on the solarium corner too. Gack. Took a large armful out to the side 40 and dumped them, pulled another large armful that didn't get hauled yet, pulled up several pounds of just roots, tubers, and crowns. And I only cleared about a third of the area. It's nice because the dirt there is easy sandy loam- but it's also filled with gravel so that makes it a bit harder. I haven't been picking every rock out, but I did toss a whole bunch of them onto the other side of the door slab. Sooner or later I'm going to have to dig in around that slab area so I can pour a slab extension- make a better parking spot for when we use the generator. Anywho, I did feel fairly accomplished after a couple hours of digging and swearing to have cleared as much area as I have. Once I get the whole area done in it's preliminary clean out, then I get to go back through and double dig it before I can set my daffodil bulbs in. And I will have one less area of those loathsome ditch lillies in the yard, hooray! I do have to be a bit careful though- there is a milkweed in pod I need to avoid hurting till after the pods are ripe, and on one side there is one of grandma's poppies that I don't want to hurt.
Don't get me wrong, I love all sorts of other lilies. Eventually I will have a bunch of others on the property. It's just that we have ditch lillies along the side of the office drive, in the lower FOH garden in the front ditch, a huge patch around the maple on the north side of the house, more along the other side of the solarium... Just ugh. I spose I could dump them in the ditch where the last block went, but that would require me to do digging work in the ditch that I just don't feel like doing for ditch lilies. 

Anywho, here's a pick of two and a half hours of forking, and pulling, sifting, and pulling....
The dirt area is really about a 3x4' area. All that rooty mass on the right on the edge is a pile of lily bits of plantables, the mess on the left is all the scrappy greens I just tossed aside for the compost pile. And that whole left hand edge looks ganked up because I'm pulling any roots I find in the area up- and there was a something that just yanked up the grass for a couple feet before I finally tore it up. All that stuff in the back is more ditch lilies to tear up.
On a holy crap awesome note about the ditch lilies. My mum in law said she was interested in taking a ton of them! Yay for being able to pass them on instead of just tossing them aside :) I also put then up on Gardenweb.

Picked another pound or so of green beans today- Top Crop is really putting out the beans! Which is a good thing considering how much trouble I've had with all the other veggie plants this year. Sometimes it feels like I will never be able to grow a proper garden :( But the one Lemon Boy tomato I put in the ground is a monster- too bad it has very little blooms and fruit on it.

Yep, I for sure need to get more flowers in the yard. I got fruit blossoms in the spring, ditch lillies, irises, and various weeds and some herbs. Not nearly enough to make a year round enticing yard for pollinators. And none of the neighbors really have anything going on, so everyone is relying on the wild blossoms right now. I've been paying so much attention to our eating plants that I have been neglecting all the bugs needs.

Did a lot of work on wintersowing planning today too. Again with the flowers- I'm going to wintersow lots of flowers. I've been rather frustrated collecting information. Everyone tells ya how to do it, how easy it is- start sowing to celebrate Yule!.. And really rather little information about what needs to be wintersowed when, turns out lots of seed does way better wintersown in later months through to Ostra. So I'm starting to gather together a database of whatever I can find for zone 5. And of course will be keeping my own notes as well.

Happy Friday, cheers to the weekend!
Had to run to Hardings today to get a few things in the house for the boys. Wasn't till I got home that I realized we were almost out of bread for sandwiches, oh no! So what's a girl to do? Make a couple loaves of bread of course. I busted out and made a pair of English Muffin Loaf breads, super yum!
I also made up a batch of tomato sauce- not sure if we are going to have burgers on the grill or Italian meatloaf for dinner tomorrow, but I figure if we go with burgers I can toss the sauce in the freezer :)

Yay Saturday!!

Beautiful and lovely day, time to tear up the rest of those ditch lilies. It took another three hours, but at last the preliminary forking is done!

The reused bag was once holding a bunch of dirt, and now is for sitting on while I hand pick out stones and weeds- way nicer to use than a little kneeler pad because it's big enough to really sit around on. And the pot on the bag- I decided it was easier to toss stones in a container than pitching them to the other side, lol. One lone milkweed is left standing off to the left, the one that has seed pods on it. Kind of broke my heart to tear the other ones out, but it needed to be done. Once those pods are ripe and picked, that plant will go as well. Now I get to go back through a second time with the fork and pull up more roots, any lily bits I missed the first time around, more stones too though I know I won't get them all, lol. This will happen over the course of a couple weeks- it won't be daffodil planting time till next month. The edge still needs to be seriously cleaned up, and I need to set in a line to mark off where the new cement pad will go. Of course our awesome neighbor offered to help me when it came time to actually pour the slab- I went to ask his advice on how to do it, and sure enough he offered help.
There is one spot in the middle of the area that will end up getting some sort of stone or other decorative feature- I noticed while digging around there is a drip spot right where the corner of the roof is, and nothing really grows there, so I will make sure I put something else nice there, perhaps a birdbath would look lovely. 
The edge to the right lines up with the corner of the solarium- and it goes right up to where the smaller of grandmas poppies resides. Mature poppies very very much do not do well with being transplanted, so yea, it will be left right where it is, and I will be extra careful when working around it.
When I go to put in all those daffodil bulbs, I will be using a bunch of recycled cans too. Why? Because they make awesome markers for future plantings. If I have stray daffs next spring transplanting I want to put into the bed, I can just lift off the can and drop in the bulb without hurting anything else. Or if I want to mix in other bulbs for year round blooming, I can get them and plant them in at will without disturbing the existing bed. I can put in other plants too, just by using fatter cans to denote digging space. Great recycling, those cans will at least get a second life before going to the trash bin.

Just how many lilies did I dig up today? This is a 18"w x 21"l x 15"d box, the top flaps folded down to the outside, all lined with a large black contractor garbage bag.
The bottom third of the box is filled with just tubers that have no leaves, the top filled with plants with leaves. There is probably enough lily material here to start in a 20 foot border at least. I'm so happy that the mum in law wanted them- I kind of felt bad just tossing them off to the side 40, but ugh, I am so not planting them in anywhere if I can possibly help it. In the background you can see the patches of moss I snagged while out on my walk the other day that will eventually go into the upper FOH garden.

So, why have I been forking these out instead of shoveling them out? Forking is way easier because the soil is light but full of gravel and roots. The fork helps separate everything out. It's the way to keep as much soil in place as you can too. That box is heavy and full of just lilies, and very little dirt.

Happy Sunday!
It was a day to finish getting the area around the solarium cleaned up. Went through and pulled everything out of the south side. I hadn't touched the area since this spring when I planted in some bulbs. Pulled 2 barrows of weeds, yipes!

Then I decided heck, why not start working on the east side of the solarium? I've been putting that off forever.
This is what it looked like when I started today..
This is what it looked like after I got done with the preliminary digup..
That whole pile off to the right is another big box worth of ditch lilies. Along the way I took out several other plants that were among the lilies..

There's two large pots of many irises, and five rose bushes that were being smothered by the lilies. I made sure to pot them up so that they don't die off while I finish prepping the bed. They will get planted back in the bed when I'm ready.

So whew, it was a weekend!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New meow!!

We adopted a new cat last night, though it might be more fair to say she adopted us. I've seen her wandering the yard and sauntering up and down the easement driveway for the last few weeks, since some time in July. I'd make kissy noises when I saw her, and she wasn't too sure if she liked me or not, so I just left her be.

Well, last night I come walking into my office because I hear a cat crying, and it didn't sound like one of mine. Of course I'm like WTF? Some of the cats were hanging out looking out the window, totally unconcerned. I look out the window, and there is that lovely little kitty meowing outside my window! So I make kissy noises- she meowed back. I went out onto the porch and made kissy noises- she meowed back. I step down off the porch and kneel down making kissy noises- she meowed and ran right up to me and snuggled right up purring hard. Well then, it was like she was saying "about time you came out, take me in please.".
So of course I did. I scooped her up, with her nuzzling and purring the whole while. Carried her into the house and past the other cats, everyone was fine. Deposited her into one of the boys bedrooms, shut the door- and went to get the hubby. He was a bit surprised to say the least.
So I grabbed a divided dish and dumped in a can of wet food on one side, dry food on the other- and a big bowl of water. By then she was already meowing again, like hey, you didn't just lock me up and forget about me, right? And wow she tucked right on into that food! Grabbed a litter box and put it in there. Kept checking on her till it was time to settle in, and then I settled into the room for the night. She just curled right up next to me and went to sleep, peaceful as can be.
Woke up this morning to find that why yes, she did use the litter box just like she is supposed to. Called the vet first thing when they opened and got her in this morning- she tested out fine, got kitty shots.. And lo and behold! We thought she was only a couple months old because she was so tiny, turns out shes a year or two old and just tiny, lol. She also got a flea pill because she had some rough skin action going on- but no fleas that we could tell. She was just fine at the vets, very affectionate. During the ride there and home, she just pretty much settled in the carrier like she had done this a thousand times before.
We put her back in the bedroom when we got home, but it kind of broke my love's heart to hear her meowing for company, so we moved her to the great room. And again the other cats didn't seem to care one jot that I was walking around with a new meow. She's been far happier now with a little company, curled up by my loves feet and is snoozing the afternoon away. 
We are guessing it's likely that she's an abandoned cat, possibly from summer visiting folks that brought out their cat for the holiday weekend and went home without her. No feral is this people loving and house friendly naturally.

Here's our new meow..

First time I've had a tortoiseshell since I was a toddler- and first time ever having a long hair cat. We don't know her name yet though. We will just keep throwing names at her till she responds to one, lol.

Took a nice walk out in the back 40 today- I wanted to see what the local milkweeds were up to, and it looks like pretty much none along most of the walk. Good thing there are several here close to the house! You bet your butt I'm gonna be spreading that seed around before they have all disappeared. I also collected several large clumps of moss which are currently in the wet spot by the solarium pond- those will get transplanted outside in the upper FOH garden next time we get a few days of rain. There were a few black eyed susans that were ready to deadhead, which I did. And I grabbed a handful of blackberries for seed sharing. Also got to get some lovely pics of a few critters while out and about.

 An Eastern Box Turtle. He wasn't quite sure what I was about, but held still for a couple pics.

 This cute little frog I have no idea what he is. I saw the jump and looked, expecting a grasshopper. But nope, some adorable tiny tree frog. He didn't come up when I looked at the basic frog list, or at least didn't look like any of the frogs on the basic list... So I still need to figure out what he is.

I'm pretty sure this is a Spicebush Swallowtail. We get a lot of these guys around here.

I did see one Monarch while out and about today, made me happy to see it. But in general, not as many butterflies as we have had the last two summers.. So yep, I'm stepping up my flower game to help promote butterfly happiness. In some of my seed swaps recently I've been choosing some pretty flowers they like :) And of course, the milkweed. I've been needing to get more on the ball with flowers anyway for the bees too.