Thurs. July 21, 2022: Blooms and Bombs

image courtesy of S. Hermann & F. Richter via pixabay.com

Thursday, July 21, 2022

4th Quarter Moon waning in Taurus

Pluto, Saturn, Neptune, Chiron Retrograde

Celtic Tree Month of Holly

Hazy and hot

We finally broke into seasonally hot weather. It’s nowhere near as hot as it is in other parts of the world, but it’s in the low 90’s, feeling like the high 90’s, and humid. Since we don’t have air conditioning, it’s a challenge.

Some of the plants are doing very well; some are not. One of the dahlias is doing well, and we’re getting the first blossoms. The other dahlia is dying, and I have no idea why. The cucumber got pollinated and was growing cucumbers, and suddenly, it’s up and died.

The tomatoes still haven’t grown up into anything. They should be big enough to start blossoming. I don’t know what’s going on.

The pumpkin is happy out on the back balcony, and pumping out blossoms. Hopefully, at least one of them will turn into something.

The geraniums, impatience, and herbs are doing well. The marigolds are doing well as long as I water them every day. The hollyhocks are doing well, although they’ve stalled, height-wise.

Spiro Squirrel kept digging up the tansy, so I brought it to the front porch instead. I’m hoping I can save it. The other tansy is doing well, the one that was always on the front.

The peace lily is quite happy out on the back balcony and blooming like crazy.

Well, it’s a learning curve. I’m making careful notes in the plant journal, so that I can adjust from next year, and learn from what didn’t work.

I’m getting ready to order the tulip and hyacinth bulbs. I bought long window-box style troughs. We’ll plant the bulbs in them in October, so that they’ll come up (hopefully) in the spring. We’ll overwinter them on the front porch, which we close off in winter, because of the cold. So they’ll be protected from digging squirrels, but still get the cold they need.

It gets cool by around 3 AM for a few hours, before it starts heating up again. It’s supposed to break on Sunday night into Monday, and only be in the 80’s next week.

I’m disappointed that the vegetables aren’t growing well, but it makes me even more grateful for the Farmers’ Market, which is just bursting at the seams with wonderful bounty.

How’s your garden growing?

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Thurs. July 14, 2022: More Squirrel Shennanigans

image courtesy of Alexas Fotos via pixabay.com

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Last Day of the Full Moon in Capricorn, moving into Aquarius

Pluto, Saturn, Neptune Retrograde

Celtic Tree Month of Holly

Cloudy and humid

The squirrels have been a problem. Spiro Squirrel is the worst, going after the tansy all the time. I wonder if there’s something about the root he likes, or he’s just preparing for winter. I wound up taking in the tansy, and hope I can save it. The pot of tansy on the front porch is doing well. It’s a useful natural insect repellant, which is one reason I like to have it.

Bingo and Jingo, the pair that always pulls shenanigans together, are also all over the balcony, poking at this and that. They will be very disappointed when all the pots disappear from the balcony in the winter. Spiro is the one, though, who knocks on the window regularly at lunch time and expects us to pass out a sandwich. Just in case you worried, we do not.

As annoying as they are, the fact that they’re already burying things for winter concerns me. Along with the fact the cats shed their summer coats and are growing in thick winter coats already, and miserable, because the heat and humidity have gone up in the past couple of weeks, and are likely to remain so through the rest of the month (although it’s still much cooler than it was last year at this time). And, I noticed, out back, one of the large shrubs is starting to turn for autumn already.

I am planning accordingly.

The Celtic Tree Month of Holly began last Friday. This is about the immortality of nature, masculine energy, and protection. One of the things I miss from the Cape is the Ashumet Sanctuary in Falmouth, with all the wonderful holly varieties. Holly is one of my favorites.

The Farmers’ Market continues its wonder. The large tomatoes are now available, which is good, because our tomato plants haven’t even blossomed yet! We are getting our little, tiny cucumbers, though. They’re not supposed to grow more than 6” in length; they’re not even an inch yet, but there are a bunch of them. I put the pumpkin plant out back for the bees; once it’s been pollinated, I’ll bring it back in, before the squirrels cause problems. I harvested some spearmint, and it’s hanging to dry. I’ll harvest peppermint as soon as the spearmint is ready to strip and put in a jar.

The sugar snap peas from the market last week were spectacular, as were the new red potatoes. I bought extra lemon basil and put up some lemon basil pesto.

Last weekend, I finally stripped the pine wreath from Yule. It stayed green well into June. I have a jar of small branches to burn at Yule, and then 5 jars of needles to use in various concoctions. Tessa helped; she always loved working with me in the still room.

I bought cut flowers last weekend, a big, mixed bunch, and we have filled vases all over the house. Buying those pretty vases a couple of weeks ago at the thrift store gave me a good excuse to fill them!

I still haven’t replanted the jasmine, and I have to plant more cat grass, because the cats decimated what was there.

This weekend, in and around the work I have to do, I will take the cats out in their playpens onto the back balcony. The front porch has been too hot and humid for any of us to spend much time out there (although the plants enjoy it). The back balcony is cooler. The cats have been little fur puddles all week, although they enjoy the ceiling fans. Too bad their summer fur didn’t hold on for a few more weeks.

I’m ordering the tulip bulbs this weekend. We’re going to plant them in October and let them overwinter on the front porch, when we close it off for the season. It’s far too likely the squirrels will dig them up if we leave them out on the back balcony.

I’m looking forward to the Farmers’ Market again this week. And it’s such a pleasure to have mountain views both from the front and back windows. And so many trees out back! This is considered a “tree city” and trees are cherished.

How’s your garden doing?

Thurs. June 30, 2022: Squirrel Visitors

image courtesy of Joe Breuer via pixabay.com

Thursday, June 30, 2022

First Quarter Moon Waxing in Cancer

Pluto, Saturn, Neptune Retrograde

Celtic Tree Month of Oak

Sunny and pleasant

I am thoroughly enjoying the growing season here, even though there’s a good bit of pollen flying around. On the Cape, the pine pollen dumped down like yellow snow early in the season, leaving a thick coating on everything and had to be scrubbed off. That’s not as prevalent here. But there is a lighter, steadier pollen. When I spend enough time outside, I scrape it off every few hours. And after I shower it off, I have to run vinegar down the drain.

But everything looks gorgeous. The cucumbers finally have blossoms, so I put that pot out on the back balcony, so the bees can visit and pollinate. The pumpkin should bloom soon; hopefully the tomatoes will, too.

The borage planted last week is already coming up. Borage is one of my favorite plants. I love the blue flowers. When I planted strawberries, I would keep borage nearby to protect the strawberries from pests.

The Farmers’ Market gets more and more exciting every week, too. Last Saturday, I got the most beautiful fennel I’ve ever seen. I spend a lot of time with Deborah Madison’s book LOCAL FLAVORS to get ideas.

The squirrels are being difficult. It’s not just Spiro Squirrel, who’s bad enough on his own. There’s another pair of squirrels running around. They are always together, and they have a fairly wide range of four or five properties on this block and across the street. They are always scampering around together. Well, now they come on the deck and turn over pots, bury things, and chomp on the peppermint. They are so fresh I can walk right up to them and scold them before they scamper off, jump into the tree, and watch from a safe distance. I haven’t named those two little rapscallions yet, but I will.

I guess the work we’ve done on the back balcony to transform it into a garden space has worked!

Because we have so many trees and tree-like shrubs around, the back is lovely and shady in the hottest part of the afternoon, while getting strong doses of sun in the morning and the late afternoon. It’s great to sit out there after lunch for a bit, with a book.

Of course, the cats don’t want to be left inside. Willa and Charlotte have always been good in their playpens. Willa tends to get restless after about twenty minutes or so. Charlotte looks around for a bit, then goes to sleep. It’s too difficult to take them out at the same time, but whomever is left inside gets very upset. When I water in the mornings, Willa wants to come out. She knows the playpens are stored up, folded, in the laundry room when not in use, and tries to drag hers out. Yes, she knows which one is hers.

Tessa hates her playpen. Before Willa and Charlotte came to live with us, Tessa was allowed out on the deck without restraints. She never left or ran away. She loved lounging on the deck and checking out the plants. But it’s too dangerous here. We are on the second floor and the railings are wide enough that the cats could slip through. Also, with dogs in the building and squirrels in the trees, it’s safer for them to be in their playpens. We used the playpens when the movers loaded and unloaded, again, to protect the cats.

Tessa hated it. She struggled when she was picked up to go in, and complained the entire time.

But, she decided that if the other two go out on the back balcony, she wants to go out, too. When I take them out, she sits on a kitchen chair by the window and complains.

The other day, I told her I would take her out, but she had to be in the playpen, like the others. I brought out her playpen and set it up. She sat quietly. She let me pick her up and put her in it. She didn’t like the voyage out to the balcony, but once I had her set up, she had a wonderful time. She was interested in the birds and the squirrels and the neighbors, and everything.

So now all three have to take turns coming out! But I’m glad she enjoys it.

We have a lot of birds, with all the tress and shrubs. I have to look up the ones I don’t know in the bird book. There’s one, who looks like some sort of a jay, but he’s gray with a black crest and mask. I’m not sure if he’s a young blue jay, or if he’s some other sort of bird. I haven’t had a chance to look him up yet, but every time he pops by to visit, I’m reminded that I need to.

The crows still come and visit. The scout and Tessa have a serious conversation every morning. Charlotte was in the window instead of Tessa this morning, and the scout gave her such a lecture. She was shocked. Tessa popped up then, and things went back to normal.

I’m looking at tulip bulbs in the catalogs. I might order some and plant them in pots this autumn, then leave them to overwinter out on the front porch when we close it for the season.

How’s your garden growing?

Thurs. June 16, 2022: Garden Visit

Fountain at Berkshire Botanical Garden. Phobo by Devon Ellington

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Waning Moon Third Quarter in Capricorn

Pluto & Saturn Retrograde

Cloudy and humid

There’s quite a bit to write about this week.

The hanging geranium basket slipped from my hands when I tried to put it back on its hanger last week, after a storm. It crashed the two stories below and broke on the asphalt. Fortunately, no one was out there (I make sure no one is under the balcony when I go out to work on plants).

I went down, rescued what was left of the plant, and cleaned up the mess. I repotted the geranium in the pot I was going to use for the night-blooming jasmine, so I will have to get another pot for that. It seems to be recovering, and it’s on a mosaic tiled plant stand out on the balcony. A couple of stems broke off. I have them in a vase. If they grow roots, I will pot them.

The Farmers’ Market on Saturday was lots of fun. I’ve set a budget for every weekend, and I’m sticking to it, seeing what’s fresh and wonderful, and then, going to the grocery store nearby to build the rest of the week’s meals around what’s fresh from the Farmers’ Market. It’s healthy and it forces variety. It’s too easy to get into the rut of one’s go-to dishes.

The Farmers’ Market isn’t cheap, but with the grocery prices going up in the stores (especially the chain stores), the prices are competitive with the grocery stores and the food co-op. The quality is always high, and I get to support individuals instead of corporate entities.

We replanted the cutting of the last Cape Cod Geranium (so now we have two Cape Cod Geraniums). I planted the nectarine pits and some saved pepper seeds, and more cat grass.

The columbine got overwatered, and is not doing well. The nasturtiums are unhappy. Next year, I think I will buy a small plant instead of starting it from seed and seeing if there’s a difference. The pumpkin is growing like crazy. The brown-eyed Susan is dead and gone. That’s frustrating, because it was one of the most expensive plants I bought this year.

The heliotrope, echinacea, and lemon balm are starting to do well. The spearmint is growing so fast, I think I might harvest some stems and start them drying.

Spiro Squirrel is a little brat. When we have sandwiches for lunch in the kitchen, he dashes up on the back balcony, climbs up on the bistro table and knocks on the kitchen window with his little paw, as though he thinks we’re going to hand him the sandwich through the window.

Tessa, our big black cat who is part Maine Coon, has a serious conversation with the scout crow every morning. He stops on the lamp post outside the living room window. She puts her front paws up on the back of the sofa, and they chat through the window. It’s completely different than when she’s contemplating trying to take down a bird. It’s a real conversation. It’s very funny.

The scout brought by a younger crow the other morning to say hello.

On Tuesday, we went down to Stockbridge to visit the Berkshire Botanical Garden. It was  a lovely day, and the garden is absolutely beautiful. There are various designs in different areas: an herb garden, a rose garden, a garden designed by Martha Stewart, a garden with joyful topiaries called Lucy’s Garden, a daylily walk. It’s just lovely. The photo at the top of this post is of the fountain. There’s a children’s garden and an educational center. There’s an exhibition gallery and research library. The garden is 24 acres, and was first opened in 1934. The New York Botanical garden donated some of the original daylilies when this garden formed, and other botanical gardens also sent gifts, which I think is kind of wonderful. But then, gardeners tend to be generous about sharing plants.

The current art exhibit is called “Symbiosis” and consists of various types of art in different mediums both in the gallery and installed in parts of the garden. It’s really wonderful. My favorite piece was a mosaic done on stone of two owls by Peter D. Gerakaris.

I want to return in other seasons and see how the garden changes over them. I’d also like to spend a full day there one day, with a notebook, and write a series of flash fiction pieces in the different areas of the garden. Some day when it’s not too hot! I’d also like to use the library, maybe spend time with their herbals.

I bought borage seeds in the store, and I will plant them today. It’s late in the season to start borage. I will plant about half the packet, and save the rest for next year. I wanted borage this year, and hadn’t gotten the seeds yet, so it was a delight to buy it at the garden.

The weather is much pleasanter than it was at this time last year, and I have every intention of enjoying it!

Thurs. June 9, 2022: Farmers’ Market Season Begins

image courtesy of Martin Winkler via pixabay.com

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Waxing Moon

Pluto and Saturn Retrograde

Rainy and cool

We took a quick trip to the Cape to pick up a few things on Tuesday. They are in a different part of their growing season. The lilacs haven’t yet started fading there, and the azaleas are fully in bloom. The pollen, however, was much thicker there. They aren’t getting as much rain as we’ve had.

When we came back, the blue car had a blanket of yellow over it. And we had to scrape pollen off our skin in the shower.

Here, things are green and luscious. Peonies are in bloom, and are gorgeous. The trees are in full leaf. The mountains are all green again.

As far as our little garden goes, things are growing. The dahlia on the back balcony was unhappy, so I brought it forward to the front. The black-eyed Susan vine is twining around the railing out back, and the lettuce and herbs are all doing well. It looks like the tansy has decided to stick around and grow, both front and back, which is great.

The pumpkin vine is growing like crazy. The cucumbers are steady, but haven’t yet bloomed. The tomatoes look small, but I bought a small variety for containers, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

The impatiens and the geraniums are blooming steadily. So are the Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti – at least one of them is blooming at all times.

We have some replanting to do this weekend – a stalk of geranium fell off our last Cape Cod geranium, and it’s grown roots, so we will pot it. The night-blooming jasmine already outgrew its pot, so I will put it in the big pot (I even bought a new plant stand just for it). A small seedling from Tamed Wild has outgrown its pot, and needs a bigger one. And, of course, I have to plant more cat grass.

We had supposedly organic nectarines this week, so I will plant the pits and see if anything happens.

The other day, driving through Adams/Cheshire, we passed a house with the most magnificent bed of poppies! Just gorgeous. I’ve never successfully grown poppies, so I appreciate it when other people have success.

The Farmers’ Market is now weekly, outside, on Saturday mornings. I go there first thing and see what looks good (it all does), and then build the week’s meals around what I buy at the market. I may have to start making stock every week and a half or so, instead of every 2-3 weeks, with all these vegetables!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching this area come to life after the winter. It’s so relaxing to sit and watch the plants at work.

How is your garden growing?

Thurs. June 2, 2022: Deep in Growth Season

image courtesy of Ulrike Leon via pixabay.com

Thursday, June 2, 2022

1st Quarter Waxing Moon in Gemini

Pluto & Mercury Retrograde

Cloudy and mild

We’re definitely in growing season now. Even some of the plants that initially hung back: lemon balm, marine heliotrope, columbine – are doing better. The dahlias are growing like crazy, as are the hollyhocks. Only one pumpkin vine is still alive, but it’s growing well.

The nasturtiums are still very unhappy, and the moonflowers aren’t doing well, either. The new batch of morning glories are better, but still nowhere near as strong as they were down on Cape.

I’ll have to repot a few plants who are outgrowing their original small pots. Even the night-blooming jasmine, who’s only been around for a few weeks, will need a bigger pot soon. But I have a special pot saved, just for her!

The basil, chives, parsley, cilantro, and lettuce are doing well, and I’m using them as often as possible.

The trip to Hancock Shaker Village on Tuesday included wandering around their medicinal garden. Seeing that comfrey, coltsfoot, horehound, and calendula do well in this region means I can try growing them next spring. I always kept them in my stillroom, because I use them for various cough blends and/or poultices or salves.

The Farmer’s Market starts up weekly this coming Saturday, and I am so excited. I can’t wait to create menus each week based on what’s fresh at the market.

Everyone in the neighborhood is fixing up their little patch of porch and/or green, and it’s a delight to walk around and see how creative people are.

How are things going in your neck of the woods, sea, or meadows?