Aug. 26, 2021: Blooms and Bugs

photo by Devon Ellington

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Third Quarter Waning Moon in Aries

Pluto, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Chiron, Uranus Retrograde

Celtic Tree Month of Hazel

Sunny, hot, humid

I thought I had nothing to post today, but it turns out that I do!

The photo at the top is one of our, well, I’m not sure if it’s a Christmas Cactus or a Thanksgiving Cactus. Blooming in August. The years we were on Cape, they’d bloom several times a year, which is fun.

This other photo is of the red geranium. Any idea what that weird bug is? I’m not sure if it’s a good one, or one I should be worried about. It kind of looks like a goth moth or butterfly, with the lacy wings, but also reminds me of the black hornets who come in on the front porch.

It’s hot and humid, which means I’m grumpy. I’m looking forward to autumn.

How’s your last week of August?

Aug. 19, 2021: Hurricane Season

Photo by Devon Ellington

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Second Quarter Waxing Moon in Capricorn

Pluto, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Chiron, Uranus Retrograde

Celtic Tree Month of Hazel

Rainy and humid

We’re in hurricane season, and it will be a very different experience here in the mountains than it was at the coast. I worry about the river flooding, because of so many years of the brook flooding in Rye, but no one else around here seems too worried.

The photo above is from The Spruces, a local community park just over the town line into Williamstown. The Spruces was a planned senior community of trailers, begun in the 1950’s, that was destroyed in floods in either 2011 or 2012. The town bought the property and turned it into a community park.

It’s overrun with wildflowers and is just beautiful. We took a bit of a walk in it over last weekend, in the good weather. Hopefully, I can spend more time there before winter sets in.

I think today’s rain is from Hurricane (Tropical Storm?) Fred. The weather people are more worried about how Hurricane Henri will hit the coast at the other end of the state this weekend (although we’ll get some rain and wind).

Batten down the hatches, get out the candles, get in more wine, I guess?

Aug. 12, 2021: Making Friends With My New Area’s Nature

photo by Devon Ellington

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Waxing Moon First Quarter in Libra

Pluto, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Chiron Retrograde

Celtic Tree Month of Hazel

Heat wave: hot, humid, hazy

It’s been a few months since I posted. The photo above is the enchanted garden we’ve set up on the back balcony at the new home in the Berkshires.

We also have a screened in front porch, where we have our Adirondack chairs, the blue wicker chair, more plants (especially herbs, because of the Southern exposure), and more of our outdoor décor.

It was painful to say goodbye to Che Guevara Chipmunk, the murder of crows, the Gemini Oaks in the front lawn, the lovely Maple in the back. The covered back deck.

We couldn’t take many of our large potted plants with us, such as the Roses of Sharon, various lilacs, forsythia, etc. We gave them to neighbors who love to garden, and will either plant them in their own garden, or find them good homes. We gave away a lot of pots, and a lot of garden tools, including rakes, hoes, spades, the lot.

For a decade, we’ve loved that third of an acre, even when things like the mowing were difficult. We had a close relationship with the plants and wildlife. I’d done a lot of rooting work, psychologically, and it was difficult to disengage.

We’ve moved from the ocean – where, due to the increased tourism and the local attitude that ONLY tourists matter, not residents, so the pollution increases as habitat is destroyed – to the mountains.

Technically, we live in a city. Yet there are so many trees all around us. And grass. And plants. We are tucked into the Berkshire mountains, with mountain views out the front and the back. The buildings here have porches or balconies, up and down. Most residents create their little patches of garden enchantment.

It’s very different than on Cape, and each region is beautiful in its own way.

The air is quite different, lacking the salt from the ocean. Also, even though we’re in a city rather than a village, there’s less pollution. The oily residue that’s taken over the air, the dirt, and even the fog on Cape isn’t in everything here.

The soil quality is different. While Cape Cod is known for mounds of gorgeous blue hydrangeas, the hydrangeas here tend to be white or pink and white. Black-eyed Susans (one of my favorite flowers) are popular here, as are sunflowers, and mounds and mounds of petunias, spilling out of baskets on porches and along public streets.

I have to learn the native plants, and figure out what we can grow next year. This year was too late to start much; we bought some pots of herbs, and some flowers, but next year, I will try to start more from seed.

I’ve visited the nearby lake, and I’m looking forward to visiting the Botanical Garden, and some private gardens, and the community gardens that are so popular here, and learning about the gardens and plants that thrive here in the mountains.

While I miss the space and the variety in my Cape garden, even though so much was in containers, I don’t miss the mowing, or the constant pressure for the property to look more landscaped and not be a habitat for the local wildlife.

Our back balcony is habitat – we have two birdhouses and a nest that were already occupied when we moved in (the landlord takes delight in them, too). They are bratty little birds, but an awful lot of fun to watch.

A pair of crows has found me, and visit every morning, when I write on the front porch. They’ve started to stop by and tell me the news. I enjoy my time with them.

I’m excited to see the beauties of autumn, winter, and spring here.

Thurs. May 27, 2021: Carpenter Ants

image courtesy of cp17 via pixabay.com

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Last Day of the Full Moon in Sagittarius

Pluto Retrograde

Saturn Retrograde

Cloudy and pleasant

The lilacs are absolutely magnificent this year. It will be sad when they fade. I’m so grateful we were still here to enjoy them.

The grass is coming in well. I’m conscientious about the watering. It’s fun to watch the difference from day to day. If anyone makes a derogatory comment about “watching grass grow” as something boring, they are sadly mistaken! It’s quite fun.

Monday morning, I discovered a swarm of carpenter ants coming out of the seam between the deck roof and the kitchen door. I had a fit. Hosed them off, used ant killer. Called the landlord, so we could form a plan of action. I can’t stand ants. I didn’t even really know what carpenter ants were, except that they were big and scary. When I looked it up online, it was even scarier.

But it’s being dealt with.

The landlord mowed the front, so we’re not suffering from vacant lot syndrome. Per his request, I removed the cedar barrel with the chrysanthemums from the front.

I have to talk to our neighbors down the street, who are avid gardeners, to see if they want our potted lilacs, roses of Sharon, and some of the other big plants we most likely can’t take with us. Otherwise, they need to go up on Craigslist this week or next.

No takers for the electric shovel yet.

Garage is getting there; I still have to sort out some of the broken saucers that can be tossed, and get more recycling to the dump.

We’re getting there slowly, but have to accelerate over the next few weeks, even though we don’t yet know where we are going.

The tourists are already swarming, even worse than the carpenter ants. They are nastier than ever. It will be good to be out of here before the summer gets even more intense.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend! Hopefully, you can spend time outside.

Thurs. Aug. 27, 2020: Visit From a Hummingbird

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image courtesy of fprose via pixabay.com

Thursday, August 27, 2020
2nd Quarter Waxing Moon in Sagittarius
Celtic Tree Month of Hazel
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Cooler

Red sky this morning. Wonder if we’ll have storms coming through?

Not much to say on the garden front. The Roses of Sharon are blooming, and the bees are very happy. We’re getting more cucumbers. We have tomatoes, but they’re not getting ripe; they’re staying green. The grass hasn’t grown much, but it’s looking a bit better. Hopefully, the lawn food arrives soon and I can feed it for the autumn.

It’s a little cooler now, and you can smell the earth early in the morning and in the evening. It’s not quite the scent of autumn yet, but also not summer.

I’m pulling out the lily stalks as they finish browning, and the chlorophyll sinks back into the bulb. When the stalks are done, they pull right out. I’ll have to cut back the hosta blooms that have faded.

The hydrangeas were lovely this year, but they’re starting to fade, too.

I can’t believe some of our pansies are still blooming!

In a couple of weeks, I’ll get a few pots of chrysanthemums, especially for the front.

I’ve been looking at garden design/planning software as a tool to draw maps for the books that have gardens in them. I didn’t realize there was so much out there!

I started with Plan-A-Garden, from Better Homes and Gardens, and even that is overwhelming. It will be useful when I get in close and detail specific plants, but it doesn’t have me do the aerial view of the design of the entire property, which is where I need to start. I’m stuck on my current book until I can map that out. The magazine does that often, so I know the software exists, I just don’t know what it is. So I guess I’ll start, once again, with pencil and paper, and go from there. Otherwise, it becomes an excuse not to write.

I’m going to look at some of the other software options, too, but many of them are too complicated. I can’t take three weeks to teach myself something and then find out it doesn’t do what I need it to do.

I’m looking forward to the cooler weather. Not looking forward to raking leaves, especially since all my neighbors do is amp up their leaf blower use (from daily in the summer to twice or three times daily in autumn). They make big piles of leaves on their property that are then carried by the wind to my property, and I’m the one who rakes them and bags them and takes them to the dump. I’m getting tired of it, after ten years.

Willa and Charlotte love being out on the deck in the playpens. Tessa would rather be free to roam, but it’s too dangerous at this point.

The other day, as I sat outside reading, a hummingbird visited to drink from the flowers. First hummingbird I’ve seen this season (we usually have quite a few). It was a delight to watch.

Next week, the summer decorations start transforming into autumn – the over-sized hummingbird comes down, the basket of fall foliage goes up on the front door. We start switching out the summer fabrics to autumn-themed ones. The big changeover comes October 1, when the white lace curtains come down and the black spiderweb curtains go up, and everything goes to Samhain décor.

Meanwhile, we keep on keeping on.

I have to figure out when to harvest the basil this year. There’s a lot of it, which means plenty of basil pesto to get us through the winter. It’s so much more delicious than anything from the store.

In the next few weeks, I’ll have to see about getting in another load of firewood for the winter, too.

But I intend to enjoy my time in the yard and on the deck as much as possible!

Thurs. Aug. 20, 2020: The Season Starts To Shift

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image courtesy of uileo via pixabay.com

Thursday, August 20, 2020
First Quarter Moon Waxing in Scorpio
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Those aren’t my sunflowers, sadly. Mine didn’t come up this year.

The season is starting to turn. It’s not as hot and humid. It still doesn’t quite smell like autumn, but it’s not that hot, heavy, summer sensation. Thank goodness.

We had some rain, much-needed. The grass is still brown, and I’m waiting for the lawn food to arrive. I feel like all I do is battle kudzu.

The goldenrod is blooming. The Queen Anne’s Lace is fading, and, as it fades, it makes me sneeze.

The landlord is coming by later this afternoon, so I’m going to have to cut back a few things.

The beans were delightful. I think we might get one more meal’s worth from the plants before the end of the season.

The tomatoes are finally forming, on one plant anyway, but they’re staying green.

More cucumbers. Yum. I can never get enough cucumbers.

Zinnias and nasturtiums are fading. The morning glories are going like gangbusters.

I have so much basil I’ll be doing a big harvest and making pesto again. I love the home-made pesto.

The pansies are still blooming, which is kind of cute. We didn’t even switch over to petunias this year. Pretty soon, though, I’ll get some chrysanthemums. Mums always make me feel like it’s autumn. Not sure yet WHERE I’ll get them, since Country Gardens is so lax on masking and safety protocols, and I don’t want to shop there any more. But I’ll make that decision when it’s time.

The days are shorter. It’s actually too dark to do my first writing session of the day on the deck. And I have to work to catch the sunset after dinner, or I miss it. The angles of light are different, too. It’s one of the things I like about living somewhere with lower buildings – you can see the way the light changes through the year.

The other morning, when I was out watering by moonlight (which I had to do over the weekend) – the sky was so clear! Even the waning moon and the stars were so bright! It was lovely.

How’s your garden changing these days?

Thurs. Aug. 13, 2020: Bean Harvest

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image by matthiasboeckel via pixabay.com

Thursday, August 13, 2020
4th Quarter Waning Moon in Gemini
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Hazel
Humid and cloudy

I think I’ll be able to do my first harvest of green beans today. They’re ready to be picked, steamed, and enjoyed with butter.

We’re getting more cucumbers, and the tomatoes are starting to form. The tomatoes are late this year, even though they were planted pretty early.

The tiger lilies are faded and the chlorophyll is draining back into the bulbs. Some of the hosta blooms have faded, so I’ll have to cut back the stems.

I feel like I do nothing but battle kudzu.

It’s still terribly dry. I was out watering the lawn by moonlight this morning at 5 AM, because sunrise is later and later. I’m having trouble getting the lawn food I want. I thought I saw a coyote take off down the street when I turned the hose on.

There were a pair of bunnies out in the meadow eating breakfast while I was out watering (I made sure not to get them wet). And a bigger bunny later on the terraced area. He comes right up to the steps. He’s used to us.

The morning glories start the day a deep purple, and fade back to a red violet in the afternoon. I thought I had a multi-colored pack – I didn’t realize the blossoms themselves changed color.

The leaves are already falling. They’re not turning pretty colors. They’re drying up and brown, giving up and letting go of the branches.

Sort of on point for 2020.

Charlotte and Willa take turns coming out on the deck in the playpen. They both like it. Tessa hates the playpen and won’t have anything to do with it. She doesn’t even want to come out any more, which is a shame, because she always loved her time on the deck.

I’m trying to spend some time out on the deck every evening, when it gets cool enough. And early in the morning, after I water, with my first cup of coffee, for my first writing session.

How’s your garden doing?

Thurs. Aug. 6, 2020: Noticing the Changes

morning-glory-620465_1280
image courtesy of skeeze via pixabay.com

Thursday, August 6, 2020
Third Quarter Waning Moon in Pisces
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Hazel
Partly cloudy and cooler

We’re going to have a nice crop of beans this year. I wonder if any of them will make it into the kitchen, or if I will gobble them up as soon as I pick them?

The morning glories are finally blooming. The vines are stretching everywhere, but they are lovely. The zinnias and nasturtiums are still going strong, too.

The tomatoes have blossoms, but the blossoms aren’t turning into tomatoes.

We are getting more cucumbers, though. We ate the one that already grew. It was delicious. It never ceases to amaze me how much better garden vegetables taste than anything I can get from the store.

I’ve been watering the yard early in the morning, front and back, and the back sometimes in the evening. I can feel the difference – it’s not crunchy when I walk on it. It’s still not very green, but it looks and feels healthier.

I don’t have an irrigation system; it’s using the hose, so the yard gets a drink not saturation. Anyone who gives me guff about it can go stick their illegal fireworks right up their asses. When the nightly illegal fireworks stop, I’ll stop watering the lawn and hosing down the roof.

The bunnies eat their breakfast and dinner in the yard. One of them comes pretty close to the deck, while I sit there in the mornings, writing. He thinks it’s interesting to watch me as he eats. I’m very quiet, and do my best not to startle or frighten him.

I change the water in the dish two to three times a day, depending how hot it is. I didn’t put out the birdbath this year because of the mosquito-based disease and it’s 2020. But in the heat, I want to make sure the critters have water. So I have a large dog dish out there, and change it frequently. Haven’t seen any mosquitos around it, but the bunnies, Che Guevara Chipmunk, and the birds appreciate it.

The cardinals are more vocal lately than usual, too. They’re spending much more time in the large pink hibiscus (which is in bloom) now that I got most of the kudzu out of it.

The Tiger Lilies have mostly faded, and the leaves and stems are already losing their green. I’ll have to clear them out/cut them back early this year. Usually they’re dancing around well into September. The storm, earlier this week, blew off a lot of the faded blooms, so I don’t have to deadhead until the weekend.

Some of the neighbors are annoying, between nightly illegal fireworks, constant leaf blowing, and cutting down anything natural to put up bare ground or gravel. Just ick.

When we first moved here from New York, I was amazed, when I washed my face at night, how clean things were. Now, when I give it a good scrub, the washcloth is just as dirty as it was when I lived on 42nd St. in NYC. A big difference in pollution levels in a decade.

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image courtesy of Bergader via pixabay.com

But I am grateful to have my little patch of lovely in this chaotic time. A trio of trees has grown over the past decade we’ve lived here, and now I have a small enchanted forest in the back – a little forest glade where I can retreat and enjoy some peace. It’s not as large or elaborate as the photo above, but it gives me the same sense of peace.

It makes a difference.

How’s your garden doing?

Thurs. July 30, 2020: Blooming and Fading

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image courtesy of pasja1000 via pixabay.com

Thursday, July 30, 2020
Second Quarter Waxing Moon in Sagittarius
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Holly
Hot, humid, cloudy

It’s been so hot and the yard so parched that I’ve used the hose to water it. As far as I know, we’re not under drought warning here, so it’s okay. I don’t have an irrigation system set up – I just give the yard a good soak around 5 AM. I do the back both morning and night. It’s making a positive difference, which is nice, because the Earth Science Lawn Repair mixture I bought isn’t doing a damn thing.

The beans are starting to be beans; we have more blossoms on the tomato plants; we have cucumbers. The zinnias are blooming. I’m not sure why the morning glories and moon flowers haven’t bloomed – the vines are everywhere. The basil thrives – I have a feeling I’ll make more pesto this year. Which is fine, because it’s excellent.

The Hosta blooms are starting to fade, although the bees still enjoy them. The Tiger Lilies are already fading, which is early for them, and the leaves are already turning brown.

The Rose of Sharon plants are starting to bloom.

I’m battling the kudzu and the bindweed almost daily. It’s exhausting. And oak saplings everywhere. Around here, oak behaves like an invasive. Over at the Ashumet sanctuary, they have a grove of pitch pine they’re cultivating (the Cape used to have a lot of pitch pine). The oak keeps trying to push out the pitch pine, so they have to keep taking the oak saplings out as though they are weeds.

Che Guevara Chipmunk is back. I saw him drinking out of the water dish I leave out for the wildlife (and change three times a day). I’m glad. I was worried about him. He spends part of his time in our large peace lily plant; when we bring it in for the winter, we will have to make sure he’s not still in it.

The bunnies still munch, morning and night. The crows are hanging out, hoping for more melon. Lots of finches of various types this year. They are funny. Bossy little birds, but they’ve chased off the sparrows and wrens.

Bratty Bird, the nuthatch, hasn’t been around much this summer, and I kind of miss him. But then, Tessa’s not out on the deck, and he loved to bother Tessa.

I hope we get a thunderstorm today; we need a good one.

But at least I can spend some time, every morning and evening, enjoying the yard. It’s been so hot, the neighbors haven’t been out and about making much noise. Except last weekend, when the neighbor across the street used a leaf blower on his gravel delivery.

I spend time every day in gratitude for this lovely place. It makes everything else going on in the world a little more bearable.

Saturday is Lammas, the first harvest, and the agricultural start of autumn. I feel so far behind in so many aspects of my life that I’m panicked, but at the same time, autumn is my favorite season.

Thurs. July 23, 2020: Oppressive Humidity

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image by GLady courtesy of pixabay.com

Thursday, July 23, 2020
First Quarter Moon in Leo
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Rainy and oppressively humid

The pollinators and the nasturtiums are finally blooming. So are the beans and the tomatoes – let’s hope the bees drawn by the hosta blooms pop over the railing and pollinate the vegetables!

By this weekend, we’ll be able to eat our first cucumber – let’s hope there are more!

Bunnies are still dining in the yard. There’s enough that they leave the vegetables on the deck alone.

I still haven’t seen Che Guevara Chipmunk for weeks, now. I’m getting very worried about him.

It’s lovely to have my first cup of coffee in the morning on the deck and write. It’s also lovely to go out on the deck in the late afternoon to read and have cocktails. I’m lucky to have this space, especially right now, and I am grateful.

There’s something about writing in longhand on the deck that settles me. It makes me feel both peaceful and more creative. The ideas flow more smoothly and with more strength and dexterity.

The humidity is oppressive today. We’re supposed to have bad storms coming through, and it would be nice if they’d break the oppression. The fans aren’t doing much good (no air conditioning). The air’s just too heavy and not moving.

I love a good thunderstorm, so I’m hoping for one. I hope we have another one at night – it keeps the idiots with their illegal fireworks off the streets. They’ve been out every night that it hasn’t rained since July 1. I am sick of it.

Hope your summer is going well, and that you have a chance to spend some time outside!

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