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. April 14, 2022: More Planting

image courtesy of eko pramono via pixabay.com

Thursday, April 14, 2022

2nd Quarter Moon Waxing in Virgo

Celtic Tree Month of Alder

Partly Cloudy and warm

This past weekend was about planting.

I planted the snapdragons, two pots of marigolds, cilantro, and mesclun greens. I also planted Thomas Edison dahlia bulbs. I planted a “growing kit” of dwarf sunflowers, and one of lavender. A Twitter pal has stepped in as my “Dahlia coach” which is a lot of fun, since he knows a lot about growing dahlias, and I have someone to whom I can ask questions.

The greens started coming up in just a few days, and the marigolds had germinated by yesterday.

I also replanted the lemon plant I’ve grown from seed to a bigger pot.

The peace lily is so happy in its new pot. It’s not pulling its usual drama queen behavior, because now it has room to thrive. I hope it likes this pot for a few years, because the next size up will be a challenge!

The pots I got for the dahlias are tall, although not all that wide. They are textured, to look like birch bark, and are really pretty. The Thomas Edison should be a dark reddish purple, with the blooms 8-10” in diameter. My dahlia coach said the stems would grow up about 5 feet, so I wanted to make sure the pot was big enough not to tip over. We don’t have much space, so I didn’t want to go wide. I decided to go tall, but that could still hold enough earth to hold it. I’ll probably have to stake it at some point. I’m regretting giving away so much of my gardening stuff before the move.

The” growing kits” are bizarre. A peaty disk that is dropped into 2 ½ cups of water. It soaks up the water, expanding. Then, you put most of it into the pot, drop in the seeds, and put in the rest. It can take up to a month to germinate.

The cats decimated their pot of cat grass. I reseeded the second pot (even though it wasn’t a planting day), and am waiting for it to sprout. They love sitting in the various windows and watching the birds, who are getting busy. They also sit on the chairs in the kitchen by the window, to watch the birds in the birdhouses – and Spiro Squirrel, who is being a total brat all the time.

Some of the seedlings have stalled in their growth. They’re staying tiny, and not growing up or getting stronger, which puzzles me. They’re not overcrowded, so I’m not sure what’s going on.

We kept moving the plants onto the front porch during the day, and moving them back into the living room at night. Yesterday, it hit 79 degrees F here – and to think, we had snow flurries on Sunday! We could finally throw open the windows and leave the plants on the porch overnight.

This morning was the first day this season I could have my first cup of coffee out on the porch, and do my first writing session out there, with Tessa’s company. It was wonderful.

It might hit 80 today, and then thunderstorms tonight. It’s supposed to cool down by Saturday, and be cold for the following few days, so we might have to bring everything in again by Saturday late afternoon. But the plants will enjoy their time on the porch.

I have to find my teak oil and oil the furniture for the summer. I didn’t do it at the end of the season, the way I should have.

I’m eager for it to get warm enough to start putting things outside. I want to get indoor/outdoor rugs for the back balcony and the front porch, and I want to start setting up The Enchanted Garden again back there. Later in the season, I will add hanging baskets of petunias to the back, and more herbs to the front porch. I want it to be magical and cheerful, a place of joy and enchantment.

How is your garden doing?

Thurs. March 10, 2022: Watching Seedlings Grow

imaage courtesy of Jesus Leal via pixabay.com

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Second Quarter Waxing Moon in Gemini

Celtic Tree Month of Ash

Sunny and snowy

They told us we’d have 2-3 inches of accumulation yesterday, but it snowed all day, and I think it’s between 6 and 8 inches. I have some shoveling to do in the parking lot to get my car out!

The little seedlings are doing well. When the sun warms the front porch enough, I bring out the seedlings for a few hours in the afternoon, and then take them back in when the sun angle changes.

Last Sunday, I planted the Black-Eyed Susan vine and the lemon balm. They should sprout by the end of the month.

I ordered tansy seeds from one company, and mallow and sweet peas from another. The tansy seeds should be here Saturday, so maybe I’ll plant them this weekend. I want a pot of tansy in for the front porch and one for the back balcony, to keep away pests.

I bought some more pots. I have to get the lighter ones, because I don’t want too much weight on the porch or the balcony. I could have the large, ceramic planters on Cape because they were on the deck, and that was sturdy enough to hold the weight. The porch and balcony can probably take a good deal of weight here, but I don’t want to push my luck.

I have to get some more potting soil, too, which I will pick up tomorrow. I want to get the tomatoes and the cucumbers started. I’m going to seed them directly, rather than do starter pots and then replant.

I will need to replant the lemon that I grew from organic seed into a bigger pot. It’s doing well. I have some organic pear and clementine saved seeds that I want to try.

It feels weird to focus on planting when there’s still so much snow happening, but it’s necessary. We probably can’t put anything out on the back balcony until late April or early May. The front porch, since it’s enclosed and south-facing, will be able to hold plants earlier, as long as the nights don’t get too cold.

I miss my lilacs terribly. I’ll probably spend way too much money this spring buying cut lilacs.

The cat grass grew like crazy. Willa and Charlotte love it, and have almost chomped down the first pot. I’ll order more seeds, and probably grow two pots to alternate, so they always have some cat grass. Tessa thinks it’s awful, and won’t go near it.

The snow is pretty, but it was a heavy, wet snow that’s clinging to branches and power lines. It won’t be fun to shovel. But it will all get done.

The birds are very busy, and they’re negotiating who lives in which bird house and nest out back (there were two bird houses and one covered platform with a nest up on the back balcony when we moved here). The cats love to sit on the chairs in the kitchen near the window and watch the birds. I have a Sibley’s Audubon Guide to the birds I recently unpacked, and I bet we use that a lot this year.

How are things in your neck of the woods?

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.

July 2, 2020: My Garden Definitely Grows!

20200629_054802
The terraced border in the backyard

Thursday, July 2, 2020
Second Quarter Waxing Moon in Sagittarius
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Oak
Hazy and humid

Hello, my friends! It’s been two weeks, because I had surgery last Thursday. I’m on the road to recovery, but it’s taking longer than I would like.

In the meantime, the garden is growing!

The lawn was finally mowed last Friday, and looks much better. I moved the two small, potted evergreens that flanked the front door out of the front beds, and to the side of the house. They’ve grown over the years (I bought them the first Christmas we moved in, in 2010). They don’t look right. They’re too big to be on the small front step; they look wrong tucked in the back of the front bed.

So I moved them to the side of the house (to hide a small dead tree the owner has yet to get rid of). I started cleaning out the front beds and found a wasp nest, attached to the siding, right near the spigot for the hose.

I dashed out to get wasp killer. Note to self: Avoid Hyannis Country Gardens in the future. Only the register staff keeps their masks on, and the customers wear their masks around their necks, not over their faces, and refuse to distance. Not worth putting my life in danger because of selfish Sliding Mask Skanks.

I nearly sprayed them all with wasp killer, but I needed it for the house.

Battled the wasps over the next few days. This weekend, I hope to get the hose attached in the front, and wash the rest of it away.

Because it looked too bare in the front of the house, I brought two of the oversized red geraniums from the back and put them in front. Good Feng Shui, and they look pretty.

One of the baskets of pansies in the front gave up the ghost. I have to put some of the spare pansies in there, and then continue to clean out the front beds.

The border of the terraced section is lively, as you can see from the photo above. The Stella D’oro lilies are doing well. There’s also that slightly darker yellow lily – I’m not sure what it’s called, but I like it. The daisies are in bloom, as are the catmint, the feverfew, and the Queen Anne’s Lace. The Tiger Lilies are getting ready to bloom.

20200629_054815

The Astilbe is pinker than it looks in the photo, and is lovely. The Elephant hosta is now enormous.

I have to tackle bindweed this weekend, because it’s creeping around choking things.

I’m a little concerned that the hostas are already sending up blooms. It should happen in August; the last few years it’s been happening in mid-late July. This year it’s in early July. Also, the critters are already hoarding for winter. That does not bode well.

The rugosa roses are doing well, and the scent is lovely, wafting into my bedroom.

Tomatoes are coming along. Cucumbers keep blooming, but none of the blooms are producing anything. Beans have sprouted. Che Guevara Chipmunk dug up the peas and the sunflowers, so I think those will be a bust this year.

Herbs and lavender are fine. I’d hoped the morning glories would start blooming, but they are very busy growing.

The hydrangeas are blooming. Cape Cod is known for them, and the hydrangea festival is next weekend. I think people are observing from their cars? I hope packs of Maskless Morons don’t think they’re actually going to tromp around people’s properties.

I wouldn’t be out and about on a holiday weekend around here anyway, because of the traffic and the idiot tourists. Add the pandemic this year, and I’m really staying home.

But I have my enchanted garden to enjoy (and work in). I can read and watch the birds – lots of finches this year!

I love to have my first cup of morning coffee out on the deck. I check on the plants. I talk with the birds and the bunnies. The little black cat hasn’t been around lately. I think she was just a visitor. Sometimes I do my first writing session of the day on the deck.

Later in the day, I either read or take more work out on the deck. The skylights and the covering mean I can even work in bad weather (as long as the rain isn’t coming sideways).

Being out there gives me a sense of peace and belonging, that I don’t get anywhere else around here. It also emphasizes how much I want a place of my own, not a rental.

The bunnies continue to eat breakfast and dinner in the patches of dandelions I keep in the yard. Che Guevara Chipmunk is very busy. He likes to get right in Willa’s face, because she’s in the playpen, but she’s learned how to chase him by turning the playpen into a snowball-like roller.

I am so grateful to have this space to enjoy and rest in, this sanctuary away from the horrors of the world.

How’s your garden doing?

Thurs. Sept. 26, 2019: The Chance of More Tomatoes

tomatoes-1561565_1920
image courtesy of kie-ker via pixabay.com

Thursday, September 26, 2019
Waning Moon 4th Quarter in Leo
Celtic Tree Month of Vine
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny, humid, moving towards rain

We’re having a warm, sunny September, which is nice. The days are lovely, the nights are cool enough to sleep.

I have more tomatoes forming on my plants. I hope these will have the chance to mature, so we can actually eat them!

I haven’t started raking yet, although I will soon. Once again, a lot of acorns are falling. That makes the squirrels and the chipmunks happy.

Our yard is a rest stop for migrating birds. Since we are the yard on the street that doesn’t use chemicals, they stop, have a rest and a snack, and then move on. It’s so interesting to watch them interact.

We still don’t know who or what comes onto the deck every other night. I hoped it was the little black cat, but haven’t seen her lately.

Once the yard is mowed (I think, at some point this week), I’m going to put down lawn food one more time for the season. I’ve been cutting back, although I’m waiting for first frost to cut back the roses (that’s what the rose book I read suggested).

I know I have to take down the large bittersweet, but it provides such wonderful habitat for wildlife.

I’m longing for a place that I own, so I can plant and do exactly what I want. We’ve had a lot of latitude here, and I’m grateful, but that’s still different from truly being able to build a garden over years, and not worry each season if that will be the last.

Still, autumn is my favorite season. Even, now that we’ve passed the Equinox, it gets darker early.

Think happy growing thoughts for the tomatoes!

 

Thurs. Feb. 21, 2019: First Shoots

Thursday, February 21, 2019
Waning Moon
Third Quarter Virgo into Libra
No Retrogrades
Celtic Tree Month of Ash
Sleet, rain, warming up

I am so excited! Earlier this week, the leeks and scallions already started to sprout! I can’t believe how many of the seeds actually germinated.

I’ll have to thin them as soon as they are big enough, and replant some of them soon, nursing them. If I can keep them strong and healthy, we will have a good crop this season.

I don’t expect the eggplants to germinate for a few more days.

I planted Italian Roma tomatoes last weekend. This weekend, I’ll plant the seeds for the chocolate cherry tomatoes (the most fragile and fussy of the ones I’m planting this year), and also the peppers from saved seeds. Thanks to Edible Landscapes of Cape Cod for teaching me how to save seeds.

Obviously, all this seed starting is inside, and they’re placed in sunny windows. I hope that, by next year, I can set up shelves and grow lights and be more efficient about the process. But this year, it’s natural light, and lots of fussing and tending.

Even with the snow, the birds I usually hear in spring have started calling. Waking me up early. Not that I know what they are (I’m not much of a birder). But I enjoy hearing them and thinking, “oh, they’re back already.”

Bratty Bird, the nuthatch who teases Tessa all the time, is still wherever nuthatches go for the winter. But I bet he’ll be back and brattier than ever. About a dozen fat winter robins were dancing around on the terraced back area of the yard last week.

The backyard is very much a habitat.

Have you started any of your seeds yet? Which ones?

I’ll post pictures when the plants are larger.

 

Mornings on the Porch

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Waxing Moon second quarter in Virgo
Saturn Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Alder
Sunny and cold

I love sitting outside in the mornings. I feed the cats, take my coffee, and sit outside for about twenty or thirty minutes, listening to the garden.

More and more birds are migrating back. I’ll have to get a Petersen or Audubon guide to learn what they are. I’ve never heard some of those songs before.

The owl in the back usually wakes me up, just before dawn. I love owls, and I’m pleased we have one in the vicinity. The neighbor’s pine has a nest high up in it, so perhaps that’s where he’s staying. I’m not sure which kind of owl he is, but from his call and the nest, I’d think it’s a Great Horned.

The songbirds and other birds fill in as I sit there, and there’s a spring robin jaunting around the grass, getting his breakfast. Before I moved here, I didn’t even know that there were spring robins and winter robins.

The blue jay zooms past, yelling at the top of his lungs, because, of course, it’s all about HIM. I know most people think blue jays are pests, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them. They’re scrappy and stubborn and independent. And the blue coloring is so intense and lovely, much more vivid than anything artificially created.

The crows stay out of the back. There’s a group of seven who visit the front lawn every morning, usually a few minutes after I sit down to work. They wander the yard, peering at the windows, and give me the news of the neighborhood, then go off on their rounds. They come back and hang out in the neighborhood, though, and let me know if someone is coming. They seem to know the difference between people who live on the street and “intruders”, and only call out if a non-resident approaches.

I learned, at the various wildlife seminars, that crows mob owls and hawks, but, for some reason, My Mob of Seven seem to have a truce with the Backyard Owl. The crows stay out of the back, the owl stays out of the front, so they’ve worked out some sort of a deal.

This morning, the jays had a fit because a hawk was just outside of the property, circling, looking for some breakfast. The crows came racing around the side of the property, mobbed him, and chased him off. What was interesting was that they kept whatever truce lines they’ve drawn with Backyard Owl, not crossing through the backyard, but going around it, to get to the intruding hawk.

I’m going to start some more seeds on Monday, the next planting day. Some of them, I’ll start in seed pots, and some I’ll start in the pots I plant to put outside. My dilemma is that, in all the design books, the advice demands mixing as many different plants as possible in each pot for a lush, abundant look. However, I feel that, since I’m so new to all of this, that I should start them separately — a pot of chamomile, a pot of lemon balm, a pot of lobelia, etc. Then, as they grow and I’m more familiar with them, I can figure out what to mix and match, dig some out of some pots, put them with compatible, pretty plants in other pots, etc.

The Racer pumpkin that came up a few days ago is getting big, and the second one which came up is racing to catch up. The Chucky pumpkins are growing at a much more sedate rate.

The Lemon Verbena didn’t make it, unfortunately; it was too traumatized during the shipping process.

I heard from White Flower Farm that they’ve shipped my iris plants — iris are among my favorite flower, so I’m excited.

I like roses when other people take care of them — they seem like an awful lot of work — but some of the shrub roses I’m reading about look rather intriguing. I remember there used to be a special type of climber specific to the Cape, but maybe I’ll see more of it in June. The stores are carrying the “hybrid tea” roses, which , as I say, are pretty in OTHER people’s gardens, but I’m not up for the work.

I love sitting on the porch in the mornings, letting the yard talk to me. I learn something new every day, and, hopefully, the garden will teach me what it needs.