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!

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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.

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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

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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.