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.

Adventures in Soil

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Waxing Moon First Quarter in Gemini
Saturn Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Alder
Sunny and cool

I’m preparing the yard for spring. Necessary, but, since I’m learning as I’m going, I’m sure it’s taking longer than it takes most people!

I filled a 30 gallon bag with leaves removed from the bed that borders the terraced section of the garden. I was smart — I worked from below it, instead of above it. I found all kinds of plants under there — mostly things I don’t recognize, and I’ll just have to wait until they come up. There are some bulbs peeking out, and some lamb’s ears, which I actually recognize. I’m fond of lamb’s ears. And some reedy-looking things that I hope will turn into something. I’m not sure if the empty spots mean stuff will come up later in the season — I’ll have to see. I still have to fertilize and add some fresh soil to it, but at least the bed is open and breathing.

I’ll also have to start watering. I tried using a watering can, which was just pathetic. The plants stared up at me like, “Really? What makes you think THIS is a good idea?”

I think I can hook up the new hoses, turn on the spigots, and water from that. It’s supposed to be pretty warm over the next days, and I’m hoping we won’t go down past freezing any more.

Then, there’s the vegetable bed. I cleaned off the cones and the sticks and the bed of pine needles, and took out the beach grass. There’s an awful lot of sand in there. I don’t mind sand for drainage purposes, but — there’s an AWFUL lot of sand in there.

I got 8 cubic feet of organic soil to add on top of it. I don’t quite think that’s enough, although it looks much better.

I’d woefully underestimated how much soil I’d need. I’m still thinking in NYC apartment-sized terms instead of outdoor terms. I thought ONE cubic foot of soil would handle the bed, and that was just pathetic — like a dark dinner napkin in the middle of a field.

I called over to my go-to hardware store one town over to ask about types and pricing — and got some chick who wouldn’t give me any information. Now, I’m up to my elbows in sand and organic (meaning stinky) soil, so don’t you DARE tell me you can’t even give me a ballpark figure on the size and price of bags of soil you have. Considering that they always take good care of me, I was rather shocked. But then, it’s usually the owner who takes care of me.

I headed to a nearby garden center, who’d advertised great prices online. Unfortunately, the prices on site were 5X higher, and it was out of my budget. I found another hardware store nearby that had a great price on what I needed, loaded the car for me, and cut me a deal. So it was all good.

I hated not giving the business to my go-to hardware store, but I was under budget, time, and information constraints. If they’d quoted me a good price over the phone, I would have been over there lickety split and given my money to them instead. But I’m from NY — don’t “vague” me and try to get me to come in and then talk me into something else. That crap doesn’t work with me. I am from NY — I ask questions and I expect direct answers. Most of the time in New England, that’s what you get, so I don’t know what chickie’s problem was. But it lost her store a sale.

I’m starting to wonder if maybe the bed served a purpose as a child’s sand box after it was a vegetable plot. I may have to rake back some of the soil, remove a bunch of the sand, and then add more soil.

Next on the list is to clean up the front beds, which are looking a little bare, so that I can put in the pansies. Then, there’s a back bed I didn’t know existed — but bulbs are coming up, so I better tidy it, and the side beds of the house.

I get a sneaking suspicion that we wait and wait and wait and wait because we can’t do much, and then, suddenly, we have about two weeks where we need to spend 14 hours a day to get everything done.

Costume Imp sent me a wildflower garden to “roll out” and plant, once the danger of frost is past, along with several envelopes of flowers. I can’t wait!

And he’s giving me lots of advice, because he actually knows how to do this stuff!

Devon