Thursday, June 28, 2012

Grasshopper Repellent and Drought

Watermelon flower

New birdbath in the bamboo shade
My trips to the garden are getting earlier or later.  It is just too hot to stay out there unless I soak myself down.  I have been trying to keep the melon bed hydrated and I have been using my experimental bug repellent.

This is a spray that uses chili powder, mint, and some of my home-made soap.  I dissolved some soap, put some mint in the blender then poured that into a jar with a healthy amount of pepper.  I let this mixture sit overnight and strain it and let it settle again.  Then I put it into a pump up sprayer and spray leaves and plants.  I worry that the grasshoppers will see it as some sort of odd ethnic sauce for our vegetables and fruits. It has seemed to help, but I wouldn't count on it running all the bugs off.  One really large grasshopper did seem disturbed when I sprayed it directly on him.

I have also added a small birdbath bowl.  I am hoping that more birds will come and eat more bugs. The birds can sit on the fence or bamboo to dry out after drinking or bathing.  They should appreciate it. I don't know how far they are traveling to find water now.  Maybe a grasshopper basted in chili pepper and mint would be like some crunchy weird "Dorito" flavor for the birds.

The last photo shows a spot at the bottom of our older property.  It is incredibly dry.  Leaves are withering on shrubs and trees.  If you look closely at the ash tree clump in the center of the opening, you can tell that they are showing heat stress.

Each time I have been outdoors an hour or

Yes, the grass is dry!
more I have heard fire truck sirens.  Those poor folks must be exhausted. I remember a time The Husband and I helped a neighbor fight fire.  There was a fire on property they owned.  It was across a creek and up a mountainside, without an access road.  I was exhausted before I ever got to the fire.  It was hot and dry, just like now and that was about as tired as I have ever been.  I know it was the most thirsty I ever got.  I drank water from a nasty looking stock pond and was glad to get it.

Happily, I did not suffer any awful aftereffects.  Please feel free to  join me in praying for rain.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fence, Flowers, and Food

Okra in cornmeal ready for freezing
I just finished preparing some peaches, rhubarb and okra (separate items there, not mixed) for the freezer.  The next veggies will be tomatoes and squash.  I plan to can the tomatoes and I may make some salsa as well.

It is a good time to stay in the house as much as possible and drink great quantities of iced tea with lemon.  I try to get my outside garden work done before noon and avoid the 100+ temperatures.  It wouldn't be SO demoralizing if it was at least July, but it is so discouraging to have it like this so early in the summer.  I have bowed before the high temperatures and turned my air conditioner on, but at least I am comfortable with it set on 80.

Clearance geraniums perking up
Just as I thought they would, my geraniums bought on clearance are perking up in their planters on the deck.  I also snagged some caladiums and basil from WallyWorld clearance and have containerized them for deck enjoyment.

The real accomplishment of the day has been my assault on the fencing slated for removal.  I was able to loosen a twenty foot section this morning.  But after that (and my early morning jogging session) I was pretty much done.

Fence removal tools & aids

The blue bucket holds the snippets of wire that The Husband used to attach the fencing to the metal posts. We have a basket full of mismatched work gloves to use.  The mattock-pick tool is borrowed and I think the hoe is mine.  I use a pair of vise lock "channel locks" or pliers as well. 

After the wire staples are pulled loose, the removal of the fencing involves, hoeing away the rampant Bermuda grass and brush piled against the fence.  Then I take the mattock and dig a trench alongside the fence.  Using the pick end I attempt to pry up the base of the fence.  I have gotten to a part that has vines growing on it so I must also break the stems loose from the roots.  Definitely labor intensive. 

What usually transpires is that only a little bit of the fencing breaks free from the soil so I must begin a process of rocking the fence loose.
It seems that I make a ridiculous number of trips from one side to the other while I try to figure
out what is still holding the fence.  Sometimes it is a vine, some times I have overlooked some wire attaching it to the post. In one place a
After the fencing is removed
sycamore seedling has grown into a sizable
 sapling entangling the fence.  I had forgotten
that sycamores have a nasty white fuzz on their leaves that makes me cough like crazy. There's  nothing quite like staggering around in the weeds with sweat burning your eyes and
 running off your nose while coughing and
 hacking. No one said recycling and saving
money was always easy.  At least I hope I
never said that.

Unfortunately it is even harder to dig the fence posts out.  The Husband said he thinks one of the neighbors has a fence post removal tool.  I will definitely check that out.  That could make it pretty easy to love my neighbor as myself.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Grasshopper Plague

Golden Grasshopper

Even when struck by a plague of almost "biblical proportions" there are amazing things to see.  The garden is on the backside of a large pasture and the dry weather here has dried the grass.  Apparently this leaves  thousands of grasshoppers searching for a home.  The amazing part is the sheer variety of their appearance.  They are mostly either gold, green, brown or gray.  But they come in many different models and sizes.

Some are alien looking like the golden one.  The one that calmly sat on my arm while I took numerous pictures looks like a cartoon character with its staring round eye.  There are large beige and gray ones that are rather paleolithic, and there are some camouflage ones that look like army vehicles.  And they have all converged on the garden.  The green beans were their first choice.  Now they are
Obliging Grasshopper Model
munching on the tomatoes and I caught them eating lemongrass.  They may be eating the rhubarb leaves and those are supposed to be poisonous. I really don't see a ready deterrent for a bug that eats lemongrass or rhubarb.

My only plan at the moment is to put a birdbath near the bamboo and see if I can't entice the bluebirds, flycatchers, and buntings to do a better job.

Years ago a friend covered her tables at her wedding reception with pastel net over white cloths.  Afterwards, she gave me yards and yards of net.  If I had all that netting today I would cover the garden beds with it.

Melon plant courtesy FrankenFather
The melon plant was courtesy of friend Steve, the father of our grafted "FrankenTomato".  Frankenmato is doing fine and growing an attractive crop.  Steve also pitched in a pepper and a melon.  It looks like a Sugar Baby type, I don't remember.  According to my best guess it should be ripe.  The two tiny tendrils above the stem of the melon are brown and dry and the underside is a creamy yellow, but it doesn't thump well.  Maybe because it is smallish.  It is nerve wracking to decide when to cut it.  There are only two, this one and a smaller one of this type, so we only have these two shots to get it right.  I guess the best strategy is cut the small one and if it is unripe then assume the large one isn't ripe yet.

Red Flame Seedless Grape

The last photo shows the growth of our Red Flame Seedless Grape.  I am astounded by the length of the vine in just one growing season, about twelve feet so far.  When I planted it this spring the above ground vine was about eight or ten inches.  It has grown this much in about three months.  This is my first experience growing grapes and I am amazed at how well all of the vines have grown.  I will need some study trellises next year.

Pillaging grasshoppers, exuberant grapes and mysterious melons.  It is hard to be bored in the garden.  Voltaire was right to remind us to tend our gardens but he didn't give credit where credit was due, good gardens owe something to God's handiwork.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Limes, Clearance, the Lottery, and Zombies

Clearance Impatiens
This morning was a catch-up with people day, but the afternoon was planting and gardening time.  I try to stay pretty acclimated to the outside temperature so that working in the garden and at my outdoor job won't be too bad.

This morning I went jogging (hot but not too bad).  I still haven't turned on my air-conditioning but I may have to any day.  I am getting by now because the humidity is still really low.  I have never made it much beyond July 1st and I think this year won't be an exception.  We will see.

These plants are Lowe's clearance items that I bought for my deck.  I love to sit on my deck in the morning.  I drink my coffee, read the ESV on my Kindle, and line-out my day.  It is especially nice when I have lots of green leaves and
Clearance Pink Geraniums
beautiful blooms around me.  So, I made myself wait until I found some good things on clearance.  It seems that Lowe's stuff has been
really overpriced this year.  Maybe it is just my
frugal inclination, but even their clearance
prices weren't THAT great.  The impatiens
were $.75. the geraniums were $2.50, and I
bought four Kimberly Queen ferns at $3 each. I am experienced with all these plants and know that with some shade, water, and fertilizer they will turn into magnificent plants before the summer is over. 

That is my frugalista advice.   Buy clearance plants only if you are familiar with them and know that you can bring them back and can tell that they are relatively healthy.

Mail Order Lime Tree

Most of the clearance items are just casualties of life in a small plastic pot.  They need to be watered or fertilized or put in the shade a little more.  The  impatiens are getting a little tall and need to be cut back and fertilized or put into a bigger container and cut back a little and fertilized.  See a trend here?  The only crime of the geraniums was that they were overpriced and had dead blooms on them that needed to be cut back.  With some fertilizer and water they will do just fine.  Same thing with the ferns.  They were allowed to dry out too much and they look a little ragged.  They will grow into really stunning ferns with regular water.  My deck has light to medium shade and it is the perfect spot for these plants.  If you don't know plants get a friend who does to help you pick out some appropriate plants, water them well, fertilize them lightly but often and stand back.  You will be rewarded.  Your saved from the dumpster plants will flourish.

The last rather odd looking plant is part of a mail order shipment that I came home to find stuffed in my mail box.  It is a dwarf lime tree.  It looks a little spindly, but I think it will do well.  I have been improving with citrus plants and I really like lime and lime peel.  Limes don't have seeds like lemons and oranges and grapefruit, so I can't start one from seed and I don't have any cuttings.

They come in their own tiny little pots and I will put it into a larger pot with lots of compost and good soil and dream about little limes in my future.  They make pretty good houseplants and when we build our new greenhouse it should be a nice size bush.  I guess I shouldn't count my limes before they hatch, but I would rather buy a $5 lime and gamble on my skill than spend that fiver on a lottery ticket.  Unless I won of course!  DIY; it is green and it smells like lime! If the zombie apocalypse comes, maybe I can have a margarita.  Wait, I don't know how to make tequila! I guess I'll have limeade instead.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Possum Destruction

Walking Stick Insect
While I was repairing the possum damage to my deck today I got a good look at the first walking stick insect of the season.  It wasn't doing too good a job of camouflaging itself on the plastic wastebasket, but  maybe it was on it's way to vegetation where it would blend in a little better.  The legs were green and red and the body was a twiggy yellow-brown.  They look like toys to me, and the way they move is sort of slow and clumsy, they seem like artificial bugs somehow.

The possums went on a rampage while I was gone and spent their time feasting on cat food and knocking over and digging through my numerous potted plants on the deck.  I am seriously annoyed with them.  I had planted hazelnuts and English walnuts to grow some seedlings.  They have systematically dug up all the nuts and eaten them.  They also dug up avocado and mango pits as well.  Just my luck, possums with healthy tastes.

"Volunteer" cantaloupe 

The garden is also in need of more catch up work.  I have replaced the green beans with corn.  I saw the first shoots today.  I also filled in a couple of empty spots with a succession planting of lettuce and some squash.

The melon is a cantaloupe that came up "volunteer" where last years compost pile was.  There is a small peach tree seedling and a tomato or two coming up from the compost as well.

The garlic crop is drying on a screen in the shade in the garden.  I planted two different kinds of garlic last year.  Some regular size cloves and some elephant garlic.  They have both done pretty well.  I am interested in seeing if they taste different after being grown in the same soil.
Harvested Garlic Drying on Screen

 I was able to put the first section of old fencing around the plums last night.  I watered them well in hopes of of another fresh growth of leaves (see previous blog posts).  I really want those little trees to grow.  They look so pathetic without leaves and with many of their twigs nibbled off.  I saw two fawns nearby today.  I am sure we will have a bumper crop of deer if nothing else.

Gardening and agricultural motifs are the most frequently used in the Bible.
It was the most common type of knowledge back in the day.  On rereading my post I see it's wisdom there.  Some of gardening is like Ecclesiastes, coming to terms with the futility of our own efforts and the need to accept that many things are beyond out control.  The volunteer part reminds me of the lilies of the field and also how one plants and another waters, but "God gives the increase".

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Soap Opera, Figs, and Clicks

Kadota Figs

 Yesterday I was able to roll up the first section of  fencing from the old garden area.  That area has become very shaded and infested with roots from large trees and is no longer a great garden spot.  The new orchard (three plum trees and blackberries) needs deer protection.  In fact my three plum trees, that were leafing out beautifully, have been  defoliated twice during my absence.  So in keeping with my recycling, frugality efforts (and especially after determing that new fencing would cost about $250), I am digging it out.

The Husband, God bless him, buried the fence base with branches and all the limbs he picked up everytime he mowed.  Over time, the surface of the ground has a tendency to move upwards due to the action of earthworms and such.  As a result the bottom of the fence is now below ground about six inches or so.  I haven't actually gotten the fence poles out yet.  I will need a pick for that, but I have gotten the first segment of fence pulled up.  The only things left in the old garden are fig bushes, hazelnuts and lilies and maybe one blueberry and some garlic.

Eyed Click Beetle Alaus oculatus
For the first time I have ripe Kadota figs.  The bush is huge and should have lots of figs, but usually the fruit bearing wood is frozen back and the figs get a late start.  When this happens the figs don't ripen before winter.  This year there were early figs that managed to not get frozen and have now ripened.  The birds have gotten a few.  They are very nice and different from the Brown Turkey figs which are normally grown and sold around here.  Kadota figs are firmer with a goldish green outside and are larger with an excellent fruity, figgy taste.

As I was climbing out of my car one day this week, this beetle zoomed into the door frame.  I picked it up when I realized it wasn't a wasp and took a closer look.  I decided to take a photo and as I was moving it around it popped up several inches and I realized it must be a click beetle.  It looks like a toy, in fact it resembles one of those little metal toy clickers that some misguided soul gave me when I was a child.  Maybe it was someone who hated my parents.  I might give my grandkids drums, but I would not ever give them a metal clicker.

Anyway, when I read up on click beetles I found that they are the adults of wireworms.  I now realize that this group of bugs is probably responsible for the small round holes in a few of my potatoes.  The extension office bulletin said that if you turn up one wireworm per shovelful of dirt, you probably have 20,000 wireworms per acre.  It also said that they are worse where the ground has been newly turned from grass to garden.  I don't have enough damage to be concerned, but is good to know what to watch for.  A lot of gardening is figuring out what is important and what is not.  It is important to figure out how to protect my figs if I want lots of fruit.  It isn't important to figure out wireworms.  It is important to establish fruit protection from deer if I want plums (or any other fruit).  Like I said in the previous blog, a lot of daily country life is a battle of wits and will.  It is like a soap opera. I would title it-  The Tasty, The Beautiful and The Destructive!  What's your title for your daily life?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Supply, Demand, Spiders, and Dragon Wings

Fern and Caladiums
For those who have kept up with my journeying I am back in my home state.  It is taking some effort to re-enter the hotter temperatures but I am dunking my head in cool water often and wearing baggy white T-shirts as I make my gardening rounds.

I was pleased to see that most of my planters at work survived my absence.  Thank you to staff and those who watered for me.  This fern and the caladiums are brightening up a dark spot.  I am glad to see the fern flourishing, because I am ready to severely cut back a prominent deformed azalea and the fern will need to cover up the stubby trunks.  They should put out new growth relatively quickly.  I will be watering and sloshing fertilizer lavishly to try to speed the initial regrowth.

I really enjoy the begonia/fern/caladium plantings.  As long as you can provide some shade and plenty of water and some fertizier you should have attractive results.  Could I just say that "Dragon Wing" Begonias rule.

Dragon Wing Begonias
In one of those odd modern dilemmas of supply and demand there were no Dragon Wing Begonias in our town, at least not at the places where I am required to shop from work.   Several years ago I read about this fancy begonia in a gardening magazine.  It was described as a "begonia on steroids".  I thought "Ha!" what hype! But when I saw some red ones I bought a few.  Wow, I was wrong, they were just as advertised, maybe even better.  The next year there were no red ones, but there were some pink ones, I used them.  They grew just as well, but I needed red for the color impact. The following year  there were no red ones or pink ones.  I saw a few already in planters, but I didn't want to buy the whole expensive planter.  A couple of years ago I ordered my own seed.  It is expensive, around $30 for the smallest amount.  They was hair-raising to grow and plant.  Begonia seeds are seriously small.  Think period at the end of size-six font.  Because these begonias are so tough, I have been able to maintain my plants ever since, and there still weren't any Dragon Wings locally.  Just don't understand the marketing rationale I guess.

Garden Spider and Grasshoppers on Tomatoes
The garden has suffered from the hot temperatures.  Kudos to the on-site co-gardener for his watering efforts there.  Now that the surrounding grass has died the grasshoppers have found our well watered greenery.  Our Garden Spider is on patrol but if you look very closely at the spider photo I count at least five grasshoppers in the web's immediate proximity.  We need more grasshopper-munching sneaky spiders.

I need an economy where I can trade grasshoppers for begonias.  I guess that is marketing and DIY philosophy.  How to get what you want, how to get rid of what you don't want.  The DIY part is the realization that just like my local Lowes isn't going to supply the plants I want/need, and the Garden Spider can/will only do so much, I will have to figure it out for myself.  It is a battle of wits and wills.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Local Weekend and Finger Lake Seneca

Watkins Glen State Park
 As the weekend draws to a close I look back at my pictures and think about how the time was spent.  The state park picture was our Saturday excursion.  The daughter insisted the Husband and I take a "date day" and go do something, so we did.

We took a trip to one of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake, and followed the Seneca Lake Wine Trail.  New York and part of Pennsylvania are home to a booming wine producing region.  The wineries are small, numerous, and growing in popularity and recognition.  We stopped at four of the thirty + wineries around this one lake.

Friday Morning Farmer's Market Haul
Each tasting room had their own Riesling (some two), Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, etc. and blends of whites and reds.  Three of the four we visited had an "ice wine".  These are special wines (expensive, spicy, sweet) made from grapes that have had frost or ice on them.  The cold temperatures and late harvest concentrate the sugars (think raisins) and the wine made from these special grapes is called ice wine.

Lilies at a Pizza Place

At the end of our drive we hiked the gorge in the Watkins Glen State Park and the husband coined it "gorgeous".  He doesn't pun often so I try to indulge him.   It was an awesome short hike complete with spray rainbows and Minnehaha's heart-shaped pool.  Well worth the several hundred stair-step climb.

The vegetables are from one booth at the Farmer's Market here.  The booth-holder  informed me that all the shares from her CSA, $500 for a full share per summer, (see previous blog post) are sold out this year although they still have pork and poultry for sale.  

The lilies were at a local pizza joint where Grandk#1 and I shared their two-slice and drink $3.49 lunch special.  Pretty much all local joys.  It was a great weekend.