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I've been so incredibly lazy each day when I come home from work. All I want to do is eat, get on the 'puter for an hour or so and then go to bed. Once I get in the garden and start working, I have a hard time stopping. There's never a shortage of things to do. But getting myself out there on a week night is a chore. Today I have to work on spreading out the mulch in the veggie garden, water, check on all my new plants, putter around in the woods. Help D w/ some cockamamie (that's a word I've never attempted to spell before!) plan he has involving some plant stakes he can't find that I have to come find for him NOW.
My next obsession will be a compost tumbler. I think my open pile is attracting rodents to the garden. More strawberries than ever are being munched on by little teeth. The only critters small enough to get into the garden besides bugs and birds are mice/rats and maybe some tiny bunnies. Plus, I'd have compost so much faster with a tumbler. Anyone have any advice for buying one? I want a medium sized one. Even w/ such a large garden, I never get a 3'X3' pile like you're supposed to have to get it hot, but I don't want a tiny one, either. I want a continuous composter, not a batch kind. And I don't think I like this weird "pig" one I've seen that you roll around on the ground to aerate. I want it to be stationary. So...anybody? Let me know.
This weekend (gosh am I behind on this blog!) I planted... broccoli, dill, marigold, spinach, arugula, lemon and regular cucumbers, 3 heirloom tomatoes, carrots, bush beans, beets, chard, OH and 2 rows of corn. I liked divaqs idea about bay leaves keeping earwigs away from plants. Didn't you talk about that in one of your blogs? (See me assuming you're reading my blog? ) We had such a *shudder* huge earwig problem w/ our corn the first time we tried it that we've passed on growing corn since then. I despise earwigs. Don't know why. Bugs don't usually bother me that much. Actually, fly eggs, lice and tics make my scalp prickle and my skin crawl, but that's it. That and earwigs. Loads and loads of earwigs hiding out in the husks when I shuck those suckers. Falling out and crawling everywhere. Dear lord help me. Ugh. Ummm...what was I saying? Oh yes! Bay leaves! I will try that this year because I LOVE corn on the cob. I got the "Candy Corn" variety. If the bay leaves don't work I'll just make D shuck them.
So, a side effect of trucking logs and chippings from the forest into our veggie garden is that now we have ants ALL OVER the garden! Big huge ones, little tiny ones, they're EVERYWHERE! Ah well, that's what we get!
The first few ripe strawberries were pecked all to hell before we could eat them. We keep telling ourselves we can share a FEW...but I'm a teeny tiny bit selfish with my strawberries. Anyone have any good covering ideas for rows of strawberries? Something cheap and easy that'll keep the birds off, but let us get to the berries relatively easily? If nothing exists, I'll let the birds have free reign and just take what I can get.
The other night a coyote got into our trash. He woke us up (our trash can sits not too far away one floor down from our open bedroom window) at around 2 am. It was a full moon, so we could ID him. He ran away when he heard me whispering to D to get a flashlight. Very exciting! I haven't heard them howling yet this year, but I love that sound!
Ahhh, summer is right around the corner! Yipeeeeeeeeee!
This morning when I woke up, I decided that if I didn't get these veggie garden beds built today, I'd never get to them. On Friday, I had a huge load of what the local landscaping materials co. calls "claybuster". Apparently, it's a combo of compost, chicken manure, sand, and something else. Maybe some topsoil. Anyway, it's supposed to improve clay soil. D and I went into the woods, cut up 3 good-sized fallen douglas firs and loaded them into the truck (fortunately they fell near the road, so it was easy to cart them to the truck). Then, we constructed the boxes, loosened the soil inside them and mixed in the claybuster stuff (which D and I call "black gold"). That stuff was HOT! I put my gloved hands on top of it and they were uncomfortable after only 10 seconds or so! I'm pretty sure I killed all the earthworms in all of that soil! So...tomorrow I will plant them: greens, marigolds, carrots, onions. Then, beans, cucs and tomatoes on the fence to climb up.
Oh, I forgot, more chipping today! We loaded up the pickup with nice long fallen small trees and set the chipper up right near the garden fence, shooting the chips into the garden. This whole project took us all day. Ive gathered a few more bruises and by the end of the day, I was DONE. Irritable, covered in a fine douglas fir dust and "black gold", smelling like manure and hungry as all get out. But I'm done. If only I had a good camera, I'd post some pics of the results. I only constructed 3 4'X4' beds. I have enough logs for 4, but, I'll make that one later, as needed.
I'm so proud. And tired.
Today, it was my turn to go on a field trip all for ME! My students and I are involved in a project funded by the Chehalis Basin Education Consortium that allows us to take field trips that revolve around improving the health of the Chehalis River (the river our watershed drains to). So, anyhoo, they organize a teacher's "retreat" at the end of the school year so we participating teachers can get together to reflect on this year and plan for next. This time, we went to two nature preserve areas in our watershed. One was a protected prairie area (very rare) where we learned about native plants from these prairies. It was so fascinating. We had gorgeous weather too. So, here is what I learned:
I've heard about the native camas, an important food source for the Native Americans
Also, there's balsam root, my fave...
these smell like a reeses peanut butter cup!
Then, there's blue-eyed grass...look upon the loveliness...
Here's my friend, cinquefoil. Some say the leaves might resemble another type of plant that might be "mood-altering"...I don't know anything about that, though...
Here's the lupine...one of my faves...
And, here's bunchgrass. It's blue-green and beautiful...
Now, if I could just turn part of our two acres into meadow like this, I'd be a happy girl.
The other preserve was interesting, too. It was an area formerly referred to as "Rainbow Valley". Apparently, many hippies used to live in this area in old buses and campers and there was a lot of drug use and frolicking. Now, the Nature Conservancy owns the land, and have renamed it with an historically correct name, and cleaned it all out. They're now replanting it with native plants and creating shallow pools that are dry 3 months out of the year (the perfect environment for these guys):
The Oregon spotted frog (threatened)
and the WRONG habitat for this guy:
the BULL FROG, our introduced menace!
rog%20Home%20Page.html All other pics are from enature.com I am definately planting my heirloom tomatoes tomorrow. The weather has REALLY warmed up!
Oh, also, at the retreat today, I started to get some contacts for vermicomposting our kids' leftovers from lunch and getting a greenhouse. Another teacher at the retreat got her district to buy her a greenhouse and then every mother's day, her kids sell the plants they grew to pay for their supplies for the next year! She said she can even get potting soil for free a lot. I think I could pull that together. I might have the kids write to the district to ask for a greenhouse. Harder to turn down a kid, I betcha'!
Tomorrow is Friday. Mommy likey!
Went on a field trip with my fourth graders today. We walked on a trail built next to the Chehalis River (the river everything drains into in our watershed) and learned about the species of plants and animals that depend on the river for survival. We saw the resident pair of bald eagles soaring over the river and landing in their monstrous nest. We saw a common yellowthroat (my first time seeing one in the wild)
(courtesy of enature.com)
There he is, the little scoundrel. Wearing his smart little mask.
and a woodpecker. The woodpecker had a red head and so I call out "a red-headed woodpecker!". Well, it should be called that! Red head...of the woodpecker variety...what else would ya call it? I had a tickle in the recesses of my brain telling me that that wasn't the right name. I looked it up on enature.com and lo...I was right about being wrong. Behold:
(courtesy of enature.com)
A redbreasted sapsucker. Well, okay...I guess. Now I have to do damage control tomorrow and tell the kids and the adults who were present that I actually had no idea what I was talking about. Yay! I feel like I have to do that quite a bit. Ah, well, I tried.
Didn't get any work done in the garden today. After being outside almost all day on the field trip, I didn't mind so much not going back out again after I got home, especially since it got cloudy and rainy. My tomato babies did just fine outside last night. Guess I'll leave them out tonight too. Hopefully, they'll get some sun tomorrow. I don't use indoor lights on them when I grow them from seed. I just put them in a sunny window. I feel like they'd be a little less lanky and scrawny if I had, so I'm trying to make up for it by getting them out in full sun as much as possible. I'll probably plant them in this weekend.
I'd love to get a greenhouse. I'm intimidated by what a project it'd be, though. I have enough projects going on. I've got to stop myself!
Fourteen more days of school and I'm FREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! Free to garden and frolic in the meadow and lie on the hammock and read, read, read. Whoooopeeeee!!!! I'm a teeny, tiny bit excited, I think.
Here's what I hope is lurking in my forest and yard tonight:
1. flying squirrels (So cute I want to taste one. Not to eat it, just to mouth it a little. You understand, right? Right?)
5. owls (I know they're out there. I hear 'em)
Goodnight flying squirrels: one day we will be together and we will be happy.
I just wrote a long entry w/ pics and everything. Took me a good half hour. Then, I lost it all! I'm NOT in the mood for retyping it now. Maybe later. Damnit!!!!!!!!!
So, after buying some screw-in hooks from Ace the other day, I realized that my topsy turvies came WITH the EXACT same hooks already. Ah well, now I have extra.
Today, as soon as we'd eaten dinner, we went out into the woods and gathered downed trees for chipping. We must've chipped 5 loads (big wheelbarrow) full for the veggie garden. That sucker is at least 2000 square feet and I want to cover the whole thing in wood chips (excluding the permanent beds I'm going to make). That oughta take me a good long time. I need to build the beds first, but they are going to take so much longer. Finding the right size logs is ridiculously difficult. After reading a bit on square foot gardening, I want 4ft square beds. I'll need probably 8-9 beds to adequately fill what's left of the plot after 3 rows of 4 blueberry plants, 6 rows, 10' each, of strawberries, a compost pile, raspberry and blackberry plants, and some vertical gardening space (I strung some fencing between a few t-bars for about 15 ft. (Ahhh, this is fascinating so far, isn't it?).
While we were chipping, it came to me. Another PROJECT! As if I don't have enough already. I've decided I'm going to make a big bed all the way around a grouping of 3 huge douglas firs, 2 of which hold up our hammock. I will mulch it all heavily in wood chips and plant a woodsy looking mix of shrubs and plants around the base of the trees. I'm guessing this area is shady for most of the day. I need to check on it though throughout a full day and see how much shade it actually gets. Grass grows just fine there, so it's getting enough sun for that. We can't mow so close to the base of the trees, so the grass grows really high and you have to wade through it to get to the hammock. This will be much better, and pretty too. I've been wanting to make beds around the trees near the forest for a long time. Anyone have any experience planting at the base of big old trees with lots of lumpy root frowth? I'm guessing I'll have to 1. smother the grass thoroughly, maybe w/ a thick layer of mulch, or maybe newspaper and then mulch? 2. Once the grass is dead, cover the areas I'm going to plant with loads of trucked-in soil, 3. Plant and mulch again.
Okay, now for the plants. My requirements: relatively deer proof (no hostas, boo hoooooo), can take some shade happily, natives or very well suited to my area (western Washington), woodsy and natural-looking, no annuals. Any suggestions anyone? Anyone? Help? I'd like to layer it, too. Some tall shrubs/small trees, smaller shrubs, ferns, and other herbaceous stuff, and maybe some groundcover.
Oohh, that's gonna be so great when I'm done. Then, I just need some rustic piece of outdoor furniture to put near the hammock to hold drinks/books/etc.
*Sigh*, much to do.
Found a slug the size of a BANANA yesterday. It's slime trail looked like stuff I've coughed up when I've had bronchitis before. We tossed him into the woods instead of killing him. Couldn't bring ourselves to kill him, he was so impressive! A coworker told me you can spray a little diluted ammonia on them and they shrivel very quickly. I'm going to try some beer in shallow dishes partially buried in the soil this year. We'll see if that works.
I planted some kale and broccoli rabe and both crops have tons of tiny holes in the leaves. This happened last year too, with all my greens and brassicas. What's up? tiny baby slugs? I don't see slime trails. Bugs? If so, which ones do this? I've never seen any actual bugs on the plants, only these tiny, perfect holes.
Tonight I'm leaving my hand-raised tomato babies outside all night for the first time under a box, because it's going to drop into the low 40's, maybe high 30's. I become very attached to these guys when I raise them from seed. It's hard for me to leave them out for their First Night Outside!
I can't wait to get tomatoes from them, either, because they're an heirloom mix I've never tried before. I don't even know which kinds they'll be, so it'll be a surprise! Yay! It's official I am a garden geek.
Sleep well, my little tomato babies.
The 3 evergreen clematis I bought days ago finally have a home.
The second I saw the hideous pressure treated cedar poles my dh, Dave, used to replace the old lumber that supported the overhang of our shop, I knew I'd have to grow a vine up each one to hide it. I narrowed it down to clematis when I read in my Ed Hume book that they'd do well in containers and that helped, because the shop is located on a large gravel area and I didn't want to make beds around the poles. I also read that they would cover things up pretty fast and would have great flowers, AND that there were some evergreen varieties and that was good because then we'd never have to look at those damn poles again! So, I found 3 evergreen clematis at a local garden center, one for each pole, and bought them. They are Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift' and will have white flowers. Now, I wonder if I could've found some I like even better if I ordered some from a catalog. I bought 3 small (20", cedar-like wood planters that resemble miniature whiskey barrels, and that moisture control potting soil, too, at home depot today. I put an inch or two of wood chips (we chipped ourselves from downed trees in our forest) at the very bottom of each planter for drainage before I filled them with the soil and the plants. I read the directions AFTER I planted the first one. Bad idea. Those directions said to keep the clematis attached to its stake for the first year before removing it. Oops. Didn't do that for the first clematis. We'll see what happens with that one, then. What's the big deal, I wonder?
Then, I tried to plant some tomatoes (black cherry and yellow pear) in the topsy turvies Dave bought me, but realized I had no hooks to hang them from yet. Gotta go buy some at Ace later.
I should be grading papers and planning lessons for this week right now, but I will do what I do best and PROCRASTINATE instead. As Dave always says, do that stuff when there's no more daylight!
I also planted one cilantro plant and one flat leaf parsley plant in my herb planter which already has oregano and two kinds of basil. No good location for that planter yet. It has to go on the deck because the porch is too shady. If I put it up on the railing, it gets blown over by the wind (learned that the hard way). Guess I'll just set it on the deck in the corner and crouch to harvest. Maybe I can find a cute old chair to set it on.
For this summer, I'm going to try to focus on 2 major projects: a planting bed around the deck and raised beds in the veggie garden. That last one will take forever, b/c I'm using fallen logs from our forest for the beds and they are taking forever to find, haul out and cut. I have enough for ONE box and I need EIGHT boxes. Ugh.
School can't let out fast enough, because this work thing is just getting in the way of my gardening time, damnit!
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