Monthly Archives: June 2012

Garden Progress

“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.- Doug Larson”

In early spring I always decide there is nothing quite as satisfying as bare fresh empty gardens awaiting planting. The musky earth smells of soil and rain and the first green growing things of the year fill me with the excitement of all that potential, just waiting for whatever I can dream up.

By the beginning of summer this excitement becomes a celebration of new growth, watching whatever I have planted start to show itself and the first true leaves unfold. There always comes a time when I feel that I am not finished planting, and yet, I have run out of vacant spaces to fill.

Whether you garden in long rows and plowed fields (as I sometimes have) or in raised boxes and various containers anywhere they will fit (as I currently do) – it is satisfying to watch your plants emerge and begin to grow.

There is a sweet spot, just at the beginning of the season, when the bugs are not too bad, the plants are still tender and fresh faced and the weeds are still holding off. This time is one of the best in any garden. While everything to follow will be exciting, and challenges will arise such as pests, disease and competitive weeds, right in this moment all is well with the world.

The sweet time is nearing a close in my garden. The transplants are growing tall and healthy, and the seeds have all emerged and are doing their best to catch up.

By this time I am already watching at least 6 inches of new growth reach for the sun. The mosquitoes are nearly as big as birds and the weeds are just starting to try and run the show.

I have some favorites that I plant every single year, like my Scotia tomatoes and my Royal Burgundy beans, and some favorite veggies that I try new varieties of, like my Lincoln/Homesteader peas and my Grand Rapids green leaf lettuce.

With all of the basic planting done, I often go back and sneak a small patch of carrots among the tomatoes, or tuck in a couple of marigolds here and there for their color and their pest control properties.

There are no chemicals used anywhere on my property. No fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides or other manufactured garden “ides”, however useful they might be. Some friends have informed me that I would get a much better crop if I would add some of these. I am satisfied with my crop, and if I feel I need more of it, will happily build more gardens.

 

The real meaning of plant catalog terminology: 
“A favorite of birds” means to avoid planting near cars, sidewalks, or clotheslines.
“Grows more beautiful each year” means “Looks like roadkill for the foreseeable future.”
“Zone 5 with protection” is a variation on the phrase “Russian roulette.”
“May require support” means your daughter’s engineering degree will finally pay off.
“Moisture-loving” plants are ideal for landscaping all your bogs and swamps.
“Carefree” refers more to the plant’s attitude than to your workload.
“Vigorous” is code for “has a Napoleonic compulsion to take over the world.”

 

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Rue

Rue – verb – to bitterly regret something and wish it undone. Synonyms: regret, lament, mourn, grieve

Cats have been kept by humans for over 9,500 years, and in that time, no feline has been regarded with more superstition than the black cat. In some cultures black cats are considered to be bad luck, in others, good luck.

Black cats have genes which interfere with the ordinary patterning you might expect to see, and the hair grows in as a solid color. Some black cats, when observed closely in the right light, still show some hints of this patterning such as faint striping or rings around the tail.

 “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things that cannot be learned any other way” ~Mark Twain

Cats were originally domesticated as a means to control vermin. They protected food stores by killing mice, rats, snakes and other types of pests. For this reason, a cat was a handy thing to have around. They are still common in this role today, living as barn cats and house cats, and even in places of business.

 “Cats have it all – admiration, endless sleep and company only when they want it.” ~ Rod McKuen

I was not looking for a cat when Rue came along. A friend of mine had discovered abandoned kittens under her house and was looking for homes for them. I thought this particular kitten was adorable from the first time I saw her picture, but talked myself out of adopting her. A few weeks later, with kitten season well underway and nearly every second house just filled with tiny cats looking for homes, my friend noted that she had not had any luck yet.

 “I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It’s not. Mine had me trained in two days.” ~Bill Dana

On a whim I asked about “the little black one” and it turned out that she was still available and badly needing someplace to go. I volunteered. We estimate Rue is close to eight weeks old. She is tiny but plump with a voracious appetite and a sassy fearless attitude that goes over very well with my bossy pomeranian.

I don’t think Rue is going to be a completely black cat. She is beginning to show some long white hairs here and there, particularly on her paws and face. It will be interesting to see what she grows into.

 

A little boy was with his dad looking at a litter of kittens. Upon returning home, the little boy could not wait to tell his mother that there were 2 girl kittens and 2 boy kittens.

“How do you know?” asked his mother.

The boy replied, “Daddy picked them up and looked underneath. I think it’s printed on the bottom.”

 

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Garden Layouts

“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” ~Hanna Rion
 Spring planting season has come and gone, and things are starting to grow. This year instead of the usual stack of loose paper drawings stuffed into a drawer somewhere, I decided it was time to learn how to make garden diagrams on the computer.
My flower beds are a wild mix of whatever strikes my fancy, planted in utter chaos with no particular plan in mind, tall and short, new and old, pretty and pretty ugly. To draw a diagram of that fantastic faux pas could take years. The contents of my flower beds change with the seasons, my whims and nature’s own ideas. My gardening strategy is survival of the fittest, and whatever survives has earned its place.
My vegetable gardens are also planted somewhat willy nilly, but they get far more attention and there is some reasoning involved in the decision making.

Keeping a journal, or records of what (and where) you plant is useful. Not only does it help you identify plants as they begin to pop up through the soil, it helps you to keep track of which plants grow well in certain areas of the garden. Record keeping is also a great way to avoid planting a crop in the same location next year. Moving plants around in the garden helps to keep the soil in any particular spot from becoming nutritionally depleted. It also helps to confuse pests and keep your gardens looking new each year.

I created my garden plans in Word Perfect 2007, and then saved each as a pdf document, to allow me to upload them to the website in a viewable format that can be clicked instead of downloaded.

As is my typical style, I have planted things wherever (and whenever) I pleased, resulting in a pleasant and curious mix of tall and short, pretty and plain, quick harvest and long harvest crops. I have planted everything from seed except my tomatoes and marigolds.

 “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” –  Doug Larson

Vegetable Garden 001

Vegetable Garden 002

Vegetable Garden 003

Vegetable Garden 007

 What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter? Pumpkin Pi.

You might notice that my gardens are numbered 1-3 and then 7. This is because gardens 4-6 are not built yet, and so, will not be planted until the fall. I garden in raised beds, built from old shipping pallets. When torn apart, the wood from one pallet will create a 12″ deep 4’x4′ garden. While these garden’s are free to build, they can be expensive to fill. The soil on my property is very rocky clay fill that is nearly impenetrable, let alone suitable for gardening. Each garden contains a mix of peat, topsoil and sheep manure.

 “My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.”  ~H. Fred Dale

 

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Silvery Blue

 

” The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.”  ~ George Carlin

The Silvery Blue, Glaucopsyche lygdamus, is a small bright iridescent blue butterfly found across North America. They are considered to be a common species and fairly abundant.

Their wingspan is approximately 18-28 mm. The upper side of the wing is a bright silvery blue in the male of the species, with a dark border, while the upper side of the female’s wing is more of a dull blue grey with a much wider border. For both male and female, the underside of the wing is grey with a single row of dark round spots bordered by white. These spots will vary in size depending on the region.

There are a number of subspecies of Glaucopsyche lygdamus, but it is the subspecies couperi that is found in Canada, and it has been reported in every canadian province and territory. It can be found in meadows, woodland, sand dunes and on roadsides, feeding on a variety of plants such as vetches, clover, lupine, alfalfa and flowers. They are often found in damp places.

The eggs of this species are laid on flower buds, where the newly hatched caterpillars will be able to feed on the opening flowers. The color of the caterpillar will depend on the food material they are consuming but all have white hairs.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  ~ Unknown

Silvery blue butterfly caterpillars have a symbiotic relationship with ants. They possess what is called a “honey gland.” This gland secretes a sweet liquid that attracts ants, which then feed on the liquid and offer protection to the caterpillar.

This particular Silvery Blue male is one I found on the weekend. He was flying from flower to flower, and did not spook easily when I decided to take his picture. I have noticed a few of these around this year. With all the news about eastern Canada getting ten times more butterflies than we typically do, I hope to see more of them.

 “But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.”
~Robert Frost, “Blue-Butterfly Day”

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Pigeons

“Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days the statue.” ~ Dilbert [Scott Adams]

Lately I have noticed quite a few pigeons hanging around my yard. Pigeons can be found nearly everywhere, in cities and small towns. They are bred in captivity as performers, messengers and pets. Varieties exist which have been bred for various physical characteristics as show birds.

While I have always loved to watch tumbling pigeons, and admired homing pigeons for their incredible built in “gps” and the ability to fly great distances to return to their loft, I am not sure how I feel about these wild pigeons suddenly crowding my feeders and wandering around my yard.

 

Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent bird species. It is the only non-mammal species that has the ability to recognize itself in a mirror. They see in color, and also see the ultra violet spectrum that humans cannot. These amazing birds have demonstrated an ability to recognize people in photographs and to differentiate between different people in them. They are able to recognize all of the letters of the alphabet.

In both world wars pigeons were used to carry messages from the front lines. They have been used on ships to carry messages in the event of a u-boat attack. Project Sea Hunt, a team of Navy researchers have found the birds to be very good at seeing red and yellow life jackets, making them ideal for search and rescue in the water.

Pablo Picasso, the famous artist, loved pigeons so much that he named his daughter Paloma, which means pigeon in Spanish.

Some religions (muslims, sikhs, hindu) feed pigeons as a religious practice, believing that the birds carry their prayers, and as an act of caring for their deceased ancestors. In christianity the birds are a symbol of the holy spirit and of peace.

Pigeons mate for life, and can breed as many as 8 times in a single year, usually having two young each time. The young are known as squabs, and are considered a delicacy in many places in the world.

Today, pigeons are considered a pest species. Being prolific breeders and opportunistic scavengers, a small flock can reproduce quickly and become a large problem.

“The only difference between a pigeon and the American farmer today is that a pigeon can still make a deposit on a John Deere.”  ~ Jim Hightower

Pigeon droppings in particular pose a problem. Wild pigeons are known to carry a variety of diseases, three of which can harm humans. These are not your simple flu bugs either. Diseases such as histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis and psittacosis can lead to seizures, blindness and even death.

In 2011, Erica Richards, a 23 year old Fredericton, NB woman contracted cryptococcal meningitis, a fungal disease carried in the feces of pigeons. This form of meningitis attacks the brain and the spine causing swelling and often death. After weeks spent in the hospital undergoing treatment, Ms Richards did survive, but is now blind as a result of the illness.

While I love pigeons, and find them fascinating and beautiful, I am wary of their potential as a pest and carrier of disease.

Various techniques for getting rid of pigeons exist, from birth control and live traps to shooting them. Some places have introduced peregrine falcons, a natural predator of the birds to help eradicate them. I can’t imagine going to these lengths for the dozen or two that are hanging around here, but I am considering getting an owl statue in an attempt to scare them away.

Baby pigeon said, “I can’t make it; I’ll get too tired.”

His mother said, “Don’t worry; I’ll tie a piece of string to one of your legs and the other end to mine.”

The baby started to cry.

“What’s wrong?” said the mother.

“I don’t want to be pigeon towed!”

 

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