Friday, January 31, 2020

January's Garden (2020)

January's garden has been ignored.  The covers remained closed and I have only gone out to harvest.  Any area without a layer of mulch is covered in weeds, mostly Purple Deadnettle (which is edible but tastes horrible.)

Leaving the hoop houses closed has been a mistake.

Yesterday when I opened them for pictures, I discovered an infestation of slugs!  Seriously?  How have these monsters been able to survive the bitter cold? Obviously, the hoop houses have allowed them to thrive while protecting them from predatory birds.  That's changing.  The covers will now be removed occasionally on sunny days so the ravenous birds swarming my feeders can dine on delicacies.  

The biggest success has been in the Swiss Chard bed.  

Three new varieties were planted for a tasting contest: Sea Foam, Verde De Tagilo, and Bionda Di Lyon. Their flavors were advertised to be better than Ford Hook Swiss Chard and for once, the seed catalogs were right. They are milder, almost buttery, delicious and the slugs haven't bothered them.  These will always be planted in my garden.  Ford Hook Swiss Chard seeds have been tossed out never to sprout again. 


Last spring a few Sea Foam Swiss Chards were planted but all died during the drought except for one.  This location was chosen for a winter hoop house so I could see how it survives the winter.

Now for the grand reveal.  Last month I put a mini hoop house over some of the Green Mountain, Giant Winter Celtuce seedlings that had reseeded in the bed of weird things in front of the lemongrass.  The purpose was to compare the growth between seedlings in the open and those undercover.

The seedling beside the white plastic spoon on the left was without covering and the seedlings on the right were under the mini hoop house.  Those protected grew almost twice as much - proof the hoop houses are worth the effort. However, just the fact that it can survive out in the elements during the winter months is amazing to me.

This one was started at the same time as the other assorted lettuces in this bed and is larger than those which self-seeded.  It has performed better than expected and has been added to the list of must-have winter vegetables.  

Normally, most of my lettuces are either frozen or eaten by this time of the year.  None of them were expected to live long since they were tiny when cold weather arrived but they have continued to produce all winter.

Once again I will repeat myself.  What I expected to grow well, hasn't: and what I expected to die, has thrived.  The more I garden, the less I know.

Last Month's December Garden (2020)
Last Year's January Garden (2019)
January's Garden (2018)
January's Garden (2017)
January's Garden, A Second Look (2017)
Through the Garden Gate

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Yard Art

As I travel the many country backroads in my area, I am amazed at the artistic creativity displayed in people's front yards.  No art museum can compete with the surprises I drive past.

Creativity and whimsy are never in short supply.

Country themes are popular because, well, we are in the middle of nowhere.  This is an "Eggcelsior Hotel" (a highfalutin name for a chicken coop. Sniff, sniff). 

Look close, it is a flying pig.

An abode of an ambitious artist emblazoned with so many knick-knacks,  the grass can't grow...which is a good idea come to think of it.

However, I have no explanation as to why a plastic, prehistoric Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton would be in someone's front yard so I stopped to ask. The owner was outside changing its costume from Halloween to Christmas.  He invited me to return after dark (when he switched it on) to watch the neighborhood children grab candy from the dinosaur's bucket while it growled, snapped and flashed red eyes. He thought it was funny. The kids got free candy. Everyone was happy.  (That was an explanation I would never have guessed. Hopefully, T-Rex behaved better dressed as Santa.) 

Not all artwork was located in welcoming, friendly yards.

Some places were downright inhospitable so I didn't get out of the car.

Of all the interesting places I passed this year, this yard had the most realistic statuary.  The horse sculpture on the left was obviously ceramic, but the peacock perched on the wagon was magnificent.  The details of the feathers were intricate, the colors were vibrant, it glowed in the shade of the tree and was so lifelike that it appeared to breathe.  It was as if I could reach out and touch it. 

The lady who lives at this house is a talented artist and I knew she would welcome me into her yard for a closer picture.  Wait a minute.  Did it just move?  Is he glaring at me?

Hey! Come back!  Let me take a picture or no one will believe me when I tell them of the wonders I have seen.

Wonder what I will find this coming year?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Necessary Destruction, Part 2

Over a year ago, I shared why we decided to timber the land we own in a neighboring county.  It was a difficult decision because it was beautiful; however, feeling as if we should be good stewards of the land, we knew it needed to be selectively cut.  The large trees were harvested to make room so the saplings could thrive.  It was tough facing the devastation on our first trip to visit after the work began, it was just as hard to see the damage this second time.

This is the access area close to the highway and it was originally thick with large trees.  The logging company provided the gravel and built roads through the property.  We asked them to lay logs across the entrance to deter trespassers.

Further down is the staging area where the large equipment was once parked.  They will be returning when the ground is dry so they can finish.

On this day, we decided to travel the logging road down the hill to the holler on the back of the property.

On the hillsides were piles of cut trees waiting to be removed.

At the bottom of the hill was a creek that had to be crossed.  It was a case study of our different personality types.

Joshua, my firstborn, faced it like he does every obstacle in life, something to be conquered. He has never met a problem he can't outmaneuver.  He is my bulldozer, a strategist and a natural-born leader, but also a gentle giant.  When he was small, he was never allowed on his bike without a helmet.  If there was a pothole or bump in the road, he swerved over so he could jump it.  However, he is the person you want to follow if you are going through a jungle or minefield.  He sees the creek and without hesitation, flies over.

After landing on the other side, he triumphantly turns around to see if his tribe is following.

Slow, old, stumbling Mom is dragging along behind.  Joshua pauses, observes the situation, strategizes a solution, puts down big heavy rocks to serve as stepping stones along the creek bed, and then gently guides me over.

Dustin, my second born, follows behind me watching to make sure I don't get lost.  He is my cautious, careful engineer.  He visually inspects the creek, architects a bridge, searches available recyclable resources, carefully tests the structural integrity, analyzes the statistical probability of sustainable weight limits, then proceeds over the rotten logs.  He was never, ever required to wear a bicycle helmet or any protective gear when he was young - he never needed it.

Joshua, big brother, leader of the pack, reaches back to steady Dustin since he did not budget for handrails.  

Last comes Scooter.  He thinks it is ridiculous to be afraid of a little bit of water and trots on through.

 Then we face the steep hill on the other side.

The backside of the land has not lost many trees - most were too small.  It still looks like it did originally.

We reached the back boundary line of the property which is marked with orange plastic tape.

This is the legal boundary marker:  HY RW  which stands for "Highway Right-of-Way."

We returned by the logging road that runs along the top of the ridge going back toward the staging area.  

By this time it was late afternoon: we were exhausted and in need of a rest.

Of course, Scooter had to lay down close to something rotten, smelly and nasty (probably animal poop).  Rather than move, he decided to roll in it.  That didn't make me happy since he had to ride in my lap back home.

When the loggers are completely finished and the leaves have returned to the trees, we plan to go back to see how the land is recovering.  Hopefully, it will revive quickly due to the increased sunlight.

Link to the First Trip
Necessary Destruction