elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
Thursday, April 18th, 2019 08:57 am
There was much rain over last weekend, five inches between Friday morning and Sunday. Our neighbors' road washed out, again, and everything was sodden. I did get some good for me time working in the yard. I admit a struggle with seeing the false hawkweed in bloom and the stilt grass seedlings and feeling overwhelmed. I'm trying to celebrate the progress we've made since we moved here on changing plant communities. The glade is far more mossy and ferny, there are large stretches in the east yard where the native, low growing grass i admire is carpeting stretches successfully. It helps that it goes to seed midsummer and the stilt grass months later. The little bits of help given to the natives to increase their competitiveness seems to be helping. So yay.

I'm not filling the feeders with sunflower seeds anymore, and so the bird visits are less - presumably, they can also find more to eat now, as well.

I'm sure if i took a week off, i'd still have yard work to do. Unfortunately, work has heated up to white heat. I am wrestling with insecurity and remind myself of imposter syndrome. I am procrastinating. I am also doing OK with some of the asks, but feel like a tsunami is behind me.

Mom and Dad are a puzzle. Mom has all her issues, and Dad his financial insecurity and independence. Hiring more in-home help will help them, but we're going to have to convince Dad to spend the money. Mom is making substantial mobility improvements, and making things easier now will improve the chances for long term stability. It seems obvious but Dad seems fixated on steady state planning.
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Thursday, April 11th, 2019 07:06 am
Christine agrees my mood has been a little down the past few weeks. Spring and my relief at how well things are working out for my parents would seem to be big boosts. (Work has been intense.) In therapy yesterday i found lots of tears, particularly over my parents' relationship dynamics and the echoes over my childhood.

I don't know quite how to cut free of this drag. I'm not sure it's something one can healthily do. On the other hand, i am tired of being brain tired. I have capacity to mostly get work done, and then a little something else. Various chores that just got done before are backed up. Some work things are backed up. I've journaled about the gardening so much because that is a delight right now, and most of all, the sun and chlorophyll and water and stored starches are all doing the work.

The trees have greened up significantly since Saturday. I feel i am noticing more and more new things than last year. This year, wisteria. I had no idea the tangles of plants just down the road were wisteria, but there are walls of purple. I saw some wisteria encroaching on a bamboo thicket. Bamboo vs wisteria: coexistence? or will one subdue the other?

Other invasive species not on our property: wisteria, bamboo, kudzu, English ivy (found a sprig once), vinca (growing thickly in a bit of the woods next door).

Anyhow, it's easy to loose myself in observing and naming. How the sensitive fern seemed to sprout a foot over night, catching up with the southern lady ferns. The tiny, white, native forget-me-not, Myosotis verna (and the temptation to see it as a weed).

Well, staying here writing about plants is NOT the way to cut free of the drag.
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Tuesday, April 9th, 2019 06:25 pm
Surprise free evening, as Dad called and waved me off of coming over. I can use the rest because i woke in the wee hours of the morning and never fell back asleep. I am not able to do much with this time because i am exhausted. Maybe some laundry? (Didn't happen.)

I wandered outside for an hour, and encountered two small snakes, smaller than garter snakes. A worm snake (Carphophis amoenus) twisted around in the garden plot. I choose to take my worm snake sightings as evidence of super healthy soil that has such large herds of earthworms that these predators can thrive. Then a DeKay's brownsnake was next to a floppy daffodil as i reached down to adjust it. The DeKay's was much more still, testing its camouflage i suppose.

I may have seen a third tiny snake, or perhaps a thrashing about newt or other amphibian near the drainage ditch by the road. It seemed like snake locomotion as it got itself down into the shelter of the culvert.

On Monday, another DeKay's camouflage failed in the presence of Edward, who went after the small snake just as he does with birds, mice, voles, lizards, and baby bunnies. Luigi, though, got nose to nose with Mr Morrison the supposed single rat snake that lives in the back yard. Mr Morrison was coming out from under the deck, and promptly returned, hopefully to go to the east yard for a peaceful afternoon of sunning.

Not a tick yet, which means... less deer? we've managed the landscape to deny them access? Some opossums heard our plea and vacuum them up every night? Probably just that the evenings have been crisp up until last weekend. In the past few days the classic daffodils have melted away after a delightfully long display, and the saucer magnolia became drab and dull overnight. Plants are growing at break neck speed (except in my garden). Spring growth is shooting up everywhere. While i look at the orchard and only see sprigs of the moss phlox i transplanted taking hold, the meadow (the septic field that was a thicket of tree of heaven, honey suckle, autumn olive) has mounds of what i expect are wildflowers - Echinaceas? Joe Pye weeds? Blackeyed susans? I'm not sure what these mounding rosettes of leaves are for.... They aren't the non-native ox-eye daisy or Queen Anne's lace: i celebrate THAT.

Elsewhere i see shoots of what are asters or goldenrod. Yarrows are distinctively present.

Violets are even more abundant now: the native grass lawn area is now well decorated with their purple glow.

Today the not quite native Stoksia arrive via mail order. They will be planted at the edge of the rain garden where half price marigolds reigned last summer. I hope for a more blue than purple stoksia, a flower native to wet areas in South Carolina and Georgia. Since i was buying, my impatience flared and i also bought a cardinal flower (a red lobelia) and the great blue lobelia, also to reside in the rain garden. Maybe the seeds i scattered will take hold, but i've got two plants to be sure of.

I've been surprised how slow the breadseed poppies have been to get past the first two true leaves. Perhaps they've been biding their time too.

The next months will rush by, and i will go to Europe, and i will return to a magnificent jungle of flowers. The stilt grass seedlings wave at me and are not calling truce, though.
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Tuesday, April 9th, 2019 05:52 am
Monday Morning:

I'm disappointed that i may have done a bad thing to my baby apple trees in my selection of the fungicide i sprayed to fight the cedar-apple and quince-apple rusts that are bright orange on the cedar trees at the moment. Ho hum.

Last week was a blur of intense work days followed by busy evenings. Saturday was all yard. Yesterday was a mix of Meeting and a visit with my parents and then mowing.

I took Carrie over to my parents and as i was leaving, she looked longingly at the pasture. I let her run -- and she was so delighted and did not want to leave. Christine's had this issue leaving the dog park. I got in the car, started the car, turned the car. She kept her eye on me but continued to frolic. Finally i went inside to get a treat of some sort. When i came out she was at the fence where she could see the door. She went back to her frolic but FINALLY came when i offered the cheese. In good news, she seems to respect the fence as a boundary!

At home i mowed. I ran down the battery on the electric mower, but had finished the fescue grass by the time that happened.

Garden notes )

The high humidity is mixing with the pine pollen to make -- polog? Plog? Nastiness. We should have thundershowers tonight, which may help a little.

Tuesday Morning:

Boy, did we have a DOOZY of a thunder storm. First power loss of the summer season, from 5 pm to 6. We lost power with the winds that blew in first, and my, was the pollen billowing around, being blown off the deck and billowing out of the pines. Then came the rain: it was lovely to sit with Christine on the front porch.

My Amazon order of these light up lids for regular mouth jars arrived and i assembled a few while sitting on the porch. I'm delighted with them, and i look forward to the arrival of the hooks for hanging them in the yard. We've a variety of old LED yard lights on plastic stakes in various states of disrepair. I feel this solution will allow for easier repair of broken components and minimize the plastic impact. I'm going to see about liberating a few more jelly jars from my mother's collection. She has sent me home with boxes of jars in the past, but i mainly took the large mouth jars.

We had a half inch of rain in the hour, creating standing water in places and a stream, almost, on the east side of the house. Christine had made progress on ditching around the back porch, a step we need to complete before i install the rain cistern. Once we have the porch downspouts draining to the east of the house, the pooling behind the house will be mostly resolved, i hope. There may be just a little more ditching to do to divert the run off from up hill.

I do hope that the seeds i scattered on Saturday had found some purchase in the soil before this event.
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Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 06:38 am
Sunday dawned dark with heavy clouds that threatened rain. I drove north west to Meeting, zipping on the country roads, a few spatters of damp moving the first visible pollen around on the windshield. The message was brought by an architect who talked about the Quaker term of the Light and the work of James Turrell as the sky grew darker outside. Meeting dispersed over the carpet of tiny bluets, with no rain.

I drove east, crossed the Haw, and followed its course south east then began meandering east, past my sister's place then circumnavigated Lake Jordan to get to my folks home. My sister's family had long been waiting for lunch because my brother didn't get communicated that it would be one pm or after when i would make my way. Fortunately, it was a compose-your-own salad and didn't come to harm as they waited. It wouldn't be a visit from my brother if there wasn't at least one failure to communicate about scheduling for my sister and i to roll our eyes over.

way much family stuff including elder care )
I did have a very productive work day yesterday, but personally i felt paralysis when it came to connecting with people (and my email box). I did wander back in the woods. I assessed a cluster of Tree of heaven and hope i identified the right large tree as the source of the sprouts. I went back to the garage, grabbed the machette and glyphosphate. I think the technique of exposing the pholem, the working transport tissue under the bark, and directly applying glyphosphate to be carried to the roots minimizes the amount of environmental release of poison and effectively targets the plant.

I came back to the house to realize the miniature roses are covered with aphids. I sprayed soapy water and reflected on my exterminations. Neither rests easily with me. Still, there's something blighted about the woods where the tree of heaven are. Ha "Ailanthus produces an allelopathic chemical called ailanthone, which inhibits the growth of other plants." I'm not imagining it.

I'd taken the covers of the peony and the blueberries yesterday, but woke to find it 30°F. Well. That's not what the forecast led me to expect.
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Sunday, March 31st, 2019 08:42 am
We slept in yesterday and then i went out and finished my bean trellis: two tripods constructed of heavy twelve foot poles of sweetgum and dogwood, thanks to the power company cutting a path through our woods. The tops and crossbars are attached with proper lashing technique with completely inappropriate perled cotton number 3 "thread". I've some thin hemp rope and twine in my Amazon cart: i should get some if i plan more rugged structures. The perled cotton held nicely last year so, fingers crossed it will again. There's a very warped black cherry cross beam -- so light compared to the dogwood -- and then i've used apple and autumn olive cuttings, thin and pliable, to weave a random lattice.

I suppose the lattice could all come crashing down under a heavy bean crop. It's hard to imagine a heavy bean crop actually occurring. Admittedly, deer love beans and this will be the first protected bean crop.

After, i sat with Christine on the back porch. We talked a bit about the thicket beyond the porch and i noted it was deer habitat and Christine remarked we have plenty of that. It's autumn olive and honeysuckle choking black cherry and sweetgum trees. We will progress through it over the year, i suspect. I then stood up to see if the columbine planted just beyond the porch had bloomed -- and then let out a primal scream as i realized a deer had chomped the flowering stalks.

Christine laughed, "What part of deer habitat did you not understand!"

There are some lower stalks that might flower.

In the late afternoon Christine continued clearing up around the woods edge in the front, getting vines and dead wood away from a toppled young black cherry tree. I am curious how much deer will forage on the cherry branches and whether i will be able to reach cherries myself. I've pollarded a black cherry just beyond the back porch to see if it would sprout branches at the cut. It looks like it will. I think it fruits on second year wood.

I chipped and shredded branches and have finally caught up with Christine's and the power company's clearing. I look at the autumn olive and wonder if i will someday carefully maintain one or two for the whip like branches and the chipping productivity. Then i imagine that i will trespass on the neighboring land to exterminate the plant, leaving native fruit seedlings or cuttings in my wake.

No ticks yet, a surprise given all the mosquitoes.
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Sunday, March 24th, 2019 08:46 am
Let's see. A bit of a blur this week.
Thursday: felt moved to draw runes to observe spring.

A new version of Outlook exposed "shared calendars" that i had linked to eight or more years ago, which hadn't been (prominently) visible in the versions of the software i'd used since. All but one of the calendars was for retired, laid off, or deceased people or for conference rooms that no longer exist. I decided i would remove these calendars, and by doing so, cancelled every meeting i had initiated (past and future) AND deleted all my calendar entries. It is an odd sensation to look at a completely blank work calendar.

Thursday night: Had dinner out with Dad, who related that Mom didn't want visitors because she would be indisposed. I should have thought to call before we left Apex. Read the remainder of the evening.

Friday: Dad called mid day to say Mom is coming home on Monday*. The therapists have not built a rapport with Mom and she doesn't trust them. They say she doesn't take direction. She has always shut down around loud urgent instruction (except when she'd start fighting with Dad over his tone of voice). Her sensitivity to what is loud is a little on the dysfunctional side: enthusiastic and energetic conversation would get labeled as argument.

I wrapped up work as well as i could, and then walked Carrie while Christine was running other errands. We didn't get far back into our woods before i found the skull of a six point (western three point) buck. Carrie was QUITE interested. We've put it on a tall stump in the back of the orchard (in a little area we've left wild). I don't think it's completely cleaned out: i suppose a soak in bleach water would be sufficient at this point, but leaving it where insects can complete the last bit of work seems reasonable.

Saturday: i left very early to join my sister at Dad's to plan and strategize. We went over four hours, and i think we came to some common understandings. The best part was role playing getting Mom to cooperate with some toileting issues: we worked on some language we hope will frame things so that she feels she has some agency but also doesn't provide triggers for arguments and tantrums. We moved some furniture around so there'd be some easier access which involved a little overriding Dad's resistance. He did admit it was better after.

In the afternoon i apparently gave in to retail therapy as we bought a high wheeled string trimmer and a new lawn mower (electric, push). Christine mowed the back yard with the reel mower, and i used the now nonadjustable-height and no longer "self propelled" gas mower to get a bit of the west side yard. The electric mower only runs for an hour at a time, so i figure pushing that long will be good exercise. The string trimmer is for any rough areas and so i don't need to worry about the electric mower's "strength".

I also got loppable branches off likely the last tree to be cleared from the meadow nee septic field. It's off the field, but close enough, and was bent over by vines and not attractive. There's a red-bud and a black walnut that could be cleared away from the boundaries but i feel confident that they won't cause issues. We do have autumn olive to still clear from the border of the field. I worked a little on some trees that had come down in the woods in the winter or the fall tropical storms: they seemed to have been dead as the branches were quite brittle. I didn't want to chip them, so i started yet another brush pile to be critter habitat.

Today i need to assemble a helmet to use with the chipper and the electric mower, begin mowing, chipping and attend to some plant issues. Maybe also plant beet seeds. And and and.

* Proposed date was Tuesday, but Mom has a Monday medical appointment. By having her depart on Monday, she has two ambulance trips instead of four.
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Sunday, March 24th, 2019 07:21 am
Happy spring! We've had cold temperatures early in the week including Wednesday morning dawning with 25°F. Dew points were lower than the temperature, though, so no frost. Our saucer magnolia only has a handful of petals with frost burn: it is still delightfully pink. The turnips and daikon radishes in the driveway island have yellow flowers indistinguishable (at a glance) from mustard flowers. On our north sloping property the redbuds just got to blooming on Friday, but all week when i was out and about i see their pink and purple buds along with the rusty red of maple trees.

Rain came -- an inch over Wednesday night -- and the Haw hit flood stage, and the soil is saturated once again. Places where the soil is bare in the orchard have such a hard clay surface. I walk around wondering if any of my flower seeds will set, and then wonder what magic the bittercress and chickweed have that they are so successful.

We do have a haze of green in the autumn olives, beginning to obscure the view through the woods, and along the woods line where afternoon sun can warm the soil, stilt grass has sprouted, prompting much profanity on my part.

The black cherry trees, which loose their leaves first in the fall, appear to have broken their leaf buds. The one i pollarded has tiny little leaf buds, barely discernible, at the top cut.

Corydalis flavula, what i call yellow fumatory, is blooming. (iNature calls it Pale Corydalis, but if you look that up you find a pink and yellow flower.) Down at the creek there's carpets of spring beauty. There's enough i could imagine foraging a meal (http://www.eattheweeds.com/spring-beauty/) but i won't. I fantasize about an asparagus bed (where the majority of the Houstonia pusilla is now, sigh) and imagine growing spring beauty mixed in, sharing the rich soil. (I also imagine growing saffron crocus in the patch.)

Driving around i see areas all purple from Lamium purpureum, henbit or red (or purple) dead nettle. It's considered invasive so i'm not encouraging it here. Admittedly i don't immediately go to yank it up the way i do a similar invasive Youngia japonica, oriental false hawksbeard, a close relation to dandelion except its flowers are shot up on a tall stalk. I've seen grey-green rosettes all winter and have grumbled at them, occasionally trying to extract the long taproot. Yesterday, i saw the blooming stalks beginning to emerge and eradicated some.

I stopped at the side of the road to examine a different carpet of purple: it turned out it was a small viola, a native johnny-jump-up, Viola bicolor. I added seed for the cultivated European Viola tricolor to a seed order. While V tricolor has been observed in the wild in the Carolinas, it is "uncommon" and found in "lawns, garden borders, railroad rights-of-way," so i won't be creating a problem. I note one gardening site comments that Viola bicolor can be "invasive", which would be great for my ground cover desires.

A male goldfinch is resplendent in breeding plumage and Slugger, the male cardinal, seems brighter as well.
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Monday, March 18th, 2019 08:23 am
Another 28°F dawn. The dewpoint is lower than that, so perhaps that helps keep the saucer magnolia from losing its pink petals?

Pine warblers: i'd been mistaking them for goldfinches the past few months. There ARE goldfinches at the feeder: right now a male, coming into breeding plumage, is feeding away on sunflower seeds. (Does anyone ever visit the fancy finch feeder? Rarely. Squirrel proof and unattractive to birds. Grumble grumble.) But someone suggested my blurry photo of what i thought was a female goldfinch was a pine warbler. I scoffed. But the yellowish bird at the feeder the next time i looked had a small black bill, nothing like the thick triangular seed cracking bill of a finch.

I skipped Meeting and Meeting for Business yesterday. I will need to reengage with community, but at the moment, there's a weariness i get from some of the family care i'm engaged in right now. I wonder if this meeting always had waiting worship whether i would be attending more regularly.

It was a beautiful day and eventually i stopped lingering at the computer. Less lingering and more wrestling with decisions around shopping for my mother. Eventually i found pants that i think will be suitable for my mother, to replace the many many pairs i packed up on Friday. Christine and i strolled around enjoying the spaces we have curated from the overgrown wildness we moved to in 2016. The sun was blazing war despite the cool air, and i realized that i would rather visit my mother during the bright part of the day and then work outside in the shadows.

I took Mom a thermos of tea and a serving of cake. Our little picnic was a pleasure. I was able to show her before and after photos of her study so she would understand what i did in her space. To my relief, she was appreciative.

At home, i got the chipper fired up while Christine began lopping down some of the thicket area to the west of the driveway. At the end of our work, i felt the garden has sufficient chips for the moment. Tonight i'll chip, and the results will go to mulch around the fruit and nut trees in the orchard. Leaves raked up in the autumn provided some initial mulching, but it's far from sufficient for the summer growth season.

The garden is organized somewhat like an E, with the top of the E facing North and the long "spine" of the E facing west and the house. Border rows wrap around three sides, like the outside lines of the E, except my garden has gaps on the long border so one can enter the garden on either side of the center divide. The upper and lower white space of the E i refer to as "the squares." Each square has three rows running east to west.

Right now the top of the E -- the borders, north square and the center divide -- are all well tended. I'd shoveled out the soil from between the rows onto the rows over the fall months. I mulch as i can in between the rows, and all that mulch had pretty much disintegrated and blended with the clay. This winter i mulched the isles in the square with pine straw. Brown pine needles, it turns out, aren't the source of acid that i'd been taught. I hadn't enough pine straw for either side of the center row. I'd gotten cardboard on the ground, and with the chipping yesterday, managed to get the cardboard covered. It looks tidy at the moment: Christine is delighted. I am dubious it's enough to keep back the weeds of summer, but it's better than nothing.

The south square of the E has two rows of potatoes. They're planted in the clay with a thin layer of newspaper and then some old plants -- marigolds and holy basil -- and autumn leaves on top. When it comes time to hill the potatoes, i will dig out the isles. I ought to sharpen the shovels before then. With soil on top of the autumn leaves, they will decompose quite quickly in my worm-populated clay. I remain amazed at how quickly leaves and duff decompose in the heat and humidity.

I kept that end of the garden fairly well mulched over the winter, keeping back a decent amount of weeds. I added some of the greener chippings as mulch -- the twiggy bits of branches, including the autumn olive that is already leafing out. The nitrogen content might be enough to compost a little more quickly.

I finally had a decent amount of worm castings from the household worm bin. It wasn't fully digested, but it was black and rich. I plopped blobs of the thick black goo down the top of the row i plan to use for tomatoes. Right now Austrian winter peas are growing as a cover crop there. Hopefully it will be rich and delightful for tomatoes. I missed tomatoes last year - something nibbled on the plants and ate the fruit. I assume some combination of curious deer and squirrels. I also think the soil was too poor for the tomatoes to thrive. The volunteer tomatoes from the previous year (2017) grew out of the rich compost i used to build the hugelkultur. Hopefully this row will be satisfactory for tomatoes with the pea and worm contributions.

No rain in the forecast for a week!

8:30ish 2 AMGO, mNORC(g), CAWR, TUTI, CACH, MODO(g), WBNU 9:45
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Sunday, March 17th, 2019 09:13 am
FRIDAY: Wow, that's a grey sky.

Weather has been variable today. We had a downpour at dawn, and at lunch it was warm and bright (still more or less overcast). The violets and dandelions were all wide open. I picked a salad of loose lettuce leaves, sorrel, miner's lettuce, and Austrian pea shoots for later tonight, adding a small poesy of violets and mint leaves. I popped a dandelion in my mouth, enjoying the sweet hint in the lettucy-bitterness. For lunch i picked sage, onion greens and some of my "broccoli rabe" -- two lovely purple top turnips came up so that may be part of dinner.

It's pouring now.


First, fie on the temperature. I woke to 28°F on the heat pump thermometer. A couple hours later it had warmed up considerably. It had been predicted to just get below 40°, so i was surprised. I'd left the green house windows open and orchids (that may have already been killed) in the car.

Yesterday i picked up the last two shrubs i had ordered: two Arapaho blackberries. As i told Christine, i exercised restraint and only made two impulse purchases: four cabbage starts and a Yaupon holly. I killed one some years back by not planting it promptly. This one was in a seedling tube and i broke off most of its roots when i pulled it out. I've gone ahead and planted it: maybe it will survive.

Yaupon hollies are the only native North American plant with caffeine. Some part of my interest is simply drug related.

At home, i planted while Christine went to her nephew's wedding with her sister. Once i had things in the ground, i went to my parents house. My goals were to get Mom's study so that she could go in there when she gets home, and to remove all her pants from her wardrobe so that we have one argument over the pants being removed instead of multiple battles of will over what to wear. It took all afternoon, but her study is not longer a storage room and she go in and do things.

I started watching Netflix's Umbrella Academy on Friday, and last night - -waiting for Christine to return home -- i binged on the show. It's rather complicated and intriguing, more adult and more engaging than i expected.
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Sunday, March 3rd, 2019 09:52 am
4 panels to represent my 51st birthday

I spoke with my 102 year old grandmother: i am half her age.

The first daffodils bloomed. The day was surprisingly (given forecasts) sunny. Our saucer magnolia is still holding its pink blooms in buds. There's a chance the Tuesday and Wednesday night freezes might not entirely spoil the spring bloom.
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Saturday, March 2nd, 2019 07:49 am
It rained almost an inch yesterday, so i went out in the yard early this morning to see if there was a chance i could turn over the beds in which i plan to plant potatoes. As my shoes squelched with each step, i decided i could not make any reasonable progress in the yard today. Which is good -- i do have some inside work to do.

I did notice that the little slope above the rain garden has even more Houstonia pusilla, tiny bluet. I need to figure out some summer plant that could succeed it, and then melt away for the winter, so the Houstonia can shine again in the spring. I'd hate for the area to be a source of bittercress, chickweed, Mazus pumilus (blooming now), and stiltgrass just to protect the barely visible little flowers. The native ponyfoot, Dichondra carolinensis, might crowd the tiny wildflower out.

I think for this year i will just treat the area like i did last year. I had imagined trying to turn the area into more vegetable garden, but i'll leave as is for the time being. I may transplant plants that aren't in the well defined area to the orchard.

Violets are blooming. Christine's family peony has sprouted up and will need to be protected for the freeze on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning). I can't find any sign of the spearmint that the previous owners left growing near some crepe myrtles. It's a mint: how could it be gone? I have actually tried to weed competing plants away. I suspect it will be back later.

The daffodils in the back moss bed are blooming. The ones i transplanted from clumps left by the previous owners have all sprouted. The irises and day lilies also seem to be coming up, reassuring after i feared the explosion of stilt grass had smothered them.

The brassicas on the traffic island are just beginning to send up flower stalks. I picked a bunch that is brocolli rabe like at this point, leaving one tall thick stalk to mark for future seed collection. The thinning i did off and on during the winter may have made a difference as the front of the island has fewer and thicker stalks while the back has more and thinner. I'm assuming these are the tops of the purple top turnips. It's hard to know: i've sown field greens of rapeseed (Brassica napus) ans daikon radish (Raphanus sativus) as well as purple top turnip (Brassica rapa). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00288250709509702 suggests that the B napus x B rapa cross isn't particularly "fecund". Hmm, i've also determined that the Brassica napus vat 'Athena' i've scattered around is unlikely to bloom: it's a winter variety and needs a cold period to trigger flowering. It's sprouting everywhere i scattered it at least, so it should shade out stilt grass for a while without bolting.
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Sunday, February 24th, 2019 09:04 am
Rain. The Haw crested at 15.13 ft this morning at 5 am. Brooks Creek was near top of banks last night. There were so many puddles yesterday. Somehow, even with the .93 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, the puddles have gone down. I've recorded 4.14 inches of rain for the month, surpassing the average rainfall of 2.89 in. And it's still raining. This afternoon and the next few days should have sunshine before another front washes through.
Rain data )

I went through all my seed yesterday and have a plan of sorts for the garden plot. My data structure for planning isn't quite right yet, but it's close.

I am learning. I'm fighting the temptation to order seeds: just one type i am missing for fighting the stilt grass. I've binged on buying so many seeds since we moved here, particularly on the deeply discounted seed packs in December. I've learned what doesn't currently cope with the clay: no radishes, no carrots. I'm beginning to get a sense of direct seeding vs starting. I know how important thinning is for the poppies. And i know drying is a good way for me to preserve veggies for myself. I am happy to throw dried veggies into a pot for lunch.

I should probably make the seed order soon so i am not tempted. I've already talked myself back from pepper seed, and i'm now tempted by a wild tomato selection. This year i intend to start lots of perennial flowers from seed. In coming years, i can do the tomatoes and peppers.
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
Thursday, February 21st, 2019 07:01 pm
More grey, more rain, delighting me in the possibility for some good cold stratification for the wildflowers i've sprinkled around. The rapeseed i have cast around the outside of the orchard is sprouting. Rapeseed is a close turnip relative and canola is a specific variety. The plant flowers yellow like mustard plants, and i look forward to munching on the flowers with the (flavorless) native violets as salad toppings in a few months.

This gardening month looks and feels wintry, but our saucer magnolia has lipstick pink petals peeking from the fuzzy flower buds, the crocus are past bloom, and daffodils are marshaling. Our shaded north slope stays wintry a little longer than other places: Daffodils bloom on a south facing bank down the street, Bradford pears are blooming up closer to Chapel Hill along with some pink flowering tree -- a Japanese Flowering Apricot or cherry (per https://fairviewgardencenter.com/blog/pink-trees-bloom-spring/). I suppose it may not be our wintry aspect but simply the absence of such early flowering trees.

Witch hazel would be a native winter flowering tree that could brighten up my view, and after much poking at the internet, i've found a vendor with selections from the species.

There's a gap in early summer, too, that i am trying hard to fill. There are many blooming plants that begin in July and stretch on to frost, but there's a gap after the Easter-egg colors daffodils and violets and azaleas before the simmering of later summer. The poppies and borage will fill a bit of the gap this year.

Last year, i tried to make the driveway circle a home for native meadow flowers but lost to the stilt grass. This year i am planning sorghum and corn as a backdrop to a large, vining winter squash.

I am so tempted by seed catalogs, but i should just use the seed i have -- which is plenty!
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
Monday, February 18th, 2019 01:18 pm
Forecast was for rain all weekend, which would make the soil too sodden for certain steps in gardening, so i took Friday off. The south end of the garden plot is now fenced and therefore i could uncover the greens and lettuce that have overwintered. I did much puttering about in the despite the wet.

Gardening to-dos and meanderings )

Carrie was too ready to eat the chickens, so no chickens for us yet. We'll need to build a safe place for them outside the orchard aka dog run. My sister took the chicken coop off our hands and it will be a "love shack" for the rooster Sriracha and the long time family hen Lily. All her cohort had died off and apparently she wasn't thrilled by the new six Swedish hens and rooster my sister got a year ago. When we brought Carrie over, eventually we decided it wasn't going to work, and we'd just have Carrie run around with my sister's young dogs. We round up the chickens, starting with the new rooster going into a dog crate. The Swedish hens were rounded up, but we couldn't find Lily -- until we found her on the deck next to the rooster in the dog crate. It's sweet to see critters bonding like that.

I became blue on Sunday -- possibly due to the gloomy weather but also feeling guilty about caring for my mother. My aunt is spending whole days with her, and observing issues (unsurprisingly) with the care location. My sister pointed out how we are in this for a long haul and we can't put our lives on hold - nor would Mom want us to. (My brain counters, "Aunt J-- is in this for the long haul, too.")

Christine has had a now-rare elephant event, so having both of us un-cheery.... Well, i just need to focus on ensuring i am doing what i can to take care of myself.

Tomorrow is the date Dad said he would start investigating getting mom out of The Current Miserable Place. He said he wanted to talk to someone with the home health rehab program, which worries my sister and i. I hope he's just trying to be prepared for Mom to no longer progress at subacute rehab, and not planning on withdrawing her.
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
Thursday, February 14th, 2019 09:43 am
I put a bunch of seedy old grapes in a crook in the old front yard apple tree. The first time i did it, it was low enough that deer or possums or raccoons found them. I have a hard time imagining deer eating a whole block of suet, so i assume it was possums or raccoons. The second time i put the grapes higher up. They've been sitting there for a while, but this morning a murder of American crows (eek, a murder in the driveway!) has figured out where they are. The crows have to take turns negotiating their way through the thicket of water sprouts. It's been entertaining.

Also seen this morning: a red bellied woodpecker, male northern cardinal, two mourning doves, and an unidentified sparrow (i'd guess a white throated sparrow) plus Carolina wrens, Carolina chickadees (3), American goldfinches (2 based on head coloring differences), white breasted nuthatches (2), and tufted titmice (2). The last grouping are species for which i'm sure there are more than one (or two or three) individuals but because i can only confidentially vouch for the number of birds seen simultaneously, my count is low. Oh! There's a squirrel! I haven't seen the squirrel attempting the feeder this year, but i suppose it too could have gone after the suet.

In other bird news, my sister found a rooster she is fairly certain was "dumped" near the middle school. She's taken it home and claims she's searched for owners. We're pondering adopting it. We'll introduce Carrie to the bird this weekend and see how likely it is that Carrie will register it as prey. Which means looking for friends and a coop. We have gone back and forth about getting chickens for a while. The primary goal would be for them to be free range bug eaters, although eggs would be nice. I'd want them ranging outside the orchard.

Finally, the first native wild flower of the season: Houstonia pusilla, the tiny/small/least/dwarf bluet. I think i will dig up the four tiny plants and move them back to the mossy glade. I found some growing naturally in the glade last year, and i think it would be a fine plant to keep company with moss. Spring beauty, another ephemeral, has sent up leaves in the two places i've tried to establish transplants. And the putative Lupinus perennis has sprouted where i planted them back near the pawpaw and mulberries. Putative, because the website i ordered them from has the string "European-Lupine-Wildflower-Seeds" in the URL, but Lupinus perennis is an eastern North America native. Well, i don't have any rare butterflies to be disappointed.
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 09:11 am
Friday: I think i did some chipping. I know i went into the NE small block of woods where Duke Power cut down many small trees to get to the large (about 2 ft in diameter) dead pine. I found the cherry tree they cut down so one less gripe about Duke power.

My brother came over with his middle son and daughter and we had a lovely time hanging out. The middle son is an athlete and so ran around with Carrie, possibly tiring her out. There was chatting about Dungeons and Dragons. All in all, a pleasant and warm visit.

Saturday and Sunday slipped away with grey skies, and time spent looking at seeds. I am about ready to go seed a few flats. I don't know how the flat that needs to stratify will do. The weather seems ready to give up on frosts and freezes. All the seeds i planted on Tuesday a week ago need some chill. My thoughts have an undertow of "Too late! Too late!" which isn't entirely accurate. Natural systems are diverse, and there will be seeds that need less and seeds that need more of whatever condition. Planting late isn't optimal, but the seeds that need more of the cold will be in the seed bank for next year. The early seeds will germinate. I planted some tulip bulbs at random depth in a berm on Sunday. The bulbs had already begun sprouting. Ah well, the main goal was to donate to the girl scout troop selling the bulbs in December. I did buy some plants: a beech tree to plant in the new gap in the woods, plus a few other natives to plant around the glade as we cut back the autumn olive and scraggly sweet gum. And the local farm store is selling "sticks" to use for rooting.

Yesterday was a family day, inadvertently longer and more draining than expected. Good news is that Mom might be able to move to a closer, more aggressive with therapy rehab center in two weeks. Also, my sister in law, of whom i gave an unflattering recount in last entry based on her Monday night conversation at dinner, has been hired as law faculty in Singapore. I am so relieved for her, as i think her lack of engagement in her profession was eating at her soul.

Thinking about where to plant peas, poppies, borage in the garden. Waffling back and forth on various garden layouts (but at least i have a plan for the potatoes)g. Finishing fencing the garden. Whether i can use sweet potato in the driveway circle as an edible ground cover that can defeat the stilt grass. Should i move the plants that survived deer, rain, and stilt grass into the orchard to be protected from deer and stilt grass?
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
Thursday, February 7th, 2019 09:48 am
Today's distraction: "Trust, but Verify"

Wikipedia has a nice background on how Regan came to use the Russian proverb during negotiations. I had had a meeting with someone who seemed clear at the end of our meeting, but then went and asked another colleague for a demo.


--== ∞ ==--

Monday was a Mom day, Read more... )

Dad and i sat on their patio for a while, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.

Monday night Read more... )

--== ∞ ==--

Tuesday, glorious weather continued, and i made use of it with a day off. I wrote a variety of letters that Christine hand delivered to mom's facility, several to be delivered to therapists by taping them to Mom's mirror. The low tech communication has driven me nuts.

Christine left, and i worked in the orchard area, preparing the ground and then seeding with all the wildflower seed mixed with vermiculite. I fight gardener doubt now, but on Tuesday the weather was so lovely and it was so delightful to be outside. Edward Cat and Carrie kept me company. The mild temperatures, blue skies, gentle sun: i was delighted by the whole day.

--== ∞ ==--

Wednesday was an intense workday. Today is less so. The weather is amazingly warm and mild, 73°F outside. Now it's 81°F. I feel behind in my personal care: my morning rituals are all scrambled. I'm taking off work again tomorrow. It will be a nice mild day and i will continue to get some of my yard priorities addressed.
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
Thursday, January 17th, 2019 10:36 am
Six different species at the feeder this morning. The usual tufted titmouse and Carolina chickadee, with a pair of Cardinals wandering around underneath. Then the distinctive (comparatively) shape of a nuthatch got me to look with the binoculars: a red-breasted nuthatch. And a Carolina wren, an eastern phoebe, and a pair of goldfinches. Whee!

Yesterday i found a arrowhead!! I was digging up Star of Bethlehem so Carrie and the cats don't try eating it as grass, and noticed the symmetric chip of stone. I think it's the first arrowhead i have ever found. Using http://www.projectilepoints.net/Search/NorthCarolina_Bifurcated_Other.html, i think it's most like Culpepper or St Albans, both of which are Early Archaic, 8000 years before the present. Which is kind of ... awe inspiring. (I go to touch it again.)

Also, i was digging up Star of Bethlehem bulbs. *cough* I am unlikely to run out and eradicate it because it is not as problematic as similarly aggressively-spreading non-natives. There are certainly native spring ephemerals i would love to replace it with, but it's not outcompeting them, particularly. Since this was all plowed ground, naturally getting small, native species back that aren't wind or bird distributed takes a nice bit of luck. The ones i have found so far are Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) easily explained by birds, Spotted wintergreen ... maybe seed capsules were caught in a critter's fur and then brought here? Once one was here, it does spread by rhizomes and the spread throughout the woods makes sense. The most mysterious for me is Spring Beauty. I've found two small clusters so far. I can't imagine them being brought by ants this far from the creek. I suppose i can imagine the seeds in mud that deer tracked up the hill, falling, and then establishing the small colonies. One was on the septic field so it was less than 25 years since establishment. http://www.nomadseed.com/2016/11/spring-beauty-claytonia-virginica/

Mom care this week: a visit to the hospital, before she was moved. Helping dad pick a good nursing facility (which was disappointing, as the nearby one is awful). Calls to find out what Dad needed to take for mom. Newsletter emails. Medical appointment wrangling and logistic calculations: morning appointments with the worst area traffic between the rehab center in Raleigh and the hospital in Chapel Hill.

Tomorrow i will visit her after i check out a coworking location very close to the nursing home, with the idea that a midday drive is less likely to hit traffic, and working from Raleigh for four hours should be agreeable. Then i can visit mom in the early evening and drive home after traffic clears.
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
Monday, December 10th, 2018 06:45 am
At 3 am, Carrie nudged me awake, and i passed letting her out duty to Christine. It was hard enough for me to get back asleep, but i must have managed.

We had a power blink long enough to reset the appliance clocks such that power came back at 5 am. I don't know if the blink or Christine turned on some "smart" lights. It looks like fewer of the households just off our road are without power, so the blink could have been the results of repair work. I have grown to assume many of our blinks and surges are due to breaks that leave others without power or repairs that bring them back. It's hard to know why we luck out with our power line that zig-zags above the road leading to our house when my parents in their proximate to more suburbia with a buried power line in their neighborhood spend so many storm events without power. Such as yesterday. From the maps, my sister probably lost power but has it back to day. My parents might have power back -- the polygon near their home is ambiguous and i think the people who manage the maps get sloppy during storms.

Snow still covers the ground, bright in the predawn gloam, despite the (barely) above freezing temperature last night. I think it's sleeting. The low tunnels i have covering lettuce and winter greens (in hopes of getting a kick start in the spring) have collapsed. While the snow is there, it's fine -- an insulating blanket. But i fear the snow will melt to day, then the temperature drop into the twenties tonight. I suppose i'll go out in the muck and try to get the tunnels back up.

And maybe tonight i'll work on the tea towels.