Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summertime Gardens

The warm, long days of summer have brought out the gardens.  The white garden in blooming with tiger lilies and stella d'oro lilies.  The shasta daisies and other wildflowers are getting ready to bloom. I put a small lemon mint plant in last year and it is spreading nicely.  The leaves smell so nice when you crush them in your hands.

As you walk across the yard from the white garden you come to the arbor.  The silverlace clematis is covering the arbor nicely (it could use more training and trimming)!.  The wire cages at their bases have kept the rabbits from chewing the stalks.

As you pass through the arbor, you then come the shade garden.  It is full of hostas and a few sedum, though the tiger lilies and black-eyed susans have found their way in also.

We also found a neat pair of mushrooms growing next to the shade garden.  From what I can gather, they are scleroderma citrinum (roughly translates to yellow bumpy skin mushrooms).  Not edible, but I wouldn't try to eat any mushroom in my yard anyway.

Though I am not particularly fastidious about the yard, I did rake some areas where the grass clippings from the mower were getting heavy.  I was amazed that when I look at my lawn, I see lots of ground ivy, plaintain and clover.  However, I sure raked up a lot of grass!  Go figure . . .

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Varmint Videos

The wife and I were looking out the window the other day, and we saw 2 squirrels wrestling.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Dad - I wish you were still here with us. It would be great to be enjoying the day with you and Mom.  Happy Father's Day!  Peace.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rivers Of Ice

As you probably have guessed, we've been to Alaska.  We flew into Seattle over a week ago and boarded a cruise ship traveling the inside passage.  We traveled up to Juneau and Skagway, then back to Victoria, BC and back to Seattle.  We were gone for 8 days, including the flight to and from Seattle.

Seattle, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria were all neat - but nature trumped them all.  We saw  tons of bald eagles, whales, more snow-capped mountains than you can imagine, deep fjords - and glaciers!

Pictures cannot do the scenery justice.  I was really excited about seeing the glaciers.  I booked a glacier trek from Juneau.  I took a helicopter ride the Mendenhall Glacier and went trekking and ice climbing.  What an adventure.  The shapes and colors of the glacial ice were extraordinary.

On the way to Skagway, I got up at sunrise one morning (around 3:00 AM) and saw ice fields off in the distance.

We sailed up the Tracy Arm Fjord to the toe of the Sawyer Glacier.  The scenery was breathtaking.  We saw more bald eagles, seals, ice flows, and Sawyer Glacier.  Our ship got to within 1 mile of the glacier, and you could see that the glacier was huge.  The blue ice was luminescent.

After visiting the glaciers, the cities were anti-climatic.  Not a warm-weather vacation, but definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I'd do it all over again!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Computer Message

This is Uncle Tractor's computer.  My scans shows he will be away from the blogosphere for 1 week.  The server tells me he may occasionally check email.  I am not sure where he will be, but I notice this page is bookmarked in his browser favorites.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Poor Man's Roses

We put a few white peonies in the 'white garden' when we first moved in 4 years ago.  We had a lot of trouble getting them to do much, until I installed wire cages around them.  The rabbits have not been able to chew them down, and now they are finally blooming.  We also put peonies in by the arbor 2 years ago (with wire cages) and they are also blooming!

I always called peonies poor man's roses.  When the are blooming, they have such beautiful, abundant flower.  Their scent is fantastic.  They don't last long, and the summer rains tend to knock the heavy flowers down.  We really appreciate them when they bloom.

Summer is really coming on strong.  The bleeding hearts have recovered from the late frost back in May.  The irises are blooming (also another of my favorite plants) (do you see a theme here - I like low maintenance plants)!

July will be here soon.  Then the stella d'oro lillies, tiger lillies, daisies, and black eyed susans will be blooming.  Such a beautiful time of year.  It doesn't last long.  Enjoy.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

War of the Knotweed

In the perpetual battle of man versus knotweed, I launched a major offensive today.

Before the Battle

It has been warm.  The knotweed by the creek has been growing like crazy.  It was over 4 feet tall in places.

After the Battle

It was very warm and muggy this morning.  It seems like it is always warm and muggy when I have to knock back the knotweed.   I grabbed the scythe and attacked it hard.  The scythe is the best tool for the job.  It takes a little effort, but it cuts a large swathe moves pretty fast.  I was able to clear the knotweed in about 30 minutes.  I was drenched in sweat, but I can now see our creek.

The knotweed will be back.  I'll have to hit it hard 3 or 4 more times this year.  Only when we get the next hard frost will the knotweed retreat until next year.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

'City' Farmer

Tomato plants

Last summer we visited Old Sturbridge Village with my brother, his wife, and their 2 kids (the ones that gave me the name Uncle Tractor).  If you haven't been there, it is a re-creation of an early 19th century New England village.  We listened to the workers (in period clothing) discussing their garden, when one visitor asked "Where are your tomato plants?".  The workers responded "You must be a city dweller.  Only they would grow tomatoes!"

Well, I must be a city farmer.  We don't grow a large garden.  My real job keeps me busy enough.  So, I grow what I like - and I like tomatoes.

We buy our plants from a local nursery. As usual, we grow mainly roma tomatoes, though we always grow a few slicing tomatoes.  This year I'd thought I'd try an heirloom variety - Old German.

I am, a lazy gardener.  I till the garden bed, and then spread weed fabric over the entire bed.  I place old boards on the fabric to hold it down and to give a place to stand when working in the garden.  I then slit X's in the fabric, and plant the tomatoes in the openings.  The black fabric keeps the weeds down, holds in moisture, and absorbs the sun to keep the beds warm.  This year, we put in 10 roma plants and 3 Old Germans.  I also put 3 other Old Germans in pots along with some more roma tomatoes.  This should give us enough tomatoes to have fresh tomatoes during the late summer and store away many quarts to tomatoes to have during the coming year.

I hope the tomato crop is better than last year.  It was cold and wet last year, and the tomato plants just  stayed dormant.  The hotter the better when it comes to tomatoes.

I'm not sure what other plants we will grow.  We always do some herbs (though we grow quite a few indoors already) and beans.  One of these years this 'city' farmer will get serious and expand the garden to include enough corn and beans to freeze.  The wife would also like to grow garlic and a lot of peppers.  Only time will tell...