Thursday, May 28, 2009


One of the biggest challenges for gardeners, especially in a place like ours that's deep in the woods, is the constant battle against the critters who want to eat the yummy things we grow. We've managed to keep the deer out by installing an 8 foot high fence that surrounds our whole yard, about an acre and a half. It runs through the woods, nailed to the trees so its unobtrusive to us but keeps the big guys out.

Within that frame we have a smaller fence that surrounds the vegetable garden to keep groundhogs and rabbits at bay. We've had major groundhog battles for years that led me to actually take a course in how to handle and shoot a 22 rifle a couple of years ago through the NC Wildlife Commission's "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" program.

This past week we came home after being gone all day to discover that a ground hog had managed to get one of the makeshift gates to the vegetable garden open and he had helped him self to most of the lettuce and ate the tender centers out of the best looking crop of lacinato kale I've ever grown, I was planning to harvest it this week.
Ground hog ravaged kale

Squirrels are our other nemesis. Impossible to keep out of anywhere, I've pondered razor wire in the orchard. They have now eaten every single peach off of our young peach tree, peaches we were really looking forward to. All of this prompted me to finally make a target and take the 22 rifle that David bought over the winter down into the woods. After about 30 rounds and gradual adjustment of the scope I got the thing properly sited and ready to go, and got some target practice in as well. Since then we've killed 5 squirrels. Our clever technique involves shooting at them through the kitchen window when they come up to scavenge seed from under the bird feeder, they don't ever see it coming.
Now I feel pretty bad about taking these guys out and I don't like to see them suffer when I make a less than perfect shot. I know they are just trying to survive, but I really want to harvest some berries this season and last summer they completely tore up both the blackberry canes and the blueberry bushes climbing around on them and eating most of the fruit before it was even close to ripe. So call me a murderer, I am.
Just now David called to me that Chucky was in the yard, there had been no sign of him, I thought the sound of gunfire was keeping him away. I took a shot at him but missed and he scurried off into his hole. Ground hogs are wiley, I've only managed to kill one in the past two years and it was trapped inside the vegetable garden.
I'm curious to see how many squirrels we might kill before it seems like we got them all. I know of course, that we will never get them all, but you can't knock a girl for trying.
Just call me Annie Oakley.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"free" time

One of the many reasons I like being at home
I'm actually taking advantage of Memorial Day to have a long weekend, something you'd think would happen often when I'm only working part-time, but no- instead it seems like I manage to spread my 20-25 hours a week across practically every single day of every month? What gives?

So- I spent Friday playing, went out to breakfast, over to see an art exhibit, Duke gardens for a stroll, plant shopping- never too many plants right?- out to lunch, then polished off the night seeing Star Trek. A fairly perfect day off, with absolutely no work and no cooking either, very sweet.

Yesterday I worked in the veggie patch for about 8 hours. Planted the sweet potatoes, more cucumber and winter squash seeds- the first ones didn't sprout, too cold I guess, got trellis up for the tomatoes, better late than never, weeded, mulched and planted a bunch of miscellaneous stuff I started from seed like basil plants and flowers that were suffering in little pots. I harvested green onions and pulled up bok choy from last fall after gathering the seeds.

Doesn't seem like it would take all day, but it did.

This morning we got up at 5:30 AM to head to Jordan Lake to kayak - our first time in the boats since Florida in February? Again- what's up with not playing more when I supposedly have free time? It was a beautiful morning- we were on the water by 7:00. We paddled up the narrow arm from Farrington point where there is a marsh that you have to work to get back into- ie; get out of the boat and pull across the edge of the beaver dam, but once inside there is a heron rookery where we were able to see more than a dozen great blue heron nests each with a couple of very big babies standing around in them. We were also surrounded by brilliant yellow prothonotary warblers, a regular occurrence out there in summer, they are not troubled by us in our boats and fly right past and perch nearby for great viewing. The most unusual birds were orchard orioles, both mature and first year males, that look entirely different from each other, the first years are yellow with a black throat and grayish wings with white wing bars, the mature males are a fabulous chestnut brown on breast and back with dark wings.

We managed to get back to the cars about 10:30 just as all the yahoos were hitting the lake in their power boats and jet skis, and escape back to the quiet of home to eat a giant brunch and take a nap during the afternoon rain. Then I went out and suckered and tied the tomatoes to the fence. I'll sleep good tonight and get up tomorrow for another full day of gardening, which might not sound like time off, but since my jobs involve working in other peoples gardens and with other peoples plants, it's a treat to spend an entire day working in my own space, doing the things I want and need to do.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Asparagus out, Sugar Snacks in

The weather is being most capricious, yesterday in the upper 80's and humid to boot, today in the 50's, tonight in the 40's ?! It's May 17th for crying out loud. We might have to turn the heat back on.

The eggplants and peppers are not going to like these chilly nights but there's nothing for it, accept the promise of warmer days to come later in the week.

We're picking the last of the strawberries. And a few shitake mushrooms never hurt to dress up a dish of veggies. We've stopped picking asparagus, because after 6 weeks we were getting sick of eating them, nice problem to have eh? Also the peas are starting to come in.
Today's haul.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Garden Royalty

I'm sure I've written here before about my favorite flower, the one I consider to be the true queen of the garden. So sexy. Red tips push from the earth and unfurl in the early spring, going from phallic to fallopian, eventually changing into lush green lobed leaves with tight buds at the junctions. Crawling with ants who guard their turf, fattening, fattening until at last the round orbs burst open releasing their rosey fragrance, delicious soft petals, exuberant stamens. What's not to love?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Spring is TOO Busy!

Late April/early May view of the front walk. Breathtaking.
Dear, faithful readers, my apologies for the long dry spell from blogging. April was way too action packed but I'm hoping that May can bring some respite from the madness. So much has happened since last I wrote, we've gone from spring pastel green woods to full on deep summer forest. Lush green leaves hanging still tender on all the trees make me wish I was a caterpillar. The peas are to the top of the fence and we should harvest our first picking tonight. I'm thinking stir fry with bok choy, leeks, peas and asparagus. Strawberries have been brightening the table and our tongues for a couple of weeks, now getting close to the end of their wonderfulness in our little patch.

We are experimenting with growing potatoes in fence hoops this year. They are to the very top of their cages, we've added soil/leaf mix 3 times and they are looking incredibly lush and happy, just beginning to set flowers so now we sit back and wait and hope that the cages will spill lots of taters when the plants die back in June and we open them up to see.
A big accomplishment for me in the past few weeks was building this gate, I've been planning it for over a year, had all the necessary parts and wood, just had to do it. I took the measurements, figured it all out and built it myself with just a small amount of coaching/advice from the Davo, he helped me set the stone underneath to discourage critters tunneling under it and to hang and set the latch, it's pretty swell looking if I do say so myself, I only have two more to build to complete the garden fence project we started two years ago.

I've planted tomatoes and most of my summer seeds are in, 5 kinds of summer squash, 4 kinds of winter , 5 kinds of beans, 3 kinds of cukes, I just love variety and can't help myself, I'm pondering selling one or two shares in the garden to friends, if you are interested, let me know.
I still need to plant my little eggplants and peppers, the peppers are looking a little weird, kind of curled up on the new leaves like a virus or something? Troubling as they looked fine when I stepped them into larger pots a couple of weeks ago- I'm hoping they'll improve when I set them in the garden this week.
The peonies are opening and the siberian iris are peaking, its pretty fantasic here and I just need to slow down long enough to appreciate it all.