I’ve Learned My Lesson

I’ve always loved gardening, planting plants and seeds then watching them grow. Playing in the dirt is relaxing and hard work at the same time. Dirt and plants don’t talk out loud to you, don’t ask questions or care how you look and are just content to have you pay attention to them. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest from the Midwest, I’ve learned a lot about the way plants grow here. I’ve read books and talked to Master Gardeners. I’ve paid attention to the weather patterns, discovering that while everyone believes it rains every day here, it doesn’t. Our late falls, winters and springs are wet and rainy, but come summer and the tap turns off, this year with a vengeance. At present counting, we are at fifty-six days with no rain, a new record. I decided to plant a huge raised bed garden for vegetables and fruits.

I drew up plan for a large garden area with eight raised beds, four – five foot by ten foot raised beds and four – five-foot square raised beds and Mitch built them. Pretty ambitious I know, but I hadn’t had a garden in two years and was itching to play in the dirt. Well I got my wish and boy did I ever get things to grow. I was warned by experienced gardeners to be very careful when planting, because everything grows well here.

I planted one of the small beds with cucumber seeds and at first, I was disappointed at the small spindly little plants. Silly me, I just needed to be patient. The raised bed is overflowing with a tangled web of cucumber vines, hiding cucumbers that seem to grow over night.

I planted one of the large beds with strawberry plants, almost all came from my neighbor, and now I must go out every day and stick the runners back in the bed, because they’ve covered the bed and are trying to colonize my other beds. I planted three rows of green bean seeds and have already picked four buckets full of green beans and more are growing.

I bought a seed packet of zucchini seeds and a packet of summer squash seeds. Growing success is a gross understatement, because I have one five foot by ten foot raised bed covered from end to end with three and a half foot tall plants and am picking five and six zucchini a day, that doesn’t include the six to eight squash I find hiding under the giant leaves every day.

I have been scouring Pinterest and Facebook for zucchini recipes. I have been thinking of writing a cookbook and now I can write a whole chapter on just zucchini and squash recipes. I’ve frozen six bags of zucchini and squash, have learned to make zucchini spaghetti, zucchini tots and zucchini fries. I swear my hair is getting a green tint to it.

I’ve given so much zucchini and squash away to my neighbors that now if they see me coming with or without anything in my hands, they run inside and close the curtains, until I go by.

I’ve learned my lesson, next year I will buy two zucchini plants and maybe one squash plant. You don’t have to hit me over the head with a zucchini.

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The End of Summer

The end of summer usually brings a sigh of relief. It means that the oppressive heat and humidity of summer is almost done and cooler brisker days are ahead. The long dry spells that normally stretch through July and August will be gone. Here in the Midwest we’ve had three summers in a row that have been hot and miserable, with a drought that started in 2011 and didn’t really end until this year. But not this year, 2014 started off with a long cold miserable winter that just wouldn’t quit. It dragged on for months, stomping on spring and kept its hold on Mother Nature forcing late blooms and delayed planting.

This year after winter finally withered away, leaving spring a mere shadow of its self, summer came waltzing in lightly warming the days. We had ample rain early on staving off the need for watering the garden vegetables I planted. The days were really quite pleasant with temperatures reaching the high eighties with a few days in the low nineties, not the normal high nineties with days creeping into the hundreds. This summer has been a very nice gift from Mother Nature. Maybe she felt bad about the miserable past winter.

The down side to a cooler summer meant a late start on the vegetables I planted. It was well into July before my cucumbers, zucchini and squash started bearing fruit. I had lots of blooms but no fruit. I was beginning to think nothing was getting pollinated. I wondered where the bees were. I learned that because of the long hard winter and the milder summer it was taking longer for the ground to warm up enough for hot weather vegetables and fruits, like peppers and tomatoes, to get started. My cantaloupe didn’t start making baby cantaloupes until almost September. I will probably have a ripe cantaloupe about the time of the first frost.

Normally I look forward to the changing colors of fall foliage, but not this year. I want more summer. I want more time outside in the garden. This year when I look out the window and see the leaves starting to turn color I feel a sense of loss and a little sad, like something inside me is shutting down and dying. This was a great summer, one that I spent almost every weekend outside working in the yard and I’m not looking forward to the bitter cold and biting winds. I am not ready for fall not this year.

Maybe I feel this way because I’m coming up on my one year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling a sense of loss I don’t know, because I try not to let myself dwell on depressing things. Maybe I feel this sadness because I feel great and am working out, getting back in shape and am afraid of the other shoe dropping. You know the feeling that if you are this happy then something bad is going to happen, just to balance out the happy. Crazy, huh?

Maybe I’m just overthinking it, I don’t know. I just wish that summer wasn’t over yet. I guess I need to move to the Caribbean, it stays pretty nice there all year long.

Late Summer Photos

Today started off with early morning storms and the afternoon was cloudy and humid. A perfect day to take my camera and the dogs for a walk. A few late summer wildflowers are blooming away.

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The neighbor’s car watched us go by without looking too concerned

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Another neighbor’s bumper crop of peppers, I never have this kind of luck with peppers

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Their tomatoes are doing even better, I am so jealous. They have a green thumb, I have an Orso.

Fall is Starting to Show Her Colors

It was a beautiful fall day and for some odd reason I thought it would be better to take the dogs and my camera for a walk than clean house. It is finally turning chilly after a warm late summer and early fall, plus it’s been very dry here so we’re not having the brilliant colors we have had in the past. But Mother Nature is trying.

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A little color peaking through the green leaves
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One lone tree has turned in the midst of still green trees
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Pumpkins and mums seem to be the fall decoration of choice
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A little more color here and there
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The reds aren’t as bright but it’s still pretty
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Purple mums
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Purple mums
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A giant oak tree is turning a little at a time

Photos taken by Susan Kelly with Canon EOS Rebel

Spider Webs, Dragonflies and Butterflies

This morning was a beautiful morning, perfect for the camera. I got some great shots of the morning dew, nature and of course, Charlie and Orso.

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I found a few ground webs still wet with the morning dew. I couldn’t see the resident and didn’t want to get too close anyway.

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This web had a small grasshopper on a blade of grass above it. I couldn’t tell if the little guy was stuck or not.

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This was a beautiful dragonfly that landed for a brief moment.

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Another shot of the dragonfly.

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A small butterfly landed on a Black-Eyed Susan for some nectar.

I have a lot more to share this week. These were taken with my Canon Rebel and EFF 55-250mm telephoto lens.

Early Morning Photos

Silly geese swimming toward us
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Charlie and Orso checking for new smells
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Calm waters in the early morning

And The Heat Goes On

The heat and the drought just keeps coming.  It’s like a blast furnace each time you walk outside.   Taking the dogs on walks is short and slow.  They don’t want to be out in the heat anymore than we do.  Of course this is the year that we’ve added two raised beds to grow more vegetables.  Two more beds means two times more watering, which translates to a much higher water bill.  This is a double edged sword for me.  I love the taste of home grown tomatoes, nothing like a big juicy home grown tomato.  With this drought we have to water almost every day just to keep the plants from withering. 

I’m also the utility police at home.  I walk around turning lights off, raising or lowering the thermostat and turning the faucet off in mid tooth brushing.  I am just plain cheap when it comes to wasting electricity, gas and water.  I rant on about saving energy, conserving water and recycling everything we can possibly recycle.  Mitch made and installed three rain barrels around the house so I can water the gardens with rainwater.  This year all of the rain barrels are bone dry, no water to even dribble out. 

We decided to use soaker hoses to accomplish watering more efficiently.  The problem was that the three raised beds were too far apart so we were wasting a lot of water in between.  Mitch solved this by cutting up the seventy five foot hose into three sections which he snaked through each bed then connected the spaces in between with regular hose pieces.  This has worked out very well for us.  Now we’re only watering the vegetable beds and not everything in between.  Of course the yard has gone dormant and I’m hoping will recover next spring. 

Whether you believe in global warming or not, this weather pattern sucks and I’m ready for it to be over.

Flashcards

I think I’ve come up with the perfect solution to our groundskeeper’s good plant vs weed recognition problem.  Flashcards.  Very simple yet elegant as a solution.  Flashcards work for kids in school.  Math and alphabet flashcards have been used for decades.  So maybe plant flashcards would work.  I would take pictures of all the different plants growing around the lake and laminate the photos to plastic cards.  I can draw a circle with a slash through the middle of photo of a weed and even type a description below the photo.  Something like, “kill on sight” or maybe “wanted dead and decimated” for a weed and “diplomatic immunity” or “endangered species” for a keeper plant.  This may slow down the weed eating process around here, but eventually hopefully the groundskeeper will get it and maybe some poor plant souls will be spared the weapon of plant destruction.   Especially the ones I’ve paid money to put in the ground.

The flashcards could be put on a ring and hang from his belt for easy plant recognition access.  The groundskeeper would walk along flip up and peruse the flashcard to scan the photos searching to determine if the plants are public enemy #1 or keepers.  Who knows maybe flashcards will catch on for gardeners everywhere.  I wonder if I should apply for a patent.

Definitely Not A Botanist

Sunday the temperature was around ninety nine degrees and it felt like stepping into a blast furnace when you walked outside.  A great day to sit inside a dark movie theater, munching popcorn and watching the latest movie, or visiting a museum, anything indoors out of the heat. 

But the heat didn’t deter one man, our local groundskeeper.  A very nice man that works hard to mow and maintain the city grounds.  One of his tasks is to weed whack the weeds along the road edge to keep the weeds from growing too tall.  I couldn’t believe he was out in the middle of the day wielding his weed eater attacking the straggly weeds on the other side of the road.  He either doesn’t feel the heat like the rest of us or he has a death wish.  Or maybe I’m just a sissy.

I walked outside to get the burgers off the grill and saw him walking up the road away from my boulder, weed eater in hand and thought surely he didn’t use the weed eater on my ornamental grass that I had just planted a month ago.  Surely not.  Just to be sure I walked down the yard, burgers in tow to check on my grasses.  Sure enough he cut the grasses down all the way to the nubs.  I wanted to chase him down, rip the weed eater out of his hands and club him with it.  All I could think of was the hard work I’d done, digging up the grasses to replant, digging holes in the gravelly ground and replanting the grasses.  Not to mention having to listen to the diatribe from the neighbor, that I placed the granite boulder in the wrong spot.  I carefully watered the grasses until they were growing and looked like they would take hold.  Now the grasses were mere stubs in the ground. 

How could anyone mistake the tall graceful clumps of ornamental grass to common everyday weeds?  Was he blind, using the weed eater as a seeing cane to clear his path?  No, he just has no clue between the difference of a keeper plant and a noxious weed.  The only reason our local groundskeeper is still walking without the need of a cane, was the look of horror and regret on his face, and his comment of “Oh s***” when I explained to him I planted the grasses on purpose that he just mowed down with his weapon of plant destruction.

He’s definitely not a botanist.