Archive | July 2016

Return to the Garden

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It’s been a couple weeks. let’s check in at the vegetable garden.  I have been busily weeding, training vines, picking bugs, thinning rows and hoeing up the dirt around the bases of plants.  The weather has been quite warm with many days in the mid-eighties to nineties F.  Scattered thunder showers have provided adequate water.  Everything in the garden is growing with abandon.g2

Miniature pumpkin vines in the foreground and field pumpkins in the back.  Little fruit are already setting.

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This humid, hot weather is corn’s favorite growing condition.  If you watch carefully, you can see the indian corn get taller!

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A sunflower, winter acorn squash, red sweet peppers, beets and a row of carrots along the fence.  I have harvested loads of beet greens, eaten much and given more away to friends and relatives.  I even made some pickled beets!

The peppers are very happy this year.  Last year they mostly failed.  This time I planted them closer together, about 8″ apart.  They are in the shade of the corn for much of the morning and have the beets nearby for humidity.  Peppers like moisture and partial shade.  Several plants have good-sized fruit.  I may eat one now and not wait for it to turn red!

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The bush wax beans are in full bloom.  I expect to find beans waiting to be picked any day.

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The first tomato, right on schedule.  Think I’ll pick it for my salad today, before some slug or mouse can chew a hole in it.

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Lettuce, anyone?  This is head lettuce.  I let it grow close together and thin as I need lettuce until just a few large plants are left to make heads.

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Bachelor buttons, marigolds and zinnias to brighten the garden and provide cut flowers.  The Japanese beetles were devouring the zinnias.  Finally I dusted them with insecticide and the plants have started to bloom.  No bugs bother the marigolds, they have natural insecticides to keep pests away.

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Morning on the Farm

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It’s a beautiful July morning, sunny with a bit of a breeze.  The dew is still on the grass.  Time to do the farm chores.  When I step out the door, snapdragons and a heliotrope greet me.  The blue flowers have a wonderful, sweet fragrance.

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Otto and Holly tag along.  They love to follow me everywhere.

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The fig tree has four good-sized fruit with many more small ones on the way.  Time to give this tree some fertilizer to help ripen the crop before frost.

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My new yard centerpiece, impatiens on a log.  They actually sit on the septic tank clean-out cover, marking it so nothing heavy (like a tractor or horse) goes across it.

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Day lilies and bee balm brighten the garden beneath the crabapple tree.

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Vista and Maddie, hard at work mowing the orchard.  Cheap laborers who love their job.

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Kai and Cary are out enjoying a little morning sun before their major nap of the day.

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The black raspberries are ripening!  Time to make some jelly.

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Black-eyed Susans make a lovely wildflower accent beside the iris bed.

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The recent rain has spurred the garden to exuberant growth, both vegetables and weeds.

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Finally made it to the barn!  The first and third chick hatch eat together peacefully.  The second hatch is too busy catching bugs and hasn’t responded to the breakfast call yet.

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Little guys and big sisters share the water dish.

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Someone else would like to have breakfast with the chickens.  Two chipmunks live in our barn.  They were being pretty decent little guys until one decided to chew the nozzle off a gas can.  Not sure what the attraction was, hydrocarbons?  Maybe it’s time to bring home a Barn Friend cat from the Humane Society to send the chipmunks packing?

With all the distractions, it’s a wonder I ever get the barn chores finished!

 

 

Pseudoscorpion

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What could this little creature be?  I found it crawling across a ceiling.  Looks like a tick, maybe, or some minute crab.  It is about one-quarter inch long and a fast mover.

Over the years I’ve found several of these in my house, mostly in the library.  I’m sorry to say I killed the first few, before a friend told me what they are.  Pseudoscorpions.  The one pictured is likely a house pseudoscorpion, Chelifer cancroides.  They are members of the spider family.p1

These tiny, alert insects are quite beneficial in the home because they eat various insect pests including mites, springtails, ants, beetle larvae and book lice.  Hence their appearance on our book shelves.  They like humid areas with wood, probably because their prey prefer these places.

Pseudoscorpions are not a danger to humans.  They do have venom, in their large front pincer appendages, but they are too small to pierce our skin.  These spiders are known to hitch rides on larger animals to travel around.

Their lives are quite interesting.  The adults do not have sex in the way we understand.  The male deposits a semen packet in an area he specially prepares then waits until a female is attracted by his sexy scent.  When she arrives, he does a mating dance then guides her to the semen packet where she takes it into her body to fertilize the eggs.  The eggs brood in the mother and the nymphs sometimes ride on her back after they hatch.  The babies go through three molts before reaching adulthood.  The insect’s lifespan is 4-5 years.

Now that I know what these little guys are doing, I welcome them in our book-filled house.  They are performing quite a service for us.

Little Ghost Story

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Stairwell in the background and portion of the sofa traversed by the ghostly figure

Just a little ghost story for a rainy Sunday.  In the photo above, Kai is on the left and Cary on the right.  They are on the back of the sofa and the stairs with the cat scratching post are in the background.  Yesterday I was sitting on the floor in the livingroom playing with these two eight-month-old kittens.  They like to chase a long white shoelace.

We have two more cats:  Toby is a mackerel tabby and Chloe is a tuxedo kitty.  They were both upstairs, but when they hear me playing with the kittens they usually come running from wherever they are to join in.

I heard their feet on the stairs and soon they were both right beside me.  All four of the cats were within a foot of me.  From the corner of my eye I saw a fifth cat leap from the stairs by the cat post, run across the sofa and jump down to the floor on the far side of the sofa, out of sight.  It was as though this cat had closely followed the other two down the stairs.

I looked again to make sure all four of our animals were right around me.  They were.  I noticed Kai was staring intently at the same spot where I had seen the other cat.  He got up and went over behind the sofa to the exact place where the cat had disappeared.  Kai sniffed around a bit then returned to me.

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Kai helpfully reenacting the scene of the ghostly sighting, in nearly the same place and with the same attitude (and favorite shoe lace.)

Had Kai not reacted, I may have dismissed the incident as my imagination.  Cats don’t lie.  They respond to what they sense.  I believe something was there.  Three of our beloved pet cats have lived out their long lives and passed away here in the house.  I didn’t get a good enough look to tell the color of the ghost kitty, so am not sure which one it was.  Or it could have been an earlier cat.  Our house is built on the site of my former childhood home that burned.  Several cats and kittens have died in the immediate area over the years.

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Childhood home that burned in 1985.  Our current house is in the same place.  Me surveying the wreckage.

In the past, I have seen the form of my dearly departed kitty, Aragorn (aka Breeber,) an Abyssinian cat who was one of the last from my parents’ cattery.  They raised this breed in my childhood home for ten years.  Breeber and I were very close.  He attached to me, and I to him, when he was a tiny kitten and I was a teenager.  He was literally my shadow in life so it did not surprise me to catch glimpses of him after he passed away.

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Aragorn and me in 1985. I’m 22 yrs old and 6 months pregnant (that’s Granny-cat in the background)

My first dog, Skipper, was a beautiful Gordon Setter-like pooch who had only three legs.  (He was named Skipper before he lost one hind leg in an accident with a car in the road at one year of age.)  Being three-legged didn’t slow him down too much.  He delighted in following when I rode my horse, Sirranon.  The horse and dog were bonded as babies and frequently played together.  They are buried in the same grave on the farm, they died the same day.  (That is a story for another time.)

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Skipper and Sirranon, dog was missing his left hind leg

One day a year or so after they passed, I was riding my other horse in a field and from the corner of my eye caught sight of my dog Skipper following us.  I could see it was him right down to his hopping three-legged gait and the way his tail was held at an angle to help with balance as he ran.  When I turned to get a better look, Skipper was gone.

These sightings will undoubtedly be explained by some as nothing more than my vivid imagination at work.  Or perhaps I’m just crazy?  I don’t think so.  My eyes have served me well for 53 years so why should I doubt them?  It is more likely to me that the animals we loved and who returned our regard sometimes stay nearby, or occasionally visit.

Jordan Pond at Acadia

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Jordan Pond and The Bubbles

One of the central features of Acadia National Park is Jordan Pond.  From the famous Pond House that serves tea and popovers to the surrounding carriage roads and hiking trails and the boat launch, this area of the park is a big tourist draw.

The pond was formed by glacial activity and the bottom is covered with huge boulders of granite that were shaved from the tops of the surrounding mountains in the last ice age.  Although it is a natural pond, a dam has been added to regulate the water level.  Jordan Pond is a drinking water source and is not open to swimming, wading, or pets.

The beautiful view from the southern side of the pond is the two small mountain peaks named the Bubbles (often referred to as the Bubbies for obvious reasons.)  Circling the pond is a 3.2 mile walking trail that is deemed easy to moderate for hiking.  On our latest visit to Acadia this past week, we decided to circumnavigate the pond.

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Penobscot Mountain from the flat rock bridge on the southeast side of Jordan Pond

The hike starts either from the boat landing or across the dam off of a carriage road, depending on whether you want to go around counterclockwise or vice versa.  We left from the boat landing.  The trail follows the very edge of the pond, snugged behind the shoreline trees and bushes.  Mountains 1100-1200 ft tall surround the pond.  Most of the way, the path is shaded by towering trees, pleasant walking on a hot July day.  It is so tempting to remove one’s shoes and dabble toes in the cool water, but don’t do it!  No one wants to drink toe water.

Much of the east side of the pond has a graveled trail and the other side is mainly traveled over raised plank walkways.  Signs advise hikers to stay on the pathways to protect delicate shoreline.  On the east side, not far from the boat landing, a bridge made of large flat stones allows water to pass into a pretty little wetland.

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Tim on the north shore of Jordan Pond

At the northern end, the shoreline is a short, debris-strewn beach.  A tiny inlet brook bisects the beach, flowing from a small, protected wetland.  On the day we visited, a mama loon sat on her nest in the miniature marsh.  The sun was hot and the bird panted to cool off.  She seemed unconcerned by the proximity of human spectators.  Signs warned to leave her alone and people were behaving themselves.

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Loon on her nest, north end of Jordan Pond

After the beach, the trail continues to the west side of the pond.  This side is more boggy.  The trail is mostly raised boardwalk.  Along the way the trail passes through a boulder-strewn talus field of Penobscot Mountain.  I would hate to be standing near when a giant rock chunk gives way on top of the mountain and tumbles down to the pond.ac5

The remainder of the walk along the boards is easy and relaxing.  Water laps at the rock-lined shore, creating a gentle backdrop for birdsong and the occasional scolding of red squirrels in the surrounding woods.  Much too soon, the trail ends at a major carriageway connecting various routes.  The area is busy with hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders.  Tourists flock to the dam here at the south end for photo opportunities with The Bubbles in the background.  Most never take the time to walk a few feet from the beaten path to experience the quiet joys of Jordan Pond’s trail.

Garden Tour

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Today’s cool temperature and fine mist is a welcome change from drought conditions and day after day in the 90s.  Last night we had a thunderstorm with heavy rains.  I can almost feel the plants breathing a deep sigh of relief at the much needed water.

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The red sweet peppers are doing much better than last year.  I planted them closer together and am trying to make sure to give them plenty of water.  They are all beginning to bloom.  The beets are ready to be thinned for the greens.  Can hardly wait for a steaming bowl full flavored with salt and butter, yum!g3

Carrots are ready to be thinned as well.  I already thinned the pumpkins and squash.  They have out-grown the threat of squash bugs and cucumber beetles sucking the juices dry.  I think it was a hard year for those bug pests, I didn’t see hardly any.  Could be they don’t like very dry conditions.g6

The tomatoes are blooming and some have several small fruit forming already.  Can’t wait to harvest my first tomatoes!  These Early Girls usually have fruit ready by the end of July.  We’ll see how they do.  The lack of rain may have slowed them down.  I watered three times, but I suspect tomatoes like even more moisture.g7

The wax bush beans are beginning to flower.  Once flowers show up, watch out!  There will be beans to harvest in no time.  I still have about a dozen cans of beans left from last summer.  That’s ok, never too many beans.g5g8

I planted head lettuce that is ready to be thinned and also beds of marigolds, zinnias and bachelor buttons.  One bachelor button plant volunteered from last year and has lots of pretty mauve flowers already.  Always enjoy a little color in the vegetable garden.g10

The sunflowers struggled a bit, but are now growing well.  Most are about a foot tall.  Once they get this big, they begin to shoot toward the sky, nearly doubling in size every week until they reach six to seven feet.  They will be covered with bunches of small blooms that later form black oil seeds for the birds.g9

So, everything is growing right along here in the garden.  Am hoping the rain returns more frequently so I don’t have to water too much. We’ll check back in a couple weeks to see how things are going.

Sweet William

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Several years ago I sowed some red Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) seeds in my flower garden.  I have loved this flowers for as long as I remember.  It smells wonderful and holds its bloom for a long time.

The plant is listed as a biennial or weak perennial.  I think in my garden it is a strong perennial!  It is a member of the carnation family and the fragrance to me is a mix of nutmeg and honey.s2

Every year since I seeded it, the plants have grown and spread.  They do not completely die back in the winter, but keep a low growth of dark green leaves that spring up again each summer.  From just a couple stalks with red flowers the Sweet William has increased to take over half the garden.

I’m not sure how the new colors developed, maybe from the seeds of the original red plants.  Now I have fuchsia flowers with pink centers and fringe and one lovely stalk of salmon colored petals.  In the fall when the seed heads form, I help spread the seeds around, hoping for an ever widening patch of Sweet William.s1