Sedum!

DSCF3709.JPGIf you could see my yard and house you’d find out quickly that I really, really love plants, but there are some plants I love more than others. Hostas are one, and we ripped up the little patch of grass in front of the house and have been turning it into a hosta garden.

Another I love is sedum. When the FFA had their plant sale a few years ago they had a lot of stuff left over that didn’t sell that they gave me a whole flat of young sedum plants that immediately came to live in our back yard, and they’ve been thriving ever since. They are all up now and looking very well. They’ve tolerated an amazing variety of conditions in the years we’ve had them, ranging from near flood to drought and are still hanging in there.

Burbs and Compost

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Burbs

And the ever popular Compost!

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We finally got some fairly nice weather in between rains and I’ve been taking advantage of it to haul in some compost. The yard is too wet to drive the truck over it so I’ve been hauling it in the little trailer behind the lawnmower. Hopefully we’ll be able to grow something back here now other than weeds, oregano and dust baths for the burbs.

 

More Spring

The cactus we rescued from the town compost pile was immediately named Mr. Spiny, IMG_0156and much to our surprise he seemed to actually like being out doors and in the corner garden. He doesn’t look too good at the moment after this winter, but MrsGF tells me he’s going to be just find once the weather starts to warm up. I hope so. I’ve become rather fond of the thing.

Then there is this thing, which I do not like. It’s a pretty bush, I’ll admit that. But dear lord it’s nasty. It has some of the worst thorns I’ve ever had to deal with. They’re so sharp they go right through even my heavy leather welding gloves. I’d like to get rid of them but MrsGF likes ’em for some reason, and they’re on the north side of the house IMG_0159where it’s hard to get anything to grow anyway, so it looks like I’m going to be stuck with the damned things for another year.

I never have to worry about these guys. They just keep going, and going, and going…

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I don’t know what they actually live on. There’s no soil here, just rock.

I got myself seriously chastised the other day because I’ve had this dopey thing for about 4 years and in that time have only 3,200 miles on it.

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Odd, really. I put something like 13,000 miles on my BMW the first season I owned it. But as soon as I picked up the Goldwing, which is far more comfortable to drive than the BMW was, I seem to have lost interest in motorcycling. Strange.

Enough. It’s supposed to start raining this afternoon and I have a lot to get done yet today!

 

Spring Prep

I dug the tiller out of the garage this morning and started doing some work in some of IMG_0148the beds here. That old tiller… It is literally almost as old as I am, probably dates to about the early 1960s. It’s exactly like one we owned when I was a little kid. The dopey thing is the most reliable piece of equipment we own here. It just plain works, and always has. Pull it out of the garage, fill it with gas, check the oil, and pull the starter a couple of times and it starts. It’s an ancient Briggs engine, the brand name, Gilson, is put on with stickers, but the thing is built like a tank.

I’m afraid I was a bit sneaky. Every year MrsGF agrees that we really, really need to work up some of the long established beds because the soil has deteriorated so badly. But when I finally get the tiller out and start to actually do it, ah, well… This flower is so neat and it will come back again this year, and the cone flowers are going to come up there, and this plant is in there and she doesn’t want to do that. And to be fair, there are some nice plants in there, but in order to save those few nice plants, it means the ground is so bad in those areas we can’t plant anything else but weeds.

So I got her to agree to do it yesterday, and while she’s at work this morning I got out there quick and worked everything up before she could change her mind.

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This area here was first an herb garden, then we tried strawberries, which didn’t work that well because, well, the soil was so bad. So the oregano more or less took over everything except for one patch where the cone flowers had established themselves. It’s a fantastic spot, sheltered in the “L” of the house, with exposure to the south and west, so it’s warm, sunny, etc. But the soil… Oh dear lord it was bad in there. When we first put this bed in we hauled in a lot of compost and worked it in, but that was something like 20 years ago and nothing has been done in there since. The soil was so hard I had to go over it four times with the tiller.

We call this spot the Stump Garden because that’s what it was, originally. It was a big old stuIMG_0151mp when we bought the place about 20 years ago. We could have hired someone to come in and grind it out, but why pay good money for something like that? My solution was to build a retaining wall around it, fill it with dirt and compost, and plant stuff on top of it, my thinking being that sooner or later the stump will take care of itself by rotting away.

And it did, and in a remarkably short amount of time. Within about three years there was nothing left of it under the dirt. We decided we liked having a raised bed there, so we lowered the retaining wall a half foot or so and kept it in place. We’ve found this is an ideal place for growing lettuce. It’s well drained and in partial shade which helps keep the lettuce and greens from bolting. We re-seed it a couple of times during the summer so we have a constant supply of fresh salad greens well into the fall of the year.

IMG_0152The heart garden is called that because it’s sort of heart shaped. My only regret is that I didn’t make it bigger. Much bigger. Because I hate lawns. No excuse for lawns. None at all. I keep trying to kill mine off, but it keeps coming back no matter what. But I’m still working on it…

It’s not far from the herb garden area and I’m seriously considering linking the two up and turning it into the “Shapeless Blob” garden as an excuse to get rid of more grass.

This is another one that desperately needs work, but MrsGF was reluctant to let me work up because there were some plants in there she liked. Even though she told me to work it up last night, I suspect now that I’ve actually done it I’ll hear about it, especially if whatever I plant in there doesn’t work out well.

One year we put the entire thing in alyssum, a variety with an incredibly intense smell. When you’d walk out the back door of the garage the entire area was covered in this incredible scent. I’m tempted to do that again. Maybe. Not sure. The area is shaded from about noon on by our pear tree so whatever we put in there has to be able to deal with that.

Then there’s the garage garden, which is by the garage. Well, of course it would be, IMG_0149wouldn’t it. Garage. Garden… We really worked this one over last year. The soil was terrible in there. I covered the entire area with about six inches of compost and worked it in last year, and that has helped enormously. I have high hopes for this area this season.

 

 

It’s been a weird fall here in Wisconsin

This fall has been ridiculously warm. You’d think we’d like this unusually warm fall up here in the land of blizzards, frozen cars, burst water pipes and children frozen to flag poles. But we don’t. Not really. We’re not used to this.

img_0828It’s October 23, and I’m still harvesting eggplant and peppers, for heaven’s sake. I mean look at that box full I picked this morning over there on the left. And there seems to be no end in sight. The eggplant and assorted pepper plants are in full bloom, loaded with baby fruit. I’m harvesting dill for the second time this year. I have a second crop of spring onions about ready to eat. I planted those at the end of September. I have chives coming out my ears. I’d be drying those but we already have far, far more chives than we know what to do with. The greek oregano is going crazy. It’s over a foot tall and in full bloom, for the second time this year. Same with the sage. Some of my hostas have put out flower stalks for the second time this season. I was looking back in the tomato bed that I cleaned out at the end of September and found a dozen or more volunteer tomato plants newly sprouted, some six inches tall already. I’m tempted to pot some of them and see if they’ll grow indoors.

According to the recording thermometer the coldest night we’ve had has been about 41. Daytime temperatures have generally been up in the high 60s to low 70s. The only way we know it’s fall is that the days are much shorter and the trees are losing their leaves.

This isn’t a horrible thing, this extended warm streak. It certainly is keeping the heating costs down. But it’s, well, odd. It doesn’t feel right. And you can tell it’s bothering people. They seem nervous, edgy, waiting for the other shoe to drop. We all have this feeling of mild dread.

I don’t know if it’s our upbringing, or some kind of inherent human trait, but we all seem to share it. We all get this feeling that something is too good. Some malicious deity or force of nature or something is deliberately lulling us into a false sense of security, and then wham, drops ten feet of snow on us, or plunges the temperature down to -30, or — or something is going to happen.

The thing is, we like winter up here. We like the snow. We like the bone chilling cold. It’s part of our heritage. It’s part of our nature.

We complain about the cold, the winter, true. But if you listen to those complaints, you begin to realize that we also take a perverse pride in it as well, pride in our ability to deal with it. And an enormous amount of delight in laughing at the people down south when an inch of snow shuts down the entire metro Atlanta area.

Our complaints about the cold and snow are part of the fun, the bragging about how cold it was, the complaints about shoveling six feet of snow off the porch before we could even get outside to get to the outhouse.

Well, okay, the outhouse thing is a bit outdated. We’ve had real indoor plumbing here in Wisconsin for, oh, two or three years now. But you know what I mean.

What’s the point in living in Wisconsin if we can’t brag about the bad weather any more? Is it really worth putting up with living here if we can’t laugh at the people in Illinois because they don’t know how to drive in the snow any more?

 

An Odd Autumn

It’s been a rather odd autumn here in north eastern Wisconsin. Usually this time of year it’s starting to get chilly, even downright cold. It hasn’t, though. Daytime temperatures have been in the low to mid seventies, at night it has only rarely fallen below 57 – 65 degrees. And it’s also been unusually wet. They’re claiming this has been the fourth wettest season on record.

It’s had an interesting effect on the plants around here. Our roses are in full blossom once again. We have new dill plants sprouting up all over the place. It looks more like May or early June than October.

Our eggplant has gotten its second wind, so to speak, and is loaded with blossoms and new fruit. Same with our poblano and jalapeno pepper plants. We have new green onions sprouting. The oregano I cut back has regrown. Some of our hostas are blooming for the second time this season. The morning glory seed we planted back in May that never sprouted sprang up out of nowhere two or three weeks ago and is now in full flower. The roses are a riot of color, with blossoms coming so heavy the branches can hardly support them.

Rain has been our constant companion for weeks and weeks now. If you don’t live in Wisconsin you may not have heard about the flooding we’ve had; two people killed, houses washed away, roads closed, something like $20 million in damages so far. Farmers should be getting ready to start harvesting corn, should be harvesting soybeans. They can’t get into the fields without the combines sinking into the ground up to the axles, and there seems to be no end in sight.

I’m sure most of us don’t mind the warm fall, but the rain…