Monthly Archives: November 2010

More birds!

By | Birds | 2 Comments

Absolutely crazy with birds out there right now–there are juncos landing on the roof a foot from my window and staring in at me like “Oh, hmm, look at that,” before going back to picking tidbits out of the rain gutters. A large mixed flock of juncos, sparrows, and yellow rumped warblers seemed to have descended on the yard, with some support by the usual suspects, plus a phoebe, a couple of bluebirds, a brown-headed nuthatch and a crazy-eyed brown thrasher. Titmice are going in and out of the bluebird box I put up last year–I’m guessing they’re using it as a perch box, since it’s never been of interest to bluebirds.  Everywhere you look in the leaf litter, there’s some little bird kicking and scruffling around.  And clearly I need to clean out the bird baths, which have filled up with leaves, since they’re all drinking out of the little frog pond. (Backyard too–they’re going in and out of the leaf litter and the big tangle of dead honeysuckle and dormant wild grape that covers the fence.)

Quite a day out there, quite a day…

Crazy bird day…

By | Birds | No Comments

Lots and lots of birds in the garden this morning–clear cold days always seem to bring them out in force. In addition to the usual suspects–doves, titmice, chickadees, Carolina wrens–the juncos have finally moved in in force, and been joined by the little brown sparrows that poke around through the leaves and grass. (On good days when I am ambitious I ID them. Today I am not ambitious.) There’s even a brown creeper skulking up successive trunks.

Those aren’t that unusual. What’s odd is that in the space of five minutes I saw a bluebird, a mockingbird, and a flicker, which are all common birds–but not in my yard! Generally they hang out in the subdivision on the other side of the trees. Apparently the fact that all the leaves have fallen alerted them that there’s, y’know, a yard back there! Possibly with yummy stuff! (Except for the flicker, who was probably just passing through–the tree cover is sufficiently dense that maybe I just don’t see them through the leaves other times of year.)

Or maybe they just like more open areas with clear lines of sight. Also possible. The bluebird popped into the hole in the woodpecker stand where the red-bellied woodpeckers had their babies. He might have been scouting a new home for next year–they scout VERY early–but it seems like an odd sort of spot for a bluebird.

Clearly time to lay in more birdseed…

Seedy Dealings

By | My Garden | 4 Comments

I wish I grew more stuff from seed.

I have, as of this writing, grown stuff from seed exactly three times, not including the time I germinated corn in a wet paper towel in grade school. Of those, the sunflowers were eaten by deer/woodchucks/bunnies and the butterfly weed was carefully planted in their little peat pots, which were instantly rained out of the hillside by a torrential downpour.

The zinnias are doin’ great. The zinnias are my great seed success. However, given that they have happily re-seeded into the lawn, I rather suspect that you could grow zinnias from seed on the surface of Mars.

I have a reasonably lavish garden, mind you, at least by my standards, but I have mostly grown it from starts and seedlings and occasional bulbs.  I am really looking forward to next year to see what has volunteered–I feel like this is the year my garden REALLY got into the swing of things–but that doesn’t really count as ME growing it from seed.

My problem is that the instructions always say helpful things like “Start indoors on a sunny windowsill six weeks before last frost,” to which I say “You don’t have cats, do you?”  A pan of dirt on a windowsill here would be a really exciting cat toy, with the crashing and the dirt and the auxiliary litter box potential. I would have to work something out, possibly involving covered glass aquariums, and my windowsills are not eighteen inches wide, a shocking oversight on the part of the builder.

And I would LOVE to start things from seed. It’d be a heckuva lot cheaper, and I seriously drool over the catalogs of obscure heirloom vegetables–what is this bizarre tomato, or this strange white cucumber? I get all fired up by the idea of preserving the genetic heritage of our food crops while conventional farm practices drive us screaming off the cliff on monoculture. Screw you, Monsanto! When the plague has killed all your genetically tinkered corn, you’ll be begging for a bite of my albino cucumber!*

I confess, too, that I am shamefully entertained by the infighting at the Seed Savers Exchange, a truly laudable and almost embarrassingly earnest non-profit with the goal of saving heritage seeds, which apparently blew up after they sent some seeds to the doomsday World Seed Vault, whereupon the founder accused them all of contributing to biopiracy, because now corporations can raid the seed vault (or something like that–I just see Vikings in tweed storming the coast of Norway waving briefcases and sample vials and screaming “TAKE THE SEEDS ALIVE!”) and then the Board of Directors replied by talking rapturously about wombs, which I think is a kind of hippie version of Godwin’s Law, since frankly, I’ve never seen a conversation go anywhere good after the womb metaphors come out.

Seriously, how can you NOT want a ringside seat for that crazy, particularly when it comes with heirloom seeds?

(And much of the world still thinks that gardening is such a nice pastime, and probably very soothing.)

The other thing that balks me about starting things from seed is that ONE roma tomato plant gives us more tomatoes than we can handle, ONE jalepeno plant nearly destroyed Kevin’s digestive tract, and ONE cantaloupe planted last year keeps returning and eating the deck.   One six pack of basil starts provided more basil than we could remotely hope to use, and one potted grape tomato keeps Kevin snacking, and then cringing, and then actively fleeing from the onslaught. Next year I plan to expand into beans and cucumbers–even if I have to set up the aquarium in the window!–and I fully expect to be hip deep in produce by the end of it. If I start getting into obscure vegetables just for the hell of it, we’re gonna wind up with fifty bushels of neon eggplants or something and I’ll have to learn to cook out of sheer desperation and NO ONE WANTS THAT.


*Not actually a euphemism.

By | Birds, Day-to-Day | 47 Comments

Photo by B. Walker, Wikimedia Commons

I woke up, showered, ambled into the studio and plopped down into the chair–and a red-shouldered hawk went by the window about five feet away.

Scared the hell out of me for about two seconds–those are not small birds! Fortunately when he turned to go into the woods, I got a good look at the barred tail and the back for ID purposes.  Still. That’ll wake you up in the morning…

The garden is suffering a bit of a scheduling crisis at the moment–we had a very long, hot summer, which lasted well into fall, and it sufficiently confused the denizens that my strawberries decided to start flowering again.  Poor sods. And the leaf changes are completely erratic–some of the red maples have gone totally red, while others ten feet away are still green. But hopefully it’ll all sort itself out and the perennials are doing what they’re supposed to do in our mild fall climate–sending down roots, getting what amounts to an extra growing season before the frost hits.

The signs are hopeful–a lot of plants which died back severely in August or when transplanted to the new bed are now regrowing from their roots, so there’s a lot of black stems poking out of green mounds.  The cup plant, which sent up one spindly stalk this year and was not terribly impressive–“Aggressive grower? What do you mean, aggressive? You call this aggressive?” said Ursula–has suddenly put out a dinner-plate sized mound of leaves at the base and looks like it will be muttering about requiring secure borders at any moment. The Texas tarragon, which smells lovely, has put out a clump of cheery flowers and the deciduous holly is covered in shockingly red berries, which seems to indicate that the male holly “Southern Gentleman” was able to close the deal (ahem, ahem.)

So the garden pretty much looks like it’ll probably look until we finally get a hard frost that whomps everything, and then it’ll be all sparrows and juncos cavorting through the dead stalks until spring. And possibly the occasional red-shouldered hawk coming along to snack on them.