Monthly Archives: February 2012


By | Animals | 3 Comments
Avert your eyes, mammal!

Avert your eyes, mammal!

I was picking leaves out of the pond this afternoon, and moved a leaf aside to reveal this shocking scene of amphibian debauchery.

Frankly, given that they’ve been calling non-stop for about a week—there was a chorus going on while it was snowing—I’m amazed I only found the one couple. These are upland chorus frogs. Later in the year, we’ll probably get bronze frogs moving into the pond, and there are cricket frogs flinging themselves wildly out from under my mud boots, but at the moment, the season belongs to the chorus frogs.

The Container Of My Dreams

By | My Garden | 7 Comments

So we have this eyesore on the property.

No, it’s not the beagle. I can understand why you’d think that, though.

Nor is it the chainlink fence surrounding the backyard, which doesn’t bother me all that much—some day I’ll get vines trained over every inch of it and it will be a wall of Generalized Green Gloriousness. (Wild grape, Virginia creeper, Dutchman’s pipe and American bittersweet. It’s got a ways.)

No, it’s the little meter and the alarm for the septic system. It’s on a short post smack in the middle of one of my flowerbeds (septic systems can tolerate a flower garden over top of the tank, but I wouldn’t plant any of the claybuster prairie plants, although granted there’s a freakin’ OAK TREE right there, I suspect my little plants are the least of our worries, root-wise.)

You can’t put something over this little meter, because there’s a red flashy light and you kinda want to be able to see that if the system has backed up and is about to explode. But it’s definitely not a delightful addition to the view.

I’ve been hoping to get a very tall container for it. You know the kind–about four and a half feet tall, sort of vase shaped. I wanted it glazed in blue, ideally. I would stick the container in front of this meter, and then we wouldn’t be able to see it from the deck or the master bedroom, but if the red light goes off, it’d still be pretty obvious. (It’s a big light. There will be visual splash.)

This was a great plan, right up until I went to price big ceramic pots.

Sheeeee-yit, as they say around here.

Most of them were too short and still cost over a hundred bucks. A couple of them were tall, but also enormously wide, and hitting closer to the $400 mark. There were a few that were pretty close to what I wanted, but the wrong color, and wandering over the $250 price range.

Needless to say, I choked. I am willing to spend quite a lot on the garden, as it is my primary hobby, exercise, and spiritual pursuit, but I like to spread it out a lot more. $20 on a shrub is a lot in my world, and while I might drop a hundred at the nursery, I better get a carload of plants when I do. The cost of one of those pots would plant out an entire bed. I went home empty-handed and feeling a little queasy in the general area of the wallet.

I eventually stuck a lawn flamingo in front of the post. This did absolutely nothing to disguise the problem, but at least the question became “Why do you have a flamingo in front of that ugly thing?” instead of “What is that ugly thing?” and in life, we make some compromises.

And then, yesterday I was out and about, and I figured I’d stop by HomeGoods. HomeGoods is a discount furnishing place, and mostly a pit, but occasionally you can find a good deal there. They had all their spring garden stuff in, and while most of it is tacky lawn ornaments, they also sometimes have large pots cheaper than anywhere else, and I was hoping to do some more container gardening this year.

So I turned a counter, idly checking price tags on the clearance section—couple of cracks in the bottom of this one, price is pretty good, I wonder if those would actually break under stress, or if I could slide a terracotta saucer in there—and there it was. The container of my dreams. The tall blue-glazed, nearly chest high vase-shaped pot that was EXACTLY what I’d been wanting for that space.

It was $90, which is still a helluva lot to spend on a pot in my world, but compared to staring grimly at the septic meter, it was a price I was increasingly willing to pay, and it was running about 1/3rd the price of anywhere else I’d gone. I got it home, Kevin dragged it into position, and it is perfect.

Eventually I will fill it with—oh, crushed cans or bottles or something—to about two-thirds full, dump in some gravel and cover it over with potting soil. There is really no point in filling a pot that size with potting soil all the way down unless you plan to put an oak tree in it, and my plans are for a sedge–something nice and sculptural and grass-like and semi-evergreen—but for the moment I am just thrilled that I actually finally found something for that spot.

So! Err—victory! And also check out HomeGoods, I guess, while they’re still stocking pots for the next couple of months.

Now to find a new place for the lawn flamingo…


By | Day-to-Day | 7 Comments

Kevin got me a new pair of mud boots, called “Sloggers.” My old Birkenstocks had kinda exploded, and the mud boots are awesome anyhow, given how much mud there is in North Carolina in the spring. (I do not have DIRT paths. Oh no. Dirt is for summer.) The boots have enormous flowers all over them. Kevin got them for me with the understanding that if I wear them in public, he is allowed to call the people at What Not To Wear. I agreed to these terms, as they are fair. The boots are wonderful, but quite, quite hideous. Gardening is a fundamentally frumpadelic-activity, though, and I enjoy them enormously in their place.

The weather continues to be freaky weird. We’re getting down to 18 degrees this weekend. It was 70 a little while ago. I am hoping that this will kill off any ticks that decided to come out, but fear for its effect on my established plants. I’m less worried about the seeds. Most of the seeds I’ve planted out have A) not sprouted yet and B) tolerate frost, and even if they are killed horribly by a hard ground freeze…darn. I’ll have to re-open the seed packet. (Seriously, given the small size of my vegetable gardening ambitions, seeds will generally pass their reliable germination rate long before I am done with a packet. Six scarlet runner beans is madly ambitious of me, and there’s 25 in a pack. I have no idea how anybody gets through 200 heirloom peas.)

Hmm, now that I think of it, a 25 foot soaker hose would be helpful for the one veggie bed before things actually start growing and it gets hard to water…

Transplanted various plants that are supposed to be divided “in early spring, before breaking dormancy.” I think the Dutchman’s pipe might have qualified. Nothing else bothered to even BE dormant. I transplanted it anyway. I’ve already realized that I’m going to have to wait until fall to finally plant my potted blueberries, because they are so covered with buds, (possibly owing to my tentative pruning? Maybe?) that it’d kill me to lose the crop. We’re going to go with that reason, and not the bit where the bed they’re supposed to go into isn’t done because the patio isn’t dug yet because I HAVEN’T DONE IT YET, OKAY?!

I have mulched mightily, though. Well, mushroom-composted mightily, which is sort of mulching. Both veggie beds, a semi-shaded back bed that will soon receive my much abused oakleaf hydrangea, (come to think of it, I need a soaker hose for back there, too…damn, I should just buy a box of those things…) and now I’m starting on the front yard. Except for the bee balm.  If I fertilize the bee balm, they will find that stuff in orbit. The bee balm can suck it.

This year I will finally try strawberry planters, because it is silly that I have never actually done so. The strawberry plants are already out at Lowes, but they ain’t cheap. I’m going to wait and see if the feed store carries any. I have two strawberry planters, one large and one small, and have been reading about tricks with toilet paper tubes to keep the roots of all of them well-watered, but at nearly $3 a plant, I could go out to the pick-your-own place and come home with a bushel for the price of filling in the planters.

This weekend it will be very cold. I will have to wear my Cthulhu hat to mulch in. Darn.

More mulch!

By | My Garden | 9 Comments

It’s a new year in the garden, boys and girls, and you know what that means?


*cue rising hysterical laughter here*

That’s right, it’s mulchin’ time! I had successfully finished off Mt. Mulch II by putting down a layer on the sideyard that will hopefully cook down until fall. (The permaculture workshop I attended last year suggested that if you’ve got an area where you know you want to plant, but aren’t going to get to it right away, put down mulch over it to help get the soil wetter and more pliable and wormy. This is particularly vital on our deathly clay soil.) It’ll be a mostly-shady bed, and I hold out hope for some solid fern-on-fern action, but the soil is currently hard packed clay. So, mulch!

I ordered a mere 5 cubic yards. This is great restraint by my standards. However, I’m kinda running out of new space for flowerbeds. There’s one big one left to put in the back, when I finish laying the patio, and then everything has been bed-ified.

Welll….I mean, I could expand the vegetable bed a smidge…no! Need to leave that project for fall! Otherwise fall will see me twitchy and restless and starting in on the wooded areas, which could totally be woodland garden space, and…well…I was kinda saving that for the bit where I go stark raving mad NEXT year.

Mt. Mulch III arrived today, accompanied by a smaller load of mushroom compost. I had noticed that they were selling it last year, and as we have moved waaaaay beyond “get a few bags of cow manure from the farmer who does our meat CSA” I’ve been looking for a bulk soil amendment. I went to the internet to do research into the world of mushroom compost.

After about an hour, I thought, as many have before me, that the internet would be really awesome if it wasn’t for all the damn people on it, and left the internet. The discussion seemed split between “This is the best thing ever created by human hands” and “This is useless and probably bad,” plus the obligatory “This will kill you and everything you love,” which I dismissed out of hand, since, y’know, internet.

I did what we all do in times of dismay—I called my mother.

“Oh, that stuff is awesome,” she said. “We got some one year and the garden was incredible.”

Good enough for me. As my mother has not, to my knowledge, mutated, exploded, or turned into a large Kafka-esque insect, I’ll give it a try and see how well it works. About the worst that happens is that I add some more organic matter to my poor wretched soil, really—even if it doesn’t get BETTER, the soil can’t get any worse unless I sink spent uranium fuel rods into it. We live in such a wet climate that the build-up of salts is unlikely to be an issue. So I’ll top-dress most of the beds with an inch of the stuff and see what happens. (The prairie planting is exempt, as we do not fertilize those, lest they become floppy and sad.)

For science! And mulch!