Monday, June 30, 2008

Hope springs eternal aka banging your head against a wall

We got a little rain this afternoon. It may save the things that the groundhogs have not eaten, like the leeks, onions, strawberries and blueberries. Remarkably the raspberries seem unconcerned with the complete lack of rain over the last oh, say 5 weeks. My "gardening" of late has consisted of wildly dashing about with a hose trying to resuscitate the fading rhodos, azaleas and various other expensive shrubbery. The groundhogs have luckily rendered watering the garden practically unnecessary. HOWEVER. After the rain, I raced out to the garden and put up the auxiliary fence. A short "rabbit fence" to hopefully keep the critters out. Of course, they will likely just begin to go under, being diggers and all. They have become quite fond of zucchini. The irony is that if they had waited until I had 4 or 5 zucchini, the novelty would have worn off and I would have happily contributed the baseball bat sized ones to the groundhog cause, but alas, now they are in cue to be snuffed. At some point. Not because of the garden but because they are tunneling under the house. We aren't keen on rebuilding the foundation to save the groundhogs. The are pretty stinkin' cute still though. It is hard. Luckily, I have the SB to do the really hard work around here. Like digging out the creek and snuffing the vermin.

The SB is out in Nelson County helping my Papa with a side porch renovation. He is pulling down sheet rock and uncovering the beautiful old siding from the house before the porch was added and the lovely rock chimney. All this to inform some drawings, all architect like, for someone else to build. I can't wait to see what he comes up with!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


True. I have not been posting. Not for any noble reason, like examining my life and making good choices based on time and enjoyment value. But because I don't have much in the way of exciting news. The groundhogs ransacked the garden. Baby groundhogs realized that they could actually fit through the fence. Please picture a cantaloupe passing through the end of a bubble wand and you will understand my confused, confounded, frustrated amazement at such a feat. I feebly added some rabbit fencing around part of the garden, but they have found their way around that. The lettuce was first - no big deal as it was thinking of bolting already, then they moved on to the kale, which was doing just fine thankyouverymuch, and next it was the broccoli and now they are on to the squash. They have yet to find the beans and beets, but is a matter of minutes until that happens. Add the lack of rain. Boy Howdy, the garden season loses its luster pretty darned quickly. I am harvesting a few blueberries and raspberries a couple times a week. So far, the potatoes remain unmolested. And I still have green tomatoes on my tomato plants. Hope springs eternal - well maybe not eternal, but in the good times.

Despite being provided with a very nice new super, the bees have shown little interest in doing anything like filling it with honey for my winter enjoyment. I can't complain, as they have done a fabulous job at all the work to date. The last minute super was a shot in the dark which, not unexpectedly, missed its mark. I checked on the bees last weekend. They are still awesome. Though I will definitely not have honey this year.

I am afraid to hope for tomatoes. That and the potatoes are the hold outs. I am a glutton for punishment, since I planted beans today, and more potatoes. We'll see. I have a tiny zucchini that I expect the groundhogs to find tomorrow, or certainly before Saturday when I can go for more fencing.

Added to the list of disappointments, is that my magic bread is acting up in the heat. It is rising before I am ready and creating problems. I guess I should cut back on the yeast for the summer. What should be an 18 hour rise is now around 8 hours and I always end up sticking it in the 'fridge to slow things down but it really whacks the whole system.

Remember the stinking hot weekend a couple weeks ago? Yeah, that was the weekend we moved the SB from Bburg back home. We drove down on the Friday with a cargo van and Papa's truck. There were about 5 boxes packed. Um. Yeah. We got three hours of sleep and woke up at midnight on Friday. We packed/cleaned/loaded for the next oh, say 23.5 hours (I had a 1.5 hour nap before the bed was packed) and then we took off for C'ville. We crested Afton Mt. with thunderstorms raging in the distance. Luckily we dodged the storms since the truck was full of things that didn't want to get wet. Sunday was spent unloading the truck with the help of our house mate who I am nominating for sainthood (you wouldn't BELIEVE the paperwork involved). Our house is currently jammed full of an entire apartments worth of furniture, kitchen wares and art supplies. If you know the SB, you can imagine. For the most part I can deal, but the sofa blocking the sewing room is ...well, demoralizing. Not incapacitating, but demoralizing. The SB spent 4 days at home, of which I saw almost none of him having to work and a heavy babysitting schedule that week. He then took off for Maryland for some paying work (as opposed to the yard work he did while he was home). Still waiting to see when he returns.

Heads up. We are thinking of our garden party for July 4 since someone thoughtfully put the Fourth on a Friday and we should be able to recover in time to return to work. On the 7th. Save the date. Cheers.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


So hours after the daring rescue of the blue bird, it showed up as a present on my porch. Thanks, Kitty. GAH! He is a good enough hunter, I just wish he would challenge himself more. You know. Ground hogs. Deer. But nooooooo, he always finds something small and helpless like a little bird or a frog or a snake. Or a mouse, but rodents don't really count. Cats are supposed to eat them. That's why there are still cats in this world. They certainly wouldn't have made it this long on their merit as pets alone.

The SB is on his way home. Tomorrow we drive to the burg and pack up his apartment and bring him home. He'll be here for all of a couple days before he heads to our friends in Maryland to work on a project to earn real live money. Woo hoo. We love us some income.

I am excited that I get to have my bee mentor come again on Sunday. I have done my homework and I am ready for instruction! It is SO exciting. The bees are working like crazy. I put another super (small box) on top of the hive on Wednesday. My Papa drove all the way to Shipman to pick it up for me and dropped it on my doorstep. That is some SERVICE - and he paid for it! Gotta love the parental support of the hobby! It'll be interesting to see how far they have come on it by Sunday. There are so many of them now, I expect things will be rolling right along out there. Maybe I will try to take some pictures of the hive while I am out there. It seems less daunting with a mentor.... Technically, honey flow goes through June 15 or so. Since they are working so fast, maybe they will fill up some of my box and I can have a wee bit of homegrown honey without having to wait until next May. That is a wild and unreasonable hope, I know... It is right up there with actually having home grown tomatoes this year.... Maybe one or the other will come true!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More Critters

So the rain this afternoon put the kibosh on my mowing. The poor SB is going to be stuck with it when he comes home, I fear. I did go out and check the garden. I brought in the last (almost) of the strawberries and the first of the broccoli. While I was inspecting the blueberries (coming along nicely thankyouverymuch), I noticed a bird huddled in the corner of the bed. Its eyes were closed though it was upright. I thought it might be dead anyway - struck by one of those mysterious illnesses that seem to periodically affect the wild and fragile. Luckily, I had already closed the garden by the time the cat came out to join me. He prowled the edges of the garden fence for a while - somehow he knew the bird was there, though it seemed hidden in the bed. I went in the house and from the porch saw the cat getting more frantic. Then I saw the bird flying around inside the garden fence. I made tracks for the garden at that point and scooped up kitty kins just as he was making to pounce on the bird, which had managed to get itself over the fence by this time. He was so close to being a scooby snack. Hope he makes good on his added life. I think it was a juvenile bluebird. No parents to be seen anywhere. He probably took the car keys without asking.

Wildlife Update

Sooo, living on 1.5 acres in the city...We have quite a variety of wildlife. Some welcome, some not. All lovely in their own particular way.

Let's start the run down with the ringneck snake that the SB and I found while moving a large stack of bricks. Lovely. This isn't the one we saw, but it is close. Ours was a little more orange. If you flip them over, their bellies are the same color as the ring around the neck. It is pretty outrageous. Have I mentioned that I love snakes?

Also while the SB was home, we discovered the 3 baby groundhogs living in the bank along the driveway. Let me tell you, those little critters are cute, but they don't go anywhere near smart. The SB was practically able to pick one up. Their presence makes me REALLY glad we got up the garden fence.

Next in the list is the grizzly discovery last Thursday of the very fresh rabbit in the jaws of Kitty kins. Luckily, the rabbit had been dispatched already, though quite recently. It looked all the world like the rabbit was a victim of the bunny mob, and had been buried to his neck in concrete, but no. The head was resting on the concrete of the porch watching while the body was gnawed on. Who else do you know that has a sociopath for a cat? So I had to use the Scoop of Death to remove the body. The Scoop of Death is a trowel/soil scoop that I got as a present. It stays on the porch for these occasions. Though this time, I think we all would have been better served by a shovel. And a barf bag.

Today I was out mowing when the rain started and I dashed for cover, dragging the mower. I was about to bound in the back door when I caught sight of the tail. A sizable black rat snake was on top of the stack of window frames we have by our back door. I dashed in for my camera, but by the time I got back, I caught only the last part of the body disappearing into a hole in the basement wall. Luckily, I think it is just open between the walls, no direct line to the interior. But even if there were, I wouldn't worry. The cat keeps the rodents out, so I don't expect Mr. Ratsnake to find any treats there. He'll just move along. Anyway, here he is. Look beyond the spray nozzle and the black curve is him. The perspective is a little off here. He was about 3 1/2 feet long.

After THAT excitement, I was sitting on the porch just an hour or so ago having dinner when I watched two sizable white tailed deer bound through the back yard. They have been eating the tops off all my sunflowers. And my rose. BASTARDS.

Also, The Bee Guy came to mentor me today. He says my bees are doing well *blush**grin* and that I should put another box on and see if I can get some honey this year. We'll see if I can get the equipment together in time. He also had some ideas for correcting some of the problems relating to the bees making their own comb in the hive. We'll be fixing that next weekend I think. He is a saint, I am certain. He goes around removing bees from houses and collecting swarms. He rocks.

Today I pulled/harvested the spinach that was beginning to bolt. I made a bacon, lentil, spinach stew-ish sort of thing to put on rice. I think yogurt is my new favorite garnish to just about everything. It is delicious on this.

Cut about 5 strips of bacon into 3/4 inch lengths. Saute for a few minutes and add a whole chopped onion. Saute until the onion is beginning to brown. Add about 3/4 cup lentils and a quart of chicken stock and a bay leaf, some chili flakes and pepper. Cook until the lentils are done and then add about 6 cups of spinach leaves. Cook to wilt. Serve over rice with a dollop of yogurt.

UPDATED 6/2: add to the wildlife excitement the tortured screams of something in the night. I might be down to 2 baby groundhogs from the sound of things last night. Yeee.