Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

Wow, the weekend is over already and I don't know where it went. The last two days have been a blur of work.

Sunday was a very hot day, once again. We finished hay and pine needle mulching the front garden on Sunday and then went over to the hosta bed behind the shop and started mulching there and also along the wall by the barn between the hostas. Ann was here by early afternoon on Sunday and started pitching in immediately.

I have no adequate words to describe how grateful we are to her for all of her help.

We brought up load after load of white pine needles from the Back Eight to use for mulching. It works best if two or three people work together to rake the needles up and fork them into the car trailer. Carl put the sideboards on the trailer so it was a big load when they were done. One trailer full covered the entire hosta bed behind the shop over six inches deep.

I was working on the hay mulch and was able to transport some partial bales using the forklift teeth on the 574. Now that we've mulched about half of the gardens, I sure hope this is the right thing to do, because if it isn't, we're going to have a mess on our hands I fear. Oh, it was so hot on Sunday, at times you felt like you could just melt. I set the sprinkler up for a few hours and it was a relief when I had to go move it just to stand in the cool mist.

We had a bonfire planned for Sunday night and around 6PM people started showing up. By the end of the evening, we had 20 people here. Laura, Travis and the girls came over and brought the stained glass windows back all framed with oak. They look SO much nicer framed! Travis did a fantastic job on them and they are very sturdy now, too. Carl is going to rig up something for hanging the windows in the garden for walks and in the house.

The bonfire really wasn't necessary last night since it was so darn hot out, but we really did need to get rid of the brush pile. Joel set up the time lapse camera to catch the action. This was a seriously big fire and whenever we threw more wood on, everyone had to back up their chairs to escape the heat, especially later on in the evening or risk toasting more than their marshmallows!

Just click on the arrow:

It was a lot of work to get the wood on the fire too, and Carl and Joel were working on it almost all the time, until Ann and I got done eating and then we took turns tossing wood. The heat was so intense it wasn't possible to get too near the pile.

We were covered in sweat and ashes by the time the night was over, and it got over much sooner than we anticipated as a thunderstorm was approaching around 2AM. The rain would have been welcome to slow the fire down, but the wind preceding it was worrisome. The wind switched from the northeast to the southwest and picked up in intensity when the gust front went over. Ashes from the fire were flying up into the standing pine trees making them look like eerily lit Christmas trees. We held our breath to see if the sparks would ignite the whole tree (or worse, the dry pine needles beneath the trees) but luckily, nothing caught fire.

As the wind increased, Joel decided to bury the entire fire because it was obvious the storm was getting closer. He worked as fast as he could (in the dark) with the Super H digging up sod and dropping it on the fire. After twenty minutes or so, he had the fire out. Today his arms and shoulders were very sore from the workout of steering the heavy tractor with loads of dirt in the bucket.

By now it was 2:30AM and we had all the food and chairs, etc. to transport back to the house. I had the 184 with the car trailer on , so the six guests who hadn't left yet kindly helped get everything on the trailer so I could drive it back up to the house. Then, after unloading everything, we decided to play Sheepshead until nearly 3:30 AM, teaching another young couple how to play. Ann spent the night as we were all too exhausted to think about driving anywhere and we finally called it a 'day' at 4:15 AM.

Finally, around dawn on Monday morning, a small thunderstorm passed through, giving us a trace of precipitation, just enough to settle the dust on the lane. I was up by 9AM and went with the doggies to Mom's for a visit and to pick up a tractor. Carl and Ann came up with Carl's car so the three of us could all take a tractor home. Unfortunately, Joel's tractor was having some starter issues so we had to fix it which took a long time. Then, as soon as Joel's tractor was running, the H was stuck in gear and wouldn't start either. Ann thought the tractors were boycotting having to work on Memorial Day and I think she is right. We had them all running before noon.

After a very large dinner and dishes out of the way, out the door we went. David and Kayla went kayaking on the Oconto River this afternoon, they were smart and spent the day doing something fun. I started to plant my annuals and finished along the garage wall, the river bed and the formal garden. Ann took a grinder with a wire brush and took off the loose paint on the pans for the pan fountain and repainted them. After that chore was done, she helped Joel plant and mulch the entire vegetable garden. Carl was trying to eradicate creeping charlie from the formal garden lawn by digging it out. As he said, now it looks as if a deranged skunk was wandering around tunneling under the sod.

We worked non-stop right up til 9PM and then sat down to roast some more hot dogs and assess our various aches and pains. Ann left at ten. We wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as we did this weekend without her help. Thank you, Ann!!

Well, it's way past my bedtime. Good night.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Progress, not perfection

Today was a fairly productive one.  Carl and I went to Dad's grave with Mom this morning and weeded and added some flowers.  When we were done, it looked very nice and I think she was pleased.  Joel was kayaking and Dave was out, too. 

After dinner, Carl propped up the Weeping Norway spruce with a new stick for the leader.
 It's amazing how much this tree has grown in the last few years.  When we bought it from the 'Big Box Store' it was in a gallon pot and was less than a foot tall. 

The waterlilies are really blooming right now.

It was very warm this afternoon, so we decided to work on mulching instead of weeding.  I am moving forward with the hay/mulch thing, let's hope it works.  Ann came over after work and helped us with mulching and raking up white pine needles. 

 I am so very tired tonight, too many hard days of work and short nights.  We hauled several loads of white pine needles and I hauled several loads of hay mulch to the front beds until it grew dark.  Tomorrow is another day.........Karen

Friday, May 28, 2010

Prune Juice

 Today I was appointment-free, what a relief.  The morning was spent walking the doggies for a mile and then planting perennials that should have been in the ground a month ago.  The temps today were in the 80's again, so I did not plant any annuals yet.  I know, what am I waiting for?  The 90's??

 The waterlilies are starting to bloom already, probably brought on a bit sooner by the warm weather

The hose and I were constant companions today too, trying to keep everything watered.  I sure hope we're not in for another drought again. 

Carl came home from work for lunch at 12:30PM (beef vegetable soup that I threw together last minute) and over our meal we discussed what we should attack next.  The trouble with spring/early summer is everything is happening way too fast and though I have 101 other things to do right away, some things won't keep, namely Pine Pruning.

One good thing about spruce trees is you can prune them any time of the year, even in January if you've got cabin fever, own a pair of snowshoes and are sufficiently deranged.

Pine trees, on the other hand, have to be pruned when their candles elongate and just before the needles start to form.  If you wait too long, you've lost the opportunity to make the tree a bit fuller and limit the growth.  We have an abundance of pine trees in this yard, Scotch, Mugho, Limber, Stone, White, Japanese, Red, Austrian, etc. and they all need tending.  I lost count after 30.  Joel started pruning a Mugho pine the other night and was keeping track of the cuts he had to make.  He lost count after 200 and he wasn't even 1/4 done. Suffice it to say, we made a whole lot of cuts today.
We have been able to hold three white pines by the Quarry garden down to about half of their normal size for the last seven years or so by pruning them every spring.  This is a labor intensive job, and one we don't do for any other reason than to see if we can keep them a bit smaller.  The trees by the Quarry need a ladder and/or the Super H tractor with the bucket extended to get to the top of them.  

Yours truly, up a ladder

Who is that bag lady up in the tree??

We've been trying to thin the branches out a bit so the trunks show, at least on two of the trees. 

Big pile of branches

We haven't really got a clue how to 'cloud prune' but we're trying to learn as we go.   These poor white pines are our guinea pigs.  I've been weighting some of the branches in an attempt to have them grow at different levels.  


One tree we do NOT prune is this one, Bristlecone Pine, since it has a very slowwwww growth rate.

We wrapped up the pruning by 7:30PM and then set to work edging the front road bed and began hauling up some hay from the mulch pile.  A neighbor of ours was out for a bike ride tonight and stopped in to see the gardens.  I could tell she was a bit dismayed with all the chaos here (and so am I) but I think she realizes the chaos is necessary.  She did say she thought the Elephant Berm was attractive, so all was not lost (but then, what's she supposed to say?  'Are you people out of your minds????!')  

After our visitor left it was almost dark.  I enlisted Carl's aid in rounding up the hoses and grabbed the Dixon and did a rapid mowing job on the lawn.  I have a feeling we may be in for more impromptu visitors this weekend and if there's one thing I've learned in this gardening frenzy, if the lawn is mowed, it makes the rest of the joint look just a little less tacky.  


There was a lady in her 90's who used to come out from town with her friends; she just loved our yard and wanted to share it with anyone she could kidnap for an hour or two.  She herself had seen our place so many times she used to just bring people out here and she'd park her car in the shade and read a book while they toured.  

Regrettably, she passed away this spring;  I miss her.  Memorial Weekend would be the weekend she would start bringing her 'tour car' here.  One year while we were building the Quarry garden, she stopped out by herself to see what was happening.  I still remember her dismay when she met me in the backyard (devoid of any annuals and with an unkempt lawn) and said, "Oh! What happened?? It's not pretty!!"  

She was right, it wasn't pretty, but I assured her it would be later on in the season.   It's not too pretty right now, either.  But we're givin' it all we've got.  

Carl and I had to give the hens their medicine for their legs tonight too, the last thing they (or we) wanted to do, but it's best done in the dark.  Chickens can't see at night and don't put up as big a fight.  We have to dispense a tiny amount of liquid medicine with a syringe right into their mouths and I'm getting really good at having them open up and say 'Ah'.  

We got in at 10PM and skipped supper altogether, though I did make some popcorn.  We had a tough time getting the 'prune juice' off our arms...pine pitch is very sticky, and it gets everywhere and then the dirt adheres to it and you look even worse.  I had some in my hair, ouch...makes combing it out a real pain.  

Joel just came home and took a few pictures of the northern lights and the Quarry in the light of the full moon-- this one turned out about the best:

Well, dozing off again, time for this day to end.  Thanks for reading!  



Thursday, May 27, 2010

This has been a week of appointments and interruptions that hopefully is now at an end.  At 9AM this morning, one more time, I picked Mom up for the ride to Green Bay and my yearly mammoslam.  New clinic, new machinery, same old procedure.  Now all that is left is to wait for the results.  I have no more appointments waiting in the wings so far, thank goodness.  Let's hope it stays that way.

We stopped at a greenhouse on the way home and I bought some purslane plants for the old planter and Mom bought a geranium and a few tomato plants.  . 


The rest of the day was devoted to weeding.  Mom came down to help me finish the front beds, Ann came over and helped me finish the Elephant berm.  Joel worked on leveling off the field so we can plant the lawn this weekend.  He also had to haul a bunch of big rocks out back to the other two rock piles.  Carl did the edging along the front bed by the road.  We all called it quits at 9:00PM and I put some burgers on the grill.  I know, way too late to eat, but we did get a lot of things done and you hate to stop when it's light out.

The pine trees are blooming too!
With any luck at all, we should get the weeding wrapped up this weekend.  Ok, with a LOT of luck.  Plus, I have to plant the annuals soon, too.  

Well, it's late again, time for some shut-eye.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Garden of Weedin’

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Another day of excessive heat is over; I thought last night the weatherman promised us temperatures in the upper 70’s, not 87 degrees again. 

This morning I had to hurry up and get ready to head to the lawyer’s office to have him look over the power company’s easement request.  Our meeting went well and he didn’t see anything in the document that raised any red flags with him, so I guess we’ll be signing it.  My only two regrets are the time I lost this morning sitting around in the office and the money I will be paying out to hear there’s nothing to be worried about.  Ah, well, better safe than sorry.

I had Mom with me and from the lawyer’s office, we headed to the library where I picked up three books I had ordered written by Ruth Stout.  Yes, I am obsessed with this hay mulching notion; mostly because we have about ten tons of hay out back just sitting there and this seems like a win-win situation; use up the unsightly piles of hay and improve the garden all in one fell swoop.

Ms. Stout’s book titles sound so promising:  The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book , published in 1971 and Gardening Without Work---for the Aging, the Busy and the Indolent, copyrighted in 1961.  (Since I am all three:  aging, busy and above all, indolent, this sounds like the book was written for me!) 
DSC_7057Mom and I also headed up to Dad’s grave this morning to see what we need to do.  I think we have a good idea of what to plant and will probably go back to the cemetery tomorrow. 

When I arrived home, the first thing I did was drive Mom out to the Back Eight to watch the hay being chopped.  This new-fangled high-tech farming never fails to amaze either of us.  Seeing 40 acres of hay cut down in one day and the very next day being chopped for the silo (starting at 9AM!) is akin to magic.  The hay was beautiful this spring and they worked for over nine hours getting it all in.

Mom did come down here around 2PM and we weeded right up until 5:30 PM when a thunderstorm came up.  We didn’t get much rain out of it, barely enough to settle the dust, but it did put a stop to our work in the gardens for the evening.  The heat was nearly unbearable for a time and then the cold front swept in from the north.  I was so glad to feel that cooler breeze, though the humidity hadn’t dropped entirely yet.
We worked on the front garden beds:
The next step in this bed will be bringing up the hay from the back yard pile for mulch.  I sure hope this works; Carl is not sold on the idea at all.  I imagine I’m being a bit naive too, to think this could work, but we’ll see.

After supper I ran out and took a few pictures when the light changed just before sunset.  The water droplets on the plants makes everything look so refreshed.  Carl and Joel took some wonderful pictures tonight, too. 
With all of this hot weather, the garden is advancing a bit too fast for my taste; I’d like to see the cooler weather linger so we could savor the blooms longer.  (But, it’s not up to me.)  After dark I planted up some of the pots in the driveway until the mosquitoes drove me back inside.
Joel captured the following photos:
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Can you find the yellow koi in this picture?
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In the above picture, the raindrops contain pollen from the Pinus sylvestris (Scotch pine) tree that is planted above the hosta ‘Liberty’.
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Pictured above is our horse chestnut tree.  Dave took some close-up pictures of the lovely blooms:
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And with this, I bid you a good night.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's Happening

 Another warm one again today, but not as bad as Monday.  I was out in the garden by 7:30AM trying to beat the heat.  I started off with watering all of the trees, plants, and shrubs we have transplanted so far this season as many were drooping significantly, but I think most of them will pull through.

Since it was so hot, I spent a good amount of time watering and weeding in the shade garden behind the shop where we have a few different ferns:

Japanese Painted fern

The maidenhair fern is making good progress.

'Ghost' fern
Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum'

I ordered some small trees from a mail order store out of California which arrived today after a week in transit.  Guess I couldn't have picked a hotter week for the poor trees to be sweltering in a shipping carton but surprisingly, when they arrived, they looked pretty good.  I purchased two more Abies lasiocarpa 'Arizonica compacta' and a Pinus Strobus 'Sea Urchin' which I planted just before dark tonight.  

Mom came over to help me weed this afternoon for the first time this year, but just as we got started Carl's sister and brother-in-law dropped in for a visit which was very nice.  I luckily had a beef roast and vegetables in the crockpot enough for all of us, so they stayed for supper, too. 

In between-time, we had a scheduled appointment with the power company rep who talked to Carl and I and Dale for almost an hour about the easement for the new power lines and planned construction.  I guess I 'm still going to see the lawyer in the morning just to have the document checked before we sign on the dotted line. 

Ann stopped in and helped with the dishes (and she didn't even eat here!) and then after the company left, we went out to work like the wind and with Ann's energetic help we got two beds almost completely done.  Thanks to Ann, once again! 

I'm trying the 'Ruth Stout' method of mulching with the rotten hay and we'll see how it goes.  Tomorrow the chickens will have to stay in their pen because I am going to try to begin planting annuals if it doesn't rain too hard.  Joel worked up the beds for me with the tiller, so I'm ready to go.  

Well, I'm dozing again, too much work and not enough sleep, I guess. 

Ok, it's not a fern, but I like the color.

See you tomorrow.  Karen