Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring Crazies Part Deux

We're off and running in the garden.  And I mean running.  It's supposed to rain today.  But at least some daffodils are blooming.

Remember I said we are thinking about downsizing again?  We walked all around the Formal Garden yesterday and decided if we took the perennial bed out that goes around the entire outside of the garden it would cut down on a lot of work.  The bed is too big and too wide and too wet and too WEEDY.  We started digging plants on Friday afternoon.  The first one to go was our heirloom yellow ladyslipper that Carl's late Grandpa Henry gave us when we were first married 32 years ago.  We very, very carefully lifted the entire clump and transplanted it to the Woodland Bed.  We made two plants out of it and put it in two different locations, and hope they both survive and thrive.

When we built the Formal Garden back in 1988, we didn't know what we were doing.  We were young and wanted a sunken 'rock garden' so we hauled in a whole bunch of rocks and dug a hole and lined it with the big granite rocks from my father's rockpiles and our neighbors.

We didn't realize that a rock garden is not a garden ringed by rocks until much later.  But by then, it was too late.  This bed is about 3' wide and 150' long which is TOO long for 53 year old me.  There are daylilies, iris, lilies, balloon flowers, liatris, peonies, daffodils, crocus, tulips and way more other stuff in there that will all need new homes.  Gads!
I was standing in the dome when I took this picture.  The biggest part of this job, after moving all the plants, will be moving all the big fieldstones AGAIN.  I know, I know, this sounds insane (and it is) but we can use the 200+ big rocks in the hosta beds to hog up room naturalize that area.  The rocks always looked far too stiff and formal the way they are now.  But like I said before, we didn't know any better.
I know it's kinda hard to see, but there are two shovels sticking up in the background which gives a fairly good indicator of how big some of these rocks are.  And I want to move them.   What I want to replace them with is flat limestone like the walls you see in the foreground.  Then it would match.  And we'd be done.  We'd have nice big granite rocks situated in the other flower beds hogging up room making it look like a naturalized boulder bed and in the formal garden we'd have nice flat walls with grass to mow.  (And no more weeding a 150' long perennial bed.)

Ah, but first I have to get all the perennials dug out and then figure out a way to get all the rocks out of the formal garden.  But see, this is going to cut down on work.  It really is. 

When we originally built this garden 23 years ago, we tried to get as many big rocks as possible, but exhausted the local supply and ended up going with two rows of granite rocks at varying heights to finish it up.  On the west side of the garden, there are 123 rocks which are much smaller than the other 150+ rocks on the other three sides.  I think I can move these smaller rocks by myself.  (Famous last words.)
There, we've been all the way around.  Dang, I'm tired already. 

This picture was taken in July 2010, but as you can see, you can't see the rocks behind the plants anyway and everything is so overgrown and needs work.

It will still be a sunken garden, and still formal.....just not so high-maintenance. 

Stay tuned for more updates for How Karen Got This Job Done.  And keep your fingers crossed for me.  This is going to take me the rest of the gardening season.  I can see it already.  Maybe into next year, too.  
Maybe I should just trash this plan?  Burn the blueprint in my head??
Could my dreams of downsizing go up in smoke as quickly as the grasses we cut down yesterday?  I sure hope not...

But then I noticed two birds sitting in the trees across the road, and thought, wow, what big birds they are.  When I ran and got the camera with the telephoto lens I realized they were vultures.  I hope they aren't waiting for me to tip over and die.
Or do they know something I don't?

The vultures are circling.

I'm scared.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This is not Daniel Murphee

Ok, so I'm going to go off on a tangent rant here, but for cryin' out loud!  For the last six months we are besieged by phone calls at least twice a day looking for a poor guy (or maybe he's a criminal or a man on the run from his bills or his ex-wife or his seventeen girlfriends or his pizza delivery man) by the name of Daniel Murphy or Murfee or Murphee and/or lately Daniel Fager or Fayger or whatever the pronunciation sounds like.  The caller doesn't spell poor Daniel's last name.

And it's always an automated call with various British accents.  I wish I could type a British Accent here for you all to enjoy, it's so crisp and clear and so very, very um........Tea & know how for some reason people with British Accents always sound so Formal and Cool.  (Ok, they sound that way to me.)

"This telephone call is for....pause, pause, pause.....Daniel.....pause pause pause....Murphy.  If this is .....pause, pause, pause....Daniel.....pause, pause, pause....Murphy.... please press 1 now.  If this is not.....pause, pause, pause, Daniel.....pause, pause, pause,  Murphy,  please press 2 now."

Then, since these calls almost always go to the answering machine, and no one is pushing any buttons (except mine) the British Voice continues:

"By continuing to listen to this call you are confirming you are...............Daniel.......................Murphee.  If you are not.................Daniel..................Murphee........please do not listen to the rest of this message."

But I do listen to the rest of this message and it doesn't make any sense.  They want poor Daniel...........Murphee/Murfee/Murphy to Please call them back at this number.

And I have.  

Turns out the wonderful British caller is from  a collection agency, and apparently the slick... Daniel.....Murphy......has given them my phone number to call to collect on their debt.

What a weasel Daniel Murphy is turning out to be, we are no longer feeling sorry for him.

So, we have made many phone calls back to this number where we reach an 'agent' who says, "May I have the number the call was placed to?  I am sorry, we do not have that number in our listings.  Has someone from this number called recently to remove this number from our listings?  If you have, the number has probably been removed.  If you do receive this call again, please call me, Adrian, at extension 4145."

SO, this morning here we go again with my good ol' British Caller looking for you know who, and I get right back on the phone and call the number I was given and the extension.  Of course the extension number rings and rings and RINGS so I hang up and redial the original number only to get a very bored-sounding Kristin on the line.

"This call may be monitored for Quality Control purposes.  How may I help you?"

I've made this call before and have always remained polite, but today is something else again.  Today it is 40 dang degrees out with a light mist falling and my garden needs tending, my dogs need walking, my house needs cleaning and I was down in the basement when the phone call came in checking to make sure there was no more water problems down there and I did a headlong dash taking the steps two at a time, propelling my ample carcass at breakneck speed just to end up answering the phone to find it's the British Lady calling for that Dumb Fool Daniel Murphy again?!

SO, today I am not so polite, today I am a little bit ornery.  "Yes, Kristin, I am calling to request my phone number be removed from your call list.  Your company keeps calling requesting to speak to a Daniel Murphee and this is not his number."

"What is the number you are calling from?"

I give the number.  (She clearly does not believe I am not Daniel...........Murphee.......I can tell by the bored, I've-heard-it-all-before tone in her voice, which by the way, is NOT British.) 

"That number is not showing up on our records.  Did you recently speak with another representative?  It is possible your number was removed."

"Yes, I spoke with Adrian on Monday.  The extension she gave me to call was #4145.  There was no answer at that extension.  And if my number was removed, why is your company still calling me every day, Kristen?"

"I have no idea Ma'am.   We do not have a representative named 'Adrian' employed with our company, nor do we have an extension #4145."

Now she's getting all huffy with me.  How dare I call THEM and tell them I spoke with a Fictional Person named Adrian? But I DID speak with an Adrian and that WAS the number she gave me to call.  Argh.

Wait a minute, back up the bus.........I am not the Crackpot here.  THEY are!!!

I lost it.  I  put on my Best British Accent, trying to make myself sound like I was straight out of Buckingham Palace with a teapot and scones perched on my lap:

"Please stop calling this number, Kristen.  Daniel...................Murphee........does not live here.  I do not know Daniel..............Murphee.........nor do I intend to meet him at any point in the foreseeable future."

"Ma'am, your number is not on this listing, and I am going to terminate this call.  Have a nice day."  Click.

Emphasis on the 'nice'.

This ain't over yet.

...................Daniel.......................Murphee/Murphy/Murfee/Fayger....................wherever you are in Big Trouble with the British Lady and her Cohorts.

And with ME.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring Crazies

Our water woes of the weekend are a bit better; we pumped down the Quarry pond and it helped quite a bit to relieve some of the pressure.  Once the frost goes out, we should be ok. Thanks to all of you for your good wishes, looking at the Big Picture, a leak in the basement isn't that tragic, but it is worrisome.  
My favorite Flowery paperweight
 Easter weekend was very pleasant outdoors and I managed to get a little tidying up in the gardens done.  Joel came out and helped me burn some more of the grasses on Sunday afternoon and then I strolled around, looking at the things that need doing.  And then I started to panic a little. It's the way it always goes, it's Spring and it's time to Get Going and Get Things Accomplished.  In the fall it's so easy to look at a project and say, "Oh, well, we'll worry about that in the Spring."  Um, yeah......Spring is here.  I have a full-blown case of the Spring Crazies with a touch of GADS.  (Gardeners Attention Deficit Syndrome)

We're having another mini-midlife crisis here.  This is something Carl and I do as a couple, we both have Mid-Life Crises at the same time.  I have to figure out how to make the garden more manageable and Carl is trying to come to terms with all the stuff he's collected over the years in his SOS building.  He's been trying to 'organize' his accumulated mess while I try to organize a plan for the gardens and between the two of us, we're not real pleasant to be around.  Carl needs to concentrate on dealing with his chaos and I need to concentrate on dealing with my chaos.  

Normally we work together on all the projects around here, but I have to admit something.  Though I love my husband dearly and am always appreciative and amazed at what he can build, his SOS building (and surrounding areas) is a disaster that not many people can comprehend unless they see it. I mean, well-meaning friends and family think they know what it looks like, but when they actually come face to face with it, they are speechless.  Unfortunately for Carl, I am not speechless about it, though I try to keep my mouth shut sometimes only to have it run off again and start yelling.  Carl and I don't see eye to eye on about 85% of what he has and that's when things get loud around here. 

Both Carl and I are dreamers.  He dreams of making stuff from his junk and I dream of flowery fantasy gardens.  He collects more and more stuff and I dig up more and more sod.  We're both equally insane about stained glass and wrought iron and rocks.  And then Reality rears it's ugly head.  We're getting older.  No, we're not ancient yet, but we're not getting any younger.  We just cannot do it All.  I think it's time to look at downsizing again.  Last year we closed up two hosta beds that just weren't 'working' any more, if you know what I mean.  We'd both lost the enthusiasm for them, it was a chore to maintain the areas and a relief when it was back in grass again. I gave away dozens and dozens of repetitive hostas and only kept the ones I liked the best. 

 If I can't do justice to the gardens, then the gardens have to be cut down to a more manageable size.  I've found that it's much easier to weed on the raised garden areas around the Quarry than on the flat.  We now have three beds that are up off the ground with big rocks to sit on.  It's good to give the ol' knees a break now and again.  And rocks are my best friends.  More rocks give me less room for weeds.

July 2010.  Look at all the places to sit and weed. 
  Nobody likes to admit they bit off more than they can chew.  And apparently I've been doing a lot of chewing lately too, by the looks of the scale.  I dread going back to see my 10-15 Mile a Day Doctor in June who will be chewing me out for adding additional poundage over the winter.  She was right, I should have walked at the mall or joined a gym or.....something.  I did cross-country ski all winter and had more miles behind my snowblower than ever before and tried to walk as much as possible, but it was a long winter. 

For now, my GADS is in high gear.  The snow finally melted (I went and checked, and sure enough the last snowbank in our yard was finally gone this morning) but the nice weather of the weekend is gone and we are  having 36 mph wind gusts with rain (another 1" since midnight) and really no chance of sunshine until Friday.  Today is Tuesday.  Sigh.  

Last year, I took the picture below on April 27, 2010.  We were just finishing up the newest raised bed.  I think we started in March, what a difference in the Spring weather in 2010. 
April 2010, we were almost done with a big project by then.  

One thing that my Sunday inspection tour proved was the Formal Garden is a nightmare.  The outer border is full of quack grass and Creeping Charlie and perennials in order of prominence.  I'm thinking about removing all the perennials (I know, it's probably not the right time of year, but what choice do I have?) and removing the huge field stones we have down there and redoing the entire outer part of the garden.  Right now, it's standing in 3" of water and there's no chance I can get in there and do a thing with it, especially since the rain just won't stop, either.
Here's the dome down there, dripping wet and reflecting the dismal gray skies. 

How many of the stones can I move on my own without requiring Carl's help?  I guess it's time to find out.  And I didn't forget about the Stone House project either.  Believe me, I didn't.  I'm hyperventilating thinking about it.  

If I want him to try to clean up his act, I have to clean up mine, too.  (Dang, it's easier to nag, I didn't know I had to work, too.)  But look how wet it is--this is our lawn this morning just off the Pachyberm Bed:
The flowers don't want to come up; I bet they want to run away from home.  And I don't blame them.  The birds are not thrilled with this weather either.
I have to learn from the little Robin, sitting patiently, waiting for the weather to turn.  She's staying at home, keeping the nest warm.  

While this Robin Redbreast below is more impatient:

This weather brings out the Crazies in everyone.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Water Woes

It's never a good thing when your son goes downstairs to the basement and you hear, "Hey, Mom!  You better come and take a look at this."

On Friday afternoon I was in the kitchen, preparing to plug in my vacuum cleaner and when I heard Joel say this, my heart sank.  Oh, no.  Please don't tell me that all four of the sump pumps failed at once.  I did pay the electricity bill, didn't I?  I must have, the lights were all on upstairs.

Yes, we really do have four sump pumps in our basement, another one of Carl's safeguards in case one fails, the next one will take over and then the next, yeah, we have had a flooded basement twice which was twice too many times.  Nothing like stepping off the last basement step into six inches of ice cold water to get your attention. 

When we built the house 34 years ago we hit the same aquifer that the Quarry is in.  Both the quarry and our basement water levels vary with the water table;  with a constantly moving stream of water which the tile usually has no trouble removing with the sump pumps, but the sump pump has to run all year round.  In the summer it works out very nicely, we just hook up sprinklers to the supply of water and can water the flowers to my heart's content.  Might as well use the water instead of pumping it out to the ditch. Water is always on my mind around here, especially this time of year and with all of the rain we've had in recent weeks.  The soil is completely saturated right now.

But back to Joel in the basement...the dilemma wasn't as bad as I'd thought at first, the sump pump was working fine, but the basement had sprung a leak in a crack in a weird place we hadn't seen before.  There was a trickle of water going down the wall and across the floor.  Hmmmmmm.  Now what?

Of course, by now it's after 6PM and though it's not dark out yet, the rain was just pouring down outside and the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees.  Carl was out in his SOS building, trying to make some sense of the absolute junk disaster he has in there and I hated to call him out of there to take a look at our latest crisis, but felt I had no choice.  He came out of his building to see what the Wife had a bee in her bonnet about now.

We both went down in the basement and stared at the wall and little stream pooling at our feet.  It didn't seem to be growing in diameter, but it sure made us uneasy.  I grabbed a flashlight and we both went out in the rain to the back of the house to see if we could figure out why there was water coming through the wall. 

"Go get me a shovel," Carl said as he headed back to the house to get another flashlight.  I trudged out to the barn through the mushy snowbanks to get a shovel and met him back at the house wall.  He started to dig as I held both flashlights.  As he went down to about 4' the soil he was bringing up was surprisingly dry, which made no sense.  You'd think the ground would be soupy-wet, but it was just evenly damp.

Then we realized we had to dig down at least another 3' and the shovel wasn't going to work anymore so I was sent off on a quest to find the post hole digger.  My quest ended in disappointment, so soon Carl was also joining me on the search and after rooting around in the barn (where it ALWAYS is otherwise) and the garage (where it is sometimes when it isn't where it should be) and in his SOS building (where it COULD be but we definitely hope not because if it is in there, it's gone for good) we even searched in Carl's car (which is his Rolling SOS building) we came up empty.  No post hole digger.  And the rain started to come down harder.  The hole-digging would have to wait until tomorrow when we could locate the post hole digger (or buy a new one....)

By now it was almost fully dark out.  We've been debating pumping the Quarry pond down for a few weeks now.  We hate to do it because the pond is only as full as the water table, there's no liner in there, what we have for water in the pond is what Mother Nature provides, be it way too much or far too little.  This Spring, we're in the Unbelievably Way Too Much category.  Carl thinks the frost hasn't gone out of the ground yet and this could be why the pond levels haven't evened off yet, but we made the decision to throw a pump in there and bring the levels down some.  It's a possibility the water pressure in the pond is wreaking havoc with our drain tile around the house. 
Water levels in the pond are about five feet too high

So off to dig the big pump out of the barn and hook up the fire hoses.  (Yes, we have fire hoses, doesn't everyone? Carl picked them up out of a dumpster one day because you never know when you'll need a fire hose.)  We're both dripping wet by now with water running down our necks as we laid out the hoses and prepared to hook up the power. Luckily we didn't blow any circuit breakers with the wet conditions.
Old fire hose laid out to run water to the ditch.

We let the pump run for ten hours and came out to find the water had gone down quite a bit.  (Between the greenhouse heat beds and running the big pump, we're making the Power Company very happy this month.)
Finally the water is down to a more manageable level.  I know we'll wish we had that water back in July and August, though.

Comparing this level on Thursday:

To this level on Saturday:
I know it looks awful right now, but this is the level we had originally hoped the pond would remain at.  It might look better almost completely full, but I have a lot of plants planted on the shore and it's not good for them to be underwater.

So, instead of coloring Easter Eggs and hiding baskets, I'll be heading to the hardware store to buy a new post hole digger with Carl.

We're going to be digging this weekend.   And not in a good, 1960's way.  Not groovy, Man.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First things First

Did you ever wake up in the morning with a jolt and have the feeling you forgot something important but you can't remember what it was?   That was me this morning.  I woke up and racked my feeble brain for what it could be that was bugging me and then I remembered....the greenhouse!  I ran to the back door to look out and---
Teddy Dog and the green house in the snow this morning.
Thank Goodness, there it was, still standing and not collapsed and with the heat table running perfectly.....Phew.  We made it through another storm.  Hopefully this will be the last one.  ( I said hopefully, but I'm not gonna hold my breath.  We could get snow into late May yet.) 

I grabbed the camera and went outside (forgot my boots...drat) to take some pictures of the Morning After the Storm.
The Point Rocks in Quarry Pond
It was still snowing a little when I took these pictures this morning.  I was standing next to a large tree when suddenly PLOP! a big snow plop fell out of the tree and landed right next to me.  I was almost whompered by it.  There were some seriously big snow plops in the trees this morning:
Wouldn't be fun to stand under them when these plops fall.
No place to sit on the park benches, either.
I decided to see if the Girls would want to come outside and play this morning:
Ashley came out and looked  at the New White Stuff and then ever so cautiously stepped into the snow.
On second thought, she decided to go back in.
Ashley changed her mind when Goldie decided it was time to make a Flight Plan.
Goldie would rather Fly the Friendly Skies.

Ashley just kept walking.  No, she's not a one-legged chicken, she just kept falling through the snow.
The two of them finally found a patch of mud the snow hadn't covered. (And some grasses Pyromaniac Karen hadn't lit on fire yet.  Dang grass is just too close to the gazebo for a blaze.)  I did burn off the ornamental grasses out by our mailbox yesterday morning before it snowed and was amazed at the intensity of the fire, I think I may have melted our plastic paper box a little.  Oooops. 
The driveway needed snowblowing, but I didn't bother.  The lightshade/flowerpots on the side of the driveway look like Ice Cream Sundaes.  (Can you tell I'm trying to watch what I eat?  Everything looks like food.)

I spent the morning in the greenhouse and finished planting about 120 castor bean seeds I'd harvested from the blue castor beans from last summer.  What am I going to do with 120 Castor bean plants if they all germinate?  I have no idea.   I also planted the last of the Avalanche petunias that came in the mail on Tuesday.  Now I'm all done planting.  It was really warm in the greenhouse today.  I'm glad Carl and Joel put the shade cloth back up for tomorrow, without the shade cloth and the ventilation the greenhouse would really bake.

Pardon the mess, Plants Under Construction.

In the far right corner sits the lamp back on the stand for soldering.  Carl got a good start putting in the reinforcing wires in the inside and
started adding a heavy copper wire to the bottom edge for strength.  One of us still has to finish soldering the inside.  The greenhouse is a great place to work as its warm and the natural light is easy on the eyes. 

One of these days we'll get back to the projects that need work:

There's a Project now!  The Stone Thing needs work. 

But first the snow has to melt.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It Isn't Pink

The meteorologists were right about the snow, but they sure messed up with their predictions about what color it would be.  The map clearly showed our part of the state would be covered with Pink Snow.

Someone forgot to add the food coloring, apparently.  All we got was White.

 See?  It's just Plain White.  Like always.  This picture was taken about 3PM this afternoon.

 I went out in the Back Eight this morning to retrieve the plant stand in preparation for bringing all the seedlings in the house.  When I talked to Carl at noon he talked me out of moving all the plants, "I don't think you need to haul them in.  Let's leave 'em out there and see what happens."

Well, you heard it here.  I'm leaving them out there and we'll see what happens.  (Keeping fingers crossed that there will be no power outages.)

The storm didn't get a good start until around 1PM and then it really decided to dump on us.  I went out several times during the afternoon and whacked the snow off the greenhouse roof from the inside so the plastic wouldn't tear or sag too much.
 When Carl came home, he went out and did some 'whompering' (I know, it's not a word, but I like it, as it is an apt description of the noise it makes when one whompers the plastic.)  I had a good giggle watching the snow fly up in the air from the house with every whomp, so I made a little movie of it:

I didn't work on the Peony lamp today, though Carl did when he got home from work, adding some reinforcement wires to the inside for strength.  The next step will be to solder all the inside joints.  Maybe tomorrow.

Late this morning, I went over to see my friend Ann for a little bit and helped create some Shish kabobs.  I have lived on this planet for 53 years and have never actually been in the presence of a Shish Kabob before, so this was a true first for me.  And, I assisted in the creation of some, too, by shishing ham, cheese and pineapple Kabobs onto the wooden Shish Sticks, or are they Kabob Sticks?  Well, however it goes, that's what I did this morning. 

When I got home from Ann's, I was restless.  Luckily I had walked Teddy and Pudding dogs this morning before the snowstorm, because no one wanted to be out in this mess if they could avoid it.  For those of you with dogs, you know how they have to sniff and walk around in circles to find just THE right place to do their duty?  Funny how fast they can get down to business during a blizzard; that is if you can get them out of the door when they see the storm raging.  They looked up at me with those pathetic little faces, stared out the door and shrugged and sauntered off casually as if to say, "Oh, that's OK, I really don't have to go.  Maybe later."  Oh, not so fast, Fido.  Outside with you.

It kept snowing this afternoon and I kept thinking I could do something to make things seem Springier around here.  That's when I got the idea to switch out the antique stained glass window we had up since March with the Spring Window we built a few years ago to try to cheer me up.

It helped a little bit.

It will be some time before we see Poppies in the garden.
 And Daffodils are bent under the weight of

  all this snow:
Poor Blue Spruce on a Stick....I whompered the snow off of it around 10PM tonight.

The tulips are buried too.
And thankfully,
 The iris aren't up yet.  

As the evening wore on, we ate supper and then Carl went out and whompered the greenhouse some more.  I'm not sure how much snow we've gotten already, but it's really piling up:
Dave's car, about five hours into the storm.
I ran down to the end of the driveway and took some pictures of the yard around 10PM.  The snow was still coming down.
The wind is still howling and we have a long night ahead of us.  I'll have to get up and whomper a few more times tonight, but it's a small price to pay for
these tiny, innocent seedlings.

Wish me luck.  I'm gonna need it.