Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Celebrations and Work

 This past weekend was a blur of activity in and outside of the garden.  Even though we shouldn't slack off on the work around here until after the garden walk, taking a break is a good idea.  All weeding and no play make Karen cantankerous.  Just ask Carl.
The last of the narcissus are almost done blooming.

The reason we left for awhile was because we were invited to two anniversary parties.  On Friday evening, our friends Sharon and Duke celebrated 35 years of marriage with a dinner and dance.  I haven't danced so much in years.  Gosh, we had a great time.  Sharon was radiant, Duke was handsome and they both look so young.  Looking at their wedding album I remarked to Carl how they haven't aged much at all.   (And I was so bummed that I forgot our camera!)

That's not the case with Carl and I...a few months ago when I was writing the posts about our younger days I had some pictures of our wedding lying around.   One of our visitors picked a picture up and asked, "Who are these people?"

When I replied, "That's our wedding picture," she squinted at it again and then at me and said, "Oh, really?  Huh...doesn't look anything like you.  You guys really look old now."

Ah, don't you love honesty?

Just last week the 'Golden Raindrops' apple trees were in full bloom by Castle Aaargh.  Now they are done, too.

My mother, bless her heart, is famous for making honest comments like that once in awhile, too.  Just the other day she asked me about my exercise videos and if all the people on them were skinny-minis. 

I said, "No, some of the ladies are my size."

"REALLY??  That big?  Wow."

"Yes, there are people out there who are just as 'big' as me, Mom.  I'm dreadfully sorry, but I don't quite qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records just yet."

Ok, so I was being hyper-sensitive, I admit, but a gal can only take so many blows to the ol' ego before it really starts to sting.   Mom said she didn't mean it that way, and I'm sure she didn't.  I just get cranky once in awhile.  When I was a kid, I was often admonished for 'fishing for compliments'.  (I hate that saying, by the way.)  My parents did not believe in praising children because then a kid would get a 'big head'.  True, nobody likes a self-centered blowhard, but somehow I think egocentrics are actually more insecure about themselves than those who tend to be more humble.    Life would be better if we'd all work on building each other up. You don't have to get all gushy and be insincere, but giving someone a boost by letting them know you appreciate them is so powerful. 

That's why I like Leslie Sansone so much; no, she's definitely not the toughest taskmaster/trainer out there, not by a long shot, but she never fails to tell sweaty old me I'm doing a great job.  Even if it is only 'virtual' encouragement, I appreciate her cheering me on.   Nearly six months into this exercise regimen I still never tire of her commentary as we work out together.  She has some workouts where you can turn her voice off and just work out to the music.  I wouldn't dream of it.  Even though I know what she's going to say verbatim, I need to hear her pep-talk spurring me on.  (The fact she can talk so effortlessly while working out is amazing, by the way.) 
The trilliums are all done for the year now, too.

But anyway, back to the weekend.......I spent Saturday weeding and mulching.  When I got tired of being on my knees, I went and hauled a load of mulch and put it down.  It's good to vary the work a little, keeps the muscles from getting too sore and brightens my outlook a little.  Joel was home on Saturday and mowed Mom's lawn, our lawn and finally the eight acres with the tractor.  It's great to have the help. 
Hosta 'Liberty' is the 2012 hosta of the year.  I can see why with those stunning colors.  It's a favorite of mine, too. 

In the meantime, Carl was working on the dome floor.  The job is so very slow and painstaking which is why he didn't want me to help. My GADS gets the better of me and I get all fidgety and try to figure out a faster way to get the job done which, in turn, drives Carl crazy, so it's best I just mosey off and do some other work. That way we're both happier.
If you look closely, you can see Carl peeking out of the barn window.  No, he wasn't hiding from me, he was looking for something.  I think.

On Sunday we helped celebrate Carl's parent's 60th wedding anniversary with a church service and a nice dinner.  Before we left for church, I made sure to water the seedlings in the greenhouse very well since it was near 90 degrees outside.  Those little cells dry out very quickly and I hate to stress the tiny plants too much since it will affect their future garden performance. 
Carl's parents and the two of us--don't they look great for 60 years of marriage?  
We enjoyed visiting with all of the guests but since it was so hot out, by 3PM I had to get back home to tend the seedlings.  I'm trying to harden them off this week so I can start planting out soon.   Every day I take the flats out of the greenhouse for a few hours and put them in a fairly sheltered location to toughen up a bit. 
Here's the view in the greenhouse tonight after I hauled all the flats back in again.  On the left are the seedlings on the heat beds; on the right are my urns and other planters for the driveway, etc.

The seedlings have grown very quickly this year.  Hardening them off is always a tricky undertaking for me.  If I leave them out in the full sun, they might sunscald and/or wilt if they dry out.  And they have to be kept out of the wind, too. 
Some of my urns are big enough that I can put old five gallon pails or big buckets we have lying around inside of them as a liner.  It is easier on the metal urns not to be in contact with damp soil and also much easier to lift the buckets out of the planter in case of severe weather.  The cast iron urns are just too heavy to carry into shelter in a hurry if a bad thunderstorm were to pop up.  (Usually around 2AM)

Some of the urns are just filled with potting soil; I couldn't find old pots to fit. 

There are two new 'Supertunia' petunias, "Bermuda' and 'Royal Magenta' planted in this urn and some coleus I overwintered....I'm hoping these petunias are as prolific as Supertunia 'Vista Bubblegum' proved to be last year.

Though it may sound like I'm overprotective, I usually do not plant any annuals until Memorial Day weekend.  The chances of a late frost always worry me after coming this far with the seedlings.  It would be a downright shame to lose them to a cold night. 

On Sunday night, Carl worked until 10 PM on the dome floor. I was weeding and mulching while he was busily leveling and transiting.  Once darkness fell, I had nothing better to do than pester him. (I did help a little.)

Carl was almost done with the floor and wanted to finish, but we hadn't had supper yet.  

The worklight was attracting June bugs in record numbers.  They kept bouncing off of the dome, making weird gong-like noises.  The temperatures dropped down well over 20 degrees last night, too, which was a shock after the heat of the day.  We never did get any rain on Sunday which is a shame, because we could use it.
I kept pacing around taking pictures as I went.
I sure hope the floor holds up for a few years this time.

Finally, Carl decided to quit for the night when he realized we had to eat yet and that he had to work the next day.  He was unhappy he hadn't finished the job, but I thought he made a lot of progress.

Tonight he finished the floor, but then found out the steps going into the dome were too high so he started raising the blocks that are right in front of the steps next.  With a bit of luck, he may be able to finish the 'dome project' on Tuesday night after work.  (And then I can cross it off our list.)

So that was the weekend and Monday around here. A little work, a little play... and slowly but surely, we're making some progress.

Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

GADS Indeed

Our first garden walk of the season this year is June 7.  Oh boy....... we are running behind.  And our GADS is just as bad as ever--our attention is constantly being shifted from one task to another, all seemingly unrelated. 

What have we accomplished around here since early May?  Not enough!  In the last few years whenever we have been faced with an impending garden walk, I have succumbed to the temptation of making lists.  (Not grocery lists mind you; no, those I never make, which explains why I end up with a cupboard full of strange spices I never use (cumin?) and then forget to buy the basics, like milk.) 

The list hanging from my refrigerator door of 'Things That Need To Be Done by June 7, 2012' was written up sometime in February 2012.  I'm still not sure if making lists is a good idea or not.  On the one hand, a Plan is a good thing to have when trying to ascertain what is the most logical chore to tackle first, but as every one who gardens and deals with Mother Nature knows, you can plan all you want but life is full of surprises.

I read through the list last night and saw that of the myriad of things listed (gasp, 44 days ago) only two could be crossed off and one of them had just been added that didn't have a thing to do with getting the garden tour ready

Fix the drain tile

Carl and I fixed the drain tile last week Friday.  Apparently it is not a good idea to have really large excavation equipment and really big rocks delivered by dump trucks that have to drive over your drain tile.  (But it's worth it!)

Our front lawn had a literal bog forming in one area and despite Carl's grumbling ("We already have way too much work to do, can't it wait?") I decided, nope, it can't wait when I nearly got stuck mowing lawn.  We marched out of the house and set about digging up the tile looking for the problem.

Carl flipped the sod over, living a little attached so it could simply be flipped back down again after we installed the new drain tile lying next to the trench in the picture.  Digging this trench was wet, muddy work.  Carl dug out the sod and my job was to remove the loose mud and dirt with a narrow trenching shovel and keep tabs on which way the tile was going underground.  It didn't take long to find the problem(s), the tile was crushed in four places.  

There's Carl, really 'digging' his job.  (Groan.)
We both felt the strain in our fifty-four year old backs by the time we were done.  The work wasn't all that heavy, but it entailed standing at weird angles in order to shovel.  Luckily, Joel came home just as we had the old tile ready to pull out and helped put the new line in place..  His help is always appreciated. 
Gee, I wonder why we had water backing up on the lawn?  There were four spots like this in 100'.
A few hours of digging and we had the job accomplished.  I'm happy to say the lawn is now bog-free.  

The other thing on the list that I was able to cross off was:

Get Mulch
I've written before about my adventures in mulch inspired by the late, great Ruth Stout who authored the book, 'Gardening Without Work'.  (I'm including a link to Mother Earth News that has a quick reprint from her book if you're interested. ) Ruth Stout's System

Ruth Stout was, apparently, a Character.  I read her book a few years back and got such a chuckle from her wit.  She was a rebel in more ways than one and claimed to have a penchant for gardening in the, ahem, 'au naturale' at times....but rest assured, this is one part of her example I won't be following.  I prefer to remain fully clothed at all times in the garden.  An old shirt, blue jeans, long socks, gloves, knee pads and my oh-so-stylish straw hat continually and habitually complete my ensemble.  

Ruth could garden in the nude if she chose, but aside from the complete and utter shock and horror my neighbors would suffer, Wisconsin's State Bird is the Mosquito.  Gardening in the buff is not recommended when surrounded by swarms of flying vampires.  And besides, being arrested for 'indecent exposure' at the least or 'lewd and lascivious behavior' on the other end of the spectrum wouldn't get the work done around here.

But anyway, back to the mulch situation.   We had nearly run out of the stash of hay we've been using for the last few years so I went on Craigslist and found some hay for sale in a neighboring community.  Carl and I went to visit a very nice lady who had some old hay for sale and we crammed thirty-odd bales on our little trailer and hauled it home.  

Before we bought the hay from the nice lady, I had called one of our neighboring farmers if he knew of any hay or straw for sale and a few days later he kindly told me we could have free straw from the fairgrounds where a cattle sale had been held the weekend before.  We wouldn't even have to pick it up; they would deliver it for free.  I'd already arranged to pick up the hay from the Craigslist lady, so we made arrangements to go ahead and get her hay anyway.  It only seemed fair. 

Just before we left to pick up the hay from the lady, a call came from our neighbor; our free straw/mulch was on the way.  

We weren't expecting the truck to be quite so big, but we were really, Really happy to see all this mulch:

We had the truck driver dump the load out in the Back Eight.  We thought the field would be dry enough, but well, we were wrong.  When the box went up, the bottom of the dumpster dragged the ground and we had a stuck truck.  Aw, shucks.  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)  

Carl went and got the 574 and the chains and hooked up to the behemoth. 

I was taking pictures but then Carl recruited me to do the pulling.  (Well, I mean the tractor, not me, personally.  I just drove.)  As soon as I had the chain taut and tried to pull the big truck I felt like an ant trying to move a mountain, nothing was budging.  The tractor did dig some impressive ruts, though.  I figured we'd have to either wait for the field to dry up or call another neighbor with a bigger tractor, but surprisingly, the truck finally did move once I stepped in the posi-lock on the rear differential of the tractor.

The truck driver was glad to get out and I don't blame him.  I drove the tractor off the lane so he could keep moving and get by me while I tried to get the back wheels out of posi-lock.  (Posi-lock (in case you care, lol) makes both back wheels turn at the same rate, as opposed to one wheel spinning in mud and the other doing nothing.)  Posi-lock works great for pulling, but the tractor can only move in a straight line with it engaged.  It took Carl to help me get the lever disengaged because we don't use the feature that often and the lever is hard to move. 

 Carl hopped on the back of the tractor and we headed down the lane for home, following the tracks left by the truck.
My, I'm getting grayer and grayer.  Split-ends, too. 
There he goes, on down the road, leaving only his tracks (and a whole lot of straw mulch,yippee) behind. 

 I took the tractor home to the machine shed. 
The tree grates weren't on the list either.  I could write them on there and cross them off to make us feel better.

That's the way things have been going around here.  We GAD about all over the place.  Oh, well....the work will get done.  Or not.  It is what it is.  

Maybe this weekend I'll be able to cross off a few more things.  Carl is still working on the stone wall in the Formal Garden with Ann whenever she's available.  And we started tearing up the floor of the dome this week, too.

Every year we have trouble with frost-heave in the dome which buckles the floor.  We are taking up all the pavers and putting down more gravel to fix the uneven floor problem. 

Alas, there's ALOT of floor to pull up, level, shovel gravel in and put back down. 

Joel and Allison stopped in on Tuesday night to help us out.  Allison ran the transit and aided Carl with readings while I hauled some of the blocks out of the way until Joel took over with that chore and hauling gravel to the dome with a wheelbarrow.
In the morning while Carl's at work I'm still exercising (when I should be outside, I know) and tending to the greenhouse and weeding.  

Oh, dear, am I ever weeding this year.  Just look at the beautiful field of dandelion fuzz glistening in the sunset to the west of our house this past week.  All of those lovely, delicate seeds will be finding a new home in our flower beds.   Yippee.

  We've been working until dark and way beyond many nights.  The nice thing about gardening after dark is you really can't see many weeds. 
 Maybe we should talk the June tour group into a Night Walk---"Weeds?  What weeds?"

Oh well, Ruth Stout had the right idea; go get the pitchfork and let's spread some mulch. 

Hope you all have a great weekend!