Friday, July 13, 2012

Watering On

As the hot weather lingers and our drought continues, I spend oodles of time in the company of hoses.  Hoses, by the way, can be cantankerous.  I swear they have a mind of their own and know just when to kink (usually when I am over 100' away) making me hike all the way back to find out why the water has stopped flowing.   I have to admit, though, I'm always glad it's just a kink and not a dry well causing the problem.

Don't you love it when pulling a hose across the yard you come up just a few inches short of your target?  And then you look back and see you've just bent over or broke off a prized plant when you gave the stubborn hose an impatient yank?

Ok, never mind,  maybe that only happens to me.

I was trying to climb down from the top of the Quarry Hill tonight with the sprinkler in one hand and 50' of hose coiled up in the other.   Stepping from rock to rock trying not to behead lilies, break off the rudbeckias and maim the dwarf conifers along with getting my two flat feet back on the ground in one piece was a tall order, but I made it without falling on my face (or my derriere).
Though they are blooming their little hearts out, the plants aren't thriving.  Water from the well is not the same as rain.

I was watering the River Bed annuals this afternoon and the sun was blazing away drying up the water before it even got down to the root zone.  I finally located a watering wand that doesn't leak AND has a handy shut off valve, which was an amazing feat around here. 
The lilies are planted much deeper, but there isn't much moisture down there, either.

Yesterday we took a little ride in the afternoon.  Joel went kayaking with Allison and a friend after work and we decided to be the second car and follow them up to the river and move Joel's car and trailer down to the bottom get out point.  That way they didn't need two vehicles.  This was my idea; it was just too hot in the afternoon for Carl to stand out by Aaargh and whack rocks around.  We both were glad of the break to sit in an air-conditioned car taking in some scenery.
Yes, Carl's almost always in uniform and he prefers long sleeves to short, no matter how hot the weather.  (No sunburns for him, Smart Man!)

One thing that has been really weird this summer is Mother Nature's dispensation of the rain that has fallen.  Though we have had less than an inch of precipitation since the beginning of June, there are other places nearby who have been inundated.  We only traveled about 50 miles from home yesterday evening and there were people who hadn't mowed their lawns in quite some time because of standing water.  I even saw one lawn mower hopelessly mired in mud.  Wow, how strange, our lawn is a crispy critter and a dozen miles away, they're floating.

And in some cases, wondering what hit them.  I was wondering that myself as I stared at a field that looked trampled and yet not harvested........what in the world happened there and what sort of crop was it?  And then as we traveled further, I saw a corn field hammered down to less than a foot tall and knew the reason..........


Oh, my, the damage was exceptionally bad.  The farmer in me was horrified.  The corn leaves were shredded to tatters and the stalks were all bent and broken.  The corn had been over 5' tall and now it was destroyed.  That's when I realized the field I'd seen earlier was also hail ravaged.  Before the storm, the field had been an emerald green oasis of lush soybeans.  A few minutes with wind-driven hail had turned a bumper crop into a muddy mass of flattened leaves and crushed stems.  A total loss.  

On our little trip we drove past well-watered corn fields in one mile only to go over a hill and see yet another field where the plants were all 'pineappled'........meaning the leaves were curled tightly and sticking straight up, like a pineapple plant, which is what field corn does when it is drought-stressed.  Some of the corn could make a comeback IF it received adequate rainfall very soon, but many fields we saw were already past the stage of no return.  When corn takes on a pale, pineappled, crepe papery look there's not much hope for it, especially if the crop is young.  Once a corn field grows tall enough to shade its own rows the field can withstand a little more drought and heat than when the plants are smaller and the sun beats down on the soil.   A little, but not a lot.

And that's what the forecast is for the weekend.  A little rain, maybe.......but not a lot.  Nothing widespread, if you're in the path of a storm, you might get wet.  If you're not, well, so sad, too bad.    And temps in the 90's again.  Oh, well, like Mark Twain said, "Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it."

I guess we might as well save our breath and stop complaining.  I took some more pictures of the lilies today.  (And Carl took pictures of me taking pictures, the sneaky guy.)

The fragrance is almost overpowering.  (The lilies, that is.  I, on the other hand, do not smell so good after a long day in the hot sun.)

We just have to appreciate what is blooming right now and hope for the best. 

We may be between a rock and a hard place, but that's gardening, isn't it?  We have to adapt.  They're just flowers, not crops.

My heart goes out to the farmers whose livelihoods depend on their harvest. 

"Consider the lilies of the field; they neither toil nor spin."

All we can do is hope and pray for the best.

Time for a rest, I have a doctor's appointment coming up tomorrow.  Oh, goody.......... wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Walk, Walk, Walk or Hop, Hop, Hop...

The days are going by so quickly.  I guess this summer is no different than any other summer, except it should feel like it's been longer due to the high temperatures and the lack of rain.  I stand around with a hose more than I weed, watering the flowers by hand  seems to be the only way to give them a good, long drink.  The sprinkler doesn't work as well, too much evaporation.  If I could water the garden with perspiration, we'd have no lack of moisture. 

Carl surprised me by coming home early from work on Tuesday and then doubly surprised me by taking today off, too.  He was caught up with his job and since he has quite a bit of vacation coming and the temperature was only in the mid-80's today, he thought why not come home and work on Castle Aaargh?

I was in the middle of Leslie's workout and dripping with sweat when he walked in the house.  Lucky for me, he doesn't get impatient with my workout routine which is now up to an hour and a half a day.  If I didn't have his support I'd be less likely to keep up with it.  I did try to get him to walk with me once, and he did walk in place and hop around with me and Leslie's crew for one mile before he threw in the towel.  He just wasn't that into 'Walk Walk Walk.' 

I have a vast variety of Leslie's videos and a handful of other instructors, including, yes, Richard Simmons. But sometimes it's fun to do something different.  For a change I tried a random low-impact exercise video for beginners on YouTube that just about knocked me on my ample behind.  It looked so simple.   Just put something flat, like a belt, down on the floor and step across it.

Looks easy.

Ah, looks can be deceiving. First, all we have to do is step back and forth over the line.  Ok, I'm with her so far.

Then the very fit instructor wanted me to hop over the belt with both feet.  Ok, I can do that.

Then she stepped up the speed.  Hop, hop, hop.  Faster.

Then she wanted me to hop with only one foot.  Hop, hop, hop.  Faster!

Now switch to the other foot, c'mon keep up the pace.  If you get tired, go back to two feet, but keep hopping!

Yeah, right.  She was clearing the belt on the floor by a good foot or more, even on one foot, and I was constantly landing on the belt and stomping it to death and at one point, I missed it entirely.  Soon I just gave up.  Enough of that.  I would need to don all of my sports bras to sufficiently guard the 'twins' against floppage. And this is for beginners?  Ouch.

My next adventure this morning was with Kenn Kihiu of Dance X video fame.  Talk about exercise.  I usually do this video once every other week.  I'm sure anyone who is reasonably fit would breeze right through the routines, but apparently I'm not at that level yet.  It's fun, and I've made some progress, but when he and his crew get to the Irish Kicks, once again I'm flailing about thinking that the minute he says is almost up will Never Get Here.  Time can go very, v.....e.....r.....y  s.......l.........o........w........l.......y. sometimes.

I am completely in awe of Irish Riverdancers even more now.

They make it look so easy.

 Even a monkey can do it!

So what's my excuse?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rain is Like a Butterfly

The more you chase it, the more it will elude you.

After reading my comments on my last post, I chuckled.   Many people were confused and confounded as to why I would haul my potted stuff inside when a storm is on the horizon.  My answer to this is simple.

I'm a Control Freak. 

Indian Summer rudbeckias everywhere, but mildew is taking a toll.

When the rest of my dust-bowl garden is starting to go downhill at a rapid rate, I can at least control the moisture levels in the pots and protect them from flying ice cubes should Mother Nature see fit to fling them in my general direction.   My potted plants are the only thing I can protect and monitor, fuss over and fertilize, dead-head and preen in this uncertain gardening world.  They are my pampered pets. 

In dry years, like this one, the only dependable color we'll have are the pots. 

 So, that's why I have such a bizarre tendency to coddle my potted plants.  I'm just silly. 

And I didn't do a very good job protecting them on Monday.  Yesterday was such a bizarre day.  I have a doctor's appointment for a physical coming up on Friday.  The 13th.  Ah, that bodes well, doesn't it?  I'm not superstitious (much) but many of you know my history with the medical community hasn't always been fun. I had to run to the Big City by 8:45 AM to have blood drawn for lab work.  Traffic is not my forte' at all and I so dislike city driving that I was tense to begin with and hadn't slept well the night before.  I made it to and fro with no incidents, thank goodness, and with a bit of time to spare for exercise class.  We'll see how Friday goes when I get the results of the labs. 

Four dump truck loads of black dirt also arrived yesterday which was exciting.  I tried to find good places for the truck driver to dump all the dirt that would make less work for him and us.  No new gardens are on the horizon at the moment, in case you're wondering.  We're trying to downsize, remember?  But it's always good to have topsoil waiting in the wings.  Like a spare car in the garage.  You never know when you might need it. 

But back to the rain ........I find myself simply obsessed.  I'm Rain Crazy.  I swear these storms are just playing head games with me.  Yesterday afternoon the sky grew very dark and there were grumblings and rumblings to our north.  I watched it on radar and it was headed right for us.  We had a garden walk to go to last night about 40 miles south of us and I had to walk the dogs before we could leave.  The dogs and I headed out to the Back Eight to watch this storm approach.  It looked so promising (and I had left my potted plants out for Bait!)   But suddenly, the wind picked up and the doggies and I had to run back to the house as fast as we could.

I put the dogs inside and since Carl wasn't quite ready to leave yet, I told him I was going to take the car out back and watch the storm come in.  That's right, I wanted to enjoy every drip of rain and be in the middle of it.  I drove down our lane and sat out in the Eight watching the clouds form over the woods and watched the cornfield and the white pines whip around in the wind. And the dust.

The wind shook my car as I sat and watched the rain take a turn for the east.  And the south. 

Once again, so close and yet so far.  I got grumpy and drove out of our field and down the road to the next mile where it was raining a little.  At least I got the dust off the windshield.  I made a U-turn on the corner and came back home to sunshine and my driveway pots lying in the driveway.  The wind tipped them off the plant stands very effectively.  So much for bait.  They do a great job attracting wind, however.

We drove to the garden walk and followed the storm all the way.  The hosts of the garden received a much-needed, beneficial rain on their beautiful garden.  There were actually puddles after the storm.  Puddles.  We haven't seen puddles since May.  Oh, well, better luck next time.

I've been watering the rest of the garden very sparingly.  The lilies and the hostas are looking  surprisingly quite well yet, but I suspect it has something to do with the 4+ inches of mulch we put down this spring.  There's still some dampness in the soil when I dig down a bit.  We did get a very light misting drizzle for about fifteen minutes on Sunday, but not enough to even settle the dust this time.
The pictures look refreshing though, don't they, with the rain drops hanging on the needles of the pine?

The tall lilies are putting on such a show and their fragrance is everywhere.
The incredible shrinking Quarry Pond is not a pretty sight, but the rudbeckias are going nuts on the hills.  So is the powdery mildew, unfortunately, so I'll be pulling many of them out very soon.  They're self-seeders though, so I don't work very hard for their bountiful blooms.

We did some pruning on the big Scotch pine a few weeks ago and removed many of the lower limbs.  It took some getting used to after we were done, but at least the other trees will have some more light and the hostas seem ok with it.

The Quarry Hill looks tired.
No, those aren't raindrops, just leftover drips from the sprinkler. 

More rudbeckias on the hill we call 'Thing One'. 

The Pachyberm 
I'm going to have to move some of the plants I have on the Pachyberm.  Last year when we took out the perennial bed in the Formal Garden, I moved all the plants I wanted to save to this site.  Now it's rather congested and the heights of the plants need some tweaking.  Alot of tweaking.

Fresh Look celosias are sulking this year

Persian Ruby daylily

Huge flowers....wish they lasted longer than a day.

More Pachyberm and front lawn

Hosta bed on other side of the yard

Hosta 'Liberty' shows up well in front of the big rocks.  Rocks do help hold moisture, too.

These lilies are taking a nap on the stone wall. 

 In case you're wondering about Castle Aaargh.........we're cutting stone again!  But with the hot weather, it's really tough to stand in the full sun and work.  You can just see a glimpse of Aaargh through the gate above.
So, like the saying about happiness and butterflies being elusive, I just have to forgeddaboutthe rain.

I simply need to turn my attention to other things.

Now, where did I leave that soaker hose?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Creeks Didn't Run In June

I cannot believe a month has passed since my last post.  What have we been doing all that time?

Sweating, for the most part.

And staring at the radar on the NOAA website, trying to will rain showers to head in our direction.  We haven't had much luck in that department.  Holy Moly, it's dry here.  My late father always said, "The creeks have to run in June, or we're in for a dry summer."

The creeks didn't run in June, there weren't even any puddles.  Oh, dear. 

Like so many other parts of the country, we've been suffering through an extreme heat wave for the last week.  For some reason, it seems a whole lot longer than that, though.  The weather people assure us that by Saturday we should be back to normal, in the low 80's.  If this indeed happens, it will be such a relief. I think the highest temperature we actually achieved was 98 degrees on Thursday with a 'feels like' reading of 105 or something.  I can attest to the fact that it felt awful.
River Bed and the luckiest part of the lawn that gets watered.

We have had less than an inch of rain since the end of May.  Our lawn was getting crunchy underfoot even before the June 7 garden walk.  Now, after a week of 90+ temps it's just barely hanging on.  I'm not worried about my weed/lawn though.  The beauty of having a lawn comprised of mostly weeds is that no matter what, it will survive.  I wish the same could be said of the crops in the farm fields.  High temperatures and no rain spell disaster for yields.  As all gardeners know, it's not a good idea to stress a plant at any time as it will affect the plant's future performance.  And when you're a farmer, you're talking about a few million plants.

I took a walk last night past the acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa planted here on our farm and marveled that so far, the crops are hanging in there pretty well. We've had a few teeny-tiny rain showers this past week of 1/8" of an inch up to a whopping 1/4" that have managed to keep the crops alive and I'm thankful for that, but wow, we need more.  The hayfield would bounce right back from the second crop cutting if it would rain. 

I've been watering every day with a hose, but well water is no substitute for rain.   And I don't want to run the well dry, either.  Having a new well drilled is very expensive and I'd like to avoid it if I could. 

There's a chance of rain in the forecast for tonight.  As I write this post, I keep jumping back to the live radar online and monitoring the rain.  It's not looking good for us unless something pops up closer to home.  This summer, watching the radar has been so disheartening.  A storm will be headed right for us with great rain potential and suddenly veer off in another direction or, for the most part this year, inexplicably dissipate just before it reaches us.  Sometimes it seems there must be a Naughty Giant wielding an immense hair dryer blowing the clouds dry before they get here.  I wish the Giant would move on.

However,  in other parts of the state, storms have formed and almost stalled, dumping up to 7" of rain causing flash floods and other madness and mayhem.  I guess like Carl says, 'It's just not our turn this summer.'
Hoses, hoses everywhere.  (And little dogs.)

On Tuesday night I thought we were going to get lucky.  I was out watering the potted plants and thunder started rolling in the distance.  Rain wasn't even forecast for us, just hot and more hot.  I went out to the front lawn to take a look at the sky and was amazed and a little intimidated by the size of the storm approaching.  I could smell the rain in the air, it was so close.  Eventually, it started to rain a little and grabbing a lawn chair, I ensconced myself on the gazebo and sat back to enjoy the show.  Carl came out and joined me and we both waited for the heavier rain which would surely bless us with its presence.

It was so close.

And yet, so far.

After approaching at a rapid rate of speed from the west, the storm suddenly went south, just missing us.   The light precipitation we had been getting stopped entirely.  Just like that.  I went galloping into the house to check the radar and sat there, stunned.  Really?  Not again!  But that's the way it goes.  It just ain't our turn.  Carl is stoic and accepts things like this with ease.  I'm an impatient brat.  Grabbing my car keys, I announced to him that if the rain wouldn't come to me, I was going to go to it.  We drove to where the rain had just fallen and the roads were steaming from the change in temperature.  Even though we didn't get any of the rain, it was nice to see the cornfields soaking up the moisture.  I drove a few more miles and was able to get a clean windshield from the last lingering drips before it was time to turn around and go back home.  Our driveway was a little damp, but under the willow tree it was still as dry as a bone. I went out on our lane and scraped my foot.  Less than an 1/8 of an inch down, the dust puffed up to meet my shoe.  Just enough to settle the dust, indeed.

We've had so many of these storms approach this year, and no, we don't need the hail or high winds some of them have produced, but the waiting is torture.  For some inexplicable reason, I planted twenty-five pots of annuals and have them strewn all over the gardens.  I can be sound asleep with my Darth Vader Sleep Apnea Mask strapped tight to my face and still hear a peal of thunder or see a flash of lightning ten miles away.  And then I immediately think of my potted plants.  Oh, my, I don't want to see them destroyed.  So off comes the mask, on goes the shoes and out I go to gather up my pretties using the distant lightning as a flashlight and the thunder as a warning growl to move a little faster.  The problem is, my garage is not big enough to hold all of them.  So I have to find alternate places for shelter such as the dome, gazebo and front porch.

I've left this urn of 'Bubblegum' petunias in the shade all week.  They seem to be thankful for the break from the heat.
I have four big lightshade planters this year in the driveway filled with my seedlings.  They are so clumsy to carry because the petunias have filled out so much making it almost impossible not to crush.
And then there's Ernie...well, I cannot move that big guy but how I hate to see the flowers get hammered.  So Carl came up with an ingenious idea...since the petunias are planted in a big plastic tub with rope handles, we can slide a hoe handle in through one of the loops straight thru the flowers to the other handle and then, between the two of us, we can hoist the bucket out of Ernie and on to safety.  But it takes two of us.  Which means I have to get Carl to help me.  If it's 3AM I won't bother him, but if he doesn't have to work the next day, I will. 

From talking to other gardening friends, I know I'm not the only nut out there in potentially dangerous conditions toting plants to safety.  I talked to my friend Brenda who owns a greenhouse a month ago and our conversation turned to storms.  She told me she does the same thing with literally dozens and DOZENS of potted plants whenever a rough storm comes up.  One night a few years ago, a close thunderclap startled her and she slipped on her way into the garage with a planter, falling and tearing her rotator cuff.  The things we do for our flowers.  (Oh, she's recovered now, but still brings her flowers in.)  If you saw her arrangements, you'd know why, they are spectacular.

 There are two more 'Bubblegum' petunia pots out by the road, too.  Dang, they are heavy.

West side of driveway

East side
 The tree grates are working out pretty well so far.  I have planted some hyacinth beans in the ground in front of them and the beans are just starting to climb the grating.  I'm amazed the beans don't burn from the extreme heat of the metal grating, but so far, they're doing fine.
I think the driveway is my favorite part of the garden this year.  Everything else planted in the ground is struggling.  (And the gravel doesn't grow any weeds, ha.)

The urns up against the white siding take a beating from the reflected heat.
On beyond Ernie, there are five more potted Bubblegums on the fence posts.  Yup, they all have to come in.

Can't you envision me running around in my nightgown and Birkenstocks at 3Am with the lightning flashing trying to tote the silly plants to safety?  I do more than walk, walk, walk then, let me tell you!  Leslie Sansone would be proud.

These two urns have five gallon pails in them, all I have to do is grab the handles which I left in an upright position when I planted the flowers and grab the pails. 

There's two more over here, but that higher plant stand is really difficult to get the planter out of, so it stays.
This old urn is too heavy to move, so it stays put.  The purslane is pretty tough, though.
It's just been starting to bloom.  I think I fertilized it too much, not many blooms, but scads of leaves.

As always in drought spells, the pond in the Quarry is going down.  Nothing we can do about it, no matter how much we wish there was.  The waterlilies are still hanging on, though.
The hot, dry weather is pushing all the flowers to bloom at once very early in the season.  It's a shame, in a way. 
I took the above picture on Thursday night......notice the lilies are just starting to open.

Look at Friday morning:

In the high heat, the buds are all bursting open almost simultaneously and on some, the buds are browning and drying up before they have a chance to bloom.  I've been picking stems for the house and for my mother as they just don't last long in the extreme temperatures. 
The daylilies and coneflowers are going berserk too.  Normally, I love to go out in the morning and deadhead the daylily blooms to I can enjoy all the plants at the same time as cleaning the garden up, but it's been so blasted hot that all I do is move hoses from one place to the next and no time leftover to admire the flowers.

Maybe this weekend we'll get some rain?  Ooops, I guess not.....I just looked at the radar again.  All the rain is going north.  It's just not our time. 

But wait a the forecast has been raised from a 40% chance to a 60% chance for our area before 4AM.  Hmmmmmmm..........

Should I haul all the potted plants in before I go to bed?  Let's see, it's already 2:40AM.  And sadly, I've hauled them all in five times in the last month and nary a drip of rain fell when they were sheltered.

Aw, phooey.

Maybe I'll just leave them out for bait.