Tag Archives: Kim’s Garden

Early Signs

It was a curiously restless night, what with the wind pushing through the upper levels of the house, keeping me awake with the sensation that it’s time to move. The sun rose into an unsettled morning, glowing once through the oncoming clouds as if to prove it really was there before vanishing behind a gust of wind. I was already on the porch with my tea, having opened the house to let the encroaching cold flow through every room, pulling fall in its wake.

Today will be odd, what with the temperature falling during the day instead of rising. All my office windows are open, and it’s as if I’m working outside, stones holding papers atop my desk as winter makes its first attempt at pushing summer on.

It’s not surprising that I’m feeling as restless as the wind, that I’ve wedged myself out from behind my desk after a summer of sedentary gardening to take weekend trips where I can sit around a fire and eat s’mores to satisfy some ingrained urge to . . . move. The human species has been migratory for most of its existence, and it’s only been recently that we haven’t had to heed the not-so-subtle cues to migrate or die.

Old habits are rising up from the span spent behind me, tailored now to a more mundane existance. Already I’ve begun to bring things in from the garden, things covered in sand and silt, spiderwebs and new, yellow leaves, carrying the smell of summer with them. Most go into boxes into the basement, but a few, pulling on even older threads, make it into my office.

Pika, my long-time desk guardian, will have a few companions while the snow and ice hit the reset button this year. He could use the help, frankly, in reminding me that this work is hard, and that only with a steadfast, almost blind perseverance and a good nature, will anything come of it.

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The difference a week makes

It’s raining, but I don’t mind, because it makes it easier to sit at my desk a few more days and hammer the last few chapters of Joe and Sidney’s story out of rewrite so I can get back to Peri again.

I like rewrites. I always say I like whatever stage of the book I’m in the best, but rewrites are where the magic really happens for me: a road ignored–taken, a new thought out of the blue that shapes and enriches the rest of a person’s life the story. Yeah. That.

But it’s raining, and my garden has really begun to wake up. The bees are appreciating the early blooms, and giving them a head start will help insure that my cherry tree gets pollinated later this spring. The Crocus are giving me a good show, not yet trampled by wind. I’ve got lots of new ones popping up in unexpected places, because, like a squirrel, I forget that I plant them.

Most of these shots are from my front corner garden, wrapped by sidewalk on two sides, my yard on the third. It was nothing but Juniper, a few rocks, and bluebells when I moved in seven years ago? The first time I tackled it, it took two days to clean up. Now it takes about fifteen minutes. Boom, baby! That’s what I like. Landscape that takes care of itself.

The bluebells needed more light and were moved. The Junipers were drastically trimmed to look bonsai-ish. I added a few wheelbarrows of rock, and tidied it all up with moss and miniature plants. The crocus are new this year. And before you crab about the Christmas lights, they’re up all year on my corner garden, bringing a little fairy magic to it all. Soon as we get another nice day, I’ll put the mini-houses up. 🙂

Siberian Iris

Bloodroot?

 

Grandkitty came to visit again. Aleix still isn’t sure about it.

Also, the mass market for The Turn just popped up for pre-order. Not a bad price! But the Nook won’t drop to match it until the mass market actually comes out.

Amazon

B&N

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Garden Tour! Green stuff coming!

You can’t stop the earth rolling through its gravity track, and the longer days have finally made themselves felt. My bulbs and early buds made it through the last few inches of sudden snow, and though we might get a few below-freezing nights, the stuff that’s up in my yard can take it. This weekend, I’m going to plant the pansies that I bought two weeks ago and brought into my office when snow threatened. Pansies can overwinter with a little protection, but I was not about to plant them with inches expected.

Now, though, the ground is soft again, and the buds on my Cornelian Cherry (which is actually in the Dogwood family) are ready to open. It is one of the first bloomers, and I put it in my yard for the early bees, starving when they wake up. The Mason bees, especially, appreciate them, and I’ve grown my volunteer colony from one or two bees up to many over the last five years. The red fruits are etible, but I usually leave them for the birds.

The Hellebore is a fairly new plant for me, but it thrives in shade with a bare hour of sun now and again, and it will sometimes flower late fall, holding the lion share of buds to open in the spring. They have got a lot of new varieties now, and I adore this as a replacement for Hosta as it looks good even in the spring. The one pictured here has only been in the ground for two years, and it has been flowering since February.

My crocus have been in the ground for almost six years, but I add a handful of to my established beds every fall. The yellow come up first. Always. This is where that ungodly expensive spice, Saffron, comes from.

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Bluebirds remind me of my Grandpa

If you’ve been lurking on my blog for any length of time, you know that I live right in the city, but being small, my “city” is kind of rural, as in the middle of cornfields, lakes, and woods.  I can walk to a handful of restaurants and shops, but there are deer jumping my fence to eat my Hosta, and we’ve caught them more than once resting in the middle of the road to soak up the heat. With Ann Arbor and the university culture only fifteen minutes down the road, there are a lot of artists and retired teachers around, and our farmers market has everything from maple syrup tapped just down the road, to artisan goat, sheep, and cow cheese made within spitting distance.

To say I love living here between forest frog ponds and higher learning is an understatement. I’m doubly lucky in that not only did I have the good fortune to grow up here with the belief that this kind of mental diversity and artistic talents overflowing into cottage industry is normal, but I left it for over a decade so that I recognized that it is not. At least, not everywhere.

But I was supposed to be talking of my grandpa and bluebirds. I saw my first bluebird on a walk with my grandpa, who lived at the end of a winding dirt road between a shallow lake and a twisted woods, and so when they show up at my city feeder, I’m always reminded of him.

This week, the sudden four inches pushed them from the thickets a block over and into the city looking for the feeders and some open water. I probably won’t see the bluebirds again after the snow melts. Still, it was nice to see them just this short time, to know they are still around.

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Saw the sun come up this morning

“It’s cold,” I said this morning as I came in from walking the dogs, my lips pulled tight to my teeth, breath short, unable to feel the warmth of the house in the bubble of 7:00 am air I brought in with me. It won’t last but for a day or two more. Is it fleeting last caress of winter, or a desperate clinging to the past, a refusal to change? I find it doesn’t matter. It will be gone soon, either way.

But my office is warm, and there is pleasure in watching the sun come up, a satisfaction in setting the promotional mind aside and turing all thoughts to creation, the jiggling of ideas like marbles in my hand, picking out the ones that catch my fancy. A red one with the golden eye of passion, flashes between the multitudes of slate grays, each with chips and dings, scratches of loss. Solid gold spheres of epiphany stand out among the steadfast greens, clatterings of perseverance and goal–motivation.

I roll them in my hand, each one chattering against the others like memories, sift them through my mind to create flow, and finally set them in stately rows upon my desk, stringing them together with words. But it takes time. Lots of time.

I think it’s going to be a good day.

giftsfromthehouse

The marbles pictured here were found while remodeling our old house, behind walls, under floors, but mostly outside in the garden, little nuggets of the past finding me while I had my head turned to the earth, fingers deep within it. I’ve kept them all, and they sit above my hearth as a connection to those who held this ground before me.

 

 

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Kim’s mobile puppy fence

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was trying to imagineer a mobile small-dog fence that was cheap, mobile, didn’t take up much space when collapsed, and would stand WITHOUT support stakes. Some of you mentioned wanting to see how it turned out, so here it is!

Important to note, this fence is not designed to securely contain any animal from getting in or out. It is designed to be used only while you are actually with your animal, giving them and you a little more room to roam with a scooch more security. I’ve used it a few times like a play pen to keep my aging dog nearer to me while I work outside in the yard, but it has a wider scope than that.

I used a three-foot plastic fence as a base, with a tight mesh. Bigger holes made for a flimsy structure. The packaging says the mesh is 1/2 inch, but the actual holes in the mesh are about 3/8 of an inch, which is important.

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I folded it in half lengthwise to form an open triangle, the opening against the ground. It was about 18 inches tall, which will keep my small dogs contained and still let me walk over it easily.

To give it more structure and prevent it from just flopping over, I made spacers from  1 1/2 inch PVC pipe which I cut into 4 inch lengths. The spacers are held in place by 8 inch lengths of 3/8 inch dowel shoved through the fence mesh. The mesh should hold the dowel tight enough so it doesn’t spin as the PVC pipe will. I’ve noticed some of the cheaper dowels are not actually 1/2 inch, and don’t hold the spacer well. You might have to take some mesh into the store and try a few dowels to find a good fit.

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I spaced the, ah, spacers about 18 inches along the bottom of the fence, and got something like this.

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My dogs are timid and don’t even try to get through the fence, but your milage will vary. I wouldn’t expect this to stand up to a puppy intent on getting out, or a big friendly ( or otherwise) dog trying to get in. I can’t say enough that this is not a fence to be used without supervision.

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When time to take it down, just remove the dowels and spacers, roll up the fence, and stow it.

I’ve found the black fence I used didn’t roll back up as well as I would like, but it’s still better than trying to stow five foot lengths of standard fencing.

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Is it a boy flower, or a girl flower

blankturncoverIf you haven’t heard, I’m running a contest this year to give away ARCs of The Turn, (Come back next week. I’ll have a cover to show you!) and since I’ve got a pumpkin patch this year, the winners will be chosen from those of you who correctly guess how many pumpkins I harvest. We’ve already had one round of entries, but I’ll be doing more both from FB and the newsletter over the next few months. You can double your chances by signing up to the newsletter and responding when the call goes out. (sign up is here: newsletter )

This year, the vines in my garden all came from three plants I started from seeds I kept from a locally grown pie pumpkin. I took a big chance that the original pumpkin would breed true, not knowing if it had been grown next to another variety of pumpkin, or even a zucchini, and so far, it looks like it is; the pumpkins on the vine are small, deep in color, and look perfect.  They have a fantastic resistance to powdery mildew, which is a plague upon my garden. We’ll see how they cook up.

But if I want to have more seeds for next year, I have to take care to make sure there is no inter-species hanky-panky by way of the bees.

It’s not that hard to pollinate your pumpkins, but you have to be attentive, especially if it’s hot weather as pumpkins don’t set well in the heat and you have to make sure the flowers don’t cook in their protective, ah, condoms?

Chances are, you’ve got pumpkin condoms in your kitchen. So the first thing is to identify the boy flower, which is carried high on the plant, right at the top of the leaves. The one here is likely to open the next morning. You can tell from its faint orange color.

boy-pumpkin

I’ve noticed that pumpkins put out a lot of males early in the season to train the bees to show up, long before any girl flowers appear, low and right next to the vine. If you’re unsure if you’re looking at a boy or girl, the female flower has a miniature fruit at the base of the flower. The one here probably won’t open for a few more days, but it’s got a nice ovum.

girl-pumpkin

Pumpkins open their flowers early in the morning, then close them in the afternoon, so if you go out the night before, you can usually identify which flowers will open the following day. They will have a nice orange color in comparison to those still developing.

Pop a condom, excuse me, paper bag, over the unopened flower, both male and female, and tie them closed so bees can’t find their way in. You have to cover the male flower as well to prevent any pollen being brought in from a bee or wind. Paper bags work, but this year I used a shoe cover I got with a new pair of boots. The open mesh helped to keep the flower cool.

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In the morning, go out and just pluck that male flower right off the vine. Find the female flower you covered the night before, open it up, and be the bee. Just smear that male flower all over. Some people even go bzzzzzz when they do it.

You can throw the male flower away, and carefully re-bag the female. This is where the heat can become a factor, because I’ve had fruit fail to set because it got hot in the bag. This year, I put an umbrella up and shaded it. It seemed to help.

You can take the bag off right around dusk, but be sure to tie a ribbon around the stalk so you can find it at the end of the season and collect your seeds for next year from it.

This should give you a true-breeding pumpkin seeds.

Come back Monday for the first glimpse of the cover for The Turn. It’s really something.

 

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