Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Contrariness of the Mad Gardener

The Garden, Before

The Garden, After
I received my Mantis tiller (seen in the front bed, left side of photo) via UPS Thursday evening. Friday from 10 AM-2 PM or so I was a tilling maniac. By my count from the photos, I tilled seventeen of my 21 4 x 8 raised beds. My verdict on the Mantis: Best piece of power equipment I have ever owned. It's light enough to lift in and out of the beds, powerful enough to work through most grass roots, and easy to handle. I don't know how I gardened without it.

The one thing the Mantis won't do is dig out boulders and carry them off to some new rock garden. I encountered a surprising number of rocks in the garden beds, ranging from golf ball size to too big for me to dig up.

But wait, there's more! In the photos above, you can see 21 raised garden beds. I have an additional 5 raised beds for potatoes that are not shown. I did an inventory of my tomato plants today, and decided I needed a minimum of 9 dedicated beds for tomatoes. The most I have ever planted was six beds, at eight plants per bed. That would put a squeeze on everything else I could plant, so...I'm adding four more raised beds. Insane. And I'll probably still plant some tomatoes in containers.

So what are all these tomatoes I'm planting? I had to take inventory this morning, since I hadn't kept track of just how many varieties I started and transplanted to pots. I have perhaps a record 21 tomato varieties, all open pollinated heirlooms, and 74+ plants. That's not counting the ones I did not transplant from their little starting cells. Here's the list; most are chosen for being under 80 days:

Break o'Day
Grandma Mary's Paste
Igegnoli Gigante
Polish Linguisa (paste)
Taxi (yellow, of course)
Mountain Princess (Baker Creek lists this at 48 days!!!)
Yellow Pear
Cuor di Bue
Principe Borghese (supposed to be great for drying)
Ropreco Paste
Ivory Egg
Black Cherry
Pantano Romanesco
Cosmonaut Volkov

On top of that, I have nine kinds of peppers and three eggplant varieties. Insanity, I tell ya!

By the way, none of these tomatoes were planted out today. It's supposed to freeze tonight. More insanity!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Won't you be my neighbor?

Today as I was taking the kids to school (actually 2 out of 3; Starflower has been waking up early and taking the bus) I saw something that made my heart sink: a "for sale" sign at the property just to the south of us. A family from a suburb of St. Paul owns the land, but we had not seen them around for a while. They were pretty good neighbors, up for an occasional weekend, some deer hunting, all in all pretty quiet.

Of course I am a bit curious as to the circumstances, but also worried about who might eventually buy the land. We have been blessed with good neighbors here, although the ones across the road are quirky but in a benign way. I would hate to see a weekend warrior come in, equipped with a bunch of ATV's intent on "mud bogging" the substantial wetland on the property. Or some careless deer hunters who just might be careless enough to put my family in danger. I'm not incriminating all deer hunters here; I'm just saying that is a possibility.

So I'm reaching out to anyone who reads this blog: Do you want 40 acres of peace and quiet, with magnificent white pines, just a short drive up I-35 from the Cities? Birding is great with the mix of white pines, aspens and shrub swamp. There is a trailer with electricity already on the place, and driveway with gate, so it's ready for you to come up and stay a weekend. If you look at the header photo, it is the land to the left. And the best part is, you would have great neighbors!!! :)

Seriously, I would like to see this property fall into the right hands. So if you're interested, my e-mail is on the sidebar.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Heeere's Granny!

Yep. I'm a step grandma now. But isn't he CUTE? I had a hard time believing this was my stepson's own child, the child of the boy whom I watched grow up since he was six or so. Wow.

Calvin, Mr. Attitude, and Starflower are thrilled as can be to be uncles and aunt. And they were happy to be reunited with the proud father, Tom, for a good game of catch and baseball. The newborn, of course, slept most of the time. I hear he's a night baby though. Ah the memories.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mental health day off

Friday off to make it a four day weekend. Yeah! Lots of mental health recuperating and gardening to be done. Not to mention visiting STEP grandkids. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'm a step grandma!

Jordan Patrick Sewell was born this afternoon to Tom and Abbi, my stepson and daughter in law. Six pounds 14 ounces, and apparently healthy! And the crew here is delighted to be uncles and aunt. I'm hoping to see some Facebook pictures before the night is over!

Wow. The G-word. I'm too young for this! Although I'm looking forward to holding a baby without assuming all the mom duties. :)

Okay, I actually read the link and my exact words on June 8, 2008 were: "They better wait to have kids until I'm good and ready!" :) Life is funny.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm getting a Mantis!

My enthusiasm for gardening has been waning lately. Mostly it has to do with the fact that it is physically difficult, and painful, to prepare all of my raised beds by the usual shoveling and hand hoeing methods. One day in the garden equals three days on heavy ibuprofen therapy. And a lot of my weeds are rhizome-running varieties, which are especially tenacious.

I started dreaming about mini-tillers some time last fall. But all of our money was going for getting the new house in livable condition, and I deferred my dream. I hand prepared a couple of beds this spring, and looked on with dread as the usual grasses crept in the others.

Finally this spring I decided I wasn't going to torture myself any further. I was going to get a mini tiller, and it was to be my Mother's Day present. But I'm so bad at shopping, or more precisely, at finally opening up my wallet and buying something. So this morning The Hermit started comparing mini tillers online, and before I knew it he said "I ordered a Mantis!" After comparing consumer reports online, he decided it was worth the money, and they have a 4 payment program, which helps a lot. Free 2-day shipping, it should be here by my planned day off on Friday!

Watch out, woman with power garden tools! :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You'll never guess what my new yard bird is...(updated with photo)

...and I'm going to make you wait until the end of this post to reveal it. And you Facebook friends may have an unfair advantage. Sorry, I couldn't resist a quick status post. ;)

It's been a crazy week here. Started off with a flat tire on the way to work Monday morning, which of course ended up with me having to buy a new tire, which came today. I drove The Hermit's vehicle until now. Four Calvin baseball games (one of which is tomorrow), Calvin staying up until after midnight when the Twins game went 13 innings (they won, thanks to a walk off grand slam by another great Joe), lots of stuff going on at work, and to top it off, tonight's triple header of ball game, piano recital, and band concert. I got home after my bedtime.

At least I have been out on lakes at work, which is good. I like driving a boat around, looking at stuff, even if I have to somehow systematically record the presence of curlyleaf pondweed. Yesterday at lunch time I parked the boat on the shore of an island which I believe was Minnesota's first designated Scientific and Natural Area, because it hosts a great blue heron rookery. I practically grew up on that lake, so I know personally that the herons have been there at least close to 40 years, probably longer. Now it also hosts a bald eagle nest, and I saw one eagle bring a fish or something to the nest. There were warblers flitting about, mostly yellow rumped, but I heard a warbling vireo.

Today I learned an important lesson: Don't park your boat downwind of a flock of white pelicans. They must ferment those fish in their beaks for a LONG time!

Okay, on to the yard bird. The other day, I think it was a Tuesday if I remember right, I was driving home with the kids after one of Calvin's ball games, and a mile and a half away from our house I spotted something that made me do a double take. It turned out to be a preview of THE YARD BIRD. Fast forward to this morning. The Hermit tells me he heard a really loud, exotic sounding bird call from our woods that may have been the bird I had seen before. I walked out, heard nothing, and told him it may have been a yellow bellied sapsucker; after all they do get kind of sassy this time of year. Later today, when I got back from the lake and was checking my email at work, I had a note from The Hermit saying he had visual confirmation, and it was most definitely NOT a sapsucker.

It was a peacock. A real live, honest to God blue peacock. Right here in our woods. I only believed him because my preview bird happened to be a peacock, albeit a mile and a half away from here.

No photos yet; I happened to have the camera stashed in one of those obvious places that neither of us could remember. Camera found tonight, hope to get some early morning photographic evidence. I didn't arrive home until twilight, which is pretty late these days, but I was fortunate to get audio confirmation several times over. Those suckers are LOUD!

This is surreal. I would not be more surprised if I happened to see a manatee surfacing in our pool on Sand Creek. Or a flock of flamingoes foraging in the shallows of the pond.

Friday morning update:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Marsh marigold

It is Spring in a big way, that week or two when everything bursts forth in green, the drab grays and tans of bare trees and dead grasses fade under new growth. It is the time while, as the everyday business of human life rushes forward, I just want to pause somewhere in a sunny meadow near a laughing brook and BE a part of this world that does not concern itself with human economies. I also see clearly, in stark contrast, the ideal life I want versus the present reality, lost in the details. But the renewal of spring gives me hope and courage to pursue that good life as I plant my garden and play the ancient music.
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Saturday, May 02, 2009

another osprey nest

A long time ago, in that dark season we call winter, which I don't want to think about now, while doing the Christmas Bird Count, I noticed a large nest atop a power line pole. I figured it was either an eagle or an osprey nest, and made a mental note to check it in the spring.

Today I was in the area, driving home from a short day's work pulling nets. I can hardly call it work when I'm getting paid to ride around in a boat on a nice day like today. Oh yeah, I had to help wrestle a muskie or two, but I saw lots of ducks, and some loons.

I decided to drive by the nest, if I could remember which road it was on. I happened to find the right road, and lo and behold Mrs. Osprey was peeking over the top at me!

This nest is a few miles from the Web cam nest, and probably a mile or more from the nearest big body of water. Apparently the osprey pair thought it was a good spot though. It's nice they picked the power pole closest to the road!