Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Big ole bumblebee!

I am not used to seeing this kind of bumblebee. From her size and the time of year, I'd assume she's a queen. But I've never seen this color pattern, but I do know there is an astounding variety of bumblebees on the planet!

I was raking hair off my dog in great clumps, and I turned left, and zowie! Bee!

I snuck off and got my camera, obviously.
I was kinda far away from her, as she clung to the crabgrass, and used the zoom to the Max!
I managed to get one other angle! She did stir to clean an antenna, but that was the only action I saw.

Off to ID her! Woot!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Yellow warbler!

Ms or Mrs Yellow Warbler made a thud sound against our door and landed in the spearmint. They sometimes take a while to recover from such accidents. I would, too.

I thought it was a little goldfinch, but the beak is allllll wrong.

And the person who picked it up put it on a boot on a fence. Our cat, The Evil Queen, is about somewhere, and we sure don't want her to get it!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tansy, a natural bug repellent

A friend of mine told me she wants some tansy, and I laughed and I told her that after I had gotten some tansy, I had tried to get rid of it several times and it never works, that not to worry, I could supply her.

She wants it to repel ants. Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare, is native to Europe, and is heat and drought tolerant.

Some folks use it as a companion plant. It's a natural, organic insect repellent. The leaves give off a stinky, strongly pungent odor that the bugs just don't like. Lots of people don't like it much, either.

It blossoms with clusters of flat, knob-shaped, yellow flowers in mid-summer. It blooms in July-August above ferny, but firm leaves. 

I've even heard of people who like the foliage so well, they tolerate the persistence of the plant, and simply clip off the flowers when it blooms. They really do just look like yellow knobs.

Planting corn in hills, year two

This was tilled by a local garden group that will till new garden areas. This is an addition to our garden that was still in grass/sod/various weeds.

Last year we hilled our corn as is described in "Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden" by Gilbert Wilson in 1917. The book allows a Hidatsa woman to explain the way she gardened in her own way. Drawings are also included along with tons of valuable information.

If you're dealing with genetic drift in your corn, read the pages about how the Hidatsa women dealt with issue in their time.

Here is a close-up. I used a five-toothed cultivator rake thing/tool to break up dirt, then sorta raked it into the center, then tamped the top flat. When I get them all formed up (four was plenty at one go), then 7 or 8 kernels will be planted and watermelon and beans in the hill, too. Any squash or watermelon will help keep weeds down between the hills. It worked pretty nice last year, so we're doing it again. Hard to find a non-rain time to get out there and plant just now. But I'm not complaining! I can't bring myself to complain about rain at this point.
                    The second row is offset, though I don't know if you can see it. (More a Parcheesie arrangement rather than a checkerboard arrangement.)

I have sixteen hills prepared at 5 pm, and my energy is waning with a capital "wane."

I put big pieces of bark from The Giant Stump (When alive it was probably at least 100 years old. It's still about three stories high.) in between the hills to keep weeds down. Since this was in grass, there will be lots of grass sprouting. Hopefully we can some less than that.

I hope to put in another row of four hills in the open space on the left. All the light black patches are from me walking in the plot.

Mystery plant + Instant gratification with pineapple coleus

The wheels. There are lots of things growing here, from left, lemon balm, bee balm, the pot with the woodbine and pineapple coleus, more bee balm, and Golden Alexander.Close-up of the new pot (a gift) with coleus and woodbine in it. (This would be formatted a lot better, if I knew more about how blogger works.)

Mystery plant I spotted on the highway. Yes, I pulled over, backed up and took pics. It's who I am. It's about shin-tall. 

UPDATE! It's common scurvy-grass, cochlearia officinalis! Thanks to ValRay Town for the ID!

 Just a close-up.

Golden Alexander Zizea aurea.
They say the flowers are good in salads if you remove the main stem. It's said a tea of the root can be used as a fever reducer. It ALSO says it likes moist woods, which answers my question on why it's not really big after 6 years. I have full sun, little shade, and it has done well each year, but not enough to divide or harvest. Learn something new every day!

A Battle in the War Against Crabgrass

I won't bore you with a picture of my *very* healthy crabgrass in what is sometimes known as "your weed patch." I will, though, caution folks about getting too focused on winning the fight against it.

I want to pull every crabgrass plant out of there (!), but they outnumber me So Bad! I try to pull a few stems at a time, and then I get manic and try to pull a clump at a time, but I can so easily hurt my back. I know this because I have done it.

Those roots are gooooood at what they do, which is holding on for dear life.

So be careful out there! Its rainy and cool here, which is great weather for pulling weeds, but be careful!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A grumpy snapping turtle

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is a large freshwater turtle. Its natural range extends from southeastern Canada, southwest to the edge of the Rockies, as far east as Nova Scotia and Florida, and as far southwest as northeastern Mexico. This species and the larger alligator snapping turtle are the only two species in this family found in North America.

This gent or girl was about dinner-plate sized, and was in the driving lane on a two-way highway.  I stopped to move her to the side and she was decidedly ungrateful, and gave me this evil glare. I hope she continued her westward journey and stayed off the highway.

How old is a dinner-plate-sized snapper? I don't know. I've heard of *much* larger snappers. 

I am still impressed with her badger-like claws, and may I add that one of the first things I recognized about her was her long tail with about nine spikey things along the top ridge. Very dinosaur-ey. Naturally I did not get that photo. I was a little distracted with the 60 mph traffic, after all.

Cuttings, gardening with cardboard, and perennials

This is the cottonwood I saved, kinda, after a bunny bit it off the main stem. It did not root, and did not root, and still put out five leaves. I put it in a jar and it didn't root. Then I put willow bits in the water. And well, you really can't see, but there is a 4-inch root in this water. I guess you'll have to trust me on that.

These are the onion rows in the garden. The cages are around 3 of the 11 tomatoes I planted today ... or yesterday ... yeah yesterday. the marigolds were planted today.
All of you "Black Stallion" fans will know what I mean if I call this the Rub al-Khali, the empty quarter. There are milkweed plants in there, but soon, very soon, there will be Indian corn. I received some as a gift, and you plant some kind of squash or melons under it. Last year our melons did well, so we're doing that again.
Yes, it's a tomato cage around a mullein plant. Mainly to keep my feet off of it. Several sprouted out there. Some I put in there. It will be an interesting garden.
This is the first time I have tried putting a significant amount of cardboard down, with mulch or grass clippings over it. Cardboard worked really well last year; I'm expanding the program this year.
The Korean lilac I got through trading on GardenWeb.com. That's a mulberry growing out of the top, and a chokecherry off to the right.
Golden Alexander. The roots are medicinal. Lovely.
Catnip left and chocolate mint, right.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tour of the yard

These are the apple trees my partner got several years ago, and yesterday they looked like spotlights of Beautiful. Today they are leafing out more and are less brilliant. Last night's rain raked off a lot of the petals, too. -- If we have an apple for each of those blossoms, both trees will be ruined. -- I have been whacked on the head with apples on these trees, mowing under them. They are big, hard and heavy.

This is grandma burdock and a couple of her daughters (over near the tires)

Grass is kinda smart. It will seed shorter, if you keep mowing it. That has always amused me for some reason.

This is a patch of yarrow that established itself near our Osage orange. It's so beautiful! Ah, May, you are a beautiful month!
This is a recent transplant. When it went into the ground three weeks ago, it was just a stick. Now its a known live stick. Just joking. This is an elderberry I bought cheap (in a group of 25) from the local NRCS. 25 elderberries and 25 chokecherries. 
This is a mullein we found in the garden last year. I staked it out with some of the sticks that are all over our yard. -- I generally only pick up larger sticks. The rest just get mowed. -- Anyway, you can see that one was a willow, and now it thinks it is a willow tree.
This is a lilac bush that smelled good yesterday, but wasn't blooming very much. Today it's the picture of lilac loveliness. I hug it every day when it's blooming. YUM!
This is, on the left, St. John's wort. It's known for liking to live in compacted soil. Sure enough, it's alongside my driveway where I occasionally drive right over it. On the right, is a wild rose with last year's hips on it.

Nyctaginacea mirabilis, the wild four o'clock. It's really cute at this stage before it gets all leggy and knobby-kneed.
This is my lead plant. Every year I think it has died because the lead plant waits a long time to leaf out. It is silvery, but this is too flashed-out and you can't see the real color.
Silphium terebinthenaceum, prairie dock. Not similar to your other docks, but a cousin to cup plant and compass plant, therefore Very Tall. Its first year with me it was 14 feet tall.
A chokecherry in my yard I didn't even know was there. It was hiding in some greenery. This is just one of many reasons to regularly inspect your yard! Woot!
Here's another chokecherry. This shape of the group of flowers is quite distinctive. I can see this from the highway. There's really nothing else like it in my part of the country.
The evil, evil forsythia.
I couldn't resist these wine-colored sunflowers, I really couldn't. This is total, non-native, ooh-look-pretty frivolity. And every gardener should have some of that. The down side is the price tag of $2.49. I got these for less than that at Bomgaar's, but $2.49 for 13 seeds? Really? 19 cents per SEED? (I was shocked that I only got 13 seeds, but maybe I only need 13.)

Folks, I think the time is past to save seeds and save seeds like crazy, and network about trading them around, and doing what nature intended, which is NOT buying from Burpee (or whomever) every year. Time to do the homework and find out what heirloom is vs. hybrids. Then take a breather and find out what GMO is vs. hybrid. Find out if it matters to you. Think about the generations after us, and what our actions (or, more to the point, inactions) will affect them.

Find out what you can do. Find out who sells the seeds you want. This may be just a flower in my yard, but seeds are serious, serious business. It's about the future of food.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This is so funny and amazing. The craziest things are, indeed, right at our feet. This milkweed shoot came up through last year's left-over stem. I didn't know it would even do that!

And the even shorter one, you can just see the leaves coming up through a different old stalk.

I was in the garden, whacking muhly (a grass), dandelions and prickly lettuce and leaving the milkweed pretty much to do what it wanted.
Crazy stuff!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hodgepodge post

Even when I don't get on the computer, I do snip away with the camera. Here's the hodgepodge:

Now these are hen-n-chicks from a relative in Kansas, they are waiting for the right place to live. They were going to be put in a pair of repurposed boots that were ... uh ... reposessed.
... And then there's a close-up for violets not yet unfurled.I didn't realize they were SO CUTE!

The white flowers are a bird-deposited Manchurian apricot. They bloom just before the plums bloom

Mustard at work, just outside where I park, underneath the giant turbine.

What my elderberries looked like after I cut the sod. You can't even see the bush, right?
And now you can! Yes, it's very small. I broke off one bush about 4 inches higher than the root.

This is my dandelion omelet. My reward after all that digging!
Plums. Heavenly heavenly, beautiful plums!
Aus willow hybrid branch that fell outside my door. So I took the tips for a tincture for pain, a common herbal remedy.
When you dig around in the yard of a long-established place, you find some odd things.
A bean from a black locust tree that was germinating underground.
And the first shoots of maheench (milkweed) coming up in the garden. A friend noted that it looked like Aubrey from Little Shop of Horrors. Well! I had always thought that, too funny!