Monday, July 28, 2008

Wildflowers and Ducks in Late July

Walking around the ponds near the soccer fields on the southeast edge of town a couple of nights ago, we couldn't help noticing a lot of purple. The tall, flamboyantly hued but rather messy looking flower above was not familiar to me, but I have tentatively identified it as Western Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata), a member of the aster family. If anyone knows it to be something else, please let me know!

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), or Bee Balm, was blooming prolifically amid the waving seedheads of the tall grasses.

A family of Blue-winged Teals hurried away from a lurking place along the shore when we disturbed them by walking too close. Later we saw another family with even smaller ducklings.

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The solitary little duck above proved by its stiff, upright tail and light neck to be a Ruddy Duck -- the first I've seen, as far as I know. Apparently the males have beautiful blue bills, but no such feature was visible from this distance in the golden evening light.

First Fruits

I picked two cucumbers this weekend -- the first nonleafy harvest from my gardens this year. It's so satisfying to wander out to the garden, peek under some leaves, and discover something that looks like, gasp, real food!
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Fish update

I have posted an update to my Fishy Funeral story of a couple of days ago.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Floral Arrangement

I'm much more a vegetable gardener than a flower gardener, but here is a bouquet of flowers from my gardens, including:
  • a soft pink, huge-headed Raggedy Ann zinnia I grew from seed this season; I love these and will definitely plant them again. The mix of zinnia colors is always lovely, and I find these big, soft, shaggy heads very pleasing
  • some yellow and orange marigolds my son grew from seed at school and presented me with on Mother's Day, contrasting nicely with blue lobelia
  • hot pink yarrow, self-seeded in the lawn
  • a multicolored marigold from the Lansings' new nursery store; I had several of these in a pot on my front stoop, but squirrels dug some of them up and they dried out before I realized what had happened
  • a mix of purple coneflowers and what I assume are oxeye daisies, both of which spread and reseed themselves liberally. Oxeye daisies are actually listed as invasive and sometimes considered a weed, but tall, cheerful flowers that spring back even when mowed every season are okay with me.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Green Tomatoes and a Fishy Funeral

I have eight or nine tomato plants in my larger garden and three in my container garden (see top left photo for one of these; the rest are from the other garden). The plants in the big garden get quite a bit more sun , probably have better soil quality, and the soil (as is the nature of a garden plot vs. containers) stays a more even temperature and doesn't dry out as quickly. Also, the plants in the pots are a compact container-suitable variety which just doesn't tend to be a large producer. As a result of all of these factors, tomatoes are busting out all over in the larger garden, while it looks as if it will be rather slim pickings from the pots.

I liked this view of one of my zinnias peeping out between encroaching tomato leaves.

The zinnia patch was the site today of a solemn little ceremony. My eight-year-old son discovered to his sorrow this morning that one of his two goldfish had expired and was draped limply over the ornamental hollow log at the bottom of the aquarium. Since we are moving back into the house with the larger garden in just a few weeks, we thought that would be a more suitable burial site, and we hoped that a spot under the flowers would both mark the site nicely for the next few months and perhaps lend some elegance to the end of this small fishy life. Freddi Fish (named for a kids' computer game character) was about four years old -- a large and beautiful goldfish with a lovely wafting tail. We dug a hole in the soft soil, said a few suitable words of appreciation and respect and never-forgetting, and covered her over. I told Henry about how (at least as I've heard it; I don't really know) the Indians would bury a fish head under their corn for fertilizer, and that Freddi's body would enrich the soil of our garden.

Then we went straight to Aquatic Pets to acquire a new little friend for Freddi's bereft younger tankmate, Harry James Potter. Henry picked out a handsome little black goldfish -- I had no idea they came in black -- and soon settled on the most suitable name of Sirius Black. He informed me firmly that he was still sad, but he was at least outwardly decidedly more chipper as we installed Sirius in the tank and welcomed him, or possibly her, to our family.

Update, posted 7/25: Sadly, Sirius Black did not thrive with us and was found floating in the tank about 24 hours after his arrival. Perhaps H.J. Potter will need to be an only fish for a while.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

One Year of Penelopedia

Container garden, July 18, 2008

Last year's garden in mid-July

Penelopedia was launched one year ago this week with the words "This is my garden" accompanying the image on the right, above. On the left is this year's container garden, doing quite well but -- thanks to our cold spring, later planting, and pleasantly cool June -- noticeably less advanced than last year's at the same time. I've got a nice thick crop of leaf lettuce, rather crowded in its pot. I've got a container pepper that's appreciated our recent warmer weather, as have the several container-size tomatoes. My neighbors picked up some rather slim, leggy pepper plants at a garage sale and have added them to my cluster of pots; only one looks as if it might become sturdy enough to bear any fruit.

In about a month I'll be leaving this duplex, but I'll carefully transport my pots to the deck of my new residence, which is actually my former residence. It's all rather confusing really, as a character on the Goon Show used to say. My other garden, which I've blogged about recently, is there already, just waiting for me to come home again. I'll be starting a new life with a new spouse in a familiar location. Our families will blend, and my two gardens will become one. I'm looking forward to the adventure.
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Perfect Summer Evening in the Arb

Dave and I walked in the Upper Arb after an early dinner tonight. After yesterday's heat and humidity, today's fresh, cool breezes were exceedingly welcome and kept the mosquitoes to a minimum. It was really more like a September evening than July. We saw a goldfinch atop one evergreen and something else we weren't sure of at the time but now have identified as a bluebird silhouetted atop another. I believe the light purple flower spikes in the photo collage are lead plant (amorpha canescens). The many-lobed leaves are similar to those of crown vetch, of which we also saw plenty and which can be seen in profusion along areas of I-35W in the metro area; they are both members of the pea or bean family, as is lupine, which we saw (see the stalk of pods and the pea-like white flower stalk in two of these photos) near the bench that overlooks the playing fields and Evans Hall. Black raspberries and orange and red honeysuckle berries were also plentiful.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Garden Takes Off

From this...

To this!
Three months after starting some seeds, six weeks after planting them outside, and after surviving four weeks without my camera (which went with my daughter to camp), I'm delighted to present my burgeoning, bordering on jungly, early July garden. The Raggedy Anne Zinnias which were the first seeds to germinate are coming into bloom now - tall, sturdy plants with big, showy blossoms that blend well with the day lilies behind them.
The tomato plants have seemed to grow six inches a week, and suddenly, almost before I realized they had any flowers, they already have fruit growing. A thickly planted salad mix is ready for small leaves to be harvested, a first cucumber is forming, and two pumpkin plants are developing nicely. My beans never came to anything; they succumbed to hungry rabbits, but nothing else has really been touched. My other garden, the one in pots on my patio, is also growing nicely, but it hasn't taken off the way this one has. I planted rather closely, since my space is limited, but I try to train upward anything that has a tendency to climb rather than sprawl if encouraged, like tomatoes and cucumbers. Now is a good time to add some organic fertilizer, while the plants are flowering and setting fruit.