Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

They’re Baaaaaaack July 29, 2010

Filed under: fauna — greenwalks @ 9:09 pm
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Nope, not the squirrels. I haven’t seen them in a while, although I’m sure they’ll be around once the sunflower seeds are almost-mature.

They walk by night… no, not zombies!

Last guess. Here, I’ll give you a clue:

Beheaded birdbath

Yes, my back is killing me from hefting that stupid concrete birdbath top back onto the base from its flipped position on the ground. Same thing happened last summer around the time the neighbors’ plums started ripening. Hm… any guesses?

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Wishing You A Reindeer’s Rest on Dec. 25 December 24, 2009

Filed under: digressions,fauna — greenwalks @ 11:50 pm
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They must be pretty tired today, those sky-striders. So is anyone else who has been scurrying around getting stuff ready for the big day, if they celebrate Christmas in any secular or sacred way.

Best wishes to all and hope there is time to relax in this season that can overtake us all with too much of ***everything*** (food, people, stuff, emotions, expectations) at times.

Sleepy Reindeer at Swanson's

(We met this particular reindeer at Swanson’s Nursery in Seattle. Don’t you love those soulful eyes?)

 

Nutty December 3, 2009

Filed under: fall,fauna,trees — greenwalks @ 10:33 pm
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After our witch hazel (Hamamelis X intermedia ‘Jelena’)’s leaves do their spectacular fall color thing and then turn to a crispy brown carpet for the winter, there’s not much to look at until the tree puts out its fragrant red-orange flowers around January. Not that I’m complaining! To only have a few months of boring-ness in a deciduous tree, that’s pretty impressive.

But this year I noticed something I hadn’t before – squirrels searching the branches for something tasty. One day I looked out and saw one happily munching away:

Squirrel Nutkin

On what, though? Not the flower buds, I hoped! Or the bark. Then I saw a second one:

Peacefully munching squirrels

Sorry for blurry photos – taken through a window on with my crummy camera on a gloomy day. Couldn’t believe it when I finally noticed the third one on a different branch (at this point they are all at about the same level in the tree, evenly spread out – can you spot them?:

Squirrel haven

No fighting, no biting – a peaceable kingdom. Pretty rare – usually they are tearing up the place, chasing each other around and chattering like demons. I went back through my photos from earlier in the fall and found a close-up of the hazel ‘nuts,’ which I’d promptly forgotten about. Are these edible for humans, or only birds and fancy, sometimes mischief-bent rodents?

Witch hazel "nuts"

Moot point this year, anyway – they seem to have got ’em all!

 

Hen Party Plus One August 18, 2009

The August meeting of the Seattle garden bloggers crew was largely a female affair this time, for the first month in a long while. While we have enjoyed the presence of Daniel, Michael and David at previous get-togethers, it looked at first like it was just going to be us chickens, including a few that were new to the group.

But then one brave rooster showed up – I hope all the clucking didn’t scare him too much.

Young Araucana hens and rooster

Oh wait, those were Molly’s new Araucana hens and their boyfriend. Here’s (most of) our flock:

August SAGBUTT crew

Aaron was the new guy (at far left), he blogs at erasei and in his first year of vegetable gardening appears to be outstripping all of my many years of efforts. Way to go, Aaron! Next to him, in blue with the camera, is Melanthia of Garden Muse, coming back from some time away from the blogosphere, where she was much missed. In tie-die is Paula of Petunia’s Garden, who as always brought something to share (a basket of perfect-looking garlic). Yvonne and her friend Donna (next over, sorry that Donna is behind a tree) also came along for the first time – both are avid gardeners among many other talents. Aerie-el from Gardener’s Roost, also with a camera out and also partially obscured, has been with us via comments and our listserv but had never been able to attend a meeting – it was so great to finally meet her. Melanthia’s friend Cheryl, in the elegant ensemble complete with pink handbag, was a really good sport for a non-gardener, having really been here mostly for a board meeting of the Isis Initiative, a non-profit that supports education for women in the devolping world. Last but not least, at far right, our gracious and hilarious host, Molly, telling us more funny stories about her Life on Tiger Moutain. Also with us were Curmudgeon, Wingnut and Dakota the dog, all in fine fettle and full of stories about critter challenges in this summer’s garden – they are not in the picture, probably already working on their post about the event, which seemed to go up almost instantly.

We all got to go on the “herding cats” tour of Molly’s magnificent property, a five acre spread at the edge of wilderness of which she personally tends quite a large chunk. I admit to missing a lot of the tour’s narration, since I was once again at the back, yakking, straggling, admiring, and generally comparing my own garden most unfavorably to what I saw.

Walking towards the barn and greenhouse, the veggie patch in raised beds begs you to come closer and take a look at what’s growing and how carefully and intelligently it has been tended.

Molly's barn, veggie garden and greenhouse

Have you ever seen healthier pumpkin vines?

Pumpkin vines that ate the universe

They grew up and over a net trellis that had been put there for other purposes (Borlotti beans visible below but not nearly so visible as the pumpkins!).

Pumpkin and Borlotti bean trellis (lacrosse net?)

We talked about TP rolls (or “loo rolls,” as Matron would call them) and how some have found them to be less than wonderful for seed starting, perhaps due to chemicals or coating in or on the cardboard. Molly says they work fine for her leeks – they certainly look happy.

Leek bed with TP rolls

I could be wrong, but I think this was only one of several tomato beds. Netting is to protect from chickens when they’re out free-ranging, I believe. Chickens are good for some pest control but they also scratch sort of indiscriminately; they also don’t eat slugs, but the ducks do so they seem like a good team.

Tomato bed

I forgot to peek in the greenhouse – I bet there was some great stuff in there. Dang. On to a few highlights from the rest of the property.

Clematis seedhead:

Clematis seedhead

Peach tree:

Peach tree

Big rock and Japanese willow at the front of the house, with striking sedum at the base:

Big rock and Japanese willow

Bed by the front steps with such a great mix of leaf colors, shapes, textures, and hues:

Entry bed

When gardeners get together is good food and drink ever far away? I know Molly worked very hard to put all of this together, but she didn’t make a big deal out of it. Highlights included pizza fresh out of oven, covered with homegrown tomatoes, and blackberry clafouti, from freshly harvested berries.

The spread

Elderflower beverages were promised, elderflower beverages were delivered. How to describe the taste? Delicate, sweet, subtle, delicious! To read the story of St. Germain liquer, and how the elderflowers are gathered (it involves old Bohemians on bicycles in the French alps, hard to beat that), click here.

St. Germain elderflower cocktail fixings

Not being a tomato lover, I didn’t participate in the tasting, but there sure were a lot of juicy-looking ones.

Tasty tomatoes and zinnias

I didn’t get a good photo of Molly’s dog, about whom she has told us many stories (I liked the one about how she picked up a bucket of blackberries and dashed off with it, handle in mouth, berries flying everywhere), nor the hide-ier of her cats, whom I glimpsed once gliding by, but this one put up with us at least until a faceful of German Shepherd got a little too close for comfort (in a friendly way, but still).

Feline host

Thank you, Molly, for sharing your beautiful food, drink, garden, and self with us. Life on Tiger Mountain seems pretty sweet indeed.

Molly at home

 

Too Hot to Blog August 1, 2009

Filed under: fauna,weather — greenwalks @ 8:14 pm
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My brain has shut (mostly) down in this extreme heat wave we’ve been having in the Pacific Northwest. Weather whining has reached a fever pitch, and although it has cooled off from record-setting 103 degrees on Wednesday to a comparatively reasonable but still unpleasant high-80s today, I have just not had the energy to take photos, upload them, think of something to write, or otherwise contribute anything of even miniscule interest to blogland.

We also had relatives in town for a visit, which was fun but since it was their first trip up here, they felt like they had to see and do everything and it was hard to contemplate walking around town showing them the sights in the wilting heat and horrendously bad-quality air (not typically an asthma sufferer, I was coughing and wheezing every time I opened a window or stepped outside). We ended up letting them do some stuff on their own, and spent more time than I care to admit in their air-conditioned hotel room and indoor pool, just to revive a bit and feel like humans for a few hours.

It is also the time of the dreaded (by me) Seafair, Seattle’s annual bonanza of beer-fueled water activities, featuring gas-guzzling hydroplane races and the loudest planes in the sky, the Blue Angels. The combination of the heat and the noise have meant that I’m not spending really any time in the poor old garden. Plants are wilting along with me, so I’ve been out with the sprinkler and hose in the dark at times, just trying to keep most of everyone from expiring until the rains return. Which they seem like they never will.

All of this complaining has made me think about the poor unfortunates who don’t have any access to fans or AC or even a cool sip of water – yes, the elderly and those who work outside have my sympathy, but I’m talking about the furry wildllife, who must really not be used to these temps either. Hugh at Rock Paper Lizard had a really lovely post related to this recently, complete with super cute animal pics – read it here if you have a minute. We have noticed a squirrel who seems to be moving rather slowly at the moment – hope it’s not sick, and will recover when the weather cools. S/he hangs out on top of the fence near our dining room, and seems to stay there for long periods. I took this photo the other day with my daughter’s stuffed animal shark in the foreground, I thought the two “S” animals looked pretty funny together.

Shark & squirrel

Are you a stoic when the mercury hits the extremes? Or do you take your hot weather, as I do, with a glass of WHINE?

 

Evidence of Things Unseen June 17, 2009

Filed under: fauna,my garden — greenwalks @ 10:54 am
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I will probably look back fondly on the days that the squirrels were my most formidable garden adversary. It seems the raccoon population of Seattle has rebounded from what may have been a temporary period of virus-related low population numbers (unverified rumor, so don’t quote me) and it seems that some of them have been up to a few tricks lately around my garden. Nothing too devastating yet, but they’re putting me on notice for when the raspberries and blueberries get closer to ripening.

First, I noticed a large piece of tree bark abandoned in a shady spot, on a clump of poppies. No trees with this kind of bark in my garden or even nearby that I can see. Where did it come from? Who left it there? What are they up to??

Strange bark piece left in garden

Just a few feet down the path, my potted ‘Heritage’ rose, the only rose I have ever seen, smelled, tracked down and bought on my own, had its single currently blooming stem broken off almost all the way, it was dangling by a thread but still flowering. Hm.

Heritage rose broken stem

Other people could suspect their dogs, or maybe their kids, but we don’t have any pets and my daughter is actually pretty careful in the garden, at least in this part of it.

The next clue that the masked bandits may have been responsible was the stones that had obviously been rearranged in our rockery. It’s a mess at the moment, I’m ripping out weeds and plants and haven’t got around to fixing up the defunct mini-pond yet, but they obviously needed to have a look-see for potential fishy snacks (sorry, guys, no help there) or maybe wanted to dip in some tasty morsel from our city food scrap/yard waste bin on trash night.

Rockery rearranged by raccoons?

Last clue – my faux Craftsman plastic solar light by the rockery was temporarily decapitated. Huh? When I mentioned my puzzlement to my mom, she said “Well, they like to be busy.” I guess I can admire their curiosity, as long as it doesn’t turn too destructive.

DSCF6895

My parents had to give up on their Italian plum tree, it was just stripped every year by the raccoons before my folks could get even a single ripe plum. They also got most of my parents’ corn last year, and I do think I need to study up on possible (benign) berry-defense methods.

Some people think these critters are too cute for words; others consider them a menace and a nuisance. Really, they’re just part of the natural world and, like crows, rats and a few other species, have proven remarkably adaptable to urban environments (possible viruses notwithstanding). I think that if they are here, I will just have to learn to deal with them. Their ancestors were certainly here before mine were, so they kind of have dibs on the land if they want it. I might not be so sanguine, however, if they take every last one of my berries this year! Do you have any raccoon stories to share?

3338238713_426a84eae3_b

Raccoon image by Liza31337, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. To see more images by this photographer, please click here.

Just as I was about to publish this post, I read a sort of frightening article by garden writer Ann Lovejoy about potential health hazards from raccoon droppings. Eek. I guess I need to keep my gloves on when I’m working in the yard, and make sure my kid doesn’t come into contact with any critter poop!

(I stole the title of this post from a record I used to listen to a lot, by avant-jazz pianist Don Pullen – brilliant genius, spiky music, died too young, common sad story in the music world). It’s also the name of a Marianne Wiggins novel – does anyone read her anymore, or was she an 80s phenom and more famous for being Salman Rushdie’s wife? That sounds really sexist, I don’t mean it that way. If you’re a fan, speak forth!)

 

A Furry Visitor May 26, 2009

Filed under: fauna,my garden — greenwalks @ 10:03 am
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One of the reasons I like gardening in the parking strip area is that I get to meet the friendlier of my neighbors. I live in kind of a funny neighborhood, where a lot of people will walk right past without a glace or a word, which is fine by me. But when someone stops to say hello or says something nice about the garden, it makes my day.

Sometimes, the visitors are not of the human variety. I have watched many jays, flickers, crows and hummingbirds out there, so much so that I feel like their daily dramas (must find food! must protect babies!) are a vital part of my life. Finding a ladybug on a leaf, surprising two flies in an act of, um, love as I did the other day, or observing the flight path of a lazy bumblebee can all make me feel like all the work and labor of struggling with the soil conditions, baking heat in the summer, and challenges of getting everything the water it needs worthwhile.

Here is someone who stops by now and again. He doesn’t usually come over for a chat, but he does flop down and roll around on the sidewalk and stay awhile if I leave him be.

Feline visitor to parking strip garden

Who is visiting your garden these days?