Autumn Arrives in My Back Yard and Farther Afield

I’ve been enjoying autumn falling across my back yard. Nice things are happening.

First, I was so happy to see toad lily blooms. I’d been sure that they were going to be casualties of the city’s herbicide campaign, but there are still several of the beautiful flowers gracing the back corner of my garden.


blue toad lily

There’s also a lovely, viney mass of plants in a wonderful autumn rainbow of greens, yellows, reds, oranges, and browns. My yellow wall looks good with the yellow maple leaves.

My cat continues to insist on viewing his domain every morning. He doesn’t believe me that it’s getting colder outside. He thinks John and I should do something about that. Now.

And this weekend I finally cleared a section of my garden in order to plant garlic. I’d hoped that the plants that had been growing there would have been killed off by now, but they’ve been tenacious. There were a few tomatoes and some marigolds that simply were not quitting. A collected the marigold blossoms that I could and brought them inside to enjoy for a few more days. And now the garlic is in the ground!

I’ve also taken a couple walks around the Evansville area to enjoy the fall colors. I’ve found plenty of beautiful trees. I’ve underestimated Evansville’s beauty. I think I need to get out into the area parks more! There’s a lot to see.

Pause: Changing Seasons

The last of my garden’s produce is slowly ripening, but the leaves have yet to fall from the trees, so the pace of gardening in my back yard has slowed.

full garden in October

The food items in my garden include a few tomatoes, drying cow peas and lima beans, basil, and some okra.

final tomatoes

I tried planting some lettuce, but it hasn’t been too quick to grow, so I’m not sure if I’ll have one last salad or not. At least it makes a nice setting for my little gnome!

gnome farmer

The vines are growing like there’s no tomorrow (and with frost starting to appear in the forecast, maybe they know what’s coming). The cow peas, cypress vine, tomatoes, and morning glories are a mass of green.

cow pea, morning glory mass

cypress vine


I finally cleaned the dirt off my garlic that’s been drying inside for a while. There were four varieties, and I sampled them before using plenty in this year’s big batch of pesto.

Garlic notes to self: All varieties tasted good, but the German Red purple-stripe hardneck was super hot and spicy raw. It formed nice sized bulbs, though, along with the other hardneck, which was a porcelain type. The silverskin softneck formed small bulbs and small cloves, though it was also in the shadiest part of the garden. All will make tasty food this winter.

garlic 2015

In other news, my cat turned 18! For his birthday, we got out the heated cat bed. He still enjoys viewing the back yard every morning, though he’s back to being angry with John and I for turning down the thermostat outdoors.


I have also acquired another great piece of art for my garden. It came from the Funk in the City art sale on Haynie’s Corner. I’m still looking for the perfect place to put it in my garden. By the way, here’s a tip: you can’t casually walk around with a life-sized, concrete arm. People tend to notice and comment! They also tend to smile.

new arm

And speaking of art, I haven’t gotten a chance to write about my big, summer-long painting project. I’d been looking around my garden for a place to add more art, and I realized that my mind was always looking past the large, gray metal fence on one side of the yard. It wasn’t anything in particular to look at–just a backdrop.

So I started thinking. I pondered colors and decided the base should be yellow. It took me all summer, but by mid-August it was finally all yellow.

yellow wall

In that time, I had several different plans for what to paint over the yellow, but I’m not sure if it really needs anything. Many of my Facebook friends agreed with that, as well. Especially when the tree’s shadows fall on the wall, it seems as if it doesn’t need much more.

wall with shadows

I decided that perhaps subtle was the way to go, so I got three different shades of yellow to use to mimic the tree’s shadows. The initial painting still seemed too bold…

shadows with shadows

painted shadows

So I toned it down with a wash of the base color over the top. I’m not sure what I think about it now, so I’m letting it be for a while. We’ll see what I think when painting temperatures return in the spring.


Drying Up

Things have slowed down considerably in my garden. My gardening activities are cut down to watering and harvesting the few odds and ends still popping up. In contrast to the 12″ of rain we got in 4 weeks in June-July, in the most recent 4 weeks we’ve gotten about a third of an inch of rain. Especially with the ever-increasing herbicide damage, my whole garden looks tired and ready for the winter’s rest.

Without so much gardening to do, I recently took a tour of new, odd garden art discoveries I’ve made in my neighborhood.

There’s my friend Jane’s bottle tree with quirky bottles:

bottle tree

And the awesome squirrel garden sculpture that, from the angle I photographed it while I leaned over her fence, looks like it’s begging for food from the Greek goddess nearby:

please, can I have more?

(By the way, a parent in Patchwork’s children’s program gave the squirrel to Jane. I’m envious, but then this weekend at an art fair I claimed a concrete arm holding a solar light before Jane could get it, so maybe we’re even. Plus I got another bizarre raccoon sculpture at the same art fair, so it was a total win!)

Jane also has a row of massive sunflowers that are beautiful but too big for my garden. I’m envious of those, too.

sunflower 2015

And she has other nice flowers in a wild and weird garden:

flower combination

Then there’s this community garden not too far away from me with wonderful, healthy hops, unlike my sad specimens.

hops against the sky

hops hopping

And these wonderful, weird cat guardians that have popped up on Washington Avenue:

cats: you shall not pass


And this, that I happened upon while circling the block to get a better look at the cats. I’m not quite sure what’s all going on here, but it’s awesome:

Mary in a bathtub


Meanwhile in my garden, there are highlights, including the scent of autumn clematis, okra blooms, the last hosta blooms, a wonderful variety of white marigold that I love, a butterfly, and a monarch caterpillar:

This year has not been good for tomatoes. I chose all new varieties this year, and the ones I chose just aren’t my favorites. And then it just wasn’t a productive year for tomatoes, so we haven’t had many to eat. Here are the varieties I had:

tomatoes 2015

The stripey one is “Green Copia”, and I thought it tasted the best, but it’s a beefsteak and it cracked and the caterpillars dug into what was left, so I didn’t get many that were edible to me. The bigger yellow/orange one is “Djeena Lee’s Golden”, which apparently won first prize at the Chicago Fair 10 years in a row. It has a spicy flavor, but isn’t very juicy, so I’m not fond of it. The little yellow ones are “Sunrise Bumble Bee”. I thought it was a tasty sounding name, but (alas) I don’t like the flavor and I can never tell when they were really ripe. I liked the flavor of the little pink ones enough that I might plant them again next year. They’re called “Blue Berries”, but were mostly pink. These also were difficult to discern when they were ripe. Another downside is that they are the ones where the insects ate half of every tomato all summer, leaving very few that were appetizing to me.

And then, my total disappointment: the death continues in my garden. Since it’s been so dry, the death due to herbicide blends in with the death from the dry weather (despite our inflated water bill due to my watering). Still, the state of the honeysuckle on the back fence clearly has nothing to do with water and everything to do with herbicide.

Here it is on September 7. Much more dead than my previous post about the poisoning, but still with some green hints of hope:

September 7 death

And September 13, with pretty much no hope left:

September 13 death

And from the inside: September 6 and things look happy and nice, though a little hole has opened up in the back corner (center of photo) because the vines are dying:

September 6

And the hole is considerably wider by September 13. (It surprised me how much of a difference I saw when these photos were side-by-side)

Sept 13 yuck

Here’s a closer photo. It took two weeks or more for things to really die. I think a lot of the slower death was on plants that got a drop or two of herbicide on them, not a direct hit.


Thanks, City of Evansville!

Michigan Getaway

John and I spent the last week of August at my family’s little cottage in Northern Michigan. It was nice to get away for a bit. The weather turned cold and rainy just after we got there, but that just meant we got to enjoy reading indoors by the fire instead of enjoying swimming.

We took our elderly cat with us again, since he seemed to enjoy his Michigan vacation so much last year. Again, I think he had a nice time, mainly because he had plenty of time with his people and didn’t have to sit at home alone. Plus then he can continue to receive his fluid treatments related to his kidney failure.

He does well in the car. Whoever isn’t driving is the official “cat wrangler”, although at this age (18 years in October!), he doesn’t need much wrangling.


Blue skies and open roads!

The cottage is near Crooked Lake, which is part of the Inland Waterway in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. During our vacation, John and I got out on Crooked Lake in the canoe. There’s a large island in the middle of the lake and a little bridge to take cars to the cottages and nature preserve on the island.

Another day, my dad took us by boat further down the Inland Waterway. We went from Crooked Lake down Crooked River to Burt Lake where we ate a picnic. One of the highlights was going through the locks on Crooked River. They’re a very small set of locks in a clamshell design. The gates lift up for the boats to come and go. That means water drips all over your boat when you go under the gates, something that was infinitely exciting when I was a kid.

Here’s a video that someone else made of the experience:

There is an organized effort by the Little Traverse Conservancy to set aside much of the land in the region in nature preserves. Many of these preserves have very nice trails on them, and John and I enjoyed exploring both new and more familiar preserves. The terrain is varied and always beautiful.

We also revisited Sanctuary Island in Alanson. You get to it by traveling 20 feet on a hand-powered ferry. Once you’re on the island, no one can join you unless you use the ferry to pick them up. It’s a fun trip.

One day, John and I rode bikes along the bike path built on the old railway that used to carry vacationers north, including my great grandparents. We rode all the way from Ponshewaing, where our cottage is, to Bay View, Petoskey, and Bay Harbor–about 36 miles round trip!

Another day, we went to the Lake Michigan shore at Sturgeon Bay and stopped by an art gallery with a great garden and garden art.

We also spent plenty of time sitting in the cottage with the cat and enjoying peace and quiet by a warm fire. My grandpa built our cottage in the 50’s and has a great, classic cottage appeal.

And on our last morning in Michigan, we were treated to a spectacular foggy and still morning on Crooked Lake.


My Garden Has Been Killed by the City of Evansville

I anticipated that this week I’d be posting happy photos of my recent vacation to Northern Michigan. Instead, I’m mourning my garden.

It was my artwork, and I’ve been creating it for over 6 years.

It was my sanctuary.

It fed me.

It fed the birds and insects.

It provided a secure shield for our back yard against random passers by.

And now it is dying because the city sprayed poison in my back yard and in other back yards up and down my block.

The whole alley was treated the way they would treat the edge of a forest that’s encroaching on a freeway.

Except this is a residential area with small houses packed one on top of each other on tiny lots. The alley is small and was brick-lined until the new house construction and the water department tore it up.

There was no warning.

They poisoned any green, living thing that wasn’t grass and that was more than 6″ tall and was within 4 feet of the alley.

The green wall at the back of my garden got completely drenched in poison.

If the spray shot over the top of the fence  or through the chain links, then the poison landed on the other plants in my back yard.

They even sprayed through my fence and killed the sunflowers planted more than 4 feet from the alley.

And I’d maintained my little stretch of alley. I’d just cut back some mint that was creeping under the fence and had just cut down the weeds along the alley.

It makes me sick to think of my neighbors who also got poison sprayed into their back yards. I’m not the only person with food plants in a garden near the alley.

We’re just in the undesirable section of the city where apparently you can just spray poison everywhere.

Here’s the damage along my fence on the alley.


And a view that shows the other side of the alley and dead plants there as well:

the whole alley

Here’s a closer view of the neighbor’s trees. There are yellow leaves several feet inside his fence and crispy, silvery, dead leaves and chopped off branches and more of my dying honeysuckle:


And inside my gate?


Here’s the sunflower. You can see how the parts facing the fence have been sprayed and are dried and dead while the parts facing further from the fence are still alive (for now).

dead sunflower


But it’s been hot and dry, right? Maybe this is just lack of water? Here’s a cross-section of the honeysuckle that you can see when you open the gate. The difference between the alley side and the yard side is dramatic:

good and evil

Inside my fence, the plants within the spray zone have begun to die.





And the lima beans that I’d been looking forward to? They’ve vined into the honeysuckle and may be showing signs of poison, as well.


And additionally, I have eaten produce out of my garden in the last few days–before I had any idea it had been poisoned. Clearly the poison was applied liberally and with no regard for my garden or my safety.


And it was up and down the block. There is death everywhere. It was difficult to fully capture the way that the entire alley has a brown lining now. It contrasts with the green that starts a few feet back from the alley and makes it clear that this was not routine summer dryness affecting the plants.





Postscript: The morning after I discovered the destruction, John tracked down the city department that was responsible. Want to venture a guess which department it was?

The Department of Urban Forestry.

I credit Evansville’s arborist, though, for coming out to talk to me. He confirmed that this was the work of his department. Apparently when city utility workers decide that an alleyway has gotten too overgrown, they request that the Department of Urban Forestry go in and clear it out. What I experienced is the standard procedure.

The arborist explained that 99% of the time, the overgrown alleys are the result of property owners who don’t care, and because they don’t care, they won’t respond to letters asking to clear the alley or warning that the alley will be cleared. So the city does nothing to inform anyone that the alley will be cleared because they assume no one cares.

And truthfully, many of my neighbors probably don’t care and probably will not notice that anything happened in the alley. The landlord for the property next door will even celebrate this clearing. It’ll save him the trouble of spreading his own weed killer for a time.

Several friends on Facebook suggested that at least the city could post it in the newspaper. They do at least that much when they spray for mosquitos so people can keep their children and pets indoors.

The arborist did apologize. He said that my honeysuckle was not a plant that his crews would have had to poison. It’s not massively invasive and was clearly serving a purpose as a privacy screen for my garden.

He was hopeful that everything that is going to die had died and that most of my garden, including the honeysuckle, would be OK. He said that his department does not use a systemic herbicide (like RoundUp). He told me to call him again if anything more started to die.

He apologized that there was nothing he could do to reverse the damage already done, but that he’d add my address to a list that should not be sprayed in the future.

I am the 1%.

The arborist was not a jerk, so I didn’t feel like arguing with him. I probably would have started crying anyway. But, it still seems crazy to make it a policy to assume that every plant lining the alley is unwanted and untended. It seems crazy to not differentiate between my clipped, green privacy fence and the mass of weeds and saplings growing with abandon among trees on an empty lot. It seems crazy to me to spread so much poison on a neighborhood without any warning.

Second Postscript: After telling many people about what had happened, my friend Jane realized that her alley had also been sprayed with poison. Her Jerusalem artichokes had looked really bad and she hadn’t thought anything more about it till she heard my story. She lives further down Adams Ave. I checked it out.

It illustrates the city’s policy. The city crew apparently recognized that she was gardening and spared everything except her Jerusalem artichokes. The other side of her alley shows the contrast: nothing was spared.


Meanwhile, my fence continues to look worse as the honeysuckle dies back further. Hopefully the garden side of the plants will pull through.


Songs of Summer

The summer is winding down. It’s a time of corn and tomatoes. There’s still plenty of heat and humidity weighing down the air, but somehow there’s a touch of fall now, too, hovering just above the treetops.

My garden continues to be a green oasis that’s still full of summer goodness. Whether I’m weeding, watering, clipping, or buried in my blackberries, The Garden Song will pop into my head from time to time. It’s a great accompaniment to all garden work.

A few weeks ago, a big group of old friends was in town, and we sang many favorite songs including The Garden Song. I was happy to record it in the version I first learned and have sung many, many times at Patchwork Central.

The Garden Song


A friend named Randy Pease adds another great song to the soundtrack of late summer.

This is usually the time of year when John and I look at each other and realize that if we don’t get to an Evansville Otters baseball game soon, they’ll be over for the year, so we rearrange our schedules and go.

The Otters are part of the Frontier League and play at Bosse Field, which is the third oldest ballpark in the U.S., behind only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. It turned 100 this year.

It’s a great location, and the games can be interesting, too. You might see odd errors, triple plays, stealing home, or a great performance by someone who is a few games from getting called up to the major leagues. For $5 you can sit 30 feet from the action, and there are goofy crowd participation games on the field or in the stands between each inning.

John and I went to an Otters game last week. We got our burgers, fries, and beer and settled in for the first game of a doubleheader. It was a Wednesday and a school night, so the crowd was thin, with only a couple hundred in attendance. There were a few good plays, but it was a pretty unremarkable game until the bottom of the seventh inning.

The Otters were behind by one.

The sky darkened.

They summoned “all interns to the tarps immediately.”

Rain started to fall.

The Otters were at bat and were two outs away from losing.

Rain fell harder.

Another out.

The rain was falling in sheets, and still the pitcher kept pitching. The interns waited at the tarp. Why not roll it out now?

And then a cheer went up (a much greater cheer than you’d imagine for so small a crowd).

The ball was hit out of the park, and two players crossed home in the pouring rain. The game was over. The Otters won.

I Love This Game

Great Guerrilla Art

Two or three weeks ago, odd items began appearing in an empty lot I pass on my walk to work. A smiling face on a post. A bamboo pole anchored in concrete.

They weren’t just appearing randomly. No. They were appearing on the concrete sculpture pads that had been poured a few years ago for sculptures competing for $25,000 prizes (mentioned previously).

Then things started getting REALLY interesting. The odd post and bits of driftwood coalesced into a full blown sculpture. A wonderful, quirky sculpture that I loved.

A 12

A 13

And then a second full sculpture appeared.

B 11

B 07

And the next time I passed by, the parts had moved around and multiplied.

B 19

And looked amazing against the sky.

B 17

And a third sculpture appeared.

C 01

And rearranged itself within a few hours.

C 56

I heard through the grapevine that people were asking the organizer of the big fancy sculpture competition if she knew who was making these sculptures.

But she had no idea.

Someone asked the Arts Council if they knew who was making the sculptures, but no one there knew, either.

I went out to take photos because they’re awesome and because I wanted to make note of their construction. (You know, something like this would look FANTASTIC in my garden!)

I looked further down the block where I knew another sculpture pad is located, and there was another fun sculpture. This one had been augmented by the cicadas.

D 26

And on the way home there was another sculpture. It photographed beautifully.

E 02

A few days later, another sculpture popped up by sculpture #3.

F 01

F 02

F 05

And then there was only one sculpture pad left.

A concrete barrel appeared.

It sat alone for two days.

It wasn’t very interesting.

And then a new sculpture blossomed from it.

G 01

With a note.

G 03

UPDATE: Ha! I was thrown for a loop when the note above appeared. I’d thought I saw someone working on the sculptures one Sunday afternoon and I thought I recognized who it was. It was someone no one would expect. Someone no one knows. Someone unknown among artists in Evansville, and that’s why it was SO GREAT. It was only by luck that I knew who this particular person is.

But then this note gave another address, not one where the person I thought I saw lives.

WELL, I found out that I was right all along! The mystery person’s wife was apparently out of town and he was bored. Mystery solved!