Hey, Bro! Quit wrecking my plants!

First there’s this:

And that was in the shade.

My little weather guy dresses in layers and takes them off as the weather gets progressively warmer. I’m pretty sure that he would have taken off his swim trunks at this point if he could have.

As a result of the super hot weather and drought, I’m watering my garden like crazy. That makes the birds love me. While in theory I’m happy about providing nice bird habitat, the juvenile robins, sparrows, starlings, grackles, and cardinals are driving me nuts. They party all day in the sprinkler spray and then dig around in all the wet earth looking for easy food? more moisture?

Whatever it is, all I get is trashed plants. It’s pretty annoying, especially when it’s a bunch of plants in the little rock garden I just created.

Over the years, I’ve pulled so many bricks out of my yard and garden. Since early on I’ve piled them up in a couple places. A couple weeks ago I partially dismantled one little wall I’d built and I added more bricks that I’d had waiting for a project somewhere else.

The old brick pile was slug heaven. Here are just a few…

I made several pockets in the bricks that can hold plants. Then I indulged in a trip to the plant nursery to get some fun little plants to tuck between the bricks. I rearranged the archeological bits of art that I’ve pulled out of the garden over the years, and voila!

It always looks so good right after you finish and before the plants realize what’s happened to them and that they really don’t like their new location. It also looks so good before the juvenile delinquent  birds start to pick apart all the vaguely worm-like bits of plant. Sigh.

I’m so happy with my little blackberry patch. I’ve gotten some nice bowl-fulls of berries. I also found the mythical beast lurking at the very center of the bush–an enormous berry that was perfectly ripe and oh so sweet. Needless to say, it didn’t make it into my bowl.

There are also the beautiful plums from Patchwork’s tree.

And I just made a pie with the last of my fresh blueberries.

My garden has had some unusual visitors lately as well. A couple weeks ago I went to check my garden after work and saw a lime green flash in one of the Rose of Sharon trees: someone’s pet bird gone rogue.

We also added a third possum to our backyard wildlife trapping count. This one came out of our basement. Not terribly charming, but I prefer it to the raccoons.

Fruits & Labor

It’s been quite some time since I posted anything about what’s happening in my garden. The big news is that my garden is looking good despite my absence for half of May.

Just before I left for Coshocton in May, I’d picked up some more plants at the annual Master Gardener’s Plant Sale. Check out this photo of John and I. I love to get there just before the opening bell and join the mob on the hunt for plants. The best plant is one you were able to grab before someone else did–don’t you know? I managed to get my plants in the ground during the week between my Coshocton and Northern Michigan trips.

Also during that week I realized that the June apples on our tree were ripe, so I went out with my apple picker and collected what I could. I hadn’t realized how loaded the tree was last year until I saw how few apples were on the tree this year. I had enough to fill my kitchen sink and make a decent batch of applesauce. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that what this year’s apples lacked in quantity they made up for in quality. Last year’s applesauce tastes so watery in comparison to this year’s. I guess I’m tasting last year’s spring deluge versus this year’s drought.

I’ve been concerned about finding new June apple sources, especially since this spring when John and I contacted tree trimmers to trim the apple trees and magnolia away from our house. The trees have gotten so huge that there’s just no way we could do it ourselves.

I figured the result would be no more applesauce apples and I was worried. I saw a local orchard had lodi apples ready, so I picked up a few so I could compare them to the apples in my yard. Here’s the comparison:

Lodi

  • Pros: Clearly better flavor. Needs less sugar for the sauce to taste good.
  • Cons: Costs $4.50 for a little box. Ouch!

Yard Apples (probably Yellow Transparent)

  • Pros: Free! Picking them helps you meet your neighbors. They’re also known as Grand Sultan…oooh, fancy.
  • Cons: Inferior flavor. Too high up to pick.

They’re sitting side-by-side in the photo above. The one on the left is Lodi and the one on the right is from our yard. It’s hard to see much difference.

At the same time that the apples were ready, so were the cherries. I picked a whole bunch at Farview Orchard near Wadesville. Last year when I went they hardly had any sweet cherries, but this year there were tree-fulls of yellow ones. I wish I’d taken my camera to capture the way they glowed on the trees.

Last week saw an explosion of new fruits ripening. There are blackberries ready in my garden and at Patchwork. I’ve already frozen a bunch and made a cobbler. Maybe there will be more than enough this year, or maybe I’ll have to trek back to Farview Orchard for the epic blackberries I found last year.

I’ve also been picking my favorite–blueberries. Saturday I was back at Wright’s Berry Farm in Newburgh and picked for a solid three hours. Hopefully that supply will last me for a year. It’s fun to be buried deep in the blueberry bush and hear all the random chatter of unseen families a row or two away.

I’m also watching the plums at Patchwork and waiting for the fancy white peaches–both of which should be perfect soon.

In addition, the summer squash and zucchini in my container garden have started to produce. I also harvested my cilantro and my garlic after first chopping the scapes off the top. I’ve also traded my peas for beans and lettuce for basil.

Between this and trips to the farmers’ market, John and I are getting plenty of good, fresh food. The squash has been thinly sliced and dressed with a vinaigrette to make a nice salad and has been sauteed and added to some pesto I froze last fall. The garlic scapes joined the lettuce in one of my favorite spring soups and were ground with the cilantro into a pesto. The garlic is drying quietly in bundles around the house.

Oh, and just before we left for Michigan we trapped our 8th raccoon–or maybe it was just Number 7 trapped a second time. The two seemed to share a couple weird quirks. After the first couple raccoons in our traps, we started calling Animal Control whenever we had a new one in the trap. I secretly hoped that Animal Control was euthanizing them to control overpopulation, but we finally asked and found out Animal Control just releases them “somewhere by the river.” Well, that’s not too far away from where we live. Hopefully the Animal Control guy drove Number 8 a little further away this time.

If a Tree Falls Before Progress, Does It Make My Garden Grow Better?

A couple days after John and I got home from our vacation, I realized that there were orange Xes on many trees on empty lots around our house. I pulled out my camera and took some photos–just in case–and it was a good thing I did because the tree cutting crews showed up the very next day.

(I think there was an illustration in The Lorax that looked just like the photo above.)

The tree cutters started on the twin oaks across the street and then moved to the marked trees awaiting their destiny just feet from our back yard.

In a day, my verdant woodland retreat went from this:

To this:

The light is dramatically brighter now. I’m concerned about the effect, but perhaps it will turn out all right. The biggest impact was on the side of my yard were the vegetables are planted. Maybe they’ll enjoy more light.

I’ll miss my urban forest, though. And all the bird habitat–although this past weekend a saw a hawk using the open field to hunt smaller birds in flight.

Soon new houses are scheduled to go up on all the lots that have been cleared. It will be nice to have some investment in the neighborhood and I’m hopeful that it will be a good thing, but sad that it brings the loss of so many trees. The trees are one thing I love about this neighborhood–no “naked acres” of a subdivision, just the green of mature oaks and maples (and–a negative–the invasive trees of heaven, or ghetto stink palm–their alternate title).

I was glad to see that there was some sensitivity in the tree cutting. A row of tall oaks seems to have been left at the front of the property to shade the new houses. I hope the future residents enjoy them.

Into the Wild

John and I followed up my art residency in Coshocton with a week-long vacation in Northern Michigan. The weather was great (none of the 90+ degree temps that were soaking Evansville) and we were there before Memorial Day, so the lake was clear and not stirred up by excessive pleasure boating.

John and I enjoyed some canoeing around Crooked Lake.

We also enjoyed visiting the Lake Michigan shoreline, shopping in Petoskey, reading on the deck, and eating lots and lots of really good food. What we didn’t do: have internet access or a TV!

We went hiking at a really nice nature preserve that was part of a whole network of preserves organized by the Little Traverse Conservancy. It’s beautiful land. There were several late-spring Northern Michigan wildflowers blooming.