Everything Non-Remediation

Throughout all the EPA lead remediation work, things have continued to bloom and grow in the rest of my garden. There has been plenty of beauty, though I haven’t wanted to do much work outside while I waited for the remediation work to be over. In some spots, the blooms happened in spite of all the remediation work. Here’s a look at the rest of my garden:

And here are a batch of cat photos and videos for the cat fans. The Ladies have had plenty of time to sit at their back window and survey their backyard domain. Perry gets to go out for daily walks. We never stray far from home but stay out for at least a half hour. Meanwhile, our neighbor has now ejected three male cats from her home. They hang out in our yard all the time and are generally pests. John and I really hope to get them neutered in the hope that it will make everyone (including our cats) happier. That will be a big project, however.

Spring Arrives, but Where Will It Go?

Spring is firmly upon us now. A bright greenness seems to hover over my garden as the new, tender growth unfolds. It’s the same cycle that has passed over my garden for years now: the first shoots, early bulbs blooming, the hints that things are alive beneath the soil, then quick growth skyward. You can see the progression of things in the slide show below. Remarkably, these photos were taken over the course of only one week–from 3/31 to 4/7. There is a lot of growth there. If you flip through the photos, you will find captions.

The plants are growing happy and energetic as usual, but I still see so much uncertainty when I look at them. I met with the EPA subcontractor several weeks ago, and it didn’t go well. Now the contractor is supposed to be meeting with me to go over my concerns, but I haven’t heard anything for weeks. I still hope that things will work out better, but it’s incredibly stressful.

It seems appropriate that this is the first year that I’ve lived in this house that the magnolia blooms were destroyed by cold during their early stages. Instead of the usual exuberant explosion of color, there were only scattered blossoms. It matches my mood.

I’m not planning to buy plants or seeds. It makes me sad. But then a new catalog arrived in the mail and there was a little hope. It was the catalog for next year’s spring bulbs to be planted this fall. That is something I can hope for.

The nice weather has meant that Perry gets to go out for walks on most days. We usually spend a half hour just wandering around our yard and our neighbor’s yard. It’s his daily attitude adjustment time, and the fresh air seems to help with his bitey-ness and aggression.

Yesterday evening, John and I were out walking Perry and a couple kids who live further down the block were riding their bikes on the sidewalk. They were about 5- or 6-years-old, so, young enough to notice and comment on weird stuff going on. One boy looked through the fence at us and said, “Look at that do…CAT!”

Later he rode his bike past while John kept Perry out of the way. The kid looked at Perry and reassured him, “It’s OK, kitty.” It was very sweet. We felt it necessary to tell the kid at that point that he couldn’t pet Perry because Perry bites. He seemed oddly to have already figured that out.

Meanwhile, the Ladies are fluffy and fantastic. They do not need daily attitude adjustment time in order to be good. They are always perfection!

Orchid Escape

For many years, the Mesker Park Zoo and Botanical Garden has hosted an orchid show called Orchid Escape inside their Amazonia exhibit during February and March. It’s a great idea for brightening everyone’s otherwise drab Southern Indiana winters and for bringing guests to the zoo during its slow season.

I’ve gone to see the orchids on several occasions, but my photos have not previously made it to this blog because they’ve always been eclipsed with great snow photos or great crocus photos. But not this year! Here is a collection of photos of the interesting and beautiful orchids I saw this year:

Meanwhile, I have my own Orchid Escape going on in my kitchen window. I’ve got three varieties blooming and bought a fourth from the zoo’s gift shop. It’s a great burst of color and they really shine in the strong winter light coming though the windows.

I love the blooms on the plant all the way to the right in this photo, but they are fleeting.  The others should stick around for longer, though. The new one is orange and yellow, giving a little variation amid all the pinks.

My orchid growing technique is simple: find a south-facing window and put the plant in it. Keep it in a plain terracotta pot. If the plant seems happy, don’t change anything. I’m sure an expert would give much better advice.

A Very Augusty September

Because of my travelogue (thanks, again, to everyone who traveled along with me), I haven’t posted anything about my own garden for two whole months! Well, I decided I better rectify that situation before the month of September is over. I only have a few more hours, so let’s get posting!

My garden made it through my trip to Europe thanks to watering from the house sitter. When we left, there were zinnias blooming, surprise lilies, beans, and honeysuckle. When we came back, the zinnias were still going strong, squash were ripening nicely, the autumn clematis was blooming, and a few lima beans were ready to pick.

Overall, August was hot and unforgiving and things quickly moved into the crispy, tired stage. I hoped some relief would come in September, but we continued to have dry weather and highs in the mid- to upper-nineties. Now at the end of September, my plants are all ready for a winter’s rest. The heat, bugs, and mildew have taken their toll.

At the end of August, John and I prepared a meal of summer on a plate: corn fritters and tomato gravy. It was my mom’s favorite food, but as children my sister and I grumbled about having to eat it so she didn’t make it often. It also requires some fiddling around, so I guess that could be another reason she didn’t make it often.

At some point many years ago, I asked for the recipe and she wrote it down for me. I have no idea if she actually copied it out of a cookbook or if she just wrote it from memory. If it was from a cookbook, I’ve never found that book. Several years ago, I did another blog post about corn fritters and tomato gravy and found it interesting that one of my mom’s sisters commented that she didn’t remember this particular combination of foods.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m sorry that we were so overly dramatic about not wanting to eat corn fritters and tomato gravy. It’s really good! Though, it isn’t particularly photogenic.

Late summer is also the time of year when my most unusual and dramatic orchids bloom. One variety is called Miltassia Dark Star “Darth Vader”. The other variety is called Odontocidium Wildcat “Bobcat”.

And with that, we come to my own lovely cats. They survived our trip to Europe, but clearly missed their humans immensely while we were away. They didn’t seem angry, but when we returned they required more than 24 hours of constant reassurances that everything would be all right.

Things quickly were back to normal, though. The Ladies are lovely and Perry is a challenge. Perry does much better if he has a couple enrichment actives every day. Usually that’s at least one play session and a walk outside, although sometimes it’s clicker training or a puzzle feeder. It’s good that both he and I can easily spend an hour just wandering aimlessly around the tiny yard and looking at what’s new.

Perry tends to get all the good stuff because we’re working so hard to try to modify his behavior. He’s got two big cat trees and lots of toys and if John or I have only one spare minute to play, he’s the one who is most likely to get the play time.

But, the Ladies love to play, too, and they enjoy their little cat tree. So we finally ordered and assembled a giant cat tree for the girls. Lady Morgaine is absolutely enamored with it. So far, Lady Ygraine has decided that it’s just not her thing.

And finally, a postscript for our European trip. Here are all the goodies we drug home with us. We’ll probably be enjoying them for the next year! There are a wide variety of German gummies, German beer, German and British chocolates, British cookies, British drinks, and a German garden weasel. Plus two German flags handmade for us by my niece.

Germany!

I was traveling for a good part of the month of August. My sister lives in Germany with her family and John’s sister lives in England with hers, so we spent one week in Germany with my sister’s family and then met up with John’s entire family in England.

It was wonderful, much too rare family time. In addition to all the visiting with our family members, we saw some great sights. We spent plenty of time in historic locations and beautiful natural environments, which everyone enjoyed.

I’ll do a series of posts here that focus on all the beauty I photographed, starting with some general shots of Germany.

Our home base was the small town where my sister lives. It’s just outside of Nuremberg, Germany. There is farmland around it, and plenty of nice German gardens surrounding everyone’s homes. John and I stayed in a guesthouse that had a nice variety of plants growing around it. From our room, we also had a nice view over the town. It’s particularly good on Sunday mornings when all the church bells ring together.

The guest house also had some sweet kittens. We would greet them every day as we came and went, and they were often getting into some kind of trouble or another. You could tell that the kittens were German because they played with beer bottle caps. 🙂

Many mornings, our breakfast came from the bakery across the street from my sister’s apartment, partly because my sister decided that it was too hot to want to turn her own oven on to bake breakfasts. Germany had been experiencing a heat wave and a drought for several weeks before we arrived, and it was in the upper 90’s for almost all of our trip.

With such high temperatures and no air conditioning, we spent a couple days enjoying German pools. One that we visited was a “natural pool”. The pool used plants and aquatic animals for filtration rather than chemicals like chlorine. The water was very green in color and the entire pool was lined with algae. It also had a stream area where kids could wade and play by using rocks to divert the water’s flow. It was a neat place, and I’m realizing now that I should have gotten a photo of the entire thing. You’ll have to make do with a photo of the waterlilies at work filtering the water.

Despite the heat, it was a very good trip.

 

July

My garden hasn’t taken a break yet, despite the hot weather. There are still plenty of interesting things to observe and new blooms happening. There are also some dry spots and brown edges that reflect the intensity of the summer sun.

The slide show below shows my garden’s developments during the month of July. I added captions to give you an idea of what you’re looking at. It includes:

  • The beautiful beginnings of bean plants. I got them started a little later than is ideal, but hopefully I’ll still get some beans.
  • My precious red raspberry harvest. They are one of my favorite foods, but I can’t find anyone around here who grows them so I decided to grow them myself. They were delicious.
  • Spreading butternut squash and ripening tomatoes.
  • Blackberries. I picked an absolutely perfect berry that had been heating in the sun. It had baked its own sugars and each little bead exploded with flavor in my mouth.
  • Humidity!
  • Blueberry picking. I’m stocked up for the winter! I probably picked at least 25 pounds in 95+ degree heat. It’s a test of my willpower.
  • Bugs, birds, and blooms.
  • The whole of the zinnia patch that I highlighted in my last blog post.
  • Video of one of the many hummingbirds that are visiting my garden. For me, growing plants is so much easier than trying to keep the sugar water in a hummingbird feeder fresh. I’m OK with that.
  • A video panorama of my garden at the end of July.

Early July was the time for Lodi apples. They make deliciously tart applesauce that’s just like my mom used to make. “Nosh-stalgia” is what one friend has heard it called. I’m thankful that there is one orchard in town that grows them.

Several years ago when I discovered the secret to my mom’s applesauce was June apples, I also discovered that I could purchase a cheap approximation of the Squeezo Strainer that she used to make the sauce. My new strainer worked pretty good, but I always wished for the real thing.

Last year, the cheap plastic crusher that pushed the fruit into the strainer folded in on itself, and I knew it was my chance to get a new strainer. I ordered a brand name Squeezo Strainer on Ebay and hoped it was going to be a good investment. It came in time to make applesauce. It wasn’t quite as amazing as I imagined, but overall I think it’s a better product. There are a couple design details on the cheap knockoff that I miss on the real thing, the particular Squeezo I got had a couple pieces that were bent ever so slightly so it leaked a little, and for some reason it really made the apples oxidize, but look at that wooden smoosher! It gave the apples a pounding and it didn’t break. I think it also did better at extracting more pulp. Plus it’s like mom’s.

I’ve also been working on more garden art. My Fairy Tree is starting to shape up. I painted the apple pickers, I added faces in them that were inspired by some garden art I saw last summer, I added another fairy created by the kids at Patchwork Central, and I added all the empty bottles I had on hand. I like where it’s going. I’ll add more fairies and more bottles and decide on what to place atop the two former trunks of the tree that don’t already have apple pickers on them.

And finally, cats. They’re all good. Perry continues to be a challenge, but with play time and regular walks he’s doing better. He’s a little like a 2-year-old in that he gets tired and cranky. He can’t leave me alone while I work on the computer, even though I know he would be happy to take a nap. But he likes his carrier and is content sitting in it next to me while I write. And don’t worry. When he’s had enough of the carrier he lets me know.

Meanwhile, the Ladies are quite lovely. In one of the photos below I managed to catch Ygraine at her most floofy and cute. She’s a queen. And I love to sit and read the newspaper while the Ladies look out the back door in the mornings. It’s a relaxing way to start the day. When they get tired of that, they play. Morgaine does lovely dances while chasing her tail.

All the Zinnias

This year was finally the year for zinnias in my garden. For several reasons that I won’t get into now, I decided to buy packets of as many types of zinnia as I could and dump them into nearly a third of my garden. I’ve always admired mass plantings of zinnias–I’ve envied them in friends’ gardens–but I’ve never done it myself because previously I hadn’t wanted to sacrifice valuable vegetable-growing space.

But, here they are and they’re making me happy. I’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of photos of them blooming. They’re beautiful as they start as the tightest buds, grow feathery extensions and tightly curled petals, then expand to full flowers. I’ve also enjoyed viewing so many different varieties with their variations in color, petal shape, and petal structure within the flower. They’re also attracting a wonderful variety of insects and birds, adding even more to the beauty of my garden.