Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘garden

Dramatic Downpour

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Holy cow, did we ever get a dose of dramatic weather last night. The rain came down so fast and hard we had over 3-inches within about 45-minutes, much of it during the time when the weather service had declared a Tornado Warning for our county.

Cyndie’s garden went from being a little too dry to a lot too wet.

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We ate home-grown peas from the garden for lunch yesterday! No pesticides, no chemicals, no shipping required. Just pick, wash, and eat.

Everything in the garden got washed last night. The path from the house down to the chicken coop became a river.

Cyndie went out to close the chicken door when it seemed like there might be a break in the downpour intensity, but the hens weren’t in yet. They were huddled underneath the coop and didn’t want to move. The pause in the rainfall rate was short-lived. By the time she got geared up to make her dash, it was already picking up speed again.

When she eventually returned to the house, there was standing water in her boots and she was soaked through all the way to her underwear.

That was definitely one heck of a downpour.

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Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2020 at 6:00 am

Restorative Return

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We slept in our own bed again last night. It had been almost a week since Delilah had seen Cyndie and the reunion aligned entirely with the hypothesis that dogs perceive absence to be the equivalent of death and if a pack-mate returns, it is a miracle.

Cyndie reported that her gardens looked so thirsty for water that a few plants appeared within inches of demise. The labyrinth is a jungle. That will be our first project this morning. It deserves a double-team effort. I hope to get the rest of the grass mowed before predicted afternoon thunderstorms.

One highlight of yesterday was a call from our log home company announcing their plan to arrive tomorrow to begin preparing to reseal our logs.

Thank goodness.

We have seized the moment to eat breakfast in bed, catch up with our online accounts, and take in some favorite Sunday morning TV before setting out on our labors of the day.

Both the obituary and feature article for Cyndie’s dad made it into the Sunday StarTribune newspaper and she and her brothers continue their efforts to fill in the pages of the memorial website for Fred.

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The beginning of life-after-Fred is unfolding with not-unexpected fits and starts, but we are underway as best as we are able. Not doing too bad, if I do say so myself.

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Written by johnwhays

June 28, 2020 at 9:17 am

Unidentified Obfuscation

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It starts to get hard when you reach the point of not being able to hear yourself think. The little boy in me who has never grown up occasionally shows up to ask me why I’m so quick to forget about the bliss of being four or five years old and getting lost in some harmless pursuit. The answer is always the same.

It’s not that I’m quick to forget. I’m just slow to remember. Present-day life tends to do that to a person.

An awful lot of years have passed since I sprawled on the floor making truck sounds with my mouth as I rolled Matchbox cars along the borders of our large Persian rug.

The recent stress of the day-job continues unabated amidst a boom of business that started at the same time as the global pandemic and its havoc on world economies. It is proving to be a brain-scrambler of significant magnitude.

Last night the ranch received an impressive sample of the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobol in the form of wave after wave of soaking rain. I think it might make the landscape pond overflow. [wry smile]

We are hoping that the deluge won’t drown any of the plants in Cyndie’s gardens.

She served up another delicious salad last night with all the greens coming from plants she is growing. This time I remembered to take a picture.

The asparagus isn’t ours. They’re store-bought. I can only hope someday our wisps of skinny stalks will someday reach such mammoth proportions.

Much to our surprise, rainstorms seem to improve our connection for Zoom meetings, and last night I was able to participate in conversations with an international collection of members of my beloved virtual community, Brainstorms. (Ward, it was a treat to see and hear you!). For almost an hour my connection flashed instability only three times, but never once dropped my connection entirely. That was a first.

The normal mode for Zoom gatherings by way of our cell connection out here in the countryside is to freeze up frequently and get dropped/reconnected multiple times until I give up and sign off.

The last time Cyndie was in a Zoom meeting during wild weather, she enjoyed similar success. The signal must like having all those raindrops in the air. Who’d uh guessed?

The little boy in me would have, probably.

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Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2020 at 6:00 am

Garden Salad

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I didn’t expect it this soon after planting, but over the weekend Cyndie served up the first salad with kale and spinach from her garden. It was fabulous tasting, as well as a wonderful reward to be eating something she has grown right here at home.

Our other weekend meal was a last-minute decision to order take-out from our nearby destination restaurant, Shady Grove. We have not been to a restaurant since the pandemic outbreak and have only had pizza and Chinese takeout up until now. When Cyndie stepped in the door to pick up our haute cuisine food, she found she was the only person wearing a mask.

Hope the patrons weren’t all traveling long distances to congregate in close proximity for a couple of hours of conversation and food. We aren’t aware of any reported cases of COVID-19 in the immediate area and most of the people we have seen are responding with understandable casualness over the risks, but who knows what might arrive undetected with travelers from afar.

Interested in protecting those around us in other parts of our lives, we opt for not sitting inside with the rest of the unfamiliar folks and dine at home for now. Neither of us is very concerned about our risk of getting sick, but we each are very interested in not becoming an unwitting carrier who could spread the illness to her family or my coworkers.

When I was down in the woods on Sunday cutting up the latest of the fallen trees, I had a thought that we should probably be focusing on planting new trees to make up for all the ones we lose. Then I realized that we find uncountable numbers of new trees popping up every spring, to a fault. They show up everywhere, particularly noticeable in places we don’t want them. In our landscaping around the house, underneath preferred mature trees, and too close to buildings.

Nature plants more trees than we ever could. We just need to figure out how to manage them.

While writing about the salad and all the new trees sprouting, I thought it would be perfect to include an image of each. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of either. Instead, you get two recent versions of our sky overhead, one taken by Cyndie and one by me. Guess which one is from me.

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We’ve been blessed with a pretty good balance of rainstorms and warm sunny days. It has made for some pretty good progress in growing salad greens and baby trees.

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Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2020 at 6:00 am

Neglected Properties

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It’s a shame that the neighboring houses around ours have fallen to such neglect. It reflects badly on the value of our property. I wish those responsible would put in a little effort to maintain the integrity of their homes.

I think maybe birch bark isn’t the most durable choice for roofing material. That unit is probably a little drafty.

I’m going to light a fire under the owners to inspire them to make some repairs to those houses before the tenants start spreading bad rumors about our neighborhood.

After Sunday’s initial excitement of making progress on the garden terrace using reclaimed fence posts, Cyndie pointed out the creosote smell of the wood posts. It reminded her of the railroad tracks by her grandma’s house.

A little research has us both feeling disinclined to proceed with burying the chemically treated posts in the same dirt we plan to grow our future food.

It will be a lot more work, but I’ve suggested making a low retaining wall of rocks. A more feasible alternative that holds promise would be to use the cedar planks we removed from the deck last fall. Although much of the ends of those boards were rotting, there is probably enough solid wood to serve our purposes.

Whatever we end up choosing, I hope it will look classy enough to offset the derelict birdhouses around here that threaten to give this place a bad reputation.

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Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2020 at 6:00 am

Digging Projects

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Since much of my yesterday was spent tethered to the day-job email account I didn’t dig into any large outdoor projects, but I did get a chance to do a little digging. There are remains of two old manure piles that have essentially been flattened by chicken activity that I have wanted to toss together into one big pile. When I start turning dirt, chickens come running to take advantage of the opportunity for their worming purposes, so it needed to be a project that didn’t involve the presence of a certain canine.

Now that Cyndie is home to entertain Delilah, I nabbed my chance to revisit my old days of turning composting manure piles, much to the chicken’s delight.

The three breeds have distinctly noticeable differences in behaviors. The two Australorps are impressively bold about getting as close as possible to my every pitchfork turn, eager to get first-dibs, accepting my tapping them out of the way so I have room to take the next scoop. The yellow Buff Orpingtons recognize the advantage the black Australorps have and try to emulate them, but they aren’t as confident about getting so close to the business end of my pitchfork and spend most of their time in retreat.

The Wyandottes have always been the more timid of the three, and have figured out there are plenty of worms to be found in the scoopfuls getting tossed onto the new pile, so they spend their energy on the back end of the process.

The constant presence of the hens is both entertaining and annoying. I could do the job twice as fast if they weren’t so in the way, but it wouldn’t be near as much fun.

After I had tired of the exertion, I stepped back to just stand and watch them. In no time, I found myself surrounded by the flock as if they wanted to come thank me for the treats I had unearthed for them.

Today, there is more digging in store. I want to dig in the new footbridge so the ends are at ground level to accommodate the primary purpose of being able to drive the lawn tractor across the ravine with ease.

After that, a much larger dig is awaiting up by the house. Cyndie wants to plant a produce garden on a slope that will require terracing. I thought I was just going to be putting in some short retaining walls but the project now threatens to involve critter proofing with buried hardware cloth and perimeter fencing.

I fear the possibility of more digging than I’m interested in, but I expect visions of a future with home-grown produce might help me to overcome that lack of interest. Plus, such a garden will provide a place to use all that composted soil I’ve been piling up.

Can you dig that?

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First Version

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Over the weekend, I completed a first version of the stick-fence backdrop for Cyndie’s perennial garden. The most significant accomplishment was that the thing didn’t completely collapse while I was working on it. It feels as if the whole construct is like a layout of dominoes that will fail in a spectacular cascade when any particular weak point happens to give out.

That leaves me a little timid about going back and trying to remedy some of the hollow spots that were a result of my trying to utilize existing trees for support every few yards. They complicated the simple weave I was otherwise employing.

Part if me wants the random imperfections, and part of me wants to see more consistent lines. I think the imperfections will win out, because that will allow me to do nothing more with it, accepting it as is.

Sounds like it will get a workout in the wind today, with gusts possible in the 40mph range. That should be a worthy test of the weak points.

With this phase done, Cyndie was able to begin redistributing the plants that have been smooshed up against each other all summer after the big mudslide from the neighbor’s cornfield last spring.

She made me laugh yesterday when she dug up a huge mass of something that looked like a tall grass and then wondered aloud about whether it was a “weed” or something she intentionally planted a couple of years ago.

We are into the second version of the garden now, while I am hoping a second version of the backdrop fence won’t be required for a very long time.

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

New Backdrop

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We are creating a new back drop for Cyndie’s wildflower perennial garden near the spot where soil from the neighbor’s cornfield has been pouring over our property line. This will obscure the sight of our less attractive silt fence and hay bale barrier installed to stem the flow of hyper-fertilized sandy topsoil that comes our way with every heavy rainfall event.

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We started collecting a wide variety of branches for the project last year, not exactly sure what the method would be, nor what the ideal branch would look like. Though the added character of misshapen gnarly pieces seemed like a good thing, I quickly discovered that the perfectionist in me was more strongly attracted to a precise diameter of very straight young trees.

I also figured out in rather short order, we are going to need to collect a lot more raw material to complete the project.

Off to a fair start, though, and have, at the very least, proved the concept. The vision I had involved a more dense positioning of branches than I am achieving, but given the material I am working with, the result is more open. In the end, I think this will work out well enough.

It’s certainly easier to accomplish.

For all the places around our land where we fight to squelch the growth of vines, I’m thinking we should try to encourage some to climb this. That would fill in the gaps nicely.

My favorite part of yesterday’s effort was actually the successful digging out and moving of a rock that was once again on the outer limits of my ability. With Cyndie’s assistance, we used a pry bar to tip it up and force dirt back underneath.

Alternating back and forth to opposite sides, this raises the rock up to the surface without leaving a hole in the ground. Once at the surface, using the pry bar, we can get it to roll into a desired new position. The rock is visible on the right, in front of the new fence, in the photos above.

I expect there will end up being an additional rock balanced on that one sometime in the future.

It’s a challenge to tip rocks up when they weigh more than me. There are limits to how much leverage advantage I can achieve. There was another rock uphill from this one that was over twice the size. I would have loved to raise that one to the surface, but I wasn’t strong enough to tip it more than a fraction.

Cyndie couldn’t push enough soil beneath it to make any appreciable progress. Given that our primary goal was to build the fence, we left the boulder for a future challenge, should we ever be so inclined.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2017 at 9:19 am

Almost Ready

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This is our fifth spring of reworking our Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth after the abuses that winter throws at it. It’s got me questioning our decision to make it as large as we did. Aesthetically, it is just the way I envisioned, so that’s very rewarding. The downside however, is that maintenance ends up being a VERY large chore.

Here’s something I don’t get: The freeze/thaw cycles tend to push rocks up in the farmer’s cultivated fields, where they are totally unwanted. The rocks we positioned to define the circling labyrinth path are all moving down and getting swallowed by the earth around them.

I spent time re-balancing the double-stacked rocks at the U-turns last night. There were areas of the paths where I could barely find the rocks because they had settled so deep in the soft turf. My long-term goal was to keep adding rocks every year, to form little rock wall barriers defining the trail.

At this point, it is more like starting from scratch every spring, trying to define the pathway from almost nothing.

I’m probably exaggerating a little bit, because after a reasonable effort last night, we’ve gotten close to feeling completely ready for tomorrow’s big event.

World Labyrinth Day is Saturday and we have opened up our 11-circuit Chartes style labyrinth to host visitors in the “Walk as One at 1:00” event. There is going to be a global wave of peace flowing tomorrow afternoon.

If you don’t make it out to Wintervale to join us, pause wherever you are during the one o’clock hour and send some peace out in the world.

Then take a moment to absorb the wave flowing along.

Namaste.

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For Barb

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On a recent visit to Wintervale, our friend Barb Wilkus asked to see pictures of our allium perennials when they are in full bloom.

Allium

Latin for garlic, the Flowering Onions are available in diverse heights and sizes, are rabbit-, rodent- and deer-resistant, and are seldom affected by disease. Adored by bees, butterflies and pollinators, Allium extend the spring flowering season with bold, dramatic color and statuesque garden architecture. They are also valuable cut and dried flowers.

http://www.vanengelen.com/flower-bulbs-index/allium.html

The blossoms aren’t 100% full yet, but this should give a pretty good idea of what they become. Today, your wish is granted, Barb, and now everyone else can enjoy them, too!

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Written by johnwhays

May 25, 2016 at 6:00 am