Thursday, May 22, 2008

Way back when dirt was still young, I planted my first garden bed here at the farm. This was an endeavor doomed from the beginning. Why you ask? Well, I’ll tell you…I knew, er, dirt about gardening. Off I prance out of the house one Saturday morning in my happy little gardener outfit, complete with hat. Trowel in hand, I savage the lawn where I want to site the new bed.

Okay, Plan B, ask Chris to get a shovel and “just go turn the sod over and dig down a little bit.” Polite society will not allow me to print his reply to that idea here.

Plan C, hire a rototiller. Now we’re talking. Power equipment. What’s the funny sound Tim Allen makes on Tool Time? Anyway, I had a couple of inches plowed up, thinking that would make a good bed. I went out and bought a billion plants - you know - one of this and one of that and stuck it all in the ground. Or more accurately, tucked each one between the sod lumps.

Time passed, the sun rose and sat, the seasons changed. The garden bed was mostly grass with a few struggling plants valiantly waving their little heads in the wind. “Help me…please don’t let me die here like this….” I hear voices often. But maybe I shouldn’t mention that…

Every time I looked at the Lolly bed, I felt like a failure. (Didn’t I mention I *name* all my garden beds? No? Well, I do!) I named it Lolly because I wanted to design a garden to honor my friend with the strong colors she so favors. Warm yellows, clear blues and pops of red. Never mind I planted apricot, white and pink. Never mind I planted Centaurea montana, also know as Bachelor Button, also known as the kudzu vine of the north, the most invasive, persistent, can’t kill it with Agent Orange flower…ever. Sigh.

Time to channel Scarlett O’Hara and swear as God made little green apples to never, ever plant bad garden again! So I studied, subscribed to a dozen garden magazines, scoured the internet, went on every garden tour possible, stalked garden owners and watched gardening programs on HGTV until I was in a coma. Still couldn’t design a garden bed to save my life.

But then…wait for it…I discovered…nope, I STILL got nothing. Can’t do it. But I wouldn’t run up to this and leave you hanging! So, here in pictures is the new Lolly garden bed. Freshly designed and planted by yours truly.

Bed prepared for replanting.

New plants set in place this week.

And voila…!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Notes for May...

Hanging on our front porch off the family room, is an array of bird feeders. I love to watch the visitors and there is a wide array to enjoy. Among others, downy, red-bellied and flicker woodpeckers, blue jays, all manner of sparrows, cardinals, phoebes, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice, wrens - Carolina on its annual migration and house - the “official” signal of spring around here for me. The thistle sock is always covered with goldfinches playing King of the Mountain. I credit all this activity at the feeder to using the woodpecker seed blocks manufactured by Birdola. You can find them on the internet. Great product.

When we first moved to the farm, the land had been completely cleared around the house, or maybe had never been planted in the first place. Anyway, the folks we bought from had added a few trees and bushes, but not much. There were no birds to be seen! I found this amazing, but I learned that they won't come unless you provide enough cover. Well, I sure hammered that nail!

Last year I spied a ruby-crowned kinglet on the sedum for a few minutes, then he was gone not to be seen again. An entire flock of cedar waxwings hung out for days until every berry was gone off the Amalachier trees shading the porch. And I almost drove the car into our neighbors peach orchard when a pileated woodpecker flew across the road in front of me. Pileateds are crow sized black birds with pointed red head tufts like a cardinal. They are extremely shy and rarely seen, even by avid birders. I was freekin' squeaking with delight at my good fortune.
Back in the 80’s, I started marking my bird book every time I saw something new. I note the date and where I made the sighting. It’s fun to look over the earlier notes. This week, an indigo bunting stopped by for a couple of days and gave me a new entry for my life list.

Here we have Dillon laying underneath the shelf feeder - he’s trying to look up the girl birdies’ skirts. Actually, the birds pay no attention to him. They even hop around him picking up seeds. He does draw the line when they *drop* seeds on him, however. We have our standards, you know.
Remember the Nantucket Cranberry Pie (cake) I made last Christmas? If you don’t, the recipe is here. Well, my rhubarb stand was ready for harvest for the first time ever, so I thought I would try the recipe with that, instead of cranberries. I am happy to report, it was delish. Give it a try! You won’t be sorry. Just the right amount of tart. Don’t try to skimp on the sugar, either.
It has been a very strange spring weather wise. Very cool, so much so plants are all confused about when they are supposed to bloom. For example: the forsythia is in bloom now along with the apples and other ornamental trees, including the redbuds. Normally the redbuds pop first in early April, then the forsythia followed by the ornamentals. The wild ornamentals - I call them bird planted - are incredibly heavy with blooms, while the cultivated hardly had any blooms at all.

The wren was very late this year…April 30th. I mark my garden perpetual calendar every year and he is usually very punctual…mid-April. Did you know the male makes SEVERAL nests and then invites the prospective bride to select the abode of her choice? Don’t you love that? Somebody should isolate that gene…I know just where I would like that inserted in the human genome along with a lemming like urge to go to Tiffanys. The wren sings his little guts out every morning while I am settling into the new day with my coffee and sudoku puzzle.
We’re dusting off our hippy gear for a NJ Conservation Foundation event this Saturday. Barnstock! as in *Woodstock* - should be interesting. Peace, Man!
OK, you vegetarians out there, close your eyes for this next piece. I made veal stock over the weekend. Man oh man, the house smelled incredible and NO, I DON’T FEEL GUILTY, so cross me off the Christmas list or something, if it will make you feel better. It’s all tucked away in the freezer. Just waiting. I have plans for it for a special dinner coming up, but that’s a tale for another day…
Just to make it up to you, I leave you with a look at the farm waking up from winter.