Archive for the ‘Garden Notes’ Category

Enough with the gray already!

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Just Beyond The Garden Gate

I don’t mind gray hair.  I find gray clothing rather soothing.  But I’m not a fan of this interminable gray weather.  I SO wish the inland areas would cool off a bit so our “moist marine layer” would move on and we could get back to the sunny skies of summer.

The flowers in our garden couldn’t agree more.  The girls and I took a walk-about this afternoon to talk to them regarrding this weather pattern we’ve been experiencing.  They were silent for the most part but just as we were about to leave them to wait for summer on their own, out came the  sun!  It was just for a moment or two but I swear to you, those flowers perked right up.  They actually turned in unison toward that bit of brightness and we could all but hear their sighs of contentment.

Garden Girls

Of course, it didn’t last.  In fact, the sunshine was of such short duration I wondered if I had imagined it.  But no!  The girls had stopped their peck-peck-pecking and were standing stock still — or maybe shock still.  It was so out of the ordinary for this July of 2021 that none of us quite knew how to react.

I found myself telling Little Red Hen and Clara (I’m not sure where Slutvana was) that Farmer Nyel says there will be no change in the weather for another two weeks.  Fourteen more days of gray!!  I wonder if there will be any colors left by the end of July — or will they have all been sucked away by the inland heat dome.  Perhaps we can prevail on the Disney people to colorize our world again.  Soon.  Before we forget what summer colors usually look like! Surely we’ve had enough of the gray.


The Aftermath

Monday, June 28th, 2021

The hydrangeas sit south of our house
Two of them, side by side.
They seem to be sisters
About the same size
Blooming together
Year after year.

Why then
Is one smiling with health
And one curled up in death
Today after our
105° of Sunday sunshine?
It doesn’t seem fair.


But where is Dorothy?

Saturday, June 12th, 2021

Oriental Poppies

Roses and poppies and salvia… oh my!  The garden is poised for summer and promises to be bursting forth in all its glory about the time the Solstice arrives a week from tomorrow.  Especially the roses.  The Yorks apparently love being in the big tubs near our tool shed and have more buds than I’ve ever seen. Ditto the old-fashioned roses that want to climb up the outside wall of our garage, if only we’d give them a trellis or two.  As it is, they are doing their best to create a big bush of tempting flower arrangements — but beware of those thorns!!

York Roses

Of course, it helps that I’ve been diligent about the regular spraying of Deer Fence all winter and spring.  Last year I was neglectful and we had ‘nary a York ‘nor an Old-fashioned rose all summer long.  On the other hand, there was a profusion of Dorothty Perkins along our east and west fences.  So far, they are not showing us any budding promises this year.  Perhaps I cut them back too vigorously when we were trimming the rhododendrons last fall.  I will surely miss them if they don’t make an appearance.


On the other hand, the Oriental Poppies are showing off to beat their record and our new salvia plants are almost painfully purple.  (Why haven’t we had those before?  They seem to like it here and we are delighted with their spikey blossoms.  Thank you to our Garden Girls for the suggestion!)  My nastursiums (“mastershalums” — my annual salute to Winnie-ther-Pooh) are doing beautifully — at least in the leaf department.  I’m hoping that a run of sunny days will encourage their blossoms.  Ditto the Shasta daisies and tiger lilies and dahlias!

Dorothy Perkins – 2016

All in all, the garden is coming right along.  Thank you, dear Maggie, for introducing us to Glenna and Lee.  They are by far-and-away the best bloomin’ magicians ever!

Bumper Crop of Bambis in Oysterville

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Among the Lettuces

Suffice it to say that Mrs. W.T. Deer knew what she was doing when she chose this particular Oysterville garden to hide her newborns.  She must have had insiders’ knowledge that this wasn’t mean Mr. McGregor’s garden and that her little ones would be safe among the vegetables as long as they didn’t move a muscle.

And they didn’t.  These weren’t naughty Peter Rabbits. no sirree.  These were well behaved Bambis and they didn’t so much as blink — “great photo subjects,” according to Tucker who knew (and wasn’t telling) their location.   According to the site, “Deer, like Jackrabbits, will leave their young alone for up to twelve hours at a time while they forage. The babies know to stay still and quiet, tucked into the grass where their mother left them.”  Or among the potatoes and asparagus.

Twins In The Garden!

Obviously, Beatrix Potter’s Peter was not a Jackrabbit.  I remember that his mother reminded him,  “Your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.” I wonder what the twin Bambis’ mother said to them before she went off to have breakfast.  Whatever it was, they seem to have paid close attention.

There are several other fawns in town this season.  I saw two of them galloping across Territory Road toward the schoolhouse the other day, stopping traffic in both directions.  They were both still wearing spotted coats, though one looked to be half a size bigger than the other.  I didn’t see mom; presumably she was at the front of the line, trusting that her little ones would keep up.

I can’t remember when we’ve had so many babies in town.  Perhaps our year of sheltering convinced the Mama Deer People that it’s a safe, quiet area for bringing up little ones.  Now that our visitors are back, however, we sure could use a few “Bambis at Play” signs along the road!


When Push Comes To Shove

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

Sometime priorities fall into place without much thought at all.  Yesterday was a fine example.  And, it’s not that I have second thoughts about the choices we made, nor any regrets.  Not exactly, anyway.

It all began a few nights ago when we couldn’t get out trusty TV to show us Jeopardy — which, by the way, I am rapidly becoming disenchanted with, anyway, now that their “quality control” seems to have died with Mr. Trebec.  In any case, instead of the program, we were treated to a message which said something about no connection with our satellite dish and suggested we check our various connectors. We switched to a Netflix series we’ve been watching and decided to do the Scarlett O’Hara trick — think about it tomorrow.

Tomorrow turned out to be yesterday when our friend Dick Hawes arrived for a visit — first one since our pre-Covid concert with Milt Williams and Barbara Bate!  It was a gorgeous day, so when Nyel suggested a “waalkabout” in the yard, I suggested that the two of them take the pruning equipment and clear the area around the Direct TV dish.  They did and… voilá!  Television reception is back to normal.

Big and Beautiful

Our garden, however… not so much.  Our beautiful rhododendron looks a bit mis-shapen.  It occurs to me that perhaps if we’d waited a week or two for the blossoms to disappear, the unladen branches would have retreated from the Direct TV dish and we’d have preserved that bit of symmetry for yet another year. Obviously, we didn’t think through our priorities.  Sigh…


Look who’s playing first fiddle this year!

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

Lilacs 2021 – The Sky’s The Limit

The Merry Month of May in our neck of the woods means rhododendrons!  And at our house, it means Jean Marie Rhododendrons, in particular. Or to be really exact:  Jean Marie De Montague Rhododendrons.  They were my dad’s favorite and he planted them — lots of them — in the 1970s and 1980s with the help of Paul Clarke.  They are usually out in all their glory by May 12th which was my father’s birthday.  This year he would have been 112 but I’m not sure this year’s crop of Jean Maries will be in full fettle, even by then.

Jean Maries along Our East Fence Line – May 2014

They are slow and spotty this year.  It’s probably due to the severe haircut Nyel and I gave them last fall.  We were a little late in our pruning duties and, since we had missed a year or so, we were probably overly severe.  The Jean Maries are still scolding us about it, apparently.  It’s either that or it’s this whole weird weather pattern and climate change thing we have going.  As in who has EVER heard of a burn ban as early as April here on the Peninsula?

However, the reluctance of the Jean Maries is giving the lilacs their time to shine.  They are reveling in not having to play second fiddle this year to those flashy ladies in red.  Usually, by the time we even take notice of the lilacs, they are on their way out.  It’s a yearly regret — especially if I haven’t filled the house with their sweet fragrance at least once or twice!

Jean Maries along Our East Fenceline – May 2021

I think this year will be different.  Those lilacs are bursting out all over the yard.  I’m not sure what kind they are — I just think of them as common every day lilacs — they smell like lilacs, are lilac colored, and for once are struttin’ their stuff before anyone else is dominating the garden.  Sorry, dad.  But… things could always change in the next week or so.

Joe Knowles Among Our Rhodies?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

The mind (well, MY mind) never ceases to amaze me!  I can’t remember where I put my car keys or my coffee cup — can’t see them, sometimes, when I’m looking right at them — yet Joe Knowles came to mind as clearly as clearly could be this morning.  Right among our struggling rhododendrons.

Well, perhaps not Joe exactly.  Rather it was the title of a book about him called Naked In The Woods:  Joseph Knowles and the Legacy of Frontier Fakery.  I happened to see it on a bookshelf the other day — probably while I was looking for something else.  I think it was the sight of our still naked rhodies (even though they aren’t in the woods) that triggered my train of thought. Maybe.

Our “Naked” Rhododendrons

It was the Maine Woods that Joe went into back in the summer of 1913, “nearly” naked and taking with him nothing but his trusty Boy Scout friction firebox.  He may have had a knife with him, too.  I don’t remember (ahem.)  It was, of course a big publicity stunt — vaudeville on the nature circuit, you might say.

My dad, who was born in Boston in 1909, grew up on Joe Knowles stories.  So, when he (dad) first came to the Peninsula (when he was courting my mother) he lost no time in going to meet Mr. Knowles who was living out near the Seaview Beach approach by then.  Dad bought two of Knowles’ etchings — “Mid-Watch” and “The Flying Dutchman” — as gifts for his parents.  (They are now back here on the Peninsula in Oysterville– the  etchings, not Dad’s parents.)  My father greatly admired Joe Knowles, the artist, and I think he put the Maine Woods adventure right up there with the showmanship of P.T. Barnum — which he also thought was admirable.

Promises of Things to Come

So… that’s what I thought about this morning as I checked out our “naked” rhododendrons — the ones out around the area where the cannon lives in good weather.  I’m happy to report that there are little sprouts, albeit ever so small, on every single one of those well-trimmed rhodies.  In a few years they may even produce thick foliage and blossoms once again and, perhaps, Joe Knowles could truly lurk among them.  In my mind, anyway.

From Champagne to Salad Greens!

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Nyel, Bill (my dad) and Noel Around The Champagne Table – 1988

Recycling, refurbishing, renewing.  Nyel is adamant about all of it.  Including repurposing.  Today’s (read “this week’s” or possibly “this month’s”) project deals with an old galvanized washtub.

Neither of us remember where that washtub came from.  Maybe it has been on the premises since my grandparents’ time.  Certainly, it has seen better days.  There are holes in the bottom and dents on the sides.  It definitely has character.

Getting Ready for the Salad Greens!

For years we used it to hold champagne bottles nestled in ice — a hallmark of our Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Galas (1984- 2002).  For the past two decades, though, it has been sitting atop a metal storage cupboard in the garage and has been the repository for between-seasons Christmas tree stands and other sometimes-necessities of the household.

Today that old, leaky washtub is headed for Nyel’s new kitchen garden where it will be filled with topsoil and compost and planted with little green onion sets and several kinds of lettuces.  Salads-in-a-Tub within steps of the dinner table!  I don’t think as many people will be bellying up to it now as in its glamorous champagne past, though.

On the other hand, it’s likely to get a little too much attention from our girls.  Those chickens do love to peck and poke in the soil and I know they’ll be excited about a “new” container to explore.  I wonder if Nyel has a Chicken Discouragement Plan in mind.

And it wasn’t even March yet!

Monday, March 1st, 2021

March Sunrise over Willapa Bay

March 1st today.  Beautiful sunrise.  No wind.  Mild temperature outside.  Whatever happened to “coming in like a lion?”  And does this lamb-like weather forewarn of March going out with a roar.  YIKES!  Let’s hope not.

We had about enough roaring in February, by my reckoning.  For a couple of days, I kept the chickens inside their run.  Didn’t want a repeat of the 1922 windstorm when Ilwaco’s chickens ended up in Seaview and everyone had a heck of a time sorting them out once the weather calmed down.

February 2021 Storm Damage

So… our girls stayed safe.  Not so our south fence.  A good part of it blew down — right into the lane.  Nyel was philosophical.  We’ve known for some time that the posts are rotted at ground level and need replacing.  One more job that we have to hire out these days.  Nyel sent a “Help!” text to Our Main Man Eugene who came over within minutes to prop it back up.  A temporary fix “so the girls won’t get out,” he said.

In the next few weeks, he’ll be back to do some honest-to-goodness repairing.  Then there will be the post-painting issue.  And then some pro-active work on the rest of the south side fence — posts AND rails, Nyel says.  It never ends.  Just like that pesky wind.  But… it’s job security for some folks and I guess that’s the best way to look at it.  And maybe the whole month of March will be gentle and lamb-like.  We can but hope.

Newsflash for the weather gods!!!

Monday, February 8th, 2021

Townsends Mole

For the last month or so we’ve been noticing the mole activity a few hundred yards south of town in the area across from the old Espy Ranch House.  Dozens of rich brown mounds appeared, seemingly over night.  “Hooray!” I thought.  “Our mole people have moved on!”  But, obviously my celebratory thoughts were premature.

But, just as I was beginning to relax my vigilance here,  up popped another hill!  So far, they are confining their activity to the area around the chicken coop.  If they’d stick to that part of the yard, I’d be delighted.  It’s out of sight of the main  garden and perhaps those mounds even contain a worm or two for curious chickens.  I’m not sure, though.  The girls haven’t mentioned it.

Sydney’s Size 7 Boots Next to Giant Mole Hill

And then I began to wonder about the habits of moles.  Do they hibernate?  Go south in the winter?  And,  just how mobile are they, anyway?  What I learned is that our resident mole families are likely still in place.  They don’t hibernate in the winter but they do tunnel deeper “as the ground freezes” said one site.  Since our ground didn’t really freeze this winter — at least not beyond a surface frost now and then, I don’t think that accounts for their lack of activity.

Although, it’s illegal to kill a mole in a body-gripping trap in Washington,  you can shoot, shock, drug, drown or whack ‘em dead with a shovel. Dave Pehling, who has studied moles for 36 years as a WSU Snohomish County Extension agent, recommended mole traps until they were banned in 2000.  “There’s nothing else that seems to work consistently,” he said.  “The one method that works really well is pounding down the hills and then sitting out in your yard with 12-gauge shotgun.”  My kinda guy!  I think Farmer Nyel could do that!

Our future?

On the other hand, the best advice by the “experts” for discouraging the mole people is to keep your soil dry.  Saturated, loose soil is an ideal environment for the critters — easier to tunnel through and often rich in earthworms and grubs.  Say the experts:  “limit watering unless necessary.”  Yeah!  Right!

I’m wondering how to give this news flash to the weather gods.  If someone could develop an easily assembled, lawn-sized umbrella that could be used year-round, they could make a fortune.  Maybe something that you could activate with the push of a button — sort of like a garage door-opener.  Of course, it would have to be attractive.  And, also see-through so the lawn and flower beds would get sufficient light…  Or, better yet, we can just learn to live with the mole hills…