Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Garden Helper

Next year's gardening is already looking better because I now have a new garden helper. Well, maybe not a 'helper' but at least some company and a reason to get me outside.

This is Wags

"Wags" - but probably not for long (we may change his name)
A couple of months ago I saw Wags on Craigslist. At the time I was just looking at the available animals - we weren't really ready to adopt. I thought he sounded like a good fit for us but didn't mention it to the husband because I didn't think we were ready for another dog yet.

But, over the past few months we've finally started remembering China with fondness instead of only with pain and regret.

I went back to Craigslist and there here was again - Wags was still waiting for a home so I sent in an application. After a vet check we were approved and Wags will be coming to live with us on December 22nd. What a great holiday gift!

Wags is currently in an Arkansas shelter where's he's been for about 4-5 months. From the video the rescue posted he looks like he'll be a great addition to our family.

And now I'll have someone to keep an eye out for evil squirrels while I garden. Maybe he'll even take over the Hottentot watch as well.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

So...heh heh

Yes, that's meant to be an embarrassed titter.

As you can probably guess, this year was pretty much a bust for me in the garden and pretty much all areas of my life. I let my sorrow get the best of me and I did the bare minimum to get by.

Ironically the flower gardens have never looked better. My husband contends that they look so good only because of the hard work I've put into them in years past. That sounds nice so I'll go with that.

Surprise Sunflower, courtesy of the bird feeders' seeds
We are both still sad about our pooch but we have started talking about adopting a new canine family member - probably not until Spring so that it's easier to house train. (For some reason dogs don't like to try to do their business in three feet of snow. Go figure.) So I suppose that means we're starting to pull out of our funk.

I can only hope that means that I'll feel like gardening again next year - get the projects done that I wanted to get done this year.

I can't promise, but I have hope.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Funky Apathy

It hasn't been a good summer for me or mine this year.

Well, the garden is having a great summer but that has very little to do with me.

I am still in my funk and what's worse is that an unhealthy dose of apathy has accompanied that funk. Funky Apathy isn't very fun at all.

But, the gardens are still doing quite well left alone to do their thing. We've had a lack of rain for a couple of weeks so I do water daily. I have weeded a total of one time this summer and the flower beds that weren't mulched look just terrible. Good thing they're on the side of the house and not the front, eh?

I would show you pictures, but I haven't felt up to taking any. Which is really too bad - the Hydrangea looks particularly beautiful this year and the Tall Phlox bloomed a week early.

So, why am I even bothering to post? Apparently I do care enough to let the few people who read this blog know that I am still alive and still gardening, just not very much and not all that well.

Fortunately, all of the vegetable plants are doing great and as long as the beds don't become infested with hungry green caterpillars I should get a nice crop this year.

I do care about tomatoes. That's something.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Earlier this Spring...

As I wait for the weekend to do some work on the garage-side flower beds, let's reminisce of this past Spring.


Yeah, not much to remember, actually. We had a nice week of Summer temps (up to 90 in March!) but then it went back to normal.

My Daffodil bulbs were particularly pretty this year and the family tulips made their annual appearance. The wind and rain didn't give us many good days with the tulips, but they were nice while they lasted.

Daffodil Trumpets

10 Tulips

10 Droopy Tulips

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Garden Visitors

While I worked last week I had several garden visitors, most of them welcome.

I spotted this little guy while pruning my Iceburg Rose bush.

Green and Fuzzy Caterpillar

I watched this Butterfly flit around my garden all afternoon hoping that it would land and let me take some pictures. It finally found the Rhododendron but kept rushing away when I got near. However, it kept returning and either realized I wasn't a threat or figured the gain was worth the risk. As he circled the blooms I got about a dozen beautiful shots.
Swallowtail Butterfly
If it had been up to the several Bumblebees buzzing around the garden the Butterfly wouldn't have gotten anything. As I took pictures of the Butterfly this one particular Bumblebee kept flying into it, trying to keep it away. But that Butterfly was persistent. The Bumble finally just picked another flower and left the Butterfly alone.
Busy Busy Bumblebee
This last visitor is a permanent one. I found several of these guys at Marden's, a Maine staple, and picked up a few. I really cheers up the garden in those empty spaces.
Patience, Grasshopper...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Back in the swing of things...

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it?

I wasn't sure if I was going to even attempt gardening this year. The returning flowers and bushes seemed to be doing just fine on their own. I considered just letting them do their own thing with no intervention from me.

But then I realized that would mean no tomatoes straight from the garden, or the plethora of crookneck squash I always end up with and I would really miss my peas.

That pulled me out of my gardening funk just enough to request a full week off after Memorial Day as opposed to my regular two extra days and I got most of my gardening chores done - chores that I could have been doing gradually all Spring instead of wearing myself out trying to do it all at once. I can only hope I learn from this year and never put off the work this long again.

But enough with that downer BS. Here's some pictures of what I had to start with and how it all turned out last week.

My Left Bed in Early April. Eww.

My Left Bed before any work was done - plants look pretty good, don't they?

Left Bed after weeding and mulching and adding a few new plants

Left Bed from a different angle. I prefer this Brown mulch to the Red mulch I usually get.

My new Hosta - Twilight. And no, I did not buy this because of those terrible books.

No before pics on this - my shade garden is filling in very well. You can't see it in this picture but all of the Astilbe plants are budding this year.

The Iris Bed, recovering well after the chipmunks ate all of the early Spring growth right down to the tubers.

The corner bed - only one Dianthus plant returned so I filled it in with Marigolds and a big Bee.

My new front corner bed - I laid brown paper bags down and covered them with a thick layer of mulch. Hopefully the bags will have broken down by next Spring and I can plant here.

The Right bed in early April. Again - ewww

The Right bed last week before any work was done. The Rhododendron gave me flowers this year. Yay!

The Right bed after weeding, mulching and adding new plants

The South bed in Early April - see all the mole tunnels? Grrr.

The South bed before any work was done - the Wild Rose Bush was escaping the fence and the weeds were awful.

The South bed after weeding and taming the Rose Bush

The South bed from a different angle. I need to fill in those empty gaps

The Strawberries survived the winter.

I really let the vegetable garden go - it was full of weeds, some over a foot tall by the time I finally did anything to it.

I only planted four vegetables this year - squash (2 types), Peas, Tomatoes (3 types) and cucumbers. This is the squash bed, and as you can see, I decided to lay newspaper down as a weed deterrent. This was really easy and I hope it saves me loads of time this summer.

The vegetable garden all done. I used Brown mulch in the top and bottom beds. The middle still had its mulch from last Summer and I didn't need to add any.
So, there you go. I'm back into the gardening swing of things and hopefully I'll be able to finish up the garage-side flower beds in the next few weeks to make the entire yard ship-shape. It's been raining for 5 days now so not much has been done since last Thursday, but I'm very happy with what I was able to get done.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It's official..

Today's weather: 78 degrees Fahrenheit, partly cloudy - a bit warm for this early in the year but it's going back down to more normal temperatures tomorrow.

It's official now - I am seriously running behind. I saw this soaring over our house yesterday afternoon:

Barn Swallow
Our yearly bird tenants are about to move in and I haven't even cleared the leaf bags. I don't think they'll be leaving any nice comments on the guest card this year.

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Season

Today's weather: 46 degrees Fahrenheit and cloudy with light showers.

It's still a bit chilly here but Spring is on its way. I thought I was a few weeks behind but after looking at last year's notes I see that I'm going to be on the same schedule as 2011.

This isn't anything to really be proud of, especially considering how late Spring came last year and how early it arrived this year. You know what I did that week of 80 degree weather we had a few weeks ago? Nothing - nada - zilch.

I'll be honest - my urge to garden is not strong with me this year, which really sucks since I had so many low-cost yet high-work plans. I want to focus on 'neatening' up my beds this year - extensive weeding, putting down weed blocker sheeting, cutting some turf around existing beds to make them easier to mow around, etc. Basically, I want to get that damn grass out of my way which isn't easy.

The bags will be pulled from the house in the next week or so. I am hoping this will motivate me at least a little bit.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I love Maine. It still has seasons.

However, being a gardener in Maine can be a bit frustrating. While much of the country is starting their gardening season, even if it's just Spring cleanup, we Mainers have to watch in envy while we wait for the several feet of snow in our yards to melt away.

So, that first day of relatively warm weather can really perk the spirits and today it finally came. The forecast a few days ago said it was going to get up to 58 degrees today which thrilled me but it looks like it's actually going to get up to almost 65 degrees which makes me ecstatic.

No, there's still nothing I can really do in the gardens, not even cleanup, because two feet of snow just won't melt in a day. But at least I can walk outside without taking five minutes to pull on the coat, then the gloves, then the scarf and finally the hat.

Spring can be a tease up here in Maine - giving us a couple of warm days only to plunge back down into the teens and dump another foot of snow on us - but I'm hopeful that we'll skip all that and the weather will be nice this year. After the winter I've had, I need an early, long Spring.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Zone

The USDA has released a new Plant Hardiness Zone Map. I've moved from from Zone 4 (I can't remember if it was A or B) to Zone 5A. While this is even more proof to me of global climate change I can at least look on the bright side of us abusing our planet - I now have more plants to choose from.

*Sigh.* It's not much of a solace, actually.

Thanks to GrafixMuse for the head's up on the new map!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Winter Project and Spring Planning

On some of the blogs I read gardeners are reporting some growth such as Daffodils and the like. Up here in Maine, nothing is going on outside except for coldness, some wind and brown lawns. We haven't even had much snow (yet - I'm sure that will change by at least March) so it's been a rather dull winter.

I do have one winter project. A Christmas gift from my in-laws included one of those Amaryllis bulb kits. So far, it seems to be doing well. There aren't many sunny locations in the heated part of our house (the kitchen has no insulation and very little heat) but I found a place for it.
Amaryllith...I mean, Amaryllis
I can't help but call it Amaryllith in honor of little Opie Cunningham's (Ron Howard) character in The Music Man. :)

As for planning for this year's gardens: I normally do a lot of planning this time of year. But, usually, nothing really feels 'right' for my plans. I hem and haw and wemble and never quite make up my mind on what I really want to do. I end up just throwing plants in when I can pick them up.

Me, when I do my garden planning (Wembley Fraggle)

But this year is different. I've been having difficulty dealing with the death of my dog China but when I came up with this idea a couple of days ago, it made me feel a little better. I'm going to create a Red Dog Garden in her honor. There's an iron dog sculpture I've seen at the stores in the garden section (you've probably seen it, too) that I've always liked. I'm going to pick that up, figure out how to paint it red and build the flower gardens around it. Yes, it's sappy, but it's given me purpose and, as I said, it makes me feel a little better.

I'm going to try to stick to red and pink flowers but won't be too strict with myself about it.

The reason it makes me feel better specifically is because when the weather was nice China's favorite place to be was outside soaking in the sun. She loved it when I worked in the garden because it meant hours upon hours of sunbathing and exploring her beloved field. She would even sometimes stroll up to me, check out what I was doing and then leave me alone again. Except for a few times when she either forgot herself or fell off the steps when she was in a hurry (don't worry - there were only three) she always respected the garden boundaries and never walked or dug in them.

Damn, I miss that dog.

So, let the garden planning begin. I'll have to start doing my research on the best red/pink/magenta (etc.) flowers for my zone. Research - it's usually my favorite part of the planning. ;)

And hey, I never noticed this before. Wild:

Wash and Wembly, two of my favorite goofballs

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Obligatory New Year's Post

NOTE: This is the same article I posted on my personal (non-gardening) blog at http://www.brandimills.com/blog

It’s 2012. I am so glad. To put it bluntly, 2011 sucked rocks.

Sure, it could have been worse – things can always get worse – but 2011 was a low point on the line-chart of my life. Winter lasted several weeks longer than usual, our car developed an oil leak, my vegetable garden was a failure and we still did not lose any substantial weight.

But those were the minor disappointments of last year. I also had to deal with the fact that my department supervisor left, leaving our IT department with three people to manage eight stores. And then, we got three new stores so now there’s three people supporting eleven stores. Despite the fact that the amount of work we now have will remain higher even after things settle down, there was no raise and no substantial bonus to compensate for it.

But worst of all was the loss of China. Even if my gardens had been award-worthy, and even if I had gotten a large raise and year-end bonus the death of our beloved pooch would have made it a terrible year.

We’re still feeling her absence – piercingly so – but we have hopes that this next year will start to look up. We’ll be taking the car into the shop to fix the oil leak and heater in the next week or so and we hope to keep things moving positively from here on out. Unfortunately, no one can control the universe and there’s no telling how it’ll all end up. I’m very nervous about the upcoming elections – the level of intelligence of the American public has been disappointing me since 2000. Add to that the fact that people are already freaking out about the 2012 ‘end of the world’ nonsense and you have the makings of a really bad 12 months.

But as for me, personally, I will do my best to keep things moving forward and in a positive direction. Happy New Year to you all and here’s hoping that we all try to do the same.