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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Back At Work

I meant this to post July 8th, but typed 18th, so it didn't show when I expected.  The reason I'm doing this will be obvious when I post about "today" tomorrow...  LOL!

July 8th - Well, with the beastly temperatures of the past month, plus straining an ankle (twice) so that I was limping around pretty bad for 2 different weeks, I have gotten back on some projects the past few days.  But first, some summary about the weather:

High temperatures - The average high here is about 80-85 degrees in June.  We had only 2 days that were (barely) below average.  We had 12 days in a row where the temp got above 90, and we set local records on 2 days (99 and 100 degrees).  There is a measurement called "degree days" where the daily high degrees above 65 are accumulated (a high of 85 means there were 20 degree days for the date).  The "normal to date" is 431.  The "actual to date" is 713!  In June alone, there were 472.

Rainfall - We haven't reached the average rainfall for any month this year.  Normal to date is 19".  So far, we have had 13.6".  My lawn already looks like it normally does by mid August.  Ive seen poison ivy plants dying from the lack of rainfall.  I seldom water the flowerbeds, but I have had to do it every few days for the past 3 weeks because the plants wilt so badly. The garden veggies do get regular watering, but that is routine in any year. 

I don't use large water-sprinklers, mainly because I can live with the lawn grass going dormant for the summer, and because little of my flowerbeds and garden (non-lawn) benefit from large rectangular watering patterns.  So I water by hand in specific spots.  Standing in one place watering is too boring, so I have learned that a D-shaped spading fork handle holds a hose nozzle quite nicely.  Stick the fork in the lawn, aim the hose nozzle to fall only on the flowerbeds, leave it in one spot for a good 5 minutes (quite a lot of water in one small area), then move it 6' to the next spot.

The downside is that I have to stay outside the whole time (about 2 hours).  The upside is that, instead of holding the hose, I get to sit in the shade listening to the radio while sipping on a beer (or two).  And while sitting, I get to watch the local wildlife.

For example, today I watched a hummingbird feed from the butterfly bush, some salvias, a cardinal flower, and a daylily.  I watched the finches feeding at the thistle seed feeder.  I watched cardinals at the sunflower feeder.  I saw squirrels chasing each other through the trees.  I watched hundreds of bees at the various flowers.  Most are bumbles, but there are also a fair number of honeybees around my flowers I'm organic and I think that helps them), and I have learned to recognize a number of smaller less-common native bees.

I have even noticed that many of the "bumblebees" are actually Sphinx moths (aka hummingbird moths).  Sadly, the Spinx moth caterpillar is the dreaded tomato hornworm, which can really chew up tomato leaves.  But they aren't originating here, because I thoroughly inspect my tomato plants for them every week.  So I can enjoy the adult's graceful nectar-feeding habit at the flowers without worrying that their babies are eating my tomato plants!

Speaking of the tomatoes, they are doing very well.  I have 8 plants of 5 main season heirloom varieties this year (Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Prudens Purple, Aunt Gertie's Gold, and Tennessee Britches) plus one regular cherry tomato growing from a hanging bucket.  There are a few fruits "breaking color", so I should have my first ripe ones soon.  I can hardly wait!

I did the 3rd (and possibly last) poison ivy spraying for the season today.  There is an overgrown corner of the backyard I have been clearing out gradually.  I would dig up scrub saplings and regular vines for a few feet across and 20' wide, then expose another large clump of poison ivy and spray it.  Then 2 weeks later, rake those away and dig up a few more feet.  I will reach the fence next time!  Then I can decide what to do with the spot.  I think I will plant azaleas.  The spot seems good for them, and they are relatively low maintenance.  I sure don't want any more lawn...

I was lucky with that area.  It was originally for stacking firewood.  But I don't use the fireplace much anymore and the wood started to rot.  It got overgrown in the first place because I didn't need to get at the old firewood and it became a dumping space for cut saplings.  I was afraid there would be hornets or yellow jackets in there, but thankfully, none.  No termites either, which surprised me.  I think I can just spread the decayed firewood around on the ground as mulch for the azaleas.

I am hoping to get back to projects with some photo potential this week...

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