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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter Prep

Given the unseasonably warm November so far, I was surprised to hear the weather forecast for a low of 25F degrees tonight.  The first hard freeze always catches me by surprise!

So, the first thing I did was turn off the outside water spigots (from inside).  Then I went out and disconnected the hoses and stretched them out downhill to drain out all the water in them.  Then I secured plastic over the ends.  There's a reason for that.  Last year, I had one hose that became a Winter home for some insects.  I went crazy trying to figure out why my hose nozzles kept getting blocked up the next Spring!  It wasn't until I attached one that had a screen in it that I found it had bits of plant and dead bugs on the screen.  I tried picking the blockage out with a small wire, but it wasn't working after an hour's effort.  I finally had to tape a hose to the front of the blocked nozzles and back-flush them!  It was a messy wet business.  But it did work.

Second, I detached my 4-outlet gang valve from the backyard outside faucet.  For 3 years in a row I didn't do it soon enough, and the water it it busted out at least one fitting.  At $17 for a 4-way gang valve, I decided to make sure I did it on time this year.

Why do I have a 4-way gang valve on the back yard spigot?  Well, after I surrounded the foundation with a 12' deep flowerbed, it became to difficult to get the hose out from the spigot without dragging it over plants.   So, valve #1 has a 20' hose that leads to a hose-holder (and additional hose) on a post at the edge of the lawn.  And to save myself from needing 150' of hose there, I set another hose-holder (and hose) 75' away in the woods on the right side of the backyard to reach the hosta beds and pond.  Then I set another hose-holder (and hose) from there.  The last hose just barely reaches to the back fence where I have some edging shrubs that need more water in Summer than Nature provides.

Valve #2 has a 10' hose attached that reaches to the drip hoses near the spigot.  Just as I didn't like pullin a hose out to the lawn from the spigot, I didn't want to have to pull that one back in.

Valve #3 has a high pressure jet nozzle attached.  Very useful for cleaning dirt off tools and filling buckets.

Valve #4 has a hose that goes along the fence to the garden on the left side of the backyard.  That hose stays in place until it springs a leak from year-round exposure.  5 years and "so far so good".

The alternative to all that is about $3,000 worth of buried waterlines around the yard.  So replacing the occasional $17 gang valve is not bad.

Third, I disconnected my drip hoses and laid them flat on the ground.  Last year, I mounted 4 of them on a 12" high post on another 4-way gang valve for ease of access.  It never occurred to me that snow-weight would break the drip hoses off the brass attachments!  It did.  I haven't figured out how to repair them yet, but they are still sitting there in place.  I think I could cement plastic tubing that had an outside diameter that fit the inside diameter of the drip hose, but I haven't found any.  I've been wondering about some of that late-night TV waterproof shrink tape ads that suggests it can repair car waterhoses and house waterpipe leaks.  Suggestions are welcome...

Then I opened the outside spigots to make sure there was no water enclosed within them.

Fourth, the weather is supposed to warm to 60F in a few days.  I will coil up most of the (drained) hoses and put them in the shed for the Winter.  I didn't want to handle the hoses at 40F today.

I'll probably remember something else I should done a day too late.  Suggestions on those are welcome, too...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Flowerbed Border, Part 2

I got at the border.  First, I hauled the shovels, rakes, and implements of destruction.  The idea was to simply dig an entire trench 6" wide and deep.  The crocus bulbs don't need to be planted that deep, but I wanted loose fertilized soil under the bulbs for good root development and to get rid of stones.
BTW, you can just see the row of paver stones I laid along the edge of the border a few years ago.  They help, but grass grows between them and it is hard to pull out.  Looks good when the leaves aren't covering them, though.

In addition, the plastic border edging was of mismatched pieces.  Since I was digging anyway, I decided to replace it with one long edge of better quality.

Unfortunately, the wheelbarrow only holds about 12' of trench soil, so I had to do the long portion (36')  in 3 parts.  That meant I had to dig a narrow 2" trench for the new edger first, set it in, backfill to hold it in place, and then re-dig each 6"x6"x12' section for planting.  This is getting to be a serious amount of spade work!  Well at least I could dig the first 12' section and not backfill.

The plan (after the new edger was installed) was to dig a section of trench as also seen in the picture above)...

Scrape the bottom and mix in  (2-5-6 slow release organic) fertilizer...

Mark the spots for the blue fescue seedlings with landscape flags (wonderful things with many purposes),...

Place 5 crocus bulbs in between each flag (alternating yellow and purple),...

Backfill, then plant the fescue, remove the flags and repeat twice more.  Hmm, somehow I managed not to take a picture of the finished border with the Blue Fescue planted, and it is raining today.  Well, here's a stock photo of the fescue...

I managed to do the edger and the first 12' section one afternoon.  It sure gets dark early these days!  Just as well; I could hardly stand up after all that digging, bending, backfilling, etc.

I finished the long 36" border the next day.  Next, I have the 2 remaining length (between the 2 paths and beyond them).  Unfortunately, I seem to have ordered too few of the purple crocus.  I have to see if I can find more to finish the last section, otherwise, that waits till next Fall.

Oh man did my back hurt after the 1st day!  Then, when I STARTED on the 2nd day it was sore immediately.  I do some hard yardwork, but I don't do it steadily enough to avoid sore muscles.  I should start exercising on non-yardwork days.  But exercise is SO boring!  Thank The Great Pharma for Ibuprophen...  LOL!

I hope to remember to show good pictures of the border next year...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Flowerbed Border, Part 1

I've never quite been satisfied with the border along the flowerbed.  It is about 75' long with 2 paths interupting it.  I've tried several plants there. 

The original attempt was Blue Fescue.  That was a real horror story!  The local nursery wanted $5 per plant ($375!), so I ordered 100 small ones online for $100.  They arrived rotted and wet.  I won't go into all the gory details (maybe I will in a future post), but Kelly Nurseries dragged me along for almost a year before I gave up on getting a replacement or refund.  Suffice it to say I will never do business with them again.

After that, I tried Bergenia. 

They died out after a couple of years.  Then I tried Campanula.  For whatever reason, I can't get them to thrive here.  After that, I planted annual Marigolds.  They looked nice, but I wanted perennials so that I wouldn't have to keep relanting every year.  Though I will say that the border is certainly the most convenient place to plant annuals.

So I tried Gaillardia (Blanket Flower).  Nice plant, but not for a border.  They have a habit of wandering a bit each year.  I went back to annuals. The last years I planted Marigolds again, but with tulips between them for some Spring color.  This year it was red Salvias.  Lovely plant, but too tall for the front border.  The tulips were mostly gone this Spring.

Tulips don't last here and I wanted to get back to perennials.  But perennials don't bloom for very long and the border needs to show up to serve its purpose.  Well, this Spring I found Blue Fescue seeds and planted 2 flats (72) of them.  They sprouted well enough, and I set the flats out by the hose stand for easy watering.  Well, one thing leads to another and they were still sitting in the flats last week.

I decided to plant them once the Salvias died (which finally happened last week - we are having an unusually warm November). 

The other thing that fits here is that I've been planting crocuses in the lawn for years.  It looks great, but it means I shouldn't mow the lawn until the leaves die back, which is a real pain with the fast growing turf fescue grass I have.  So I end up mowing the lawn before the crocuses are ready, and they slowly fade away.

So my plan was to plant the whole border with crocuses and blue fescue.  I know crocuses do well here if left alone, and the Blue Fescue seedlings seem pretty tough survivors.  I pulled the dead Salvias up few days ago and set to work.

Next:  The Work

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Day

November 22.  It is a day I remember every year though I do not always speak about it.  I am sorry the post was late.  I had a hard tine writing this in time.  It was Nov 22nd when I started.

There are many days I remember.  Black Friday starting the Great Depression, December 7, 1941, starting WWII for the US.  But I wasn't alive then.  They affected my parents greatly, but they are history.  And  I will always remember 9/11, because it was a terrible event in our time.

But the date I most remember, because I was 13 at the time, is 11/22.  I do not have some exact memories of it, I WAS only 13.  But I recall so very clearly, the voice coming out of the announcement box at the top of the front classroom wall.  We were back in class from lunch and recess.  It was about 2 pm.  The voices didn't come out of the announcement box after the morning announcements unless there was a fire drill or atom bomb drill.

I do not remember the exact words I heard.  Something like "The President has been killed.  School is closed and you are all to go home immediately".  Going home by ourselves was not that big a deal back then.  We did it every day after school.  We mostly spent our days outside anyway without supervision.  We got on our bicycles or walked and went home.

My Mom was there as most Moms were at the time.  She was crying.

The only thing on the only 3 TV channels for days was coverage of the Kennedy assassination and burial.  I saw Oswald shot live.  It was all horrible.

But what I will never forget is staring at the announcement box, hearing "The President has been killed".  That is seared into my memory.  That beige pine wood box, with the top extending further than the bottom, the slight pattern of some wood mesh in front of the cloth speaker cover.  I just see that box in my mind sometimes.

I can't picture the wood mesh front.  That bothers me sometimes.  I can picture the rest of the box so perfectly.  Its a flaw in my recollection where everything else seems so clear.  The box where such a horrible announcement came out is uncertain in that one way.

I was totally immersed in a nationwide grieving after that.  But that part is all history and knowable to all.

On this day, I remember that awful announcement box.  That is what I see every year on this day.  That is the memory that will never go away.  That is my personal recollection of a terrible event.

Gravesite Inscription:
Let the word go forth
From this time and place
To friend and foe alike
That the torch has been passed
To a new generation of Americans.
Let every nation know
Whether it wishes us well or ill
That we shall pay any price - bear any burden
Meet any hardship - support any friend
Oppose any foe to assure the survival
And the success of liberty
Now the trumpet summons us again
Not as a call to bear arms
- though embattled we are 
But a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle 
A struggle against the common enemies of man Tyranny - Poverty - Disease - and War itself
In the long history of the world
Only a few generations have been granted
The role of defending freedom
In the hour of maximum danger
I do not shrink from this responsibility
I welcome it
The Energy - the Faith - the Devotion
Which we bring to this endeavor
Will light our country
And all who serve it
And the glow from that fire
Can truly light the world
And so my fellow Americans
Ask not what your country can do for you
Ask what you can do for your country
My fellow citizens of the world - ask not
What America can do for you - but what together
We can do for the freedom of man
With a good conscience our only sure reward
With history the final judge of our deeds
Let us go forth to lead the land we love - asking His blessing
And his help - but knowing that here on earth
God's work must truly be our own.
Inaugural Address - January 20, 1961

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Front Landscaping Boxes 3

I expected to finish planting the 2nd 100 daffodils today, but only got 2/3 the way through.  And here, I thought it was going to go EASIER today!  It's hard to get used to it getting dark at 5 PM...

I thought it would be easier today because there were fewer landscaping flags in the way, and I thought I had the procedure down pat.   I had been using a spade entirely, but I also used a post hole digger today.  It made it easier, but (oddly) longer).  I think mostly it was because I was digging better and deeper holes, plus I was having a hard time avoiding stepping on yesterday's planted spots.

Today, I was getting the holes deeper (10" with the post hole digger) so that I could refill a few inches with the better surface soil.  More work now, but the bulbs will appreciate it for years to come.  Avoiding the previous plantings was REALLY awkward.  2 feet and 2 knees and I wanted all of them on undug soil!  It wasn't as bad as playing Twister, but close.  I suppose the bulbs don't really care if the soil is a bit stepped on above them (all the soil is fairly friable) but I made the effort.

Thankfully, tomorrow will be as nice as today (sunny, light breeze, mid-60s).  It hasn't rained for over a week, so the soil is not destroyed by walking on it.  I hate to walk on garden soil anytime, but there is no avoiding it in this project.

So I will be finishing this project tomorrow, at least.  The right landscaping box will be beautiful next Spring.

I say the right box because I made a major OOPS!  I had planned for both boxes to have the same 2 daffodils, but when I set out the 100 flags to plant 50 bulbs of each type, I went and planted 2 bulbs in each hole.  So that leaves none for the left box.

It may have been a subconcious correction.  I had been concerned that the left box (not only on the north side of the house but also shaded for the small amount of western sunlight by the 5' raised front steps walls).  Even daffodils need some sunlight...  I'll just have to think of something else for Spring color there (or simply live without it on that side).  I'm thinking Primrose, Trillium, and Hepatica for deep shade Spring color.  But I'll have to buy them next Spring.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Front Landscaping Boxes 2

Today I planted half of the daffodils.  Took 3 hours and it nearly killed me.

First, the daffodils...  As I said yesterday, I selected i Early Spring bloomer and 1 Late Spring bloomer.  That was so the appearance of the boxes would change over several months but still show flowers.

The Early Spring bloom is Monal...
The Late Spring bloom is Fragrant Rose...
Between the two, it should make the front look different over the course of 8 weeks and by that time, the hostas shiould be growing out big leaves.  Yeah, I'm trying to get fancy.  Why not?

I ordered 100 each of both.  I decided to plant some in both front landscaping boxes.  One thing I have learned is that most people plant their Spring bulbs too shallowly.   Daffodils like 6-8" and if you look at the standard bulb-planter tool, they don't go that deep.  So I wanted to get them down where they really wanted to be.

I tried a post-hole-digger first, but I had too many rocks in the soil.  And I wanted to plant 2 in each hole 4" apart, and the post-hole-digger wasn't that big.  I should mention that the bulbs I received from are both large, firm, and almost always doubles!  So I had to use the spade to dig a 6"w x 8" deep trench with a flat bottom.  That took time.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  The first thing I did was take landscaping flags and stick them all around the right landscaping box.  200 bulbs, 2 per hole, 100 flags...  I had exactly 100 orange landscape flags!

Yeah, I know they say plant 4-5 per square foot, but also 4" apart.  Daffs multiply where they are happy.  I'll spread them out 2 bulbs per spot (though remember they are all doubles) and wait.  Next year will be good; the following year will be better.

Here's where it got tricky.  First, I had to spread 100 spots around the right bed evenly but randomly.  I was thrilled to hit the last corner with the last flag.  Perfect! Nice random positions throughout the entire box!

The digging was the tricky part.  About every 18" in all directions, there were landscaping flags.  Awkward to walk through, awkward to dig around.  And worse, I needed to plant one variety in "every other flag/spot".  And how do you plant in "every other spot" when the flags are basically in triangles?

THe simple answer is that you can't.  So I tried to dig up the spots for the Monal daffs as alternately as possible until I hit 45 of them.  Then I looked at the remaining flags and chose the closest ones and finished the 50.

How did I do the planting you ask?  "Carefully"...

I used the spade to dig a trench 8" long x 3" wide x 8" deep.  I put the soil in 2 buckets with the best top soil in one and the lower worse soil in the other.  I had a small bowl of 2-5-6 slow release organic fertilizer at the side.  In each trench, I added back some of the best soil from the top and mixed some fertilizer.  Then added 2 bulbs pressed firmly in, covered them with more good top soil (as opposed to the more clayey soil 8" deep) sprinkled on a little more 2-5-6, then piled the remaining soil back ontop.

Meanwhile, between the digging, soil piling, fertilizing, planting and covering, I was having to avoid stepping on other flags, existing hostas, and previously-planted spots!  I dug up 100 rocks the size of golf balls or larger...

By the time I planted the Monal half (50 holes), I was exhausted and developing muscle cramps from the awkward positions of digging, planting, covering, bending over, etc and avoiding plants and other flags.  It took 3 hours! 

And tomorrow, I need to do it all over again to plant the Fragrant Rose daffodils. The future flowering display better be worth it!  I would show more pictures, but there is little to see in a dug-up planted, and covered hole.  LOL!  I'll show the results next Spring...

But I'm staying busy...  After THIS is done, I have 100' of flowerbed border that I want to plant with blue fescue grass 1' apart I have been raising in flats, with yellow and purple crocuses in between.  The fun never ends...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Front Landscaping Boxes

Well, it's the time of year for transplanting and planting Spring bulbs.  I have had a right front landscaping box for many years (north side of the house).  2 years ago, I added a left box.  The right side was overgrown and I cleared it almost entirely to plant hostas.  The left side got Caladiums the first year, and then I added transplanted Snow-On-The-Mountain (SOTM) there this Spring from the right box.


The results were uneven.  The Caladiums required too much maintenance (60+ soil temperature, digging up and saving for the Winter, so I gave them up).  The hostas on the right were too crowded and the SOTM were too sparse.  The SOTM on the right came from my parents' place in NH and they survive but never look happy.  They brown and curl in Summer and look horrible.  I've managed to coddle them along for 20 years and they haven't looked good in any year.  So I will just pull them next year and be done with them.  I like the way they look in Spring, but it is just asking too much of them to thrive here in MD.  The hostas only foliage in Summer and Fall.


Thin the right box hostas to stand as individual plants, move extras to the left box, and add Spring color to both boxes.  For Spring bloom, add Early and Late flowering daffodils (I have completely given up on tulips and hyacinths - they just don't last more than a few years).


I examined dozens of varieties.  Most are mid-Spring bloomers.  I found 1 Early Spring and 1 Late Spring that I liked.  I wanted them to be of very different colors, so that the Spring bloom would appear to change from the street viewpoint.  More about them next time.  Today I want to show some of the hosta transplanting.


Here is the Summer view of the right box...
It is just TOO crowded.  And here is the dying (for the year) view...
So I was a good time to transplant..  There were rows (from the back) of 4, 5, 6, and 7.  I reduced each by 1 plant and moved a few others so they were evenly spaced at 3, 4, 5, and 7 (didn't change the smalls row in the front.  I don't want to complicate things, but 2 of the rows had alternating different varieties, so I will actually be adding a few new ones back next year.

This is what the left box looked like...
 The light green is SOTM, the medium green is moss, and the dark green are weeds.  Thoroughly unsatisfactory!  So I planted flags where I wanted the displaced hostas to go (as individual specimens).  I will say that the SOTM did spread well from 12 lonely sprigs to several dozens this year.  I am hoping they will survive under the hostas next year.  Covered in mid summer while they are browning from the heat, but showy in Spring and Fall).  The flags are where I moved some hostas to.
Again, I am short a few of specific varieties, but I will get those in Spring.  They don't look good now because they are going dormant and I clipped some dead leaves to make the digging-up easier, but next Spring they will wake up and hardly know they were moved.  Hostas are good tough plants!
Here is the thinned right bed...BTW, the green bush on the left is a mature Nandina (the only original shrub of the box remaining in place, nice and neat at 5' high an 2' wide with lovely red berries.  The one on the right is a rooted cutting from that and it should catch up in 2 years.  There is a small azalea in the back center.  I think I may replace it; it isn't recovering from being severely pruned and transplanted last year...
Now that the hostas are rearranged, I will be planting the daffodils tomorrow.  I am tired from digging and weeding today.  Tomorrow while be a lot harder...

Veterans Day

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blog Blast For Peace 2010

I had a bad dream the other night.  It went like this...


I'm Watching All Of You and I Am Not Thrilled...

There is too much senseless fighting going on.  Please stop that now...  I don't want to have to say it loud by throwing lightning and stuff around.  Or asteroids.  The dinosaurs got me ticked off and look where they are now.  It shouldn't be necessary for me to repeat myself.  I'm not ready to do that again just yet, but keep in mind that I always have a few in orbit aimed at you that I deflect when I'm feeling happy.

And I'm not feeling my happiest lately...

I'm not upset that you have different religions; I can deal with that.  To Me, that's just different songs on the same theme.  Go enjoy the different songs.   Hey, I don't even mind the non-believers; their songs are good too.  A few humanists aren't going to upset MY applecart.

What bothers ME is the way you have been murdering each other in more and more efficient and cruel ways lately.  That is NOT what I intended.  In fact, it makes me very sad.  And when I'm sad, I tend to flick asteroids at the planet.  I DON'T like people who murder others.

I'd hate to have to start again.  The primates were the best new possibilities, and look at you all!  Shame!  I might have to give herbivores another try.  Rabbits maybe.  Or Squirrels.  I do have a fondness for things that jump in trees.  Like you primates once did.

I think the mistake was to let you go from flint tools to nuclear weapons.  I was busy elsewhere and I should have eliminated radioactive stuff from the planet.  I don't know, you would have found it elsewhere anyway, so maybe it is best now.  Still, you are doing all the wrong things with it.  It's an ENERGY source people!

It is supposed to get you from oil to solar, and you went and made a WEAPON of it.  Even I didn't think you would do THAT.  I mean really, who is THAT stupid?  Well, you are...

So, here's what I suggest. 

1.  Stop the religious warfare.  You are all the same to me, so just get along more peacefully.  You are all talking to the same Being and I really don't care about the details.  Just get along.  And stop hassling the atheists.  THEY are MY children too. 

2.  Disassemble all the nuclear weapons.  Your only going to hurt yourselves eventually, and I wont promise to stop you.  I have no objection to personal or collective suicide.  You have more free will than you think.  I've bailed you people out a couple of times and sometimes my attention is elsewhere.

3.  Fix up your food supply.  You are all getting careless about it and nothing is more important than safe food.

4.  Except water.  The oceans are vast, but not infinite.  I arranged it so the oceans were undrinkable for a reason.  There is plenty of fresh water if you stop polluting it. 

5.  And stop getting down on Darwin.  Who do you think arranged for Natural Selection in the first place?  ME.  And yes, the Earth is billions of years old.  I know; I caused it.  I caused Natural Selection the same way I caused gravity.  Darwin (and Wallace) among you all merely noticed it first.  If they hadn't, someone else would have.  I love it when you people figure out some of my original rules...

6.  I think you know the rest of the rules for peaceful living.  Enough of you have done a good job elucidating them through the centuries.  I didn't even have to help them.  Don't steal, don't murder, don't covet, etc.  That's why I like you creatures; you're the first ones on Earth who figured those things out.  I have other favorites on other planets who have done the same or are about to, but don't get jealous.  MY love is infinite.  Few of them look anything like you do, but don't worry, you are all lovable in MY eyes.  And they worry about that too. 

But I've flicked another asteroid in your direction, just in case you fail.  You won't see it coming in time; I'LL make sure of that.  But I'LL send it into the Sun if you improve.  I'M not into local floods and fires any more.  There are too many of you for that.  Asteroids are the way to go for now.  And if you solve that problem, I have gamma ray bursts on the way...

So get together and STOP FIGHTING!


That was one scary dream.  But maybe we should try to help each other out and stop fighting.  Hmmm?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Day!

Forgive a mixture of humor and seriousness...

Tomorrow is Election Day!  Vote!  If there is not someone you are thrilled with, there is surely someone you would regret to see in office.  So go vote for someone other than that person!  It is worth standing in line for an hour to do it once every couple of years.  You stood in line longer than that for the new tech gadget or concert ticket.

It matters that you go out and vote because some important elections come down to very small differences in votes.  A few hundred votes in FL and Al Gore would have been president. Our recent history would have been very different had that decision come out differently!  But it matters in smaller elections too.

Senate and House elections matter.  So do Governor elections where they are being held.  But so do School Board elections.  They determine what our children will be taught!  Read about those in the local newspaper or League of Women Voters.

I will admit that I am an unabashed Progressive Republican.  That means I an socially progressive and fiscally moderate.  There aren't many around like me anymore.  WE were driven out of the Republican party by the Goldwater people in 1964, and it has only gotten worse over the decades.  And, sadly, it means I have to vote Democrat most of the time.  Because what is good for ALL PEOPLE is more important to me than what is good for ME personally.

I'll pay more tax to improve schools.  I'll pay more tax to make prisons a place to get a second chance rather than a small room for life.  I support Workfare.  If someone gets a free check from me, then they can damn well earn it doing whatever they CAN do.  We have enough litterred streets and schools needing monitors and elder parents needing assistance, to employ every person getting a welfare check.  And if they have young children, let's set up day-care centers for them (and employ qualified day-care people).  Lets put people to work for what they get from US.  It seems fair to me.

So, if you want the US to get better?  VOTE!

VOTE for the Democrat of your choice, but VOTE!  ;)

OJ The Cat

I want to bring a shelter cat (OJ) into the house. 

Please email and tell her I am the right Bein to give OJ the Forever home he has been dreaming of...

The Big Thing