Author Archive

MY garden!

Posted June 25, 2017 By Ruth

I have Tree Swallows nesting in the nest box closest to the garden.  I had to move that box a bit further from the garden a few years ago, when the nesting pair got fussy about me being in the garden while there were chicks in the nest, but haven’t had any issues since.  Well, not seriously, they get fussy about me working the row closest to the nest when there are chicks in the nest, but that’s manageable……

Till this year.

As I was planting those pepper plants last week (Wednesday) the Swallows started fussing when I walked the row closest to them.  I figured the babies were hatching, tis the season.

Friday I had a few minutes and headed out to do a little weeding…..and got driven out of my garden by dive bombing Swallows before I’d gotten the furthest row done!

Dammit, its MY garden!  I was here first!

I like Tree Swallows, they eat mosquitos, and deer flies, and the like.  But they don’t get to claim my garden either.  Once this set of babies leaves the nest I’m going to have to move the box again……..

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Garden Update

Posted June 21, 2017 By Ruth

Despite Husband’s and my best efforts the weeds are trying to take over the garden.  I shouldn’t be surprised I guess, considering I was trying to do everything with a bad arm (which is mostly back to normal at this point, thankfully).

Remember this baby tomato seedling?

I planted it a month ago today.

Here it is today:

ALready in need of a 2nd cage.  So much for not overwhelming myself with tomatoes this year.

Also, Bill Bean Tomatoes:

and Black Gypsy Tomatoes:

The corn bed, which has turned into potatoes and corn:

a volunteer Melon Pear plant!

There was a BUNCH of them in the two tires that I had the Melon Pears in last year.  I might not have been able to tell the fruit was ripe, but clearly that didn’t matter!

This year’s Melon Pear plants:


Black Pearl Peppers:

This year’s incredibly wet spring resulted in over 90% of my sunflower seeds not even sprouting, and more than half of what did sprout just dying.  I’m going to have exactly TWO sunflower plants this year.  Dammit.  I debated just covering the now empty tires with black plastic for the season, but decided this was my chance to try a BUNCH of different hot peppers.  Baby plants arrived today.  Hopefully the season will last long enough to get a decent crop!

I also had to restart a bunch of melon plants, for what is likely the same cause.  Though SOMETHING (insect not mammel) was munching the hell out of them too.  Not happy, though at least there everything is short season enough it should work out.

BTW, I didn’t even get those tomato seeds started till AFTER I broke my arm.  So beginning of April.  And they were still that big when I planted them mid-May.  I started 3 of the Black Plums for a friend and he couldn’t get over how big the seedlings were in comparison to the store bought ones he usually buys.  I have no clue what I do thats so different, but clearly it works……

I also got the deer fly traps setup and out today, a bit later than planned, but hopefully early enough to keep them from being a pain this summer!

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Posted May 28, 2017 By Ruth

You may remember that last year I planted a bunch of hostas in an odd corner of the yard.  And that the reason for it was that nothing else was thriving there, except for the weeds.

Not only did they come back up this year, they’re almost all quite large and thriving!

Not quite sure whats munching on that one, one other one is being munched on too.


Top right corner there is one of the ones that didn’t come up big, but since we had to kill a bull thistle that decided to sprout right next to it last fall I’m just thrilled it came up at all.


Is that not the cutest little hosta plant ever?  Its called Blue Mouse Ears and I want about 10 more to scatter around that area.  Unfortunately that was the one expensive pot of the bunch, so I’ll have to settle for 2 or 3 most likely, assuming I can find them local again.

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Posted May 25, 2017 By Ruth

There were no babies from the pink Bluebird eggs.  The House Sparrow struck barely a day before they’d hatch.  There is another male Bluebird (not the same one I think) scouting the nest box yesterday, so maybe we’ll still get lucky this year.  I’m not holding my breath though.  My local House Sparrows aren’t deterred by the normal methods used to keep them away from the Bluebirds.

I’ve decided its time to do some religious trapping of the sparrows.  Before someone freaks out, House Sparrows aren’t a native USA bird, they are infact an English native (and if it was legal I’d happily box them all up and ship them back), and they’re highly destructive to natives, as I’ve had to learn the hard way.  Trapping and killing (or even shooting and killing) is legal as long as local laws on the subject are followed and the killing is done in a humane fashion.  I’ve done casual trapping before, as well as had some luck with the pellet gun, but they were one bird at a time methods.  This time I’ve ordered a repeating sparrow trap, which is capable of holding a large number of birds.  We didn’t need to spend the money, the trap isn’t cheap, but my husband isn’t arguing with me, he’s as frustrated with the House Sparrows as I am.  I’d happily leave them alone if they’d leave my local natives alone, but they aren’t.

In more amusing news, this is the location of one local Robins nest this year:

That is the top of our solar panel meter and shut off.  In an emergency that nest will likely be destroyed as the firemen shut down our solar panels.  In addition the nest is between our garage door and the front house door.  And my dogs are absolutely willing to munch on baby bird if given a chance.  As a result we’ve tried hard to keep the Robins from nesting there.  The first summer I hung shiny spinny ribbons above it (you can see the remains in the picture).  The 2nd summer the Robins wove the ribbons into their nest (I didn’t get a picture, I should have).  The 3rd summer we stacked odd shaped irregular items on top of it.  They nested on top of the irregular shapes.  Then I hit on the bird spikes, you can get a 10ft pack from Amazon for not to much.  They worked for two years, it was awesome.  Then, in the mess that has been this spring, I left for work one morning and spotted the above image, and of course had to snap a picture.  The nest is built up enough none of the spikes poke through.  It was probably there for a day or two at least before I spotted it, it generally takes them a day or two to build it.  I feel like it needs one of those motivational captions about overcoming your environment.  I guess I need to come up with a new solution for next year……

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Posted May 23, 2017 By Ruth

Everything’s planted, caged, got its water hose set, and mulched with straw!

Volunteer rattail radishes.  I knew I didn’t get them all picked last year, I didn’t realize how many I didn’t get picked.  Nice to know they’ll reseed in my climate though.

Volunteer potatoes.  I guess there were more surviving potatoes than I realized!

Black Pearl peppers, seeds given to me by a friend of mine.

Black Plum tomato.  Still my favorite tomato.  Mostly because of the flavor, but also for the reason shown in the picture above.  Thats a two-foot tall seedling, standing happily on its own.  They barely need caging till they’re closer to 4ft tall.

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Read the damn manual

Posted May 16, 2017 By Ruth

When you buy a new piece of equipment, read the damn manual.  I don’t care if you’ve run virtually identical pieces of equipment for your entire life.  Read the damn manual.

And if you DON’T read the manual, and the piece of equipment won’t work, read the damn manual THEN.

And if you STILL haven’t read the damn manual, don’t call the store screaming about how we sold you defective merchandise, because I WILL wait you out and then walk you through the steps to start your new lawnmower properly and be delighted when you clearly feel stupid.

The fact that I sound about 14 over the phone helps with this, but still, you could avoid the whole thing by just reading your damn manual.

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Posted May 15, 2017 By Ruth


Those are my seedlings, tomato, pepper, melon, etc, waiting for the weather to warm up enough for them to be planted, picture taken last night.  Average last frost is today.  If the weather predictions hold I might be able to start planting out tomorrow.  Tonight we’re supposed to drop to the low 40’s, but after that….the lowest they’re predicting is 50 for the next 10 days.  The tires keep the dirt warm enough that I can plant as soon as air temps allow me to.    The lights in the picture are C9 non-LED christmas lights, they produce enough heat to keep the little greenhouses nice and warm.

Course, planting is going to be an exercise in frustration too.  I still don’t have full use of my right arm yet, its better, but not 100%.

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Instant Pot Ketchup update

Posted May 3, 2017 By Ruth

Husband reports that he REALLY likes the flavor of this batch.

Also, after some discussion with some other IP owners it was suggested that maybe the IP needs to be set to “saute” to force the mixture to reduce better.  Its worth a try.  Will report when I try it again!

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Pink Bluebird eggs

Posted April 27, 2017 By Ruth

I was so relieved when the Bluebird pair survived our 3ft snowstorm.  And I was delighted when they started building a nest in one of the boxes.

Then the Tree Swallows arrived, and they tried to claim that nest box, but the Bluebirds persisted, and claimed it as theirs.  For over a week I saw only the Bluebirds around that box.

Then I checked it and found this:

Dammit, when did the Tree Swallows sneak into the nest!

And Monday:

I was beyond disappointed.  Tree Swallows are cool, but I want Bluebirds!

But then Wednesday, when I stepped out of the back door to open up my little greenhouse for the day, a Bluebird flew out of the box!  I checked, and sure enough, still 5 little pink eggs!  Is the Bluebird sitting on the Tree Swallow eggs?!  WTF!?!

Beyond baffled I emailed the story and pictures to a couple folks who know way more about Tree Swallows and Bluebirds than I do.  The response: Its still WAY too early for Tree Swallows to be laying eggs at my latitude, and despite the color those eggs are shaped like Bluebird eggs!  I was vaguely aware that sometimes Bluebirds will lay eggs so pale as to look white, but not that they can be so pale as to look pink!  But it is a known phenomenon!

I’ll be looking to add powdered calcium to the live mealworms I feed, and I’ve contacted the local Bluebird society to see if there’s anyone who’s interested in banding the female for study.

The things you learn!

New lawn mower and stuff

Posted April 25, 2017 By Ruth

Our old lawn tractor has issues.  It was second hand when we got it, though the previous owners clearly kept up maintenance.  And we did too.  But the issue became my Husband’s driving.  I know, sounds like a joke right?  But the man insists on mowing as close as possible to immovable objects.  Why I don’t know, we have a weed whacker for a reason, and a good quality 4-cycle one at that, but he does.  And since he also insists on doing so at full speed the end result was a mower deck that was in seriously bad shape.  He’s been banging it back “into shape” at least twice a summer for a couple years now.   And the wear and tear is showing.

We’ve been wanting a zero turn mower for a while now.  With two acres to mow the old lawn tractor was slow as heck, and mowing the entire yard was a 4-5hr job.  We usually did it in pieces, but it still ate up a huge chunk of the day.  But we also figured we’d be saving our pennies for a while before that happened.

Last summer my work got in a new Ariens IKON zero turn.  Sweet peice, msrp $3700.  Never happening, no matter how much we drooled.  But there was an issue, the Ariens came in missing the bolts needed to attach the tow hitch.  Supposedly the bolts were ordered from Ariens, and the mower sat, and sat, and sat……

Apparently the woman who was the dept head last summer never ordered the parts.  She also apparently never ordered the parts for a couple other things we’d been holding onto (like, the keys to the two Toro zero turn mowers).  The guy who replaced her came in just late enough in the year last year that he never even had to look at the mowers, and never even realized we had a high dollar value mower sitting there for essentially no reason (actually, three, but this is about the one).  Back in mid February management finally got a clue, and the new dept head was swapped for the guy who was running the paint dept (this was right in the middle of me being sick as a dog and so I never posted about it).  This was a good thing, the new new dept head worked in the garden dept for over 10yrs before he was promoted and took over paint (paint being the easiest to manage dept in the store).  They should have just done that in the first place….anyway!

Our new dept head was more than a bit horrified and frustrated by the undone work sitting in the dept.  And has been playing catchup since (poor guy).  Last week he finally got to the Ariens and looked it over, realized the only things missing were the nuts and bolts to hold the tow hitch on, walked down to the hardware dept, marked down the appropriate bits and pieces, and attached the hitch.  Then he went to put it on the sales floor, at which point he discovered that Ariens had made model changes between last year and this year.  The $3700 mower, that had sat around for a year because no one in charge could be bothered to figure out how to handle it, was now clearanced.  30% off.  (yes, the ASM over garden should have helped keeping the mess from being so bad, however right at the same time they changed our dept head at the end of last summer they changed also our ASM, and the new lady is much less organized….can anyone else see the pending problem or is it just me??  Apparently management can’t!)

I (im)patiently waited the 24hrs that corporate requires employees to wait before buying marked down products, and then dug out the credit card and had our new Ariens IKON zero turn delivered to the house.  No, we didn’t need to spend the money, not even a little bit, but the chance to get that kind of deal was totally worth it.

After having sat unused for so long it needed a good lubing in various spots, had to detach and reattach the spark plugs and what not, but the battery was still holding a charge, and it started right up after that little bit of maintenance.

Husband and I had a discussion about his tendency to run into immovable objects, along with a very pointed reminder about the fact that we bought a weed whacker for a reason.  And he had fun mowing the lawn Sunday.  He didn’t get the whole thing done, it’s still too wet and mucky in areas, but it took him barely an hour to do over half the yard.  Totally awesome.

Our other new piece of equipment is a woodchipper.  I forgot to get a picture, but its last years model from Cub Cadet, rated to handle branches up to 3″ in diameter.

Why a wood chipper?  Well, remember back in march when I posted about this tree that came down?  Our original intention was to rent a wood chipper, turn as much of it into mulch as possible, and maybe have a bonfire or something with the rest of it, since pine isn’t considered quality firewood (and this stuff has some serious sap too).

Then I started pricing rentals.  $180+gas+tax for a day’s rental on a woodchipper that’d handle branches up to 6″ in diameter.  And no guarantee that we’d finish the tree in a day.  Not to mention that we have a growing brush pile that we keep meaning to chip up and get rid of.  Not to mention that the big pine in the front yard is definitely dead and will need to come down and be dealt with before it comes down on the wires to the house.

So I started pricing buying chippers.  The one we bought was $700.  Or equivalent to 3.5 days rental, though it won’t handle quite as large branches.

It also arrived this week, and we ran some branches through it Sunday as well, nice fine chips for the most part.  We can now work on the tree in pieces (my FIL already helped us do the initial breakdown of the tree).

We also just pretty much blew our household budget for the summer.  But I think its worth it!