Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gardening by the Light of the Moon

Spring continues to be capricious here in Northern Colorado. This morning the sun floods the Garden Spot with its warm glow, making the dew on the lawn sparkle. We hope the wind will stay away, for we have had wind since Sunday. Not gentle breezes, but a fierce wind full of furry gusting upwards of 40-50 miles an hour, or however they calculate wind speed. I don't much care for wind.

In the garden, buds are forming on lilacs, cherry trees, peach trees, and the apple trees. The crab apples will soon burst forth in color. We are playing the waiting game, waiting for warmer days and lots of unadulterated sunshine. At the same time, weeds are taking over. Frost, wind, hail, snow do not seem to daunt them at all.

We hold off planting the garden until after Mother's Day when threats of frost have passed.

My in-laws, farmers for generations back, had a more methodical approach to spring planting. They weren't just good farmers, they were successful farmers because they knew the land, the climate, and the crops they grew. My dad gardened and irrigated his pasture, but he was not a farmer, so when I met my new family I learned quickly that farming for them was both science and folklore.

Essentially they gardened by the light of the moon. Not at night, though all summer long they were up at midnight to change the irrigation water on corn, sugar beets, and pinto beans.

     I don't suppose I had heard of the Farmer's Almanac until I met my future mother in law and her mother.  I suppose I even thought their practice of consulting that little paper backed book was rather silly. They did everything by the moon: cut their hair, planned surgeries, weaned their jersey dairy calves, and planted both their garden and cash crops.

As hubby's parents were planning their spring planting schedule, they would consult the Farmers Almanac. They lived by it religiously. Page 85 of this year's almanac explains how and why to use the the moon's phases as a planting guide: the moon's magnetic pull influences everything that contains water--the ocean tides, plants, animals, and even humans. In addition, plants respond to light and grow better with more exposure to light, even moon light. Simply put, above-ground plants should be planted in the light of the moon or during the new moon because plants are "vulnerable in the first few days after germination." Giving them extra light when they are the most tender seems, as the article says, wise. So our tomatoes can be transplanted between May 20 and June 10. Sounds reasonable and about the time we generally plant tomatoes anyway.

The article continues: plant underground plants as the moon is waning, but not during the last quarter. The article continues in more detail about the phases of the moon and the reasoning behind this gardening plan. The almanac also gives guidelines for planting by the Zodiac. Page 86 has the chart for "Gardening and Other Activities by the Zodiac. For example: planting and transplanting above ground plants, planting and transplanting crops and perennials, making seed beds, hunting, weaning children and animals, dental work, quit habits, beginning diet. Each month is charted with the dates of the month best suited for each activity. So we should plant our seedlings that are thriving in the living room May 3-5, 17-18, 22-23, or 26, 27, 31. I must also check the chart that gives the last date of frost in my region: page 164: Colorado: Denver: May 2 and Oct. 14. So we can plant this week-end, which we probably won't do because we have a pond project to finish.
 The moon and Venus: My feeble attempt at photographing the eclipse at 2 AM.

My in-laws- swore by the light of the moon farming. Violet (my mother in law) checked her almanac religiously to schedule her hair cuts and perms because depending on the phase of the moon, hair grows back faster or slower when cut, and she wanted her hair cut and perm to last longer. When friends had surgeries planned, they would consult her on the best date to do the procedure because during one certain phase of the moon there would be less pain and the body would heal faster.

 This article does have a disclaimer for medical procedures, warning the reader that "Modern technology overrides these theories when it to comes to your health and well-being." Be sure to consult your physician when scheduling important surgical procedures. (I seriously doubt that grandma's copy had such a disclaimer).

She weaned her baby jersey calves by the moon's phases, too. At 18 months old, Heather was still on her bottle when grandma decided to wean the one jersey bull calf she was bottle feeding. I was encouraged to wean Heather from her bottle, too. The reasoning: weaning would be less traumatic if done by the light of the moon. The babies wouldn't miss their bottle and weaning would proceed smoothly. Well, grandma must have gotten her phases wrong because the little bull bawled and baby Heather cried all night. Little Heather got her bottle back because daddy couldn't bear to her cry.

 The Almanac for Farmers and City Folk is full of useful, fun, interesting articles, brain teasers, poetry, and recipes. Do we garden by the moonor the Zodiac here at the Garden Spot. No.

Using a little book as guide for gardening seems a bit archaic in this age of technology when most everyone sports a tablet and/or a smart phone. So I went to the App store on the iPad to see what gardening apps are available. Literally there a hundreds. Here are some interesting App titles:

  • Plants vs. Zombies: $.99
  • Gardening: The Ultimate Guide: free
  • Moon Gardening: $1.99
  • Vegetable Planting Garden: free
  • Amateur Gardening Magazine: free
  • Landscaper's Companion for iPad: $7.99
You will find a plethora of garden apps, some free (my preference) and most reasonably priced. 
Unfortunately  it seems to me that the only way to review an app would be to download it to try it out, which I have not yet done. I do not take my iPad shopping or to the garden with me. And while I do have an iPhone, I am very clumsy at using the key pad to do much more that to text one or two syllable responses to my daughters. Some beginning gardeners may find Gardening by App helpful, but this old girl much prefers her standard garden books, the catalogues that come in the mail, talking to the nurserymen (women) and other gardeners. After years of grading in zone 5, I pretty much know what will fail and what will thrive. I also have my horticulturist daughter who is a phone call away. I paid for her education, so I lay claim to her brain. I also pay attention to the ratings of the apps, but some have not been rated and some only have a couple of reviews. 

So how does your garden grow? By what rules to you plant? I suppose I am a "fly by the seat of my pants" gardener, too. And I find it simple enough to google any gardening question I have these days. That's about all the technology I can handle.

And now for the fun stuff: 

I arranged little vases of spring flowers on the Easter dinner table. I love this little daffodil that is a very pale, buttery yellow.

A Fairy Fun Tea at Jen's house. 
The girls each invited two friends from school for a fairy tea party. 

She decorated.

She offered a healthy fare of good vegetables and fresh fruits.

She had pretty flowers.

She made tulle tutus for each little girl and each had a set of fairy wings

I brought flowers from the Garden Spot. 

Each little fairy guest received a fairy in a jar.

My favorite photo: little fairies running through the pasture.

And now it is time for a bit of breakfast, house cleaning, laundry, and whatever else needs to be done. 

Whether you garden by science, folklore, family tradition, or by the light of the moon, I hope you have a wonderful time doing it today.

Thanks for taking the time to visit. I always enjoy your  comments.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Room With A View

We had a lovely Easter. A small celebration with Jen and her family. The day began with a celebration of Christ's Resurrection at the Sunrise Service, a long family tradition. My mother's favorite place to celebrate Easter was at Red Rocks, a natural amphitheater west of Denver. I cooked a prime rib roast for dinner, the girls hunted Easter eggs, and we just had a nice day.

We have had a project going on that I have held off writing about until there was something really worth sharing.

One of features of the Garden Spot that we love so much is the openness of the space. The house sits toward the front of the 5 acres facing west. Previous owners made certain improvements. The first owner added the patio on the back of the house that faces a large  back yard that was once fenced with a pole fence. Owner 4 removed the fence. The original patio was somewhat functional, but had some major problems. Built on a table of dirt and sand, it was made of interlocking paving stones. Each year more and more ants dug their tunnels beneath the pavers, causing them to shift and sink. Weeds growing between the pavers became more of a problem, requiring Round-Up to get rid of them--a constant battle to keep the weeds controlled. Nor was there any shade. So early this spring, we made the decision to turn the patio into a usable space. The Head Gardener found a web site of a local company that builds patios. The estimate was reasonable so the work began.

Last year we cut down the large Russian Olive that provided shade, but it was a dirty, ugly tree.

Hot all through the day, the patio without shade just was not a pleasant place.

Dandelions in the lawn are one thing, but on the patio. Nope. No more.

And so the work began. First the removal of the pavers.

A very young man owns the company that builds patios, gazebos, and pergolas. These 3 young men worked very hard and were are very good at what they do.

After the pavers were removed, next the dirt had be hauled off. Using a hand operated bobcat with a loader, load after load of dirt was hauled off. Some was piled out in our corral, but most was hauled over the the neighbors.

The Russian Olive stump was ugly, which began to grow new shoots, refusing to give up. The stump also had roots that ran for many feet underneath the original patio with roots as big as 6 inches in diameter. We had a tree company come with a stump grinder to remove the ugly stump and its roots.

A note on the Russian Olive. They were planted in abundance during the Great Depression in the '30s as a part of Roosevelt's WPA to get men back to work. Today in Colorado they have been declared a nuisance plant, a weed. Many were planted along ditch banks; now they are known to be water hogs, sucking   water that could be used more efficiently watering agricultural crops. I had a college student whose summer job was working for the state to remove these trees. 

They do have some redeeming qualities that made me think twice about removing ours: the blooms smell so good in the spring and the tree was a hum with bees gathering pollen from the blossoms. The birds loved the tree. Each spring it would be full of little warblers eating bugs. But in the end after all of the consideration, the tree had to go.

The dirt has been removed, the hole dug for the support beams, and the cement poured to support the beams.

Now the wood floor joists are added.

For the floor we chose Trex Decking, a composite decking that should hold up better than treated wood.

And here it is. I spend the day with little Lily yesterday, missing out on watching the pergola go up built with treated wood.

What a surprise. The first thing I noticed was that the living room was not as bright. I really do not know how I feel about that yet.

There is still a lot of work to do yet. The skirting around the deck has to be added and the wrought iron railing for the steps will be added once we can find suitable railing. We will look at salvage yards for railing. I get to shop for new patio furniture, too. We will keep our table and chairs, but I want to add an area rattan rug and two chairs and a coffee table. I love serving Sunday breakfast on the patio. And, of course, there will be hanging flower baskets and pots of plants. The garden beds around the edge need to rebuilt and as you can see there is more brick work to be done to rebuild the garden beds.

We are having a family reunion in June and we wanted a usable space for the picnic. Can't wait.

Other Projects

The Head Gardener ordered four baby chicks. They are blue laced red wyandottes. Click on the link to see what the adults look like. They really are pretty hens that will lay brown eggs.  Right now they live in the Rubber Maid tub brooder underneath a nice warm heat lamp. They cheep and peep in sweet little baby voices.

Of course I had to play a bit with them.

My Happy Easter Face Book card.

Isn't she cute? 

The days are warmer. We hit 80 yesterday. The garden plants in the living room are growing. The squash may have blooms any day now. LOL. The tomatoes are ready to be transplanted into larger pots.

Out in the garden the asparagus planted last year is breaking through the ground. I have been so anxious waiting to see if it survived the winter. The two original asparagus plants now in their 3rd year were sending up such healthy, beautiful shoots, but they froze. More new shoots are coming, but I was sadly disappointed at the loss of such healthy asparagus. We are still about three weeks out before we begin planting the garden; in the meantime, we have plenty of work to do get the patio gardens back in shape.

I hope I haven't worn you out with so many pictures of the patio. I can hardly contain myself. Tonight grilled chicken. 

I hope you are having a lovely week. I hope all of your spring dreams are coming true. By looks of your lovely spring gardens, they are bringing you great joy, for I know that I am enjoying your beautiful garden photos. 

Thanks for stopping by. And I think I said it before, but once again thank you so much for your sweet, supportive comments on dear, sweet Country. We do miss him.

Have a great week. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy Easter

A really quick iPad post this morning to wish everyone Happy Easter. 

We have a busy week end. We will join the granddaughters for Sunrise service, then come home and have Easter dinner and the egg hunt. Today I tutor at the University and shop for groceries. The Sun is shinning this morning and it is supposed to be warm all week end. 

I am really enjoying everyone's spring photos and gardens. There is so much good and joy to celebrate in your gardens. I start my day early by reading your posts, taking joy in your kind thoughts and good words as you write about your own joy in your garden, a very good way to start a day, don't you think?

And thank you for all of you very kind condolences for Country. He was a sweet boy.

Happy Easter.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


He a came to live with us in May 1996 as a graduation gift to Jen from the boyfriend whom no one really liked-- to say it kindly. The charcoal grey baby was thin and smelled awful because he had diarrhea; he was a pathetic little creature. Jen named him Country because she was into country western music at the time. He had aliases, too, depending on what he done. We called him Stinky early on until his health improved and Killer because he left dead sparrows and mice at the front door. He won our hearts as he grew older with his affectionate and loving nature. For a short time, he moved away when Jen took a job at IBM in Boulder. He was good apartment cat, but that job didn't last for Jen, so the pair moved back home. When Jen moved out again, Country stayed with us. Our home was his home now. Jasmine joined the family that same summer and couple of years later Max the dog arrived. The two cats and dog lived in peaceful co existence  more less tolerating each other for nearly two decades. Mo, the feral cat, joined us about 8 years ago.

We moved to the Garden Spot with the now aging pets and young Mo five years ago. We kept them in the house for several weeks before we would let them roam free outside. Country loved it here. He spent his days, even in his advanced age, at the neighbors hunting voles, bringing them home and leaving them at the front door.

He fell ill several days ago, making a loud noise as he breathed. The vet gave him an antibiotic, cautioning us that instead of a sinus infection, he could have a sinus tumor. If it were merely an infection, we would see signs of improvement. Didn't happen. His breathing was still noisy. He stopped eating, only drinking water. On Thursday it was apparent that he was not responding to the medication, only getting weaker. The appointment was made, and yesterday Country left us. He was 18 years old.

His passing was the end an era. The pets we had as the girls grew up are now all gone in the space of about 18 months, along with their grandmother who passed way a year ago: two cats, the cockatiel, and Max the dog. The house is quieter now. Lonely. We still have Mo, the ungrateful recluse who comes in only to sleep in the garage and eat. He bullied Jasmine and Country, but loved Max. Now he has to figure out how to deal with Boone who really does not understand cats.

I have been asked if I would get another cat. No. I guess not. Nor will I get another bird. I have had cats and birds since I was little girl. Somehow I always managed to keep the cats from eating the parakeets. I dare not go into a pet store where I might see a cute little budgie and or a lovely cat that needs a home. Mo is enough, cool and distant cat that he is. Boone keeps things lively enough. We will miss our sweet Country.

And Spring. . . Really? 

I suppose you are enjoying yourself, dear Lady. Of course this bad temperament of yours is typical. You bate us in with some 70 degree weather, sunny days, you let the daffodils just get a good start, then you rip the rug right out from under our feet. Shame on you.

I planted these yellow and peachy tulips two years ago. Last year you froze them to ground before they could bloom. Is this a repeat of last year's cruelty?

The Gnomes are always happy. I guess they are just thankful that they found a nice place to live. 

Newly planted last fall, these daffodils had a very sad awakening this season. 

The red bud is just beginning to  blossom. I hope it is hardy.

Ever cheerful, the robin pokes around the the mulch for bugs and grubs. Glad to see someone enjoys Spring's sick sense of humor.

Yeah, Spring. Proud of yourself? You killed off the hyacinths  last year, and the remaining one will probably freeze.

The Head Gardener kindly covered the tender perennials in the back garden. My first successful bleeding heart looks so strong and healthy and other plants are just waking up. 

This really is not the post I had planned for today, but I needed to write a little tribute to Country and vent on Spring's poor sense of humor.

Hope you have a great week. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

You Know It Must Be Spring When:

You know it must be Spring when the birds begin migrating. The Canada geese head north, honking all the way. Did you know that they honk--talk--to the leader at the head of the V to keep him encouraged? And that he only leads for so long; that he will fall back to the end and let the next goose lead? So the geese leave and the grackles move in. Those noisy, greedy, pushy bullies at  the bird feeders that run off all of the other birds. The only things good about them: their beautiful iridescent blue/green heads and they leave early after they have raised their last clutch. I don't have a photograph because I didn't want to waste mega pixels.

So while everyone is parading their gorgeous spring flowers, I have my own heralds of the season.

It has been a very busy week, thus my usual Sunday post is late.

The cherry trees had lived in the garage long enough. They were starting to bud out, so on a nicer day, we planted them.

With our clay based soil, we need to do a lot amending, so the Head Gardener adds Eco Complete and compost as recommend by the the family arborist, Heather. Then as recommended by the nurseryman he adds a root stimulator. The brand name that we have used before is Mike or Myke, but we chose the organic this time. It gives the root system a big boost.

The inspectors show up to make sure that the work is up to code, looking for any worms, grubs or bugs that might damage the little trees.

Snow is really picky. She doesn't mind having her picture taken now that her feathers have fully grown out. Last year she was so severely picked on, literally that she was a bloody mess and has had to live alone. Her nemeses died this week, so perhaps she can join the flock again. We never understood why they hated her so much. She is the sweetest one of the flock. The trees are in. It has been rather cool, so while they have a few buds, they are still quiet. Can't wait to see their beautiful pink flowers. Hopefully we will not have a repeat of last spring when everything froze in April. They are semi dwarf and will bear a semi sweet cherry, a cross between a bing and sour pie cherry. The other challenge will be to keep the birds from eating the cherries.

Another major accomplishment was to get the front pasture seeded. It is pretty weedy and has a couple of varieties of grasses. So Ralph and his big John Deere seeded it with a prairie grass mixture. It hasn't started to germinate yet. It needs warm days and Spring just isn't cooperating. 

You know it must be Spring when the skies are blue and the pastures are green. Just beginning to turn green, the hay pasture gets a bit of trim as the boys graze. They have been contained in the corral all winter and are really enjoying munching the new grass. Soon it will be too rich for them and it will have grow to make hay.

Inside, the seedlings are growing, but they certainly are not nursery beauties. We planted tomatoes in yogurt containers. As the tomatoes grow, hubby has put his coffee holders that he has saved from his coffee shop visits. They seem to help the young stems stay straight. The cabbages in the back are really leggy, needing the extra support. Once it gets a little warmer, the seedlings will go out in the hen house/potting shed to grow and harden off.

Yesterday we planted the eastern red bud in the front circle. My hope is that it will have a long happy life amidst the pine trees and aspens; however, from past experience, I can only hope. It has red buds forming, so without frost, it should be beautiful. It does have a rather sloped trunk, so it will have to be staked. I love red buds, so I am really hoping that I can keep this one alive. The garden hasn't fully come alive. Right now the spring bulbs are just beginning to bloom. The day lilies are waking up, and the roses are slowing showing more signs of life. Behind the red bud is a shrub rose planted by another gardener that is weeks away from waking up. I don't trim these back. They are just sorta wild.

You know it must be Spring when the gold fish stored in the garage begin to look like they are dying and then one actually does.

The gold fish were showing signs of stress in their winter container in the garage, so hubby cleaned out the front water garden and put them outside. They are hardy little creatures. We also caught the last of the gold fish that had been farmed out to the neighbor. He moved and the new neighbors are probably going to turn their water feature into a parking space. So we put those 4 fish in the horse tank where I have the water lilies stored. 

The week ended with the little guy's 5th birthday. We drove to Denver Wednesday and brought the boys home for a couple days then took them home Saturday for Nathan's birthday.

My attempt at using camera RAW on my Cannon Rebel. Nice.

I see such beautiful photos on your blogs and sometimes I am brave enough to ask "How'd you do that?" and you are so very kind to share your secrets, so I give it a try. I signed up for an on-line class on photoshop's Elements 11 at Kim Klassen's Cafe. When I bought my new iMac, I also bought the newest photoshop version. It is quite intimidating. I had taken a workshop at the university, but have lost the notes and really when you are learning something so technical you have to practice, practice, practice, and then have really good notes full of step by step instructions. So I have been watching Kim's videos at night, but she also has some free videos that show how to use textures with little fuss. She also  strongly urges that we use camera RAW. UMMM, I really am not so sure about that.  Kim has a wonderful blog if you haven't met her. She gives free textures on Tuesday if you sign up and she has some free video lessons on Elements 11.

This is Lucy with the dogs Bruno and Fritz. The girls love to play dress-up and have their photo taken. I have a small portable photo studio that I took with me. In the before photo you can see that I didn't take time to iron the wrinkles and folds out of my back drop. Lucy is wearing her mother's fairy Halloween costume from a few years ago; it, too, is wrinkled. So the texture hides all of the imperfections. However, this photo texture was done in Picasa with very nice results. So why am I so worried about learning how to Elements 11? Because it gives more flexibility, if I can ever master it. I am retired. What else do I have to do? Beats watching Letterman.

 You know it must be Spring when you would rather be outside working in the garden than blogging, but Spring just won't cooperate. It is a bit chilly right now and I have to see the dentist today. So much for playing outside, but I love spending time with you, too.

So, what are your signs of Spring?  And do you use camera RAW? Do you think I should take the next step?

Have a great week. Thanks for checking in.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Jackson and Perkins roses have been in the garden for at least 10-12 years. This year they have been spectacular. The bushes were taller and...