Friday, July 14, 2017

keeping an eye on things

I am not the only one who thinks we've been dealt some pretty crazy weather this summer, and with it -- a steady supply of bugs. The annoying kind. The beloved butterflies, bees and dragonflies have come at a trickle. The other devils? In abundance!

This day has flipped temperatures for us again: it is positively cool. It's as if I woke up in northern Europe, where summer can often turn on you and deliver a cold snap.

Does the cold air influence the mosquito population? I can't even tell anymore. I go out in the morning to walk the garden, bugs or no bugs. I don't dress for it nor spray for it and yes, I do sport some marks of their despotic presence, but not nearly as many as the little kiddos, who always puff up extra hard when the mosquitoes and gnats go after them. You'll see evidence of this later on in the post.

It's early morning and I'm out there, in the garden. I'm going to insert a green, italicized comment on gardening, which you can skip if you do not have any interest in growing flowers. (It is, in part, an answer to questions asked in the comments section of last night's post.)

The farmette flower fields grew not by design, but by a gradual addition of new layers. At first, I thought I only had a wee space to work with: a fragment of the field by the porch. Ditch lilies occupied most of that bed and Ed did not want me to trash them (we've "transplanted" most of them by now). The great flower field that abuts the path to the sheep shed came next, but it was not so great initially. It grew and grew and widened over the years because Ed himself grew to love the results of my planting and so he finally gave me free reign to add as much as I wanted. 

This means that some short plants were once edging a bed and now are in the middle of it! I've had to transplant many of them!

Too, it means that the fields are dense. I'm asked often how it is that I can navigate a field without paths or walkways running through it. Just watch me! I can step in and over and around without ruffling a thing. You get to really know the growing habits of your flowers!

Here's part of the great field:

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... and one spectacular day lily growing within it. 

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With probably well over a hundred day lily plants whose blooms last only that short day, how do I keep the garden neat? (To say nothing of the other perennials that are in their midst.) Do I leave the spent flowers to wilt and eventually tumble on their own? 

I do not. I like the beds to look their best. But with the bugs and with so many plants, it's tough to snip off all the flower heads. 

I do it anyway, cheating as I go along. Meaning I go after the ones that are in my visual field (by the path, by the road, by the porch, by the courtyard, etc.). And I surely go after the ones that are going to be very visible in a photo!

(The great flower field, looking toward the barn.)

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I so love these flowers! I'll not neglect them now, when they're at their finest! 

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(At breakfast, enjoying the view toward the fields...)

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It doesn't take much time to snip off spent lilies, but it does stir up the bugs when I do it and so I work less than I would in more pristine conditions. 

This field lines our driveway. I rarely photograph it, but it, too, has an abundance of day lilies. And lavender.

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This, of course, is the new roadside bed. I worked on it this morning. But is it work when you love your garden as much as I do? 

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Where I'm negligent is in deadheading a day lily that's done blooming. I need clippers for it and it's hard to get motivated to snip away when the seed pods don't look too bad. But the fact is, many day lilies will repeat bloom and do so more vigorously if you cut off the stalk before the seed pods form, so it's worth the effort. (I don't bother with the yellow leaves. Frankly, I can hardly see them in the dense beds.)

Do I fertilize my flowers? Yes, at least once a year, in spring, sometimes again in the fall, especially the newly planted ones. I use a slow release application and possibly I don't use enough, but I am well aware of the fact that we use TONS of wood chips and before they break down, they tend to drain the nitrogen for their own use, so I feel I need to compensate.

Here's a new day lily in the front bed:

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You could say then that I keep an eye on things until the end of August, when the garden shows signs of wanting to be left alone. Or so I reason!

And speaking of keeping an eye, just one eye open, here's my daily Snowdrop fare -- our walk to the playground after school...

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(Do you see the problem? Some bug bite has caused her one eye to swell. She doesn't complain much, but it's there and the teachers tell me she's not the only one puffed out by the school playground bugs. They do use bug sprays, but the gentle, meaning ineffective kind.)

Snowdrop is a happy girl even with a half-closed eye.

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At the coffee shop...

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Laughing at a Gaga silliness.

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She is disappointed that there is no pool time today, but on a cloudy day, at 63F (17C), I have zero interest in going swimming.

At the farmhouse, she is delighted to discover golden cherries.

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And, as has been her habit for the past many days, she asks to read the Snowdrop goes to Paris book. This is when I curse the length of it! It goes on FOREVER, day by day, and she loves it all.

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Oh, but when Ed comes in from the sheep shed, her focus is on him!

Tap your foot, it's polka time!

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She studies the dancers...

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... then hops to it. And insists that he join her. Not me. I can sit this one out, but ahah has to dance!

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Evening. The start of a weekend. But here's the thing: for the rest of this month and the month after, none of the weekends are slated to be typical. This summer is chock-full of the unusual. For example, we're doing Sunday family dinner tonight (though without a very busy Snowdrop dad). The little girl's mom comes over, they "sip tea"...

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... I grill up spinach chicken brats (I know, what a cheat for the true brat lover!) and corn (still not local, but soon!) and we have a delicious meal on the porch. It doesn't even feel that cold out there. (You get used to everything...)

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What are you putting on your hot dog, mommy?
I love mustard too -- claims the puffy eyed wonder girl...

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And as if all this isn't enough to make Snowdrop tickled and happy, I use this opportunity to introduce her to ice cream sandwiches. Does she like them?

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Yes she does.
Can I have yours mommy? Please?