Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29 2012 Garden Report

This week my Siberian iris is in full bloom. While the flowers are not large there are a lot of them and because they extend almost the length of the bed  and all one color the display is very effective.

The rhododendrons are in full bloom all over the Cape, bringing to a close the season for the large flowering shrubs. I have two big pink and two dwarf white. Driving around I see lots of beauties I'd like to add to my garden, but I can hardly complain when my two pink ones are ten or twelve feet tall and covered with blooms! I'm pretty well resolved to run a border of rosa rugosa on the south side of the property. This is a shrub which spreads readily (too readily, truth be told), has scented flowers, does not require special care, and will not grow so tall as to obstruct the view of traffic from the driveway. It's not quite a native plant, but does grown wild here on the beach. Animals like the attractive red hips, and the crazy spiny branches are excellent shelter for small birds. It will allow pruning when needed without being picky about how it should be cut. There is a steep slope between us and the neighbor's lot; I think this would be a good plant to stabilize the slope. Currently we have a fence here, but it is not in a good state of repair. When it won't stand up anymore I would not be unhappy to have the lot bordered by a rugosa hedge instead of a fence. Since we sit a little higher than the neighboring property the fence is really not providing a great deal of privacy and it's not pretty. I'll dig up some starts of rosa rugosa from the Dobberteen garden the next time I'm over there keeping Bruce company and we'll be up and running with them.

The shady back corner is now completely planted as a hydrangea and hosta garden. It looks kind of wimpy and empty now because I have planted with mature sizes in mind, but I know how it will look when it's mature. I saw a beautiful example of this combination in Falmouth and liked it well enough to duplicate the combination. All it needs now is time (lots of time), some judicious pruning of some of the overhanging trees and maybe a focal point. The plot I admired in Falmouth has a big rock as a focal point; if I don't go with that Inace had a little fiberglass rowboat Shana wants to feature as a planter somewhere in the yard. This may be the spot we choose. The only drawback to that is that it will be way out of proportion for a couple of years. I may decide to fit Tiny Toes (the boat's name) into the new phase of the sunny garden behind the shed to be set up next spring. Either way I want a bench back there near the hosta garden which means I am going to have to move the composter. No one wants to sit and relax next to the composter. Shana has a fear that it will be smelly and she will see maggots. So far I don't smell anything and have not seen the much feared maggots, but I agree it is not a sight to inspire meditation except for the most ardent gardener.

We had a BBQ here on Memorial Day and I was gratified to receive a lot of positive comments on my yard. Very motivating!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend Part One

First sight of Fenway!
Getting the field ready for the game

Shana and I are both off for the weekend and have therefore overscheduled the time! Our friends Shelley arrived  with her daughter yesterday morning. They are moving to the Cape for a while and are staying with us for the weekend. They brought along two dogs and a cat - one chihuahua named Peyton Manning, one extremely elderly schnauzer mix who is named Sparky but looks more like a doggy Keith Richards, and an older cat. Roxy was fine with the dog visitors - she has known Sparky for years and was glad to see him. The cat was intriguing. Turns out because of a landlord issue the cat will be living with us. This will involve some cat box adjustments because Roxy is an inveterate "snacker". Right now Midnight (the cat) has decided the basement stairs are hers and hers alone. Typically cat: she sees all that comes and goes and is seen by one and all, with the added charm of possibly sending someone to her death should she fail to see the cat on the step. Roxy is afraid to go past her. Even with this inconvenience Roxy is all smiles with all the company. I have hopes that she will enjoy Midnight's company. She's lived with a cat before and they got along fine.
Peyton Manning The Dog

Sparky AKA Doggy Keith Richards
Last night we all went to a Red Socks game in Boston. We parked at the end of the Red Line and came in by T. This takes a little longer, but saves about $30.00 because parking near Fenway Park is hideously expensive. We had perfect weather and  great seats for an exciting game. On the way to the game we dropped Roxy off to spend the night with Mitzi the Fiend and her buddy Louie rather than leave her alone with the cat. This worked out brilliantly, except that  due to the crazy weekend traffic on the Cape on the way to drop her off at the sleepover Shana had to brake suddenly. Roxy was on my lap; I grabbed for her so she would not shoot across the car like a guided dog missile and jammed my finger against the back of the seat (I was sitting in the back seat). If it was a toe I would just think it was broken and tape it up, but I don't want to go there with a finger! It's ugly and purple, but is not too sore because it is so swollen. I'll see Dr. Lisa for BBQ tomorrow and get her opinion.

Today was a big yard work day for me. I was hoping to make Shana mow and edge this week, but she's been out getting Shelley settled in her new digs. Because Shelley only brought what she could fit in her car she needed a few items to settle in to her new place. Shana & Shelley hit Cape Cod Pickers for some things while I wrestled the yard into respectability so it would look nice for our BBQ tomorrow. I ran by the hardware store this morning for eye protection before using the edger, but before I use it again I have got to have some ear protection. That thing is super loud.

And for extra animal fun, here's a video of mistaken identity:

Monday, May 21, 2012

My New Ride

Vintage Huffy Sea Pines

Yesterday Shana and I were both free all day so we planned to take a ride on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. We had planned to meet up with some friends and ride together, but they were unable to ride with us. Sue did want to meet up at Barb's Bike Shop at the trailhead for our input on road bikes, which we were happy to do - what's not to like? Barb's is mainly a bike rental shop with a decent selection of hybrids and very little in the way of road bikes, but they did have a couple of good candidates at reasonable prices and we like to be around bike stores. Sue rode some bikes around the parking lot and got familiar with the feel and pricing of road bikes. I wandered around checking out the old used bikes. One of them caught my eye in a big way - a Huffy Sea Pines 3 speed cruiser in good condition. I've been wanting a little commuter bike since my Giant hybrid stayed in Oklahoma City and this really fit the description. It was super cute and not only retro but actually 1970's vintage and for a pretty good price. After I rode it all over the parking lot begging Shana took pity on my infatuation and agreed that I should have it. I could not get it in the car yesterday, but I went to pick it up today. Too bad it is a drizzly miserable day or I would have taken it down the trail for a little spin.

This is where Shana came up lame
After Sue left the shop to think over her bike situation and attend a concert I aired up our tires and Shana and I headed out for a ride down the Cape Cod Rail Trail. We were having a nice ride until Shana came up flat on the rear tire about four miles out. Of course it was the back; it's always the back. This is where our lack of preparation came to light. I had a CO2 cartridge but it was empty. We both had inflators to use with a cartridge, but they are useless without one. I had tire levers but no tube; Shana had a tube but no levers. Neither or us had wipes to clean our hands after changing a tire or a pump to inflate a tire, although before we left the parking lot I actually had my frame pump in my hands but decided not to take it along. Shana left her phone in the car. I also decided not to take my pedometer along because it does not record anything on a bike. I sent Shana back down the trail on my bike after adjusting the seat for her (only one of us had a multi tool in the bike bag) to a bike shop we passed on the way out to get cartridges and I started walking back. I did not know what time it was, but I thought that if the shop was not open I would be able to walk back in my bike shoes but Shana would not. She's having some back issues and bike shoes are not made for comfortable walking. I had walked about a mile and a half back with only one of dozens of passing cyclists offering to help and without my pedometer (!) when Shana returned. The shop did not have the threaded cartridges we needed for our inflators so she had purchased two unthreaded cartridges and an inflator. While she was demonstrating how to use it she let the CO2 out of one. I inflated the tire with the other and thereby discovered that the valve was bad. All the gas ran out of it and we were back where we started. I sent Shana back down the trail and set to changing out the tube. I removed the wheel and this is where my luck changed. I was wrestling with the very tough and stiff Continental tires I had installed on Shana's bike to counteract her tendency to run over all kinds of things when a helpful male cyclist with strong hands stopped and replaced the tube for me. Just as we were finishing up  a local resident came out with a floor pump and aired me up! Yay! I rode on back, met up with Shana, and we went on home. We were both kind of tired, and my ankles are sore today from walking in my bike shoes, but otherwise we lived through the incident without lasting harm and still got to enjoy being outdoors on a really nice day. I am really glad we were not farther out when it happened!

Today when I picked up my cruiser I purchased two tubes, two fresh cartridges, and a multi tool so we will each have all the equipment we need to be out on the road bikes. I'll need a bag and tools for my cruiser (and a basket for maximum cuteness!) but that will have to wait for another day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20 2012 Garden Report

Now blooming in a garden near you - we are now finished with spring bulbs and moving into the next phase of spring. In my garden the last of the azaleas is blooming, (a pretty pink double) and the larger rhododendrons are beginning to bloom. In some local gardens azaleas are still in full bloom; in others the rhodys are already in full bloom. I've seen some bearded iris in bloom already.

I have a large drift of Siberian iris, and they started blooming this week. Next week they should all be out and will present a lovely display. I don't have any bearded iris - they are on the list for the next phase in my sunny patch, along with some kind of peony. That's my project for next year, and I am spending a lot of time imagining what I will plant there.

Foliage partners are especially attractive now, with the heuchera/Japanese painted fern pair particularly striking. My picture does not really show the lovely purple vein down the middle of the fern leaves, so you'll have to imagine it. This pair will be set off later in the season by  tall purple liatris, whose form and color will echo some large purple butterfly bushes nearby. I have a lot of liatris because the prior homeowner loved it, and because it self seeds very readily. Fortunately I like it in the garden for its bold foliage and for the tall long lasting flowers that need no staking. It makes an attractive cut flower. The heuchera will be in bloom in a week or so, but to my eye their blooms don't compete with their lovely foliage. Roxy and I are still fighting over an especially beautiful heuchera. If she does not change her ways she will find herself staked out front where she can't get to it.

I entertained the neighborhood with the riding lawn mower this week. My lack of skill coupled with the vintage cuteness of the "little red car" of a mower probably had everyone in stitches. The grass looks a bit like a bad haircut, but at least it looks like a civilized person might live here. Later this week I will regale them with my impression of an idiot with a gasoline trimmer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Men's Work Spaces

I was digging around my father-in-law's garage yesterday looking for duplicate gardening tools and checking out what he had that I may be able to borrow for my projects instead of haring off to the big box for a tool I will use twice (yay miter box and saw, just what I will need to frame my bedroom mirror!) and got to thinking about what I like so much about old guys' workbenches. It's really a nostalgic thing. Both of my grandfathers were handy, and both had workbenches that saw a lot of use. They both had collection of odd screws and fasteners of various kinds, power tools, several different hammers, loads of screwdrivers. This interesting display was separate from the expected complement of auto repair tools. My teeny little toolbox in no way suggests the selection a man of an earlier generation was expected to have, although I am constitutionally unable to throw out the odd bits of hardware that cross my path.

I love the oily smell and the apparently random displays of oddments on the inevitable pegboard. You can always find a bit of string, a paint rag, or an odd sized wrench. There are always surprising things there that get your creative juices flowing and inspire thoughts of interesting projects. My father had a workbench, built as a matter of course when the garage was added to my childhood home. Although he had tools, his workbench never achieved the patina of my grandfathers' benches. He was not really that kind of man. My mother used the tools much more often - she has the handy gene and the skills to express it were learned at her father's side. A well used workbench shows the character of the person using it: thrifty or extravagant, workhorse or showboat,  artistic or minimalist. Looking around Bruce's workbench brings to mind the man he was before Alzheimer's began to steal so much from him and us. His tools are all there arranged as he liked them, but he does not use them anymore. None of the men I knew as a child still survive, but the memory of their work and work spaces does.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cape Cod Rail Trail

I finally took a spin on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which runs from Dennis to Wellfleet. I really wanted to check it out for a nice ride but I didn't want to go without Shana and she couldn't go this weekend. Turns out she was glad I was ready and willing to check it out. Since the weather was perfect I suited up without further ado. Actually it was with further ado because I was not at all sure where my bike clothes were and I had two mountain bikes already in the car. I dug around in the basement and found my bike gear, brought one mountain bike into the basement and took my road bike out. I fixed myself a couple of bottles and found out that the battery in my bike computer was dead. So. On the way I went to CVS for some blue Powerade (the Drink of my People), a Clif bar, and batteries for my computer. Once in Dennis the trailhead was super easy to find and provided with loads of parking but my water bottles were not so easy to find. My water bottles were on the kitchen counter, one of my classic moves. Lucky for me the travel coffee mug that had mysteriously disappeared last month was lurking under my seat, so it became my Powerade bottle. This was not an attractive addition to my kit but it did serve the purpose. Around a mile down the trail I ran across Barbara's Bike Shop where I bought a bottle of water and one of the guys adjusted the front brake which was slightly off center. He admired my beautiful bike tactfully not mentioning the coffee mug in my bottle cage and sent me on my way ready to roll. Everyone there was more than cordial, the shop was spotless, and I would recommend them to anyone. They rent all kinds of bikes and are right on the trail.

Once back on the road I really enjoyed my ride. The trail is flat and well maintained, with the many road crossings well marked. The scenery is lovely. What I most worried about before I came out was that traffic on the trail would be intense. It was not nearly as bad as I had feared, and the trail was wide enough for me to pass slower riders and family groups easily. There were long stretches where I did not run into any other riders or walkers at all. I rode an easy 40 miles and averaged 21.6 mph even though I had to slow down many times for road crossings. I have to admit I was blessed with perfect weather and almost no wind at all. I was also anxious about getting back on the road bike. I did not ride it at all last year, so I thought I might be in for another humiliating adjustment period featuring falling over while still attached to the bike by my shoes. I need not have worried. Once I rode the first 300 yards I was totally comfortable again.

There are lots of places where you can get off the trail for ice cream or a more substantial snack, and rest rooms are available at the Nickerson Park information office. There are also quite a few parking lots along the way for people who want to pick up the trail at various places. The trail is a great resource, and set up for use by a wide variety of people. I'll probably be going back next Sunday with Shana and some friends. Using a combination of highway and back roads to avoid the Sunday afternoon bridge traffic I drove back in just under 30 minutes.

The Coolest Bird Feeder Ever

I ran across this while surfing around and I've never seen anything quite like it. You can buy one here if you're interested. It's kind of spendy but for a unique experience maybe it's not too expensive.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 12 2012 Garden Report

I am going to bore my few readers out of their minds by noting from time to time what is blooming so that I will have a reference over time of what weeks my garden is seeing loads of action and when there are lulls that can be addressed by choosing some plants that bloom during those dull times. So sorry. If you like pictures of flowers you will no doubt indulge me. If not, skip any post with Garden Report in the title.

This week the early bulbs are all finished. The snowdrops, hyacinths and tulips are finished. The tulip foliage is not gone yet. I have only a few tulips, but I was surprised that I had not noticed them when I looked at the house before we bought it. I though I had given the gardens a good once over during one of my many visits but apparently I did not look that closely. The forsythia that dominated the back yard is just a big (really big) green bush now. I have only a very few daffodils, and they are done blooming. What I originally though were  masses of daffodils may in fact turn out to be Siberian iris. Buds are forming, and time will tell.

I still have some creeping phlox in bloom, although it's pretty well spent for the year. My phlox is in three different colors - hot pink in the corner, white in the front yard, and lavender in my central back yard bed. The Solomon's Seal is blooming, as is the Lily of the Valley. I have several azaleas in various stages of bloom - a hot pink, coral, and baby pink.  The hot pink is nearly over, but the others are going strong. The lettuce is doing fine. Two big salads have already come out of it and I could have another one today without making it look empty.

Everything I planted this spring is doing well so far; the puny but tall stick of an oakleaf hydrangea that I dug out as an offset from a mature shrub is sprouting leaves from dormant side buds and I am very encouraged. The only shrub I am concerned about is a mature rhododendron whose leaves are looking a little pale. I'll be feeding that one up after it blooms. I am running neck and neck with the weeds, but as the more desirable plants reach mature sizes they will shade out most things. I don't really mind weeding too much; I listen to podcasts while I work and it reminds me of my younger self weeding for 15¢ per paint can while I listened to the latest Beatle hits on my new and exciting transistor radio.

Next project will be pots of annuals for the front porch and the deck. Shana prefers bright colors, and I will defer to her taste in this area. We'll probably go flower shopping next weekend for that. Shana thought I might cruise by the nursery by myself  today for those things, but because I have a shady bed in progress right now that is begging for some additional hostas I don't want to go near the plant store alone. If I wait to go with her I will buy one or two tiny ones, but if I go alone all bets are off!


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Really Spring

Great Sippewisset Marsh
We had such a nice warm weekend that I am confident about spring really being here.  We haven't passed the last frost date yet, but the winter was so mild and the temperatures so warm now I don't expect to see a hard freeze. I hope I don't live to regret my confidence! The trees are leafing out and the garden is coming back to life in force. I started a bed of hydrangeas and hostas in the back corner of our lot which I hope will be a lovely place to sit in a few years. Everything looks good back there, and I was able to apply a generous top dressing of compost to give the new plants a fighting chance against the existing tree roots. Lucky for me I can take as much compost as I want from the dump because my own is no where near ready yet. That will be the corner where Inace's little boat will be living as a planter. I have great hopes that in time it will be a gorgeous part of my garden. Due to the kindness of one of my knitting friends and her handy husband my lawn mower issue is settled and the grass is cut. I'm sure this improves my standing in the neighborhood; the weeds were outstanding and the grass was looking like an unmade bed by the time we got it cut. Last night we went to the local hardware store and bought a trimmer to finish the job and a pair of loppers to allow me to finish up the pruning our giant forsythia so richly deserves.

Last night we had a salad  straight from our lettuce planter - you can't get any fresher than that! There have been a few cold nights since we set up out lettuce and herb planters. This did not agree with the basil but everything else is doing just great. Next things in pots will be some cilantro and a few pots of flowers, and when the nights are a little warmer we'll try some tomatoes. Now that we have some chairs on the deck we are wishing for colorful pots of blooms.

Sunday after the lawn mowing Shana and I went out for a ride on the Shining Sea Bikeway with some friends. Shana and I had not been out since last year and our friends had been out only once; we were all trying not to be too ambitious. It was a perfect day and we all had a great time. Ten miles out and back were plenty for me on my mountain bike, and Shana was glad she rode a shorter distance. We both need some more riding time to avoid feeling saddle sore. One friend wants to train for a long distance event so she'll be up for some mileage but needs to shop for a new bike to replace her 70's vintage steel motobecane. It is in perfect condition but weighs as much as my mountain bike. With weather like we had Sunday it won't be a hardship to put in some miles. Of course today is grey and cool and tomorrow will be rainy and cooler. I hope to ride some this weekend when the rain is over and the warm weather returns.

I'm done with baby blankets for the moment except for weaving in some ends. For my next project I have a few knitted items in an unfinished state and some house projects that need to be done. There are some baseboards waiting for paint and a watercolor in progress that needs about a day's work to finish. The big outdoor projects for the season are done but the weeding is never ending as is the task of adding compost to the existing planting areas.

Roxy is showing her age these days. Her hearing is pretty awful and she sleeps sounder. When I woke her up to go outside last night she nearly jumped out of her skin. She may not live to see another birthday if she does not stop eating my Georgia Peach heuchera. Nearly every day she walks into the middle of the bed to chomp the leaves right off of it. I have several varieties but this is the only one she has any interest in.