The weather has really warmed up and stabilized this week; sun, heat and no thunderstorms; just what I needed to make my aching muscles and joints behave themselves. This week has been a good one and I took to the backyard for most of the afternoons. There’s a lot that can be accomplished outside. Let me take you on a little tour of my days.
The shade of my locust tree covers the lawn swing and a couple of the gardens. What could be better for a person with a latte and an incredibly good book?
I’ve been consumed with the Justin Cronin novel, The City of Mirrors. Oh, my goodness. What a well-written, tightly-crafted book to spend the summer afternoons with. I read the first two books in this series and I wasn’t completely sure that I wanted to dive into a book of over 700 pages to learn the fate of mankind in their battle against the Zombie apocalypse, but the reviews made me take the leap and I pushed the “buy” button on my NOOK. Good decision. I keep highlighting passages that are just so wonderful I want to savor them later. I usually race through good books but this is one that I am stretching out so the experience will continue. The perfect June book.
After an hour of reading the knitting begins. Check out my progress on the Solaris shawl (by Melanie Berg).
I’ve also taken some weeding breaks. The little roses in my tea rose garden are now blooming, and I have gotten the weeds pulled out of another couple of patches. There are a lot of weeds, but everything is getting ready to bloom so I’m pretty motivated to keep at it.
Towards the late afternoon as things really warm up I water the flowers and gardens and head inside for food, the news and more knitting (bet that was a shock, huh!) Even the cats are ready to come in by that point. OK, they get kitty treats for coming in, but they would probably come in anyway… especially since I just watered all of their favorite plant nests. 🙂
He’s gone all day. I can hardly find him without a search of all the plants in the gardens. A sudden streak of yellow across the yard proves to be him chasing a butterfly, but by the time I go outside to find him he’s under cover again.
When I taught high school biology I had a sign over the door of my classroom that said “Biology is Life”. (I also had a poster with a picture of Charles Darwin and a caption that said “AP Biology: Adapt, Migrate or Die”, but that is another story…) Anyway, I thought my sign over the door was cute. And true.
This week I finally took on the task of weeding out my flower beds and getting them ready for the new year. Really, a simple and somewhat rewarding task, but for me an afternoon of rich classroom memories and an endless rush of biological trivia. It was so much fun, in fact, I thought I’d take all of you on a short trip through my garden. Ready? Here we go!
Rich with life, details and memories, my gardens are once again growing.
I am almost caught up with the resolution socks; last night I shopped the stash to pick the yarn for the November Socks and am torn between two different patterns. Next week I’ll make the decision, wind the yarn and cast on. Here’s the problem: I found a wonderful blue yarn, but there is also this gold/purple/brown yarn that looks like the perfect color for November… The blue yarn works for the pattern I planned to knit, but the autumn colored yarn is so perfect that perhaps I should give it and a cute lace patterned sock a try… Maybe I should make two pairs of socks this month. 🙂
I worked like a maniac this week on the bed socks because it has suddenly become cold outside. We had a nice snowfall Thursday, and the last two nights have gone well below freezing. That was it; I had to bring some of the outdoor plants into the house for the winter. I went to the local Home Depot store and bought some plant grow lights for them, and with some care and rotation under the lights I hope to keep them going until next spring. Here’s the winners in the survive the winter plant lottery:
I have more plants shoved onto the two shelves below this one but they are just too messy to show off right now. I need at least one more plant grow light to make things work, and the lower shelf plants still need to be pruned back. I’m pretty sure that the plants will drop a lot of leaves as they adjust to the lower light levels, but they should all make it and hopefully will manage to produce some winter blooms. One of the plants on the lower shelf is a rose bush that has survived indoors for three years in a row. I know he’ll make it! The pink flowering plants are also producing a lot of scent which makes me just happy. It’s like having a little piece of summer all year long.
I just finished reading my first “Bee” book, A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson. This book was a quick friendly read about bumblebee biology, ecology, and the efforts to build habitat in the United Kingdom that will support and grow wild bumblebee populations. One of the techniques that the researchers in the book utilized to detect bumblebees was to have observers sit in their garden (or some other location) for 20 minutes to tally the number of bees they saw.
I’ve been a little sad over the absence of a strawberry crop this year, and I thought that it was due to a lack of bees. As I read the book, however, I realized that many of the bees that I have seen in the past were actually bumblebees. I plant a lot of flowers that should be attracting bees, too. Late yesterday afternoon I headed out to the garden for 20 minutes with my camera to see what was actually going on out there.
A little search of the internet led me to believe that this is a Bobmus huntii bee. The bees were really targeting purple flowers yesterday afternoon. I saw them on the lavender, this catmint plant, and on the pincushion flowers. I don’t know why my strawberry plants were a flop this year, but maybe is was due to a very wet and cold spring that made it hard for bees to get to them. I learned that bumblebees struggle in those conditions as they need to maintain enough heat to work their flight muscles. Who knew?!
As I was sitting out with the bees and the flowers I realized that while I have a lot of plantings that attract wildlife, I have actually made my yard and garden into a habitat for cats. Check out what I’ve done for them.
Squirrels use the yard constantly and provide the cats with some quality exercise as they chase them, but I no longer put out food for squirrels. They have been raiding a neighbor’s trash and burying stuff in my planters, so they get little else from me. I used to have a bird feeder and nesting boxes in the yard, and I really liked the birdsong and the activity was hours of entertainment for the cats (who really never managed to catch anything, but they loved to try!). I discovered that the birds also attracted other cats (AKA enemy cats!!) so I had to stop putting out food. Even an invisible fence will not keep a cat in the yard who chasing out an invader!
Now my cats think they are dogs. They make me get up in the morning to let them out, mill around the door carrying on as soon as I come home, and are happy to go in and out all day through a cat door. They come running in from the yard when I shake the kitty treat bag, and stay in all night (asleep!) like good boys. I can do cat-free crafting activities during the day (like warping my loom) while they happily doze outside dreaming of bugs and garter snakes. By making the yard an appealing habitat for my kitties they stay put and are safe outside.
Crazy cat-gardening lady, huh! Some of my friends think it is strange to let my animals tunnel thought plantings, but they are just a part of my overall scheme. After reading Dave Goulson’s book I also realized that this isn’t just a backyard; it is also important habitat for wildlife in the city. I will be putting in more plants with an eye to supporting bumblebees (who evidently are critical to the pollination of strawberries and tomato plants!). Later this summer my butterfly plants should get going and there will be hummingbirds and butterflies for kitty entertainment. Everyone wins!