Thursday, December 1, 2011

Henry – The Monarch Butterfly

On the last day of October Marjo found Monarch Butterfly laying almost motionless between our flower pots. I published a post last November 6th on her find. Well, five weeks later he has a name, his own bedroom and feeding station. I don’t think there is a better name for Monarch Butterfly than Henry, is there? Once a week Marjo buys fresh flowers that serve as his bedroom and this is where he spends most of his time. His day starts around 10:30 when the sunroom warms up, then it is feeding time. He just crawls on hand and with an eye dropper we put few drops of sugar and water solution on his feet that act as sensors. He feeds for about 5 minutes and then it is play time that usually consists of flying and crawling around south window screen. He doesn’t fly too well, part of his wing is missing. I think that he was caught in an air turbulence from a car or truck and he got injured, maybe that’s why he missed the migration window. We have no idea if he will survive the winter but apparently monarchs that come out in late summer, the last generation, live up to 9 months, so, who knows. For now we have a small reminder of summer so we just enjoy this un-usual experience.

From close up he looks like a monster.

Feeding time...

followed by time to play...

...and around 3:30 it is time for bed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gardening Season 2011 is Over

Garden is sleeping now with the exception of my arugula that is doing very well in my cold frame. We have made some late season changes on flower island and also the evergreen island. In both cases the changes had to be made because plants there grew way too big. We have removed the decorative grasses and moved Corkscrew Hazel together with some short grasses in their place. The root system balls of the grasses were so heavy that I just couldn’t lift them, I had to wrap a sling around them and drag them out on a piece of lumber and then I had to split each ball with an axe in order to handle them.
On Evergreen Island we had 3 species of junipers and they too were getting way too big. They were very easy to remove and now we have a small Alpine garden in their place. Both areas look much better. All the containers and planters have been emptied and their good potting soil was dumped on top of my raised veggie bed, but first I laid down weed barrier cloth to make it easier for me to remove the potting soil next spring.
Garlic is planted for a month now and spring bulbs are in the ground on both islands. Actually, they were never removed this spring. The dinner plate dahlias were removed 2 weeks ago and I stored each tuber in paper bag filled with peat moss. It will be interesting to see if they will grow next spring, I have never tried to save them before. Before I know it I’ll be growing flowers from seeds just like I did last few years. For now I have a two months of rest. Next garden post will be in February, I guess, even though I still have to spray our peach tree. As you can see on picture at top there are still lot of leaves and it is windy every day so I do have to postpone the spraying every day. But, it must be done.

In three years these grasses tripled in size... they were replaced. It does look better.

The junipers on left side of island were removed...

...and replaced with small Alpine garden.

Again, it does look much cleaner.

My veggie bed serves as a temporary storage for container soil.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Monarch Butterfly – Unexpected Visitor

While we were cleaning the garden and getting it ready for winter Marjo found Monarch Butterfly resting on its side, almost motionless, on the pavement and between dahlia flower pots. It was a shocking discovery since we had already 5 days of hard frost and another 5 days of normal frost. It was a bad start to fall. Anyway, Marjo took him inside our sunroom and placed him on a dahlia that was just cut and placed in a vase. He grabbed the flower immediately and started to open and close his wings. Ten days later he is more active than ever but now we wonder how long can he survive? The sunroom is kept at minimum 14 °C and there is always supply of water and flowers and we know that in their winter grounds in Mexico and California they do not do too much, just waiting their time to move north again. I will post about any changes or happening.
Oh, why do I call this butterfly “him”? Males have a tear drop mark close to bottom of their wings.

Ten days later. Doing better than ever

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Great Way to Shrink Garden Waste

Since I don’thave a room or place for compost pile I have to dispose of all garden waste either at our town’s Transfer Station or in regular garbage. Lineups at Transfer Station are huge at this time of the year, 60 cars or more. You are looking at half an hour wait to dump few containers. On top of it, the Station is opened only 2 days a week for 3 hours. The smaller neighboring towns have dumps opened24/7! Go figure. Our garden end-of-season clean-up is spread over quite a few weeks so I came up with a good way to shrink the volume so that we can drop it in garbage bag with a regular household waste, no extra bag, and therefore no extra garbage tag (we have to pay user fee for every bag and with weight and bag size limitations). My way of shrinking garbage works even better if there is a stretch of couple of sunny days to dry up the processed waste. All you need is lawnmower that mulches and collects. Even though I have never composted, I am sure that this waste treatment would work great for composting.
Here is what I do.

This is all that was left, about 1/4 of what I started with...

and after 2 days of drying it shrunk even more. Ready for a garbage bag.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Middle of October Garden Update

Garden is slowly but surely coming to rest. Dahlias are still in full bloom and zinnias were replaced with fall mums. The grasses are now over 8 feet tall and sporting a gorgeous plumes. They are located south of our deck so the back-light shines right through them, just beautiful!
The roses are big surprise as they are all in full bloom and look better than in summer.
The Heuchera collection is still in full bloom and their coral bells really stand out.
Nasturtium and Hemerocalis are still producing flowers and so does Ozark Sundrops, Snapdragon and Trailing Alpine Geranium, The Gerbera is not at its best but still sending out new flowers. The Burning Bush is about 40% red so it will be few weeks before we will have a real red burning bush.
We will be enjoying our flower garden for a while yet.

 Front door with Mumms and pumpkins.

Dahlia, Snapdragon, Nasturtium and Mumms

Fall decoration.


View from kitchen window.

Alpine Geranium.

Heucheras and Gerberas.

Back lit grasses.

Ozark Sundrop.

Burning Bush and my last pepper plant in container.

Marjo's last project - Alpine Garden.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Heirloom Tomatoes

Few weeksago I ate my very first heirloom tomato and I was hooked immediately on thetaste of this light yellow tomato. It was given to us by our neighbor who isretired farmer. Apparently, his friends found it among hundreds of plants theygrow for making tomato juice and since it didn’t look red they threw it out.Knowing that we will try anything new food-wise he brought them to us. I do notunderstand why I waited so long to taste these tomatoes since I do shop at localAmish farms and at our local farmers market and they were always available inseason. Looks like my plans for next year veggie garden are changing alreadysince I will definitely grow some heirloom tomatoes.

LastThanksgiving Sunday we went for a ride in the country and we came across a roadsidestand that was selling heirloom tomatoes of all sizes, colors and shapes. Sinceall of them are open pollinated varieties I will collect the seeds fromtomatoes that both of us really like.

Thismorning we did a little tasting and they are really good! They were nowhere assweet as some regular red hybrids, but instead there was nice balance betweensweet and tart. They will be great in salads and relishes, I think. So far Ipicked 3 (and counting) that I will try to grow. Over the winter I will try toidentify the varieties that I have collected seeds from; not an easy task.Maybe I will email pictures to some seed houses and ask if they can help. It isnot all that important to know the name but if somebody will taste my tomatoes,likes them and asks for the name it would be nice to know the answer.

Of course,if you know any of these tomatoes, please, leave a comment.

Here islink to interesting description of “Heirloom Tomato”.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Last Harvest of 2011

I have to admit that the end of my veggie garden season came much faster than I have anticipated. It was fun, though. Next year the garden will be very, very different, that much I know. Not only what I will grow but also how much. I do have a rough idea but nothing will be finalised until next spring.
Here is the last harvest of peppers and tomatoes. The green roma tomatoes at top left will be made into relish and some will be sliced and fried even though I have never done that. All the peppers and tomatoes will be cooked together with onions and garlic and frozen. The dish is a sort of casserole called Lecs├│ and is a popular Hungarian dish that rest of the countries from former Austrian-Hungarian Empire adopted as their own.
It was a lot of work to seed and slice the peppers but it was so worth it! The picture story will be posted next.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Changes to comments section on my blogs

It was brought to my attention that it was impossible to leave comments on all my blogs if signed in as Anonymous or other then Google account. I was using a form that switched to another Google web site and in the process the comments got trashed. I have switched to full page comments form that stays on BlogSpot and when tested it worked fine. My apologies to all that tried fruitlessly to leave a comment or to get in touch with me.
The fact that many bloggers had and still have same problem is not too much of consolation to me, I am sorry to say. I should have caught it long time ago.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Veggie Garden Update, September 29, 2011

This willbe one of the last updates, I guess. There is nothing more to do than to collectrest of the tomatoes, pick all green and red peppers and I don’t really knowhow long I can pick snow and snap peas. They still produce lots of flowers andpods but with the weather cooling down and daylight being quite shorter I amnot sure if it is worth it to keep those few experimental plants going. It doeslook like that I will pull out everything sometime next week. Of course thearugula and green onions will stay in cold frame and I will have fresh greensway past Christmas, just like I had last 3 years.
I almostforgot about my garlic! Bed is ready and I will be planting in two weeks or so.Right now everything is so wet! So far this month we had over 6 inches of rain! Whata weird year it was. Makes one wonder what the winter will bring. Better notthink about it!

 The peas are still doing great...

 and so are red and green peppers.

Tomatoes do look a bit tired, though. They produced so much this year!
Arugula is doing fine and I will cover the cold frame early in November. I will be picking fresh greens till well after Christmas.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

“Our” Black & Yellow Garden Spider “Charlotte”

Not for the squeamish!!!

What other name can you give to spider? I’m sure that most people in North America have seen the animated movie for children called “Charlotte’s Web”. Actually, the story is more about a pig then it is about spider, but, who cares?
Back to our spider. I have started to feed him earwigs and other harmful bugs and watch him operate. Am I ever glad that spiders are this small! The speed at which they mummify their pray is nothing short of astounding! As soon as I placed the earwig in her web she was there in one leap and immediately grabbed and spun the pray over few strands of her web. Within seconds you couldn’t tell what was inside the cocoon. Then she carried the still moving earwig and started to eat it. Totally gruesome! Only reason I am posting this is because they are gardener’s friends as they catch mostly harmful insects. She has eliminated quite a few cabbage butterflies and moths.
Even though I had camera ready shoot a movie how she starts to catch her pray I was still too slow. After all, I had camera in one hand trying to hold it and start recording while feeding the spider with other hand. Basically, I would have to have as many arms as spider has legs in order to do it or have a helper.

The insect is wrapped in part of her web that is missing. Also, you can see that she is shooting new silk directly at the pray. It was so fast and right on target!
I had no chance to get the start. She was too fast form me.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fun with Camera – September 1st

Few days ago I have noticed new tenant in our Japanese Garden pool – beautiful frog that I still have to identify. What struck me, besides colors on frog’s body, was how tame it was. I could come within few feet of him/her and it never moved, just a perfect camera subject. It gave me a chance to try my new 1.4X tele-lens extender for a real close-up shot. I am happy with the quality of this lens, very happy.

At the other end of focal lengths are micro lenses. I used one to take pictures of bee and “Black & Yellow Garden Spider” (Argiope aurantia). (Yup, that’s the spider’s name.) Day before, I took picture of the very same spider in same net dismembering white cabbage butterfly. The fact that I had a lens just inches away didn’t bother him one bit, he just kept removing the wings from body.

Walk around the garden with couple lenses stuck in your west and you never know what you will see.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hummingbirds, Part 2

I have managed to take more pictures of visiting hummingbirds but still no ruby throat!
One day when Lady Luck will smile at me. I have a feeling that when I will see the throat I will not have my camera with me or I will have wrong lens…hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t even think about it or it will happen.
Let's have red Calibrachoa...

then white one...

and another red one.

On one shot I got lucky to capture resting hummingbird with his long tongue out and some yellow nectar at tip of his beak. I didn’t see it till the shot was uploaded on my computer and zoomed in.