Friday, July 3, 2015

Simon Says: Skunk!

Black and white photo = good.
Black and white critter in the yard? Not good.

Attack the invader, Simon says, as he runs, snarling, straight for the skunk on our back porch. You see where this is going.

We were fortunate that Simon is so quick and this skunk was not quite so quick. Simon was snapping at the opposite side when the skunk sprayed and only caught a little of the mist at the edges. But enough that he knew he was sprayed. Enough to make him run away foaming at the mouth and allow the skunk to ramble safely away. And enough that he had to have a bath.

But I hate baths, Simon says.
Then you shouldn't have attacked a skunk I tell him. Now hold still.

Theories I read about long ago have now been tested and proven. Skunk smell is, I was informed, best dissipated by altering the ph of the affected fiber (dog fur). For some reason the internet has always felt this is best done by the purchasing of certain vinegar based feminine products. I thought it might be easier to just use vinegar. Maybe vinegar with baking soda, I thought.

Five o'clock this morning, liberally powdered with baking soda and meekly foaming at the mouth, Simon did not fight being put in the bathtub. He knew he smelled bad, poor baby. I then doused him with apple cider vinegar, trusting that the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the vinegar would be the quickest and most effective way to alter the ph and remove the smell.

If you picture your elementary school volcano science project shaking like a wet dog you'll have a pretty accurate image of what happened next. But it worked. It worked on him, and it worked on me. Because, oh yes, I was near enough to catch a little spray too, so I can only begin to tell you how absolutely thrilled I am that baking soda and vinegar worked. Thrilled.

Now, Simon says, if you could just do something about the whole back of the house and the yard still smelling like that.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Where the Green Things Are

Baby Green Gage Plums
The Green Gage Plum put on fruit for the first time this year.  These plums are supposed to be the best ever of the British/European plums but are rarely grown in the US, because of their unreliability.  Some years they fruit, sometimes they don't. Some trees never fruit. The internet is filled with dire predictions which, of course, I read right after I had ordered the trees.

I planted them in a sunny spot downhill from the compost pile, stacking the deck in their favor, I hoped. But a spot where they could be shade trees, privacy trees, if they never produced fruit.  And then I pruned out the central leader, opened them up (which is supposed to put energy into fruiting). Still, if they never fruited that was okay, I told them.  And I waited.  Five years. Then, this spring they were covered in blossoms. Sweet, white, clusters of flowers with long showy stamens. They were beautiful. And promising.  But every orchardist knows that blossoms do not always mean fruit. And I waited again.

The frost dates passed safely. The blossoms dropped as they should, and tiny little fruits began to form. And tiny little fruits began to drop off, coating the ground beneath the trees with undeveloped plums.  This happens.  It is supposed to happen.  The tree cannot bear the weight of too many fruit, it can't feed and ripen every blossom that was pollinated.  The weak ones are sacrificed, thinned, so that the tree can be healthy.

It's still okay, I told them, if you never produce ripe fruit. I would like to taste one, though. If you could make at least one for me. So I am waiting.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Simple, Easy, Beautiful

Purple Rooster Bee Balm and Russian Sage
Several years ago we ordered 'Purple Rooster' Bee Balm (Monarda) from Dayton Nursery not just for the wonderful purple/blue of the flowers, but for the simplicity of care.  This tall variety requires no staking, and has also proven to be mildew free, as advertised. A large part of "no maintenance" gardening is picking the easy to care for varieties in the first place... and then planting them in large masses that leave no room for weeds.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

'Tis a Gift to Bee...

Honey Bee in Crown Pumpkin Flower
The honey bees are surprisingly scarce in my garden this year.  Scarcer than I like, half as many as last year. And I revisit the idea of keeping bees here.  Surely I could find a good location for them: facing east to get morning sun, sheltered from the winds, high enough up not to get eaten by the numerous skunks in the neighborhood, away from the property line with the neighbor who persists in spraying pesticides... and as I wonder where I can safely keep honey bees, I understand why there are so few in the garden. Where can they safely keep themselves? These beneficial insects, where can they live?