Friday, May 28, 2010

Wild Creatures and Succulent Plants

As I was moving four bleeding heart plants from the backyard to the frontyard (and turning them into seven plants), I found a weird looking thing in the ground under each plant. I then had to poke at it with my gloved hand, wondering if it was alive. When it twitched, I knew the answer was Yes! After my internal freaking out subsided, I went on an internet search to determine what it was.

I figured it was a chrysalis of some sort, and with Eric's help and that of What's that Bug?, we narrowed it down to images like this and decided it was the pupa of a hummingbird moth. Yeah, click on that first link and TRY not to get the heebie jeebies! (I don't recommend doing this while having lunch.) Now imagine if you poked that pupa and it moved. Aiee! Since I know that I do have hummingbird moths all summer, I'm certain that's what it is. The pupa didn't have a "horn" on it, so I'm pretty certain it isn't a tomato hornworm pupa. It might be a Nessus or a Clearwing. Who knows?!

I've also been visited by raccoons, now that I have a feeder filled with sunflower seeds outside. The first day after I filled it, I found that they'd taken the feeder and the hook straight out of the tree I'd had it in originally and dragged the feeder over by the deck. I decided the feeder would be safer from Masked Bandits if I put it on the deck, so I put it right next to the back door. Wouldn't you know it? The very next morning that thing was on the deck with the bottom pulled off and all the seeds gone. Now I've taken to bringing it in at night, when I take my plants in (It's still not warm enough at night to leave my tomato plants out...yet.). Last night, at only 9 pm, I went to go check on the feeder. Domino was sitting by the door and hissed as I walked up...but not at me. Outside, the feeder was swinging, as if something had just been there, trying to get some seeds. I walked further onto the deck and saw a big old raccoon scampering across the yard.

So now I have to bring the feeder in at sunset, I think.

Right after bringing the feeder in, I went around front to go get the mail and saw a hummingbird moth! On my new honeysuckle!
Honeysuckle 'Scentsation' (Lonicera periclymenum)

Honeysuckle sans hummingbird moth. It was nighttime and I had no camera. Sorry!

So far, this honeysuckle is standing up to its name! It has a fantastic fragrance and is just covered in blooms. I'm likin' it!

While I was admiring the moth, the raccoon came clambering over the low wall to my backyard and ran into the open space across the street. No snacks for you, buddy!

Little bugger.

I know he'll be back. And he'll probably bring friends. ACK!

Still no hummingbirds to be found in my yard, but it's just a matter of time before I run across them, I'm sure.s

As I mentioned previously, I'm on a succulent bender. Here's proof of how bad it's gotten this year:

One giant pot that started with a set of 5 plants I bought at the DBG annual plant sale and then added to it with my cuttings from last year's selection of plants and a handful of new purchases.
Monster succulent pot. This this is about 24" across. It's on wheels. And no, I don't know how I'll store it indoors in the winter! That's a problem for October!

Top (starting at the 12 noon position): Perle von Nurnberg cutting, Adromishus 'Key Lime Pie' cutting, Ech. agavoides cutting, Sedum globosum 'Old Man Bones', a pair of Ech. 'Lucita' cuttings under the Aeonium arboreum atropurpureum (DBG), a plant that was listed as one thing (Echeveria 'Dondo') that I'm certain it is NOT, but I haven't figured out what it IS. If you know, let me know. Pachyphytum? Pachyveria? It was cute, so I bought it. Crassula perforata 'String of Buttons' (DBG), Echeveria or Sempervivum of unknown name (from The Mecca aka Paulino Gardens), but it's kinda fuzzy all over with pointed tips that are edged in red. Above that is Sedum 'Burrito', a plant claiming to be 'Perle von Nurnberg' (DBG), but I'm not so certain (but maybe it was just attenuating?), then Portulacaria afra variegata (DBG) and in the very center Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' (DBG). The five from DBG were in a "DIY container garden" bag together.

I had to search all over the web to find the name of the one in the center and decided that I went from being on a bender to be obsessed with these new plants. And that I wanted even more of them! So many varieties! So little space inside for overwintering!

Another plant I'd picked up from the DBG sale, this time it was an unusual sempervivum 'Heimlich'.
The question is: will it overwinter in this pot outdoors and survive?

An odd echeveria (Berkeley?) that grabbed my eye in the store and wanted to come home with me, where it would be better taken care of.
Echeveria gibbiflora hybrid

I put it in the unused bonsai pot I've had sitting around for years. I killed that bonsai long, long ago. I'm hoping the frilly echeveria will survive longer!

A trio of plants that just looked so good together that I couldn't resist getting them and jamming them in a pot together. I think this may be my favorite pot.
Top: Senecio serpens 'Blue Chalk Sticks'. Right: Pachyveria glauca 'Little Jewel'. Left: Sedum spathulifolium 'Capo Blanco'.

I shall name it Little Blue. Or George. Always good for a plant name.

Last year's plants just barely survived their overwintering indoors in my garden window. They look really awful, but we'll see how they do over the course of the summer.

Top (starting from 12 o'clock position): 'Perle von Nurnberg', 'Christmas Cheer', plush plant (sunburned), Crassula nudicalus (purple in the sun), Cocoon plant, Key Lime Pie, Burrito, and in the middle Echeveria agavoides. Sand courtesy of Logan Sand Flinger.

At the very least, I learned a lot about succulents and how much they need to me keep them in pots I can easily manage indoors over the winter. Not that it stops me from creating a 24" monster in the summer, but still!

I blame Gayla from You Grow Girl! for piqueing my interest in succulents. I think it may have been this post here that did me in. That's a good lookin' plant.

Now if only the night time temps would pick up, I could start planting out my tomatoes and peppers! Maybe I'll give them a test run tonight....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Spring Emergence

I feel like I'm breaking dormancy, much like my plants.

There's a lot going on.

My friend Val visited for 2 weeks and I haven't written about that. Eric and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary last week and I haven't written about that either. My dad turned 77 on Sunday and I have a post percolating in my head about him, too. (Warning! Tear jerker post imminent!)

Instead, I've been buying succulent plants and potting them up. Taking the ones I grew last year and over wintered inside (The ones that survived! Ack! White fly!) and potting them up in new containers, planting out the cuttings I'd taken last year and grew on and potting those up. I'm currently on a succulent bender.

Since I didn't grow a single plant from seed this year, I had to buy my annual tomato plants. They're sitting in pots on the deck as we speak. The weather has been too cold at night to put them into the raised beds...yet. I'm looking forward to getting the veggie garden started again. I even bought a few bell peppers and some strawberry plants and am going to try raising the strawberries in my giant pots on my deck instead of in the ground, where they will attempt to take over the garden. Again. Next up: putting a hardware cloth cylinder around each pot to keep the squirrels from absconding with my hard won strawberries!

I've been doing a little weeding. When I felt overwhelmed by all of the weeding I still needed to do, I took a break and cleaned up the deck. It collects a lot of dead leaves that blow in from the trees and assorted dead plant bits from my potting and repotting. We've even managed to eat a few meals out there already! I made a point of clearing the table off so that we could. The weather has finally started warming up, although it's been really windy the last couple of days.

I picked up 2 new bird feeders and actually filled them and set them out. I cleaned out the deck birdbath and filled that too. Then, when I heard the distinct sound of a hummingbird whizzing by, I immediately set up a sugar water feeder and set it out as well. I still haven't seen any, but at least I heard one and responded accordingly. I may wrap the feeder in red ribbon to make it more obvious to scouting hummers.

I was looking at the front xeric garden and noticing a lot of dead zones and determined that the sprinkler heads are messing up the watering pattern. Those may be xeric plants but they do like some water occasionally. I'll need to get Eric out there to replace some heads. I also plan on digging out the grass that is determined to grow in the middle of the bed and relocate some plants around the space. It's a ridiculous amount of work, but right now, the bed looks pretty hellish. Poor plants! That's what happens when Hatchet goes bye-bye for ~2 years. Ugh.

Today, I was determined to fill in the bed under the cherry tree some more, so I weeded it a bunch and then relocated some bleeding hearts from the backyard. They weren't looking too happy in the back there, so hopefully a change of scene will perk them up. Also, being sprayed with herbicide by the lawn guy didn't help them any!

Yeah, I decided to bite the bullet and hire an actual lawn guy. Eric's just not into gardening (or lawns) at all, so someone has to do the work I'm never going to get to. Also, after chatting with him for a bit, it turns out he can do paths and such, so I'm having him rip up the north side of the house, cap off the sprinkler heads in there and turn it into a work zone for me. Crushed gravel under foot, a small gate to keep out the crazy short people and a place to put all of my tools, wheelbarrows, potting bench and supplies! Suddenly the deck will stop looking quite so messy with the bench relocated.

You might be wondering where all of this crazed energy came from. Well, I finally saw my doc and got a blood draw that proved my thyroid was out of whack again and my vitamin D was really low. Surprise! (Yeah, you're so not surprised.) I'm also trying out vitamin Z, for a little while. It seems to be helping. The sunlight is definitely helping and I'm really starting to feel more like myself again.

Now if I can just keep the twins out of trouble while they're in the yard with me, I can get some real gardening done!

There might be be photos!

What have you been up to?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mother's Day. Family Day.

My Mother's Day started off in the traditional way: breakfast in bed.

Eric made it, while Caitlin observed the production of eggs, toast, grapes and tea. Caitlin made me a sweet card that brought me near to tears. (On Saturday, I received two dozen blushing roses, so flowers had been checked off the list early.) Shortly after I finished sharing my grapes with Caitlin and eggs with Kaboom, the twins came in and snuggled me for awhile.

It was a full bed, let me tell you!

Then we ran around the house, getting ready for our brunch with Grammy, Grampy, Jenni and her tribe.
Bret, Jenni, Max and Axl

It always takes us longer than expected to get out of our house for any kind of travel or errand. "Where are your shoes?", "Where are MY shoes?!", "Need diapah change!", "Haven't you brushed your teeth yet?!"

Finally, though, bread and camera and babies and gear in hand, we trundled off.

Brunch with the family pretty much guarantees bagels, cream cheese and salmon. There were no complaints here!

Then, after we destroyed ate lunch, we went down to the park for some play time

and some family photos.

Who are these crazy people?

Emma got to "walk" Bowen, Jenni's new puppy.

We met a lion.

Saw some monkeys.

Met someone famous.

and we ran around a bit.

Eventually, it was time to say goodbye and head off home.

To take a swing in the hammock...

and shoot some pictures of just me and the kids, when it struck me that I didn't have any pictures of me and those critters that made me a mom.

I had the bright idea of shooting it in the yard, in the hammock.

Which was a crazy idea until I thought about throwing some chocolate chips in, to lure the kids to me and to sweeten the deal. Which worked. Sort of.

Choklit! Nom!

Chagrin. I has it.

It took a lot of shots (and applications of chocolate chips) like this:

To get just one that looked like this:

However, I find that we must suffer both for love and for art.
"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." - Man in Black

And while my days are often book-ended by whining, crying, screaming and messes,
Emma, in under 3 minutes, while we were right in the next room!

these are the faces that fill it. These are the moments in between the arguments, the constant badgering to "Brush your teeth!" and "Put that down!". They fill up the empty spaces in between one breath and the next. They can be so sweet they make my teeth ache. They fill my heart. These are my children and they are the reason I am a mother. They are the reason I stay, every day, and keep saying the same things over and over again.

"Brush your teeth!"

"Don't hit your brother!"

"Leave the kitty alone!"

But, most importantly: "I love you."

Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ten Minutes Too Long

You know how you sometimes have computer issues? Sometimes those issues are caused by eating around your computer and getting gunk under the keys or even by your children? You know how long it usually takes you to clean up afterwards?

Yeah. I bet you do.

The twins want you to know that they have the perfect way to make you feel better about your computer issues: they'll create worse ones here so that you can say to yourself, "See? It COULD have been worse!"

I was picking up Caitlin from school and left Eric in charge of the twins. He dared to go down to the basement for ten minutes, leaving the twins alone watching Kipper on the screen. He heard them messing around upstairs and decided they sounded happy enough and no one sounded like they were lighting anything on fire, so he let them be.

However, we all have to face reality sometime. As any parent knows, if your kids are too quiet for too long, something's up. If the twins are a little too quiet for any length of time, you just have to go find out what they're doing.

This is what he found:
Soiled computer.


You thought I was joking about how destructive they are, didn't you?

They scooped out about 1/3rd of the soil in the container to the right of the laptop in the picture (And the plants in it!) and smashed it into the keyboard. It took Eric a butter knife, a vacuum cleaner, a can of compressed air, dozens of Q-tips, rubbing alcohol and several hours to get it all out again. Not to mention all of the potting soil on the counter, chairs, floor and dining room table afterward.

The planter, after I put it all back together again, turned out very nicely. It was just waiting for the finishing touch (No, not that of 2.5 year olds, either.) to be considered complete, polished glass stones:

My precious!

Now I have to keep moving it outside during the day to keep The Crazies from playing with the stones, the soil and the plants!

Do you have a worse story of kids + computers = disaster? Lay it on me in the comments!
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