up the creek

Greetings and salutations, everyone; yes, once again it is I, Mani the purebred border collie, filling in for the guy I live with, and here to bring you the latest news from our garden, and some vole-hunting news, too. You may remember me from such posts as “The Ugly Garden”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose. The guy I live with said that lying on the thymes he planted on my Personal Hill wouldn’t hurt them. You can probably see how “desperately gloomy” the weather here can be, with no forecast of rain. Super gloomy.

But never mind that; things are happening in the garden now. Remember the epimediums he ordered and planted last autumn? They didn’t die. There are a lot of corydalis flowering now; these are forms of Corydalis solida. Some of them still have labels. The guy I live with said that a certain purebred border collie puppy swiped a lot of the labels, so we’re not sure what all the names are, here. This is ‘Purple Beauty’.This is ‘Going Rouge’. This is “the red one”. (Not ‘George Baker’.) It’s even redder than this but the point-and-shoot doesn’t do red very well, for some reason. These corydalis have begun to seed around which is kind of interesting. They’re easy to grow, too. Unlike some of the others.

Here are the funny tubes of Allium pskemense.  Named for the Pskem River in Kazakhstan. The guy I live with said these are dug up in the wild and eaten, like regular onions. I’m not allowed to have onions. And just today, or maybe just yesterday, the guy I live with noticed a peony seedling. He planted a few peony seeds about fifteen years ago, which a friend in New York sent him, and a few came up. At least one is still left.There’s another thing going on, and this is kind of sad. Maybe not for me, but for the guy I live with. He’s decided to do some downsizing and rearranging. The three troughs near the patio, that you often see in pictures, were at one time filled with porophyllum saxifrages, and in fact there were over sixty of them here. He would read and re-read the book on them, dream of getting more saxifrages (not easy to acquire), and when they began to flower, usually in March, sometimes in the snow, that would be very exciting. And best of all, his wife really liked them, the leaves and flowers, but after she died the saxifrages didn’t get the care they should have gotten, and so there are only a few now, and these are being moved. The troughs might be filled with hens and chicks instead. Some of the ones he got last year look really great now. 

A lot of the cactuses, like in the clay dishes, are being given away, too.

And then there’s this. The green fence is new, and possibly ugly, but this little corner got cleared out, as I mentioned a while ago. Really the only thing that was done was a bunch of branches from the New Mexican privet were cut back, and suddenly this space became visible, and empty. The definitely ugly bamboo fence is now super-visible, but won’t be during the summer.

So that’s the garden news.

I decided to go up the creek and thought you might like to see me doing that.There isn’t any water in the creek, obviously, but when there was, the guy I live with let me go splashing in the water, so long as the water looked and smelled good, which sometimes it doesn’t.

Anyway I was hoping there might be voles along the creek banks. There weren’t, but it was fun looking. It’s always fun to look. That’s the trunk of the cottonwood tree you can see from our house.This is me looking for voles, but not in the creek, which is over there.You may think this is totally pointless, but it really isn’t. There are holes like this all over the field. 

What you do is jam your nose into one of the holes and sniff. The guy I live with said that when I do that, dirt blows out my ears. I think he’s making fun of me. I didn’t catch any voles, of course, but I did wind up with Vole Hunter’s Nose.A condition which is easily remedied by soap and water.

Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s update, and maybe learned a thing or two about how to hunt for voles.

Until next time, then.






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planting some grass

Greetings and salutations, everyone; yes, once again it is I, Mani the purebred border collie, filling in for the guy I live with, and here to bring you up to date on the latest news from our garden. You may remember me from such posts as “This Is More Like It”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose.You can probably see that this is the time of year when the cool-season grasses begin to look a bit obtrusive in the buffalo grass (like what I’m lying on), but there isn’t much we can do about it, so we mostly just ignore the green blotches here and there. Ideally the bluegrass, which was here before the buffalo grass was seeded in, should have been completely killed, but it wasn’t, because that’s very hard to do. And it isn’t that important anyway.

There were some warm-season grasses in the front yard that the guy I live with decided to move today. It was a cold, gloomy, and windy day.  The clumps were very large. These are Sporobolus wrightii (“Wright’s alkali sacaton”, which is a dumb name)and they get really large, but they don’t do very well in the front yard because they don’t get enough water. The grass likes a lot of water in late summer, in order to flower.

So the guy I live with soaked the dirt (it’s not really soil, just gross dirt) around the grasses yesterday, and today he went about digging up the grasses. Using these:The shovel on the left is a tree-planting spade made by Bulldog Tools in England (as was the “planting spear” on the right); the spade was used to dig up the clumps of grass, and the spear was used to cut the first clump, which was really huge, in half, because the guy I live with couldn’t get it into the wheelbarrow.

I just watched, through the living room window. I was a bit worried because the guy I live with is pretty old, and it looked like he was going to pass out when he tried to lift the first, huge clump of grass to put it into the wheelbarrow, but he didn’t.

I had to stay inside while the grasses were moved into the back yard, because, according to the guy I live with, we purebred border collies tend to go “completely berserk” around wheelbarrows, trying to herd them, I guess (I heard that Slipper was really bad when it came to wheelbarrows), and that that was dangerous.

(Less dangerous than what happened yesterday, when the wind blew a glass bird feeder down; it shattered on the patio, and I thought it would be interesting to pick up a piece of the glass. The guy I live with totally freaked out and so I dropped the glass. He said I could have wound up in the emergency room. I didn’t, which was good.)

Eventually, after a lot of wheezing, the grasses got planted in the border along the back fence, where the soil is really good. The lilacs that you see me standing under might flower this year, and again they might not. The one I’m nearest to is ‘President Lincoln’. It has lots of flower buds.The one on the other side of that, which you can’t see, is ‘Annabel’. ‘Annabel’ (a Syringa × hyacinthiflora type) always flowers at the end of April and the flowers don’t get frozen as often as the regular Syringa vulgaris cultivars do.  I know these buds are not in focus at all.The lilacs were planted a long time ago, and came from Heard Gardens in Iowa; the lilacs are on their own roots. This was one of those things that the guy I live with thought he should do, because his wife loved the scent of lilacs, and yet the lilacs so rarely flower here that the whole business seemed pointlessly sad. But the lilacs are still here.

Those poles, getting back to the picture with me in it, are going to be removed, I think, because great horned owls don’t perch on them any more, and they kind of lean, as you can see. And the little fence is going to go, too, eventually. I think you can see why the whole garden has been invaded by smooth brome, just by looking through the chain link fence. The smooth brome is impossible to eradicate.

The fence has to be chain link because the field there, where I hunt for voles, is a “hundred year flood plain”, and what that means isn’t that there might be a flood every hundred years, but that there’s a one percent chance of a flood in any given year. The creek has flooded, three or four times, right up to the fence. And it has to be chain link.

The squirrel feeder thing didn’t get refilled this winter, though it should have been, because it keeps the squirrels busy for at least a while. Those loops at the ends of the metals arms are screws which hold the dried ears of corn.

Looking the other way, toward the southwest, there’s another squirrel feeder which the “idiot squirrels”, according to the guy I live with, completely chewed to pieces instead of just lifting the lid on the box to get the sunflower seeds.

There used to be grass on the path under the apple tree, but then I showed up. I know it looks pretty hopeless, back here, but if you look closely, you can see the little hill where the juno irises grow. Those dark green clumps just below the pale green ceramic pot sitting on the trough patio.Some of the junos are flowering. This is Iris graeberianaAnd Iris aucheri ‘Indigo’. It’s supposed to freeze again tonight and so all of the flowers will probably be wrecked, according to You Know Who, anyway.

I guess that’s all for today. Oh, wait. One more thing. Remember all the talk about crawdads? Well, guess what. These aren’t potato chips made from crawdads, or even with crawdad flavor, just with the spices. The guy I live with said they were good. His friend had some, too, and she said they were good. I didn’t get any, which is typical.

Now I really am done for the day. I’ll leave you with a picture of me on a very windy walk today.

Until next time, then.





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