inching toward spring

Greetings and salutations everyone; yes, once again it is I. Chess the purebred border collie, here to bring you the latest news from our garden. You may remember me from such cutting-edge and delightful posts as “Of Seeds And Soil” and “No Pizza For Me”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose.14022607Speaking of cutting edge, the guy I live with clipped my toenails today, but carefully, so I didn’t bleed all over everything like last time. He says they still need to be clipped way back but he’s not going to try that. Whew, huh.

It was really nice on Monday, then an icy wind blew in from the north, and it was, according to the guy I live with, “cold, humid, and horrible” yesterday, with a little bit of snow. I thought the weather was just fine and didn’t know what he was complaining about, as usual. I don’t know what most of the stuff he complains about has to do with anything real, but I pretend nothing is happening. Which, technically, is true.

The guy I live with spent quite some time “mouseproofing”, since it was obvious that none of the places he’d “mouseproofed” before had much of anything to do with keeping mice from getting into the house. This morning I was sitting on the kitchen floor, just like in my picture above, and a mouse ran right past me. It was totally shocking.

The most disconcerting thing about all of this is that the guy I live with has this look on his face, like the look of a person thinking about getting a cat. I don’t like that look. He knows we can’t have a cat with the back door open all the time, so I think he just has that might get a cat look on his face to scare the mice. I certainly hope so.

There are seeds germinating on the shelves I showed a while back. Just in case you thought the guy I live with didn’t know what he was doing, putting pots full of seeds out on the back patio when it was freezing cold. This is Asyneuma compacta. An alpine plant from Turkey, related to campanulas. 14022601So that’s the big excitement there. It only took a few weeks, and up came the seedlings.

There’s also big news on the hellebore front. They’re showing buds. The guy I live with said this was “awfully late”, but I pretended not to hear him. Yes, it’s true, some winters we see hellebores in flower in February, but then usually they get, oh, you know, nipped in the bud by cold, and then he complains, and then the main flush appears in March, just like always. All his complaining doesn’t help the plants grow any. 14022603

14022602As I said, it snowed yesterday, and when we went on my morning walk, we could see that rabbits had been hopping all over the front sidewalk. It looked kind of funny. The snow is all gone now.14022605I know the guy I live with took pictures of the rabbit who spent a lot of time in our back yard, but there isn’t a rabbit here any more. I won’t say why. Something bad happened, and that’s all I’ll say.

Well, anyway, the guy I live with was all irked because some of the newly planted Arizona cypresses got really badly toasted over the winter, and he spent a whole lot of time looking for useful information on the internet. He couldn’t find any, which might be a surprise to some people, so what he decided to do was try to warm up the air around the damaged cypress in order to try to encourage bud break. I think this is just plain weird, but, you know, whatever.

There’s a cypress in there. “In its own personal greenhouse”. 14022606Uh huh. Let’s see, what else? Oh, he’s all excited because the reticulate irises are coming up. “They’ll probably all get frozen, so we get excited now”, is how he explained it to me. This is Iris hyrcana. He says it comes from the Greek name for the land on the south shore of the Caspian Sea, in present-day Iran. That’s mostly subtropical, but the Elburz Mountains just to the south are really super high, and there are forests, called the Hyrcanian Forest, that’s sort of where the iris comes from. He says it sounds like there might be centaurs there, hunting wolves, which is where the word Hyrcana comes from. I don’t think wolves need to be hunted, though they’re scary, but then I bet so are centaurs. Or maybe it comes from the Talysh Mountains, which aren’t as high. The guy I live with has never been to Iran, let alone the Hyrcanian Forest, let alone never seen a centaur, so, well, I just don’t know.14022608And that’s the news for today. I guess I’ll go now. I’ll leave you with a picture of me in my fort, looking all nonchalant and everything.14022604


Until next time, then.

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20 Responses to inching toward spring

  1. Vivian Swift says:

    Is it wrong that I want to curl up with Chess in his fort? I would sleep like an air traffic controller if I knew I had a pure bred border collie watching over me.

    • paridevita says:

      I’m not totally sure. I don’t really like having anyone else in my fort. I used to hide chew deals (you know, the rawhide stick things you chew on) in my fort, and my buddy Slipper would try to sneak in there and swipe them, though he was way too big to fit in my fort comfortably, but I’d have to race him back to my fort in order to guard it. It’s a pretty nice fort, though, with the soft Pottery Barn bathroom rug you can see, which the guy I live with washed yesterday so it’s nice and clean. Underneath that is a piece of carpet which is also clean, because it’s fairly new. He saved a piece of carpet when he got new carpet.

  2. The fort, Chess, looks too, uh, *compact* for nonchalance, but whatever. You can take to your fort whenever the scandal of free-running mice overwhelms. The Asyneuma compacta are such an achingly pretty spring green – and such a triumph, plus we watched each step – I suppose guarding their development takes precedence over, you know, *ridding the house of mice*. Our hellebore, our single plant of hellebore, has been in bloom for about a month. I cut the flowers and bring them inside to reign over the dining room table. It grows in the shade of rosa californica Nutkana and Princesse de Sagan, and I have to remember to look for it every year. Thought: might that carefully wrapped cypress serves as, hmm, a *convenience* stop for you? We have/had two California cypress growing next to each other on the edge of our lot. My husband saw them in Descanso Garden – where we’re due Saturday and lord knows what he’ll see – and coveted them. Now we have one green one and one auburn brown one growing side by side, almost twins.

    • paridevita says:

      The secret to a good fort is that it’s compact. Dogs being denning animals and all. I mean technically. I sleep in a bed, just like Sheldon Cooper. But I also sleep in my fort during the day, and on musical evenings, when the guy I live with plays CDs and I can just snore away and he hardly notices it. He was pretty much absolutely certain he’d found the place where the mice were getting in, this afternoon, and stuffed steel wool in the holes, et cetera, but just a few minutes ago what walked into the kitchen, from the living room, but guess what? Since we live next to a field (the one I take my walks in), and then after that there are nothing but fields for a few miles before the big highway and then the mountains, it’s no wonder there are mice. The cypress, I don’t know. The guy I live with says the tree didn’t have enough roots for how big it was, and is studying cypresses in general, but not finding out very much useful information, which isn’t surprising, but anyway, the roots have to equal the above ground part in order for the plant to be fully hydrated (this is almost all he talks about now) in order to manufacture enough “cryoprotective sugar solution”. There weren’t enough roots. So, supposedly, the personal greenhouse is meant to raise the air temperature around the cypress in order to speed up shoot deacclimation, and maybe bring the poor cypress back to health. Deacclimation takes about nine days at this time of year. Roots start earlier, and take longer. I don’t think this is as interesting as he thinks it is.

  3. petabunn says:

    Hi Chess, I love all those rabbits prints in the snow, wonder what they were up to. The weather here is all over the place too, one day it’s 29C and the next, today, it’s 14, I don’t mind but my mum likes it warm. It’ll be winter before we know it. Here I think winter comes in autumn. Bummer about those audacious mice givng you a start, what a nerve, especially in broad daylight. Personally I think there may be mice around here, I have never seen a mouse before but I hear noises. And speaking of cats, as you were, I have lived here for nearly 4 weeks now and I really do miss my cats, especially Chester, it will be months before I get to see them again, hope Chester is here to see me. Anyway it’s good that in all the different weather you are having there is always something happening in the gardening, in only a few weeks I guess everything will be bursting forth. I was wondering what the story was with your fort so thanks for explaining, and yes you do look cute and snug in there.

    • paridevita says:

      Forts are very important for dogs who were raised with them. Or maybe I should say in them. They called it “crate trained” but calling it a crate instead of my fort just doesn’t sound right. I was the only purebred border collie out of the four my mommy and the guy I live with have had who was “crate trained”, and so I took to it naturally. The fort is where you go when things aren’t going totally perfectly, like if there’s something scary going on outside (hammering or something), or, on the other hand, when you just feel like being cozy. We hear noises here. Mostly the noises I hear are triumphant claims that the guy I live with has finally found the real place where the mice are getting into the house, and then later the same night, him getting up and letting bunches of mice out of the Tin Cat. It might be spring here eventually. One of the funny things about spring here, it usually starts much earlier for us than for people up north or back east (we always say “back east” here; I guess that’s a holdover from people coming here from the east), and so we have things in bloom months before they do, but eventually they catch up, so like in late April or early May they have spring, and we have a pile of snow on the ground and this is the coldest place on the continent. The guy I live with doesn’t think it’s all that funny, though.

  4. Deborah S. Farrell says:

    Love the ephemeral bunny tracks. It gives me an idea about solving the myssstery of the mouse entry: cover the floor with a snow-like substance, and then follow the little mousey foot prints to the entry point. I remember seeing a show about the different methods scientists used to study small critters in the woods at night: one was “shake & bake” — where they would catch the mouse or whatever, and coat them with a glow-in-the-dark powder, and then follow that trail. Another one (and this is my favorite for some reason) was to glue the end of a thread to the mouse’s head, and then follow the different colored threads to see where each mouse went. The photo of that method looked like one of those string art pieces that were popular when I was a kid.

    Our life as dog people became much, much easier once we adopted crate training — although they eventually abandon the forts. Having a fort cuts down on the being-in-the-wayness as well as making you feel snug. A good thing.

    I got a High Country catalog yesterday — some interesting turf grass options in it. And during one of our spring days last week (ya gotta take them when they happen), I planted a flat of seed to “vernalize” (including the edelweiss). And today I stopped by the one nursery here & bought a fistful of plant label (stakes) so I’ll be ready to do another 4 flats when the next spring day occurs (in 3 weeks). And I have Adirondack blue potatoes growing in pots on my kitchen table. It’s not near enough, but it’s what I can do at the moment. sigh.

    • paridevita says:

      The guy I live with thought about spreading flour on the floor, but considered that to be, uh, a recipe for disaster. That’s how most of his plans work out. He thought about catching one in the Tin Cat and painting its tail to see if the same mice were coming in night after night. It’s a mystery indeed. Forts are excellent, though being in the way is even better. I like to lie right in front of the refrigerator. Trying to help the guy I live with lose weight. Cynodon is bermudagrass. We decided we can live without a lawn; instead, we have an “accumulation of grasses”, or something like that.

      • Deborah S. Farrell says:

        I wish we were without a lawn. We have 1/3 of an acre in a suburban neighborhood where lawns are worshipped. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the turf in the back yard — a woods where once there was lawn (one of my greatest achievements). I could go on and on about the evilness of Cynodon and the ad in the catalog, but I won’t. I’ll just say I’m glad to know who I’m cursing as I spend what I consider too large of a chunk of my “wild and precious life” trying to obliterate what she has done.

        This little tidbit seemed appropriate given the title of this post:
        “Buzzards don’t bring carrion luggage when they fly home from winter roosts. When they arrive, their food sources have to be sufficiently thawed. So, as odd as it sounds, buzzards overhead is the most accurate of nature’s spring prognosticators.” Jack Spaulding, “Is it spring yet?” Electric Consumer, March 2014.

      • paridevita says:

        We have vultures here. I’ve never seen them vultch (doesn’t their name sound like that’s what they do?), but they used to circle around above the prairie dog town in front of the big prison across the street and down the road a bit.
        The guy I live with is indifferent to lawns. There used to be a green, watered one in the back yard, and one in the “way back” too, because my mommy wanted them for me and my buddy Slipper to play on, and we did. Now that it’s just me, the guy I live with planted a bunch of native grasses and said we could do without the lawn, because I go on walks and don’t run back and forth in the yard like I used to. I’m getting a nice buffalograss lawn in the way back this year (he started on it last year) and I look forward to that.

      • Deborah S. Farrell says:

        We have a wake* of black buzzards here, and I’ve grown fond of them. I find them quite comical, the way they do this weird waddle-hop. Once they were eating something along Bugaboo Lane**, and when I drove by, they hopped 2 or 3 times — just far enough so they wouldn’t get hit by the car. In my rear view mirror, I could see them doing their funny waddle-hop back to whatever it was they were eating. Last summer, one of the evil bunnies became roadkill right across the street from our house. Before long, there were 5 vultures there. I got some pictures of them — one of them spreading its wings out to ward off the other buzzards: it’s MINE!
        * I had to look up what a flock of buzzards was called. It turns out that both buzzards and vultures are called wakes. Fancy that.
        ** When I heard the name Bugaboo Lane after we moved here, I thought “I have to live on Bugaboo!” It turns out to have very few houses along it, mostly woods and open fields. But we did buy a house near it, and it the road we take to get to the university.

        I hope your buffalo grass works out well for you. The photos of it in the catalog look very nice. The catalog says it is for areas with 20-30″ of rain annually. Our average is 48.2″ I keep looking at that photo and wishing it would magically appear in my yard. I don’t use RoundUp, so I don’t know how I could prepare a place to plant plugs. That’s why I want magic. (I make new beds by smothering: bluegrass smothers well; Bermuda grass doesn’t. It loves smothering. That’s one of the many, many things I hate about it.)

      • paridevita says:

        I think living on Bugaboo Lane would be cool. “I’m a purebred border collie and I live on Bugaboo Lane. I’m really quite smart and I’m totally sane. I walk in the snow and I hide from the rain.” Check this out. The only trouble was that it never got watered, only mowed, so it doesn’t look that good any more. Leaving a sprinkler on for fifteen minutes costs $0.60 here. It does require require if no rain falls for weeks on end. Discussed using Roundup to get rid of the ten trillion weeds, so I sprayed them. Planted the plugs, watered them, and the weeds all came back, so I wondered why I sprayed in the first place. I didn’t know what else to do, though now, if I had another opportunity, I’d use a Weed Dragon instead. I’m not a spray-type person. There’s buffalo grass here, which was seeded. The existing grass was scraped up, seed was sown, lightly covered with compost, and then strips of burlap were pinned down over it. Works really well. Wouldn’t pay too much attention to claims that “xeric” plants have upper limits as to the amount of water they can take. A lot are grown in the UK and other places. Look at the adapted range for ‘Bowie’ buffalograss here. We get our seed from Stock. Quality, and friendly service.

  5. Miss Kitty says:

    Greetings, Chess, from very cold North Carolina; although, by your standards 20 degrees is probably not very cold. We’ve been catching up on your adventurous life the last couple of days having just returned from weeks enjoying the warm Gulf Coast of Florida. Actually, the gal I hang with enjoyed the warm Gulf Coast; I just hung out with the house sitter playing pool and sipping tuna juice. We understand the dilemma regarding minute rodents. With the unusually cold winter, the mice have sought shelter in our log house. We see them scurrying across the floor on occasion (freaks my gal out just a bit and doesn’t understand how I can be asleep on the job). The other night she was reading a book in bed and heard a splash in the kitchen. At first she thought her Mommy had gotten up to wash the pop corn bowl. But when she looked at the clock and saw it was 2am, thought that couldn’t be right. She dragged her butt outta bed, walked into the kitchen to find no one there. Or at least no one we knew. When she looked into the sink, there in the dirty pop corn bowl filled with soapy water was a mouse doing the doggie paddle going nowhere fast. My gal took the bowl, walked outside and dumped the water, mouse and bowl onto the porch. That poor mouse sure look like a drowned rat. Then she got all soft on me and scooped him up in a towel cause she was afraid he’d suffer from hypothermia. I don’t know if that could happen cause those things are beyond me. But it sure made for a mighty exciting evening. Glad to see you and you guy surviving the winter. We sure are looking forward to spring but it’s certainly not happening this week. Do signs of spring count?

    • paridevita says:

      Signs of spring definitely count. It feels like spring here this morning. The guy I live with took the books off the bookshelf in the living room, dusted everything, removed the cold air return vent, stuffed the cracks in the baseboard there with steel wool, and wired hardware cloth to the back of the vent. He did that to the cold air return on the stairs downstairs, too. He also noticed that the door to the crawl space (the one he left open a while back) wouldn’t shut properly, maybe never has, so he put a heavy can of old paint against it. He caught four and a half mice within minutes of turning out the light last night. (He told me this this morning, because I was asleep.) The half was a teeny tiny mouse which he said was very cute. Then he thought maybe they’re getting in through the gap in the front door. That would really be stupid. The mice are in the garage; they go under the garage door and walk in the front door here. So he taped that up last night, and then caught about five more mice. I think what’s going to happen is that when he releases the mice into the garage he’s going to forget to unlock the kitchen door, and be locked out of the house in the middle of the night. I’ll be snoring away on the soft Pottery Barn sheets, so I’ll be no help at all.

  6. So the hellebores in a couple of gardens that got all destroyed by cold, and that I saw today putting out new leaves, might even bloom this year? That would be nice.

    • paridevita says:

      They can. Typically, according to the guy I live with, they flower a bit in February, gets their hindquarters frozen off, and then bloom again in March. With the current trend toward horrible and awful winters (instead of just awful), the hellebores might not bloom until summer. Helleborus niger, on the other hand, different story. He killed most of his by transplanting them and forgetting to water last year, but the ones that survived often bloom here in January.

      • Thanks. I am filled with hope now.

      • paridevita says:

        The guy I live with is mostly just resigned to the weather. “Freezing cold and horrible from January 1st until the end of May, then dark and thundery until September, and then dry for the rest of the year.” He complains a lot. I see things much differently.

  7. gardenut says:

    Chess – Can you ask the guy you live with a bit about growing hellebores here on the front range? (soil, light, any supplemental water, etc.) I used to grow them in MD in heavy shade, moist, sandy, acidic woodland soil. Didn’t think I could grow them here, but I’d love to try.

    And I’m posting this right after your birthday, so a belated Happy Birthday to you!

    • paridevita says:

      Thanks. The guy I live with says hellebores are really easy to grow here, in heavy clay with organic matter added. He grows them on the north side of the house and waters about once a week. I’ve never been in that part of the garden except for one time, when we had visitors, and someone left the gate open and I and my buddy Slipper wandered into the front yard. Helleborus niger is easy here, often blooms in mid-January. The orientalis types are also easy, but are really late this year, probably because of the cold we had in February. They’ve seeded all over the shade garden and number in the hundreds now. Foetidus is also easy and reseeds. Argutifolius, not so easy, and rarely lasts for more than a few winters. X sternii and X ericsmithii, marginal. Better in Boulder, maybe. There’s a good online nursery for hellebores, Pine Knot Farms.

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