Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Still a Luddite

I got a new phone about a year ago. Himself and i took the plunge into getting smartphones. Now that whole story can be a post unto itself.

Suffice it to say for now, I thought I had the basics of the phone worked out. I received a call yesterday from my Internet provider that they were going to do maintenance sometime between midnight and 6:00 a.m. The maintenance would take about 20 minutes. During that time, no Internet and the phone with that account (it's my business line)  would be disabled, so if i needed to make an emergency call (here it's dialling 911), I needed to have another way to do it.

I do, because I kept my landline for my personal number. As i dropped off to sleep, i recalled that i had my smartphone, which would also be able to work without the connection.

I usually switch off the smartphone for the evening but had forgotten. No problem. All was well.

This morning, i looked at my phone and wanted to revert to one of the tabs I hadn't deleted. I hadn't made it a bookmark because i didn't need it that permanent, but it was handy to have and check on for the next few weeks. All my tabs were cleared out.

My guess is that the smartphone was on my wireless connection so when that cut out, it just wiped everything.

I don't like this things being wiped away before i'm ready to toss, and then never really being completely gone, as somebody somewhere can retrieve it and use it. Sort of the digital version of those socks that go missing when you use the dryer.

Since using only a clothesline, i've lost just one sock.

Still a Luddite.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Garden update

Well, the elm/whatever they might be half alive twigs and branches are still undecided if they are going to get living or dying. They aren't hurting anything in the space where they are making their decision, so i've let them alone for now.

It's been dry here, the driest I've ever seen, but we've got some rain falling today and should be falling over the next three or so. We need it.

I had some sweet potatoes that decided to sprout. I decided to put them in planters i made from two largish totes to see how they fare. If I'm successful, I'll have some sweet potatoes, and i can pick up the totes and move them indoors should the weather prove too cold near the end of the season. From what i've read they take anywhere from 100 to 120 days to mature, and I know some years we haven't had that many frost-free days.

Still, it cost very little to try the experiment. The totes can be used again as container for other plants and i had the potting soil and compost already on hand. I tested out the drainage upon initial watering, and was satisfied with how well it worked. I placed the totes on the south side of the yard beside the beans i planted in the little beds at the end of the deck.

The bean plants are looking well. At last count, I have 14 green beans and as many wax bean plants. I espied birds flying close them when they first sprouted and didn't cover the beds with any sort of covering, so birds may have made off with a sprout or two. I had planted about 20 seeds of each.

I also planted peas, one kind for shelling and the other snow peas. Those are happily climbing their way up the upside tomato cages. Yes, I was late planting those, it was just one of those years.

The tomato and pepper plants have been happy with the heat. On the local facebook marketplace page, someone was offering free tomato plants. I picked up a few as insurance. She had a greenhouse, which was new for her, and planted what she'd normally plant. The greenhouse was a much better way to start plants, she found out, as nearly every seed sprouted, leaving her with loads of plants. She also had friends and family ask her to plant some for them, which she had, but their idea of some and hers differed greatly. They thought of "some" as 3 or 4 plants, and she saw it as a dozen or so. Then, some of the tags were missing, so she wasn't sure what was what. She could guess a few, but the rest? Mystery tomatoes.

Who doesn't love a good mystery? I took some, she refused any money for them (although she did ask that we bring out own pots so she could keep hers, which i was glad to do), and most of the mystery tomatoes were happy to be transplanted.

I had a volunteer pansy plant and daisies in the garden space, which i didn't pull out, and a giant plant i cannot identify. At first i wondered if it's Good King Henry, which i first tried growing, but it never took. From pictures I've seen on the Web, it appears not to be that. The leaves are pointed like tridents. There's an herb farm near me, but they are not open to the public at this time, so i can't do my usual, which is to take a leaf and ask. Maybe they'll respond to an email.

I set out some strawberry plants three years ago, in a spot that is just a little too shaded. They have decided to bear this year, and I'm not the only critter who took note. We've had quite a few nibbled berries when we've gone to pick them. A bunch of black-eye susans which i didn't plant decided they wanted to be with the strawberries, so that doesn't help the strawberries at all.

In spring, I saw two flowers on the cornelian cherry bushes I planted two years ago, so I hope those two flowers give two fruits and are a harbinger of yummy times ahead.

The lupines have finished, the milkweed is opening, lilies greet the rain. It is summer.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Under the elm

Several years back, I saw a blurb in the local weekly paper in the want ads. Someone wanted leaves and if you had them raked into a pile, he'd collect them. I had done a good bit of raking, covered the garden and flower beds with all the leaves i wanted to use as a mulch and still had leaves left. I was happy to share the bounty.

He arrived promptly, and i helped him to fill tarps and drag them to his truck where we dumped the leaves. It was he who first told me that i had an elm tree in the yard.

He was more into chestnut trees, and after that meeting for the leaves, i never met  up with him again. I then wondered if the plants i thought were slippery elm were rather young elms and called the larger of the two Junior and the smaller Baby.

I searched to see if i could find someone who would help me with digging them out and transplanting them. Since they were likely sprung from the old elm in my yard--who had somehow escaped the dreaded Dutch elm disease that wiped out nearly every elm in the US--i wanted to have someone who knew what they were doing to help with these rare babies.

My searching came to naught, Junior grew a little more each year and was becoming quite crowded. Baby was in the shadows, not growing much, but happy to leaf out each summer.

And then i wondered if they really were elms or something else as the leaves were very close to Mother Elm but not exact. She had toothy edges and these younger trees didn't really. Junior had a slight toothy edge, Baby's was hardly noticeable.

We had a heavy snow in early April and another one about a month later in May. Both were extremely heavy, wet snows, and after the May snow, i saw many trees in our area succumb to the weighty white stuff. They snapped in half or lost large branches.

We didn't fare too badly, although a large branch of the white lilac, the branch most birds liked to perch on, twisted at its bottom. I wanted to wait until after it was done blooming before we cut it away, but Himself wanted to tend to it sooner. He was right to do so, but it pained me to cut it away with all those blooms showing great promise.

The maple on the line between us and our neighbour's, which is our neighbour's, lost another large branch. And as i walked around our yard, i saw that Mother Elm had also taken a hit. Two of her most canopy part in front and back were hanging. They're up too far for us to cut them, so i've called the arborist who trimmed our giant oak last year, as it had branches touching the roof.

He came out to see the elm and called me (we weren't home when he stopped to look) to say he could do it once we moved the boat, and it would take him between three and four weeks before he'd have room in his schedule for us. He lamented his boat was in a similar place, would we get ours in the water? Maybe. Yes, maybe he would, too, this year has been so weird.

I did say i wanted to see if we could save the tree, and he immediately replied, "We always try first t save the tree."

I said i agreed with that approach, but this one i felt especially dear since it was an elm, and they are so rare. I didn't want the mostly off/partly attached large branches to hinder her chances of survival.

He said, "Yes, it seems she escaped The Disease that took so many. We can also clean her up a little bit, and around her, too, if you'd like."

They had done the same when working on the oak tree, and we were pleased with the results, so i assented.

After the call, i went back out to look at the Mother Elm. Everything was greening up nicely, leaves extended themselves to their summer size, when i realized with a start that Junior had nary a leaf. I looked down at the base of his trunk, which like many elms, had multiple trunks rather than just one. He had three, and they were all twisted just enough to kill him. Like the lilac branch loaded with so many blooms.

This afternoon, i cut away most of Junior and felt very sad. I dragged the branches over to the woodshed where i'd break them down and put them in the tinder or larger sticks pile. A few of the smaller twigs had leaves on them. They were quite small, so methinks 'twas the May storm that did Junior in. Although the April one may have weakened him, too and May the death blow.

I  had hoped someone would help me dig him out and transplant him. It seemed ludicrous to have this tree die from a snowstorm when against all odds it had sprung up and grown so close it its now rare mother. I had done internet searches to see how best to transplant or care for them, but couldn't find anything besides generic tree information.

I marvelled that even though this tree was for all intents and purposes dead, a small part of it was still fighting to live. What if i cut off those living parts and stuck them in the ground? I realized that it was likely folly, but i couldn't not try. So there are now five awkward looking sticks with tiny leaves between the two witch hazel that decided to stick around.

I really do think Junior was an elm because he looked a miniature of Mother Elm. His shape, curve of his branches, and the canopy at the top mimicked hers.

Baby is still very much living in the understory of some volunteer maples, so when the arborist comes, I'm going to ask  him about Baby. Because the leaves are slightly different but only just, so i'm hopeful to get a positive ID and perhaps a plan for moving Baby to a better location.

And in that three to four weeks, we can see if any of the five sticks will leaf out more. I don't hold out a lot of hope but wanted to give them at least a thin whisper of a chance rather than relegating them immediately to the burn pile.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The fourth voice

I am amazed when i hear a few voices sing parts. When they sing well, there's always an extra voice I hear. A friend shared this on her facebook page, and I find myself listening to it every few days. It's the Platt brothers (Jonah, Henry, and Ben) singing Ahavat Olam.

Have a listen.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Decisions, decisions

I usually make a plan for the garden each year. What plants I'd like to grow in it, which usually has my favourites plus one or two new items.

The last few years have not been good garden years for me. One year giant slugs stopped by, and i watched in horror as they calmly ignored the diatomaceous earth I had confidently sprinkled around each plant. The first ones to ignore the DE line were stopped, but the second and third waves, merely crawled over their desiccating brethren and continued on towards the green prize. Another year, deer discovered the garden plot and treated it like tapas. Last year the yield was paltry, and for some unknown reason, the regular  tomatoes didn't do well at all. The cherry tomatoes did all right. The peppers were pouty all season long. The cukes gave a meager crop, so while they were good for fresh eating, I didn't have enough to make pickles, which was what I had hoped to do.

This year, i was late starting seeds, and then we had snow on 9 May so while mulling over how to prevent a dismal garden year, i decided the simplest approach might be best. Instead of a bit of this and that, only to be disappointed, maybe i ought to try for largely one type, and call it good.

My favourite veggies are green beans and wax beans. When i don't know what veggie to serve with a bit of meat, my default is green beans. Most years i have a few green bean and wax bean plants of the bush variety, and even in bad years, i still get something from them. I realized with a bit of a start that i don't really find wax beans at the grocery store anymore. I can't say why, i just don't. I used to be able to find them both fresh and frozen. And that i would be as eager to serve wax beans as i am green beans, but once I couldn't find any, then i stuck with just green beans.

I kept hearing good things about pole beans and decided over winter that this would be my year for pole beans. And then decided that since wax beans don't seem to tickle commercial fancy, it would  make sense for me to give them lots of space in my garden. If I had a good year with them, i could not only eat them fresh, but can, freeze, or dehydrate some.

So,  how much do i need to plant? You would think with the World Wide Web at my fingertips, the answer would be relatively easy to obtain. I know there are variables, as different varieties can provide different yields, and soil health and weather idiosyncrasies also play a part. It would also depend upon how much I want to have for my household. Even if we have the same number of people in my household as next door, we may want to serve beans three times a week, while they want them just once a week at most.

Still. I expected that i'd be able to find an answer that could say something like, "On average, healthy plants, healthy soil, for a year's supply X plants per person."

I know that pole beans tend to be more prolific than bush beans, so long as you keep them picked, but i wanted real numbers i could work with. Alas and alack, i found a range from 4 to 20 plants per person. Often with no explanation. One notable exception was a homesteader who said she worked with about 10 plants per person, and that was enough for them to have fresh through the season, put up 50–60 jars, save some for next year's seed, and her particular variety could also be used as a dry bean, and she usually allowed for about 200 of those. This was something i could work with. She didn't say what size jars, but i assumed quarts since she had a family of four. The pole beans i chose weren't used for shelly beans or dry beans so far as i knew.

The seed packet highly suggested to use innoculant on the seed. I reached for what i thought was innoculant only to find it was rooting powder, meant for houseplants, with the warning that it was NOT to be used for food plants. sigh.

I went to my favourite nursery. Only one entrance and one exit with this pandemic shopping strategy, masks required, yet not one did i see that would actually keep the virus away, and i decided to ask as soon as i got there. An older woman was on the phone, and the teenager beside her guiltily affixed his mask as i approached.

"Bean innoculant?" i asked the lad. He looked over to the older woman who had heard me, and shook her head no.

I walked out, taking my mask away from my face as i approached the exit door. An older masked man was on the other side and looked loathe to touch the door as i came out. I had  held it open for him out of habit. Would he be scolded for entering the new EXIT ONLY door? Unknown.

I ended up going to four places before I could finally find some, once again shooting a hole in the "go out as little as possible and and as few places as possible" directive. I do go out as little as possible, have been doing that for the last nearly 11 years I've been here, since I don't care much for shopping and prefer to make fewer larger shopping trips rather than numerous small ones in the same time period. First my favourite nursery, second and third hardware stores that have just about everything, and the fourth, another nursery where i never go.

The fourth place was hopping, and I figured it was best to ask where the innoculant was rather than amble all over. The man in front of me didn't wear a mask, and he was busy talking to a younger unmasked man who i found out as they conversed was an employee helping him with his order. He was a regular customer, and included me in his conversation, when he turned around and saw me behind him, also not wearing a mask. He was a jovial sort and happy to learn they guaranteed their trees for one year.

The store was very much quieter when he left and a somber feeling filled the space. I asked about the innoculant, and my eye fell on it as i ended my question. The Jovial Man has blocked my view of it right at the cash register.

"It's here," the cashier said and pointed. "And i see we'll need to order more. We can't keep this stuff in stock."

I thanked her, paid in cash, because I don't like businesses--especially small, local ones-- having to pay a percentage of every credit or debit card sale, and exited, innoculant in hand.

An older woman with a beautiful Australian shepherd on a leash, enquired where the rest room was. She was directed to portapotties in the same direction where i had parked. She looked a little concerned, and i offered to hold her dog's leash if necessary. Here, her brow unfurrowed.

"Oh, he'll stay right outside." A pause although she was still looking at me. "But, thank you."

"You're welcome. He's a beautiful dog." Here, he looked at me, seemingly understanding what i was saying. For a brief moment, i saw the lady's eyes brighten. She may have been smiling under her mask, remembering that not so long ago, no one would think twice to offer as i had, and yet it now would seem unthinkable to allow a stranger to touch her dog's leash.

I made my way over to the truck, noting that a New Jersey car was parked next to me. Looking at the hundred or so of people looking at the plants outside, most masked, i could sense most of them wanted some kind of normalcy. It was time to plant flowers. I noted here as i had in the other places where i stopped that seed racks were mostly picked over or bare.

The plant sales i would frequent weren't happening this year. Too bad. I especially liked the school's plant sale, because I'd invariably see the kid who helped grow a plant i wanted, and they'd gush about it. It was good to see them so interested, and they enjoyed being praised for their efforts.

Decisions. I decided I'd be cheerful as i went out and about, hoping to stop at only one place for one item. I remained cheerful at every other place, even if they didn't have what i needed. They were places i normally shopped when looking for things, and living in a small town means that most people working there recognize you even if you don't see each other outside of that store.

The errand for innoculant took much longer than i had anticipated. In the end, after i had cleared the small beds just beyond the deck, determined the soil was dry and warm enough, i planted the innoculant-covered beans. Twenty-one of the green beans (one kind, called Monte Cristo), and twenty-two of the wax beans (two kinds, ten Monte Gusto, and twelve of Kentucky Wonder).

Wonder what kind of garden year this shall turn out to be.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

On holiday, and quelle surprise--it's a staycation

Yesterday was Memorial Day here, a day we're to remember those who died in battle or from their battle wounds. No parades, no solemnity at the cemeteries, just a feeling of being lost when you're out of your routine and not quite sure what day it is.

I had thought to visit the nearby cemeteries, take my fife, play a few tunes, and end with Taps. But, i slept in for a change, and by the time i got up, it was too late.

I have a mental list of things i'd like to do before i rejoin the rat race and decided that I'd list several for today. I listed six items instead, and have finished four of the items. The fifth i started but likely won't complete until tomorrow. The sixth i can do tomorrow.

I also did a few things not on the list and feel rather chuffed about that. And the warm weather and wind felt good as i went on my walk around the neighbourhood today.

The gift of doing what needs doing but not having to rush to do it is delicious.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Back for the moment

I had run out of things to say. Well, not really, i've spoken a great many words since my last blog entry. But I had run out of things i wanted to report to Blogland. A few times, i thought of returning, picking up where i'd left off, but did i really want to cover all that ground? No, or if i did, i didn't necessarily want to spew it out for others to see.

For a time, I felt i had landed in a nice neighbourhood in the Blogosphere and felt comfortable, but then I knew people whose accounts were hacked, and I found myself growing more and more reticent.

I continued reading some of my favourites, but they, too, for the most part had taken a break or were talking about things that didn't hold my interest. Something felt stale, and life got a bit busy, so i stepped away.

I was thinking about some of those bloggers over the last few weeks. Wondering how they were. And so today, when I was watching something on YouTube and wanting to make a comment in the chat, I couldn't because I had to sign in. Right. Somehow i had deleted all of my firefox bookmarks with the recent update (note to self. if they advise you to delete because they may not carry over correctly in the latest update, TAKE A CHANCE AND SAY NO). So i needed to sign in, and couldn't for the life of me remember my password. I knew my user name, but they weren't interested in that. And then they did the whole is it really you? and Let's play 20 questions to see if it is. Which left me cold, and i found my password, only by then, they wanted none of it. Nope. I could be someone nefarious rather than just a middle aged broad who couldn't remember the @(U*(%($(#$TU($#TU($ password and just wanted to make a comment. sigh

But it did make me realize that i hadn't checked my blog in ages, so i had a look. And saw some spam comments so wanted to sign in and delete those.

So here we are, three or so hours later, having perused some of my old entries and others' blogs I used to read and enjoy. A few are still at it, which i am glad to see. And i may join the ranks once again. We shall see.