Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cleaning Up the Garden Beds for Winter-- Don't!

I saw a junco eating liatris seeds just this morning in this border along my kitchen window.
Before my accident, I was obsessively tidy with my garden beds.  I would "put my garden to bed" with a fanaticism due the reading of scripture.  My accident resulted in a garden going into winter with a too long lawn, standing herbaceous perennials and non-herbaceous perennials,

My garden looked great last year.

It especially was great when you consider the amount of work it took to get it there.  Sure, in the spring, I lopped any remaining dead tops of perennials to the ground, and raked out the beds, but I found the standing dead material had protected my garden during the most brutal winter in nearly everyone's memory.

There was also no denying that last year was a hard year in the garden for many.  It was not without the benefit of seed heads left for birds and shelter for smaller animals.  All the way up the food chain, more coyotes were seen closer to town.  A friend spotted a wolf running through their yard just south of the village.  Bear have been frequently spotted.  There have been rumors of mountain lions.

A number of times during a couple days of near freezing temperatures without a wind, I have considered cutting back some of the taller plants.  We have had less snow cover than I remember in many years and my mobility has improved.  The urge to get out into the garden has been strong.  Then, however, I will spot a cluster of birds working over my plants, scavenging for food.  The impulse goes away.

I have to face it.  I have a lot of critters in my garden.

Note the trail between the bridal wreath spirea and the plum?  Here's hoping it is feral cats hunting small gnawing creatures like rabbits and mice, rather than a rabbit.  My neighbor across the way says he sees a regular rabbit visitor hopping along this route through my yard.  Some of the track do unmistakably look rabbit-like, but enough to delineate a trail?  I'm not sure.
If we are to be sustainable, it is only reasonable to acknowledge wildlife will also recognize us as such.  There will be more birds.  I will see more damage to strawberries.  I will be competing with squirrels on a regular basis for every last hazelnut.  Small rodent with their need to gnaw may view my prunus, malas, and rosas differently than I do.

We will all need to learn to get along.

Which critters will you allow to coexist?  Like insects, which will be deemed beneficial and which will be seen as pests?

Are feral cats bad if they are hunting small mice and rabbits?  What of the Cooper's hawk if it snags the occasional songbird?  What of coyotes, if they hunt feral cats?

We can't have our cake and eat it, too.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Looking at Seeds; Planning the Future


I have been thinking about seeds.  On a cold Saturday I actually bought seeds in a store off the rack.

The horror...


This Sunset Runner Bean says it is edible.  Pink, a vine, AND edible?  I have room for that.


These would be fun for a time in my huge green pots, at least until I decide what to really plant in them and it gets too hot.  Hot is hard to imagine after last summer and the last week of windchills in the minus 30s and 40s!

I don't have a lot of room.  The family garden is in flux.  The Gardener Twins are telling me "smaller" so they can weed it.  They will be just six.  Baby Gardener will want to weed with a backhoe...  but Baby Gardener is no longer the "baby".  He has been joined by yet a smaller, darker version of himself.  He stares at "it."  What to do?


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas at The Paine: Nutcracker in the Castle

My mother is 78.  The last year or so has not been heart-warming for her.  My father likes to leave the farm less and less.  My mother, although not an avid traveler, is a big fan of day-trips.  She like to go places and see things.  She talks about tucking away these special memories and taking them out to look at when she is alone.

Realizing this a couple years ago, I made her my frequent travel partner.  We have gone to watch the whistling tundra swans when 17 percent of the entire world's flock descended on the marsh outside Hortonville for a couple days.   We have picked cherries in Door County.  One of her favorite day excursions was to the Garden Door  in Door County, a beautiful little garden managed by the Master Gardener group there and filled with theme gardens, clematis, and flowering shrubs.

And then I fell.