Our House

Our House

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Growing a Cucumber Plant in a Hanging Basket

I am guardedly declaring that I can feel summer in the air.  Today is in the 80's and even though the weekend will bring cooler temperatures, the long range forecast looks good.  I feel so bad for the people who are having flooding and tornadoes.  It must be a very difficult time for many.

I have mentioned that I am not a vegetable gardener.  We have lousy sandy soil and don't have the love for gardening to work on conditioning it.  I tried the lasagna garden where you put cardboard over the sod and add organic material in layers.  If you search "lasagna garden", you can learn all about it.  It's a great idea and it worked in the past, but now it sits unused.  The trees have grown, and we really don't have a place sunny enough to grow anything.  The only sunny place is in the middle of the yard.  We considered the hay bale gardening but my husband didn't want all those bales sitting in the middle of the yard.  We had given up growing our own fresh vegetables.  Our daughter has a big garden, and we do have access to whatever produce we want.

Then while out shopping for flowers, we saw a sign on the highway.  It said perennials and hanging baskets for sale.  We stopped and there was an aged hippie type fellow watering his plants.  He had a variety of interesting legal plants as opposed to the illegal plants he probably grew in his younger days.  Of course, I have no proof of this.  One of the first things I noticed was a hanging basket of cucumbers.  He said that was his own creation, and it is the perfect way to grow cucumbers.  I never saw that method before, so I bought a basket.  There were small cucumbers already forming on the plants.  We also bought a cherry tomato basket.  We brought them home, and my husband constructed a pole in full sun to hang the plants on.  We will use it for birdfeeders this winter.

We have a cherry tomato plant, two peppers and the cucumber basket.  It will be interesting to see if they continue to produce.  If so, that's my kind of gardening.

This variety is called Eureka.  It is a small cucumber perfect for the basket.

I picked three today.  They only get 4 inches long.

This is a cherry tomato plant.  It is loaded with blossoms and green tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Good Week After All

This past week has been neither bad nor good.  It was just blah.  I did have moments of extreme anxiety, but that is how it is when you have a 90 1/2 year old person living with you.  For someone who never needed to go to the doctor, we have been there a lot.  A little over a week ago dad had lower back pain and wasn't feeling well.  Some other symptoms convinced us that another trip to the ER was in order.  We went and found out that dad had a kidney stone that was trying to make an exit.  We have been monitoring it (if you know what I mean), but no stone has showed up.  The urologist wants to wait for a couple more weeks before any intervention as long as his pain is low and Dad doesn't feel too much discomfort.  Hopefully it will pass soon.

A couple weeks ago our poor nesting bluebirds lost three of their five eggs to the House Wren.  I have written about the cruelty of the house wren many times.  I hoped this year would be different.  Two eggs were left in the nest, but I'm sorry to report after three days the bluebird parents abandoned the nest.  This week I cleaned out the nest.  The bluebirds have returned and built a new nest.  I haven't checked to see if she laid more eggs, but when she does I hope the young can hatch and survive.

The weather has been too hot and too cold.  Last weekend we directed traffic for the CHN Cancer 5K.  We had signed up to walk in the race, but they needed volunteers on the race route.  I was hot just standing there and the runner/walkers looked really hot and sweaty.  Sunday was also hot.  We got to 87 degrees.  Then as night fell on Sunday the temperatures started falling.  It turned windy.  We heard the crash and saw one section of logs fall.  The wood is piled between the big pine trees.  I think the swaying of the trees caused the logs to shift.

We planted some grass seed this spring.  It is very hard to grow grass in our yard.  Lack of moisture and sandy soil makes it difficult to have a nice lawn.  The seed has sprouted but looked a little sparse.  Now we know why.  All spring we have had a turkey living in our wooded area.  She comes to our yard to feed, and I caught her eating the lawn seed.  If she has eggs laid nearby, we may have our hands full when they hatch.  Several turkeys can cause a lot of damage to our already pathetic yard.

Then today the temperature didn't reach 60 degrees.  Tonight there is a chance of frost.  I hope it is warm enough for the fruit trees.  If there is a hard frost there will be very few apples, cherries or other fruit later in the summer.  To be safe, I brought in all the flowers I had placed outside.  I hope that is the last time I have to do that until next fall.

With the summer coming (we hope), other critters pass through the yard.  This is a woodchuck trying to get into our old garage.  He tried to get in several places, but I think he moved on.

He checked out the cat door put in by a previous owner.

A racoon has become brave enough to come out while it is still light outside.  Normally they wait until it is dark.  The past two nights this one was checking out what was on the ground under the bird feeders.

We had vultures flying over.  There were at least three of them flying over for quite a while.  There must be a dead animal somewhere in the area. I hope it isn't one of our deer friends.

I don't know what is up with these birds.  They are either mating or fighting.  All I know is that they don't look happy. 

We have bald cardinals, turtles coming out of the marsh to lay eggs. Baltimore orioles and tree swallows nesting and many other acts of nature.  So as I said the week was neither good nor bad in my world.  Actually that isn't true.  We had our grandson Jack with us today.  He wasn't feeling well and his parents had to work.  In the afternoon, we went outside to feed the birds and fill the bird baths.  He picked up a pine cone and planted it.  He said that he really loves nature and whenever we want to move, he wants to buy our house.  He said by then the pine tree will be tall.  He is six years old and I was touched by that.  I guess it was a good week after all. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Diapers Repurposed

In spite of the weather we are having this spring, I am starting to put my houseplants outside and gathering supplies to make some hanging baskets.  One of these days the weather will be hot and summer will be here.  In fact, the next two days will be pleasant.  Today I started looking at plants.  I went into the much hated big box store for a couple items and went to check out the garden center.  I was looking for a fuschia plant.  I buy a fuschia every year because the hummingbirds love them.  I couldn't find one but my husband spotted one on the half price rack.  It was the only one they had, and I was thrilled.

A nice Fuschia plant for only $5.49

I looked around at some other plants and found another one I liked on the half price rack.  It is called a calibrachoa.  It is a mini trailing petunia.  This one came in a regular pot, and I wanted it to be in a hanging basket.  I had a few empty baskets from last year so all I needed to do was re-pot it.  As I was cleaning out the old basket, I remembered something I had read last winter.  It was how to use the gel in a baby diaper.  Preferably an unused baby diaper.  I thought I would experiment.

A few weeks ago I cleaned my closet.  I came across seven baby diapers.  Now keep in mind my youngest grandchild is five years old and hasn't needed a diaper in years.  I can't explain why I still had these diapers.  Maybe the universe knew I would have a good use for them one day.  Fortunately it was not for my personal use but to use for potted plants.  The first thing I did was soak the diaper in eight cups of water.  Within minutes the diaper absorbed almost all the water.  Who knew a diaper can hold eight cups of liquid.

I laid out the diaper and cut it open.

Inside the diaper was a gel type substance that looks like snow.  I think there is a product you can buy in garden centers that mixes with potting soil that helps the plant from drying out.  This appears to be a similar product.

There was more than eight cups of gel inside the diaper.  I took some and mixed it with some soil.  I placed it in the bottom of the flower basket.  I removed my plant from it's pot and potted it in the hanging basket.  Now as the plant dries out this summer, the gel will hold enough moisture to keep the plant alive until it's watered again.  I googled this process and some people just cut a piece of diaper and place it in the bottom of the pot.  They watered it and added the soil on top.  I imagine that would work too.  From one diaper I have enough gel to pot many plants.  Maybe a scoop of gel could be put in the hole before planting some of our garden plants to keep them from drying out. Hopefully some toxicity won't be transferred to edible plants.  That should probably be researched.   I think anything safe for babies bottoms should be safe for everyone, but stranger things have happened.

My re-potted flower.  Time will tell how well the gel works.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Irises In The Garden

Today I just want to share some of my early spring flowers.  I have several varieties of Irises.  They are the first to bloom along with the daffodils.  Here are some we have blooming in the garden.  Thank goodness for these because this spring our weather has been very erratic.  One day it's warm and the next is cold.  These don't last long, but they are lovely.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Jack's New Project

Here it is Mother's Day 2015 and it feels like it is early March.  It is 58 degrees but with the wind it feels much cooler than that.  I guess it is just the contrast from three days ago when it was 87 degrees.  That was too hot for me, but 58 is too cold.  I know, you just can't please some people.  I say if you're wishing, you might as well wish for perfection.  That would be 75 degrees with a light wind.  One week ago that is the weather we had.  Our grandson Jack called and wanted to come over to build something with Papa.  Jack is in first grade and will turn seven the end of June.  He had gathered his supplies and wanted his mom to bring him to our house.  Apparently Jack had a plan.  He brought a few things from home and then went into the workshop and found an old broom handle and some more scrap pieces.  He laid the wood out the way he wanted it and had me take photos from a couple angles so it would be reassembled to look the same.

I wonder what he has in mind.

Jack waited patiently while Papa gathered screws, a drill bit and a drill/driver.  He had his safety glasses on and was carefully planning in his head.

Can't you just see the wheels in his head turning.  His safety glasses already in place.

So the project begins...
Papa gets the screw started
and Jack screws it in.

Here is the finished project.

We aren't quite sure what it is, but he is very proud.  He says it's an airplane with compartments for stuff.

Most of the grandchildren come out to visit and don't want to go home.  Not Jack.  The moment his project was finished he wanted to go home.  He likes to be home plus he needed to show his family what he made.  Last year he made a birdhouse with Papa, and this year it was this airplane.  Who knows what next year will bring.  He has a big imagination, so it should be interesting.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Even Carp Have A Purpose

There isn't much new to report that I haven't mentioned a hundred times.  All the spring birds are returning.  In fact, last night the Nexrad radar detected many migrating birds.  The south winds provided a great chance for birds to migrate northward,  This is the Nexrad image from 11:41 PM on May 6, 2015. The areas that are lit up in blues and even greens are migrating birds!  Who knew that they could track the progress of birds. 

Early in the week we had a beautiful full moon.  I guess it is called the Flower moon.   It probably is a perfect name because the flowering plants are growing so fast you can practically see them grow.

The carp were spawning.  They make such a racket during that time by splashing in the water.  There is never a doubt when that starts.  The other night it sounded like a huge animal was flailing trying get to safety.  It was just the carp.  A young man we know likes bowfishing.  He came into our pond and was very successful spearing the carp.  I asked him what they did with the fish, and he said they give them to a man who smokes them.  There is a joke there about seeing someone smoke a carp, but I will ignore my inclination to go there.  I guess they put them in a wood smoker and eat the smoked fish.

He was having so much luck, he went to get a friend.  They both were able to shoot quite a few before going home.  The big bucket in the middle of the boat holds the fish.  I told my husband that it looks like fun, and he should try.  He just laughed and said if he tried to stand up in the boat, he would fall overboard.  These young boys can balance without a problem, but his old legs may have a problem. 

We enjoyed watching this process very much, and we were happy to share our abundance of carp. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Cruelty of Nature

Today's blog is a story about nature, but it is sad.  I want everyone and everything to live together in harmony.  That is not reality in humans nor in nature.  A few weeks ago when the I was watching the bluebirds first visit to our property this spring, I noticed a pair of rabbits right under our kitchen window.  That was two weeks ago.  The rabbits were just hanging out a lot.  I didn't pay much attention.  We have a lot of rabbits at different times of the year.  We have more in the winter because of all the birdseed spilled on the ground. After a few days, I saw the rabbit digging under one of the sprawling bushes.  She would gather leaves and dead grass.  I saw her nosing her way inside a small hole she had dug.

It is hard to see her here.  A perfect camouflage before everything gets green.

Here she is with a mouth full of grass to line her nest.

A few days later I checked the area.  I saw the hole was covered up and I hadn't seen a rabbit for a few days.  I thought she had second thoughts about this area and left to build a nest elsewhere.  Then last weekend my husband was doing dishes.  He told me to come see the big crow or raven outside the window.  It was right in the area the rabbit had been.  I grabbed the camera and when I took the picture, the bird flew away.

I went about my business and suddenly I heard a crying sound.  My husband was outside at this point and said he saw the raven with something in his mouth.  I am sure this bird knew there were baby bunnies under that bush.  I had seen some rabbit fur on the lawn a day or two before and didn't think about it.  I bet this wasn't the first baby rabbit killed by this bird.

I told you nature is cruel and this was a sad reminder.  Mama rabbit came back today and just stared at the area.   So sad for her.

April 2015 Update

I heard on TV that people who participate constantly on social media are just saying "see me, see me".  In some cases I think that's true.   Facebook has recently started a program called "On this Day".  It is fun to see what happened on a specific day in past years.  I wonder if some people are sorry for some of their posts, like how in love they were with someone or how depressed they were.  Loves change, moods change and people change.  I imagine it's sad or embarrassing for some to read those things from their past, so I am very careful not to spill my guts over social media.  Sometimes I may not follow my own advice.  Most of the time, I try to post what is happening in this time and place of our life with nature or my family.  So here is what is happening at the end of April 2015.

Last week we often saw this turkey at the edge of the woods.  In fact, we saw her eating out of the compost heap.  I saw egg shells on the ground.  She must need some grit for her gizzard.  She also eats birdseed from under the feeders.  I hope we aren't sorry for making her so comfortable.  She and her brood may become a nuisance, but right now she is fun to watch. 

Mama turkey in the yard.

The turtle are sunning themselves everyday.  It can be cool and windy, but as long as the sun is shining they stack themselves up like dinner plates drying on a towel.

A couple nights ago we had the scary Carp boat come in with it's bright lights.  It was raining and when I went to take their picture, they turned around and left.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/04/was-it-ufo.html

All kinds of birds are nesting.  The Tree Swallows have returned and are building a nest in the same gray box they choose every year. 

The mourning doves are busy but I won't post the X-rated version.  They look very innocent here, but I will tell you they are just exhausted.

Almost two weeks ago I wrote about the bluebirds returning this year.  I am so happy they have stayed, built a nest and now have four eggs in the nest.  I haven't seen any House Wrens yet but they will be here soon.  Hopefully the wren guard we put on the birdhouse will protect the bluebird eggs from these terrible birds.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2015/04/bluebirds-are-back-in-2015.html

I did learn about a new bird this spring.  I was looking out the window and noticed a bird eating at the edge of the marsh.  I went outside to get as close as I could since he blended in with the dry vegetation.  I was able to get a photo good enough to get an identification.  This bird is called a Sora.  I feel very lucky to see it because it is often heard more often than seen.

I have also seen the Eastern Towhee return.  I always called this bird a Rufous sided towhee, but learned that is the old name.  It is now called the Eastern Towhee.  With a quick glance this bird will look like a robin, but if you take time to look it looks and acts differently.

Male Eastern Towhee

Female Eastern Towhee
Otherwise it is just the usual spring in Princeton Wisconsin.  We have carp spawning (the reason for the carp fishing boat), the finches are bright yellow, ducks and geese are coming and going, a fox appears on the trail camera at night.  It is a very active time of year.  We expect the Baltimore Orioles, the Hummingbirds and the Indigo Bunting to show up in the next few days.