Back Forty, coffee pot posts, critters, More gardening, Permaculture

Sunday morning coffee pot post

The garden is beginning to rot. So much rain! I weeded out a lot of ageratum and tomato plants that were done late Friday afternoon, and harvested basil for freezing in an ice cube tray yesterday. I found a few little potatoes in the planter. This yield was a bit disappointing but it was free, other than the bags of potting soil and compost I used. I will plant some more in it and see what happens.

So much of life now is a matter of wait and see what happens. I have always been a bit of a control freak, a trait that I have worked very hard to change for the last twenty years. Much of my art has changed as I have let go this and that “rule” or convention. My gardening is unconventional by most standards but controlled when you compare it to enthusiastic permaculturist standards.

Permaculture requires observation and reaction to the space and natural forces working within that space. My approach to the groundhog problem was to plant things that the groundhogs don’t like, such as alliums and smelly plants like peppermint and feverfew around the edges. They didn’t care for the ageratum either. Either it worked pretty well or somebody else took care of the problem. We’ve always had rabbits, but they don’t do that much damage.

I don’t think the high temperature got above 70 yesterday. That was how far the temps plunged with this last line of storms. It is still cool today so I am going to my UNCG garden plots and clean out the rest of the one that I am giving up. I will take some newspapers and a bag of good soil/compost to get the plot where I pulled out the cucumbers ready for fall planting. I hope that there will be some butterbeans ready to pick.

It doesn’t need to be said that everyone who is paying attention to the news is horrified right now. I haven’t taken a complete news break but I have avoided the hole. It helps to remember what I can and cannot control.

It is SO NICE to turn off the AC and hang out on the front porch with the cats again. I think that I will do that for a while first while I finish my coffee pot.

Why is my cat eating cobwebs? Seriously. I guess I will need to clean out here a bit too before Mr. Brilliant gets a spider bite in his mouth.

Back Forty, fiber art, Mixed media art

August. Yuk.

I really dislike the month of August. The heat, the humidity, the sudden ratcheting up of my “real” job. Too much to do at home and too hot to do most of it. Lately, like today, I have been outrunning the severe thunderstorms home from work. So far I have made it ahead of the rain.

We have been getting some very intense storms lately, like this one with quarter-inch sized hail. Excuse my camera work. One day I’ll learn not to move it around. By the way, the car did not have any new dents that I could see, and my garden is okay even though this went on for 15 minutes!

Yesterday we had high wind and I eyed the maple tree covered with wild grapevines with some trepidation. I noticed that the top of it snapped off a few weeks ago and it must be lying on top of the vines up there somewhere. It is becoming obvious that I will have to pay somebody to do something about the vines. The good news is that one of the new tenants next door loves to do yard work and has already taken a slingblade to the pokeweed forest between our houses. He has offered to help me on my side of the yard for $12 an hour. I told him that was too low and I’d pay $15.

Boy, you can tell that I’m a Bernie girl, huh?

I had already arranged for Armando, the guy who takes care of my absentee next door neighbor’s yard on the other side of our house, to help me with the yard. He mowed on Tuesday afternoon and will come back to help with pruning, etc. next week. This is such a relief! But it will be helpful for Cory, who lives on the other side of those vines, to hit it from his and my side of the jungle, since a lot of them are rooted on both sides of the property line.

Honestly, between the wild grapevine and the fucking wisteria, I don’t know which is worse. We’ve got both, and I let it get away from us when my neck was hurt. Now I have vertigo when I look up. Sandy’s no use on this issue. It’s time to spend the money on help.

Did I mention I hate wisteria? Boy, do I hate wisteria. I don’t even want to hear about people who like wisteria, or plant wisteria, or think that it is pretty. After 32 years of fighting wisteria, I consider it barely below poison ivy on my list of despised plants. Wild grapevine is third on the list.

The Roma tomatoes are almost done, but we are still harvesting lots of cherry tomatoes, figs, and a few big tomatoes. I have a new crop of raspberries. Not many, but this is encouraging that the one plant has produced twice. I sliced some more lemon cucumbers for the dehydrator and ran it a few hours longer this time. The slices with the seeds were crispy but the slices from the edges without the seeds still have the texture of soft paper.

I mailed my tapestry for the Tapestry Weavers South exhibition going up at the Yadkin Valley Fiber Center in Elkin, NC. I’m sending “Dingle Cliff Walk,” which does not have perfect selvedges, but I love it and it’s time to put it out there. I thought it would be good for the theme, which is “Point of View.” This is it on the loom just before I finished it, and shows why its upper selvedges drew in. I was trying to make use of that leftover warp. I won’t make this mistake again, but at the time I started it, I didn’t think it would turn out to be one of my favorite weavings.

Still sewing my little puzzle pieces. I’m working on an idea that takes inspiration from feathers. Maybe attaching feathers?

My spirits took a dive this week. I’m trying very hard to keep away from the hole. Part of it is insomnia, and the news. I’ll have to take a news break. It makes me feel like a terrible citizen, but I don’t do anybody or myself or anything else any good from the bottom of the hole.

Back Forty, butterbeans, fiber art, Greensboro North Carolina, More gardening, Rebel stitching

Here we go again

(Note: I forgot to click Publish when I wrote this on Monday night.)

The week before fall semester classes begin is always a huge adjustment. It feels like going from 0 to 60 suddenly. Gone are the quiet days with few people on the hallway. Now I get to meet about 30 new people and do some public speaking. I’ve come to think of this as my “Sanity Box,” a little box of magic that I can take out during a lunch or other break and just hem squares or stitch them together. No major thought is going into this. Just doing.

A lot of veggies and figs have to be dealt with also. I am much better this year than I have been most Augusts. I attribute this to adding fish oil and vitamin D to my daily supplements. My therapist had suggested the fish oil, and I was vitamin D deficient for a long time. I feel better physically and mentally, although I still tire very quickly. The muggy heat doesn’t help. Yesterday evening I picked tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplants, and figs, then cooked for a couple of hours. I still have a lot of cucumbers and figs to do something with. I don’t want to get out the canning equipment – it just seems like too much for too little, and I am not a huge pickle or jelly fan – but I don’t want them to go to waste. This weekend I put some cucumber slices in with my tomatoes and peppers in the electric dehydrator. They came out wispy and delicate, like soft thin leaves. I might experiment with this more. Sandy and I are planning a repeat of making fig newtons this weekend. Last year he made some good ones, but he baked them on the wrong kind of pan. The filling was great, though.

The butterbeans are overwhelming at the UNCG garden. Very tall and thickly planted. There was a lot of Japanese beetle damage at first but I outplanted them, I think. Hardly any beans, though. I think that the intense heat wave in July stopped them from flowering. I hope they will produce soon so I can get some bean in the freezer before a heavy frost happens. I pulled up most of the eggplants and the lemon cucumber vines. I was tired of them and the eggplants were buried by the bermuda grass and peppermint that I lost control of very early on. Once the Roma tomatoes and one zephyr squash plant are done, which should be before the end of the month, I am abandoning that plot. However, I do think that the grass and mint may have helped hold in moisture during the dry spell when I was traveling.

Sandy and I walked downtown on First Friday, heard music with friends on Saturday, and went to the Greensboro Science Center and out to dinner with a dear out-of-town friend on Sunday. So we had a busy social time. This poodle at Gate City Yarns agrees that Sandy is great and tried to lick him clean.

Lord, I just want to sleep and play in the studio. Daydreaming about going to Ireland. All the books I want to read. Weaving with cloth strips keeps nagging at me to come back to it. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. How do people get bored at home?

Back Forty, Blather, bloggy stuff, whatever

just ramblin’

Next week I’m taking a staycation and I have a lot of projects in mind and a couple of events to attend, including seeing Gordon Lightfoot in concert at the Carolina Theater in Greensboro – a great venue for a great artist.

Today, I’m considering my priorities in what I want to accomplish and what I need to get done. I’m taking a small weaving workshop on sakiori (Japanese rag weaving technique) that is not far away, so first on the list is to assemble and warp my new-to-me Beka rigid heddle loom, and cut/tear half-inch strips of rags for this workshop next Saturday. This is mainly an exercise in creativity and fun, and usually no matter what the subject is, I learn something from a new teacher.

Secondly, I am going to spend some time catching up on the online courses I signed up for LAST YEAR and this year, with the priority being to warp up my new-to-me Mirrix loom in the four-selvedge technique I’ve learned in Rebecca Mezoff and Sarah Swett’s “Fringeless” online course. I hope that this will lead to me weaving small tapestries for book covers and even pages. Making a tapestry book has long been a goal for me.

Other priorities are preparing “puzzle piece” squares for Jude Hill’s current online course as a traveling project. I’d like to do some more cloth strip weaving and make some bags like the ones I made in India Flint’s “Bagstories” course last year.

Another prep project is to make the components for several books, covers and pages, to have them ready to bind. I want to bind at least one book with some of the signatures I made in Leighanna’s workshop at FOBA, and it is mostly ready.

Also, I just finished the first season of “Stranger Things.” As usual, I am behind on popular shows and normally I can’t handle horror shows or flicks – I tend to have nightmares – but this struck me more as a combination of “Freaks and Geeks” and Stephen King. I will probably finish watching the series next week.

I will need to get my battery replaced in the car. We jumped it off after some difficulty after it sat for a while and I drove it to the mechanic’s shop, then made the unwise decision to drive it back home and see if it cranked in the morning. Now it won’t even click when we try to jump it. If we can get it charged again, I will leave it at the mechanic’s shop and let them replace the battery and check out the rest of the electrical system. Fortunately I walk to work and we can get by with one car most of the time, but it limits what I can do during weekdays when Sandy is working unless I get up at 6:30 and drive him to work and pick him up at 4 p.m. I don’t really want to do that.

Once the heat wave settles down, which according to the forecast should happen around Tuesday, I am going to fire up the electric dehydrator and dry a bunch of cherry tomatoes, which are beginning to produce a lot more than we can eat. The UNCG garden is producing plenty of lemon cucumbers, which I have mostly given away, some zephyr squash, and the Roma tomatoes are beginning to ripen. The pole lima beans are now healthy looking after a Japanese beetle attack, but it has been so hot that they have not blossomed, so I hope for a fall harvest. I’ve harvested and eaten onions – the first onions I’ve ever grown from seed. The garlic bulbs did not separate into cloves so I’ll have to figure out what went wrong. We have had a few peppers of various kinds, mainly Italian frying peppers.

Other than that, I am daydreaming about my plans to go to Ireland next June, probably by myself!!! and Sandy has applied for Social Security, so he can retire at any point he wants to now. Since we can’t retire to Ireland, I want to try to come up with ways to go there fairly often. I have an app on my phone called Hopper that is good at alerting you to price drops and rises in airfare on certain routes and days, and I’ve found quite a few AirBNBs that are very inexpensive. If you reserve way ahead of time, you can usually find good prices. Also, I learned on the recent trip to Oregon that I do just fine with a loaf of good bread, sharp cheese, fresh fruit, and nuts for my meals. I’ll be at an art retreat for a week but I want to spend another week walking on the coast.

Yes, I am trying to maintain my mental health during a time of political horror in my own country. At least the racism is out in the open now, but these fascists are scary. My father fought in World War II. What would he say if he were alive? It’s hard to imagine that we are in this place of meltdown, and I will probably end up writing about my helpless feelings about the fall of our civilization at some point. What do you do when people refuse to believe the truth? It is beyond my comprehension.

Honestly, “Stranger Things” is much less scary and a whole lot more believable.

I will add a statement on the sidebar about the appearance of ads on my blog beginning July 28. It is part of my expense cutting to push my money toward retirement, travel, and art expenses. I won’t see them or have any control over them, but I’m not spending any more money on this blog, and that is when my bill is due to prevent ads. Please, just ignore them. Don’t click on them. I hate advertisements and I do not choose the content.

Back Forty, More gardening, Permaculture

Back Forty Update

I have been absent from the blog lately. April seems so frantic at work that when I get home I want to read a book or garden or do something creative with my hands or just sit on the porch, where we have lost the wifi signal. I definitely don’t want to sit in front of a computer screen. I don’t even want to watch TV or movies, although we have been watching Outlander and American Gods this month.

Tomatoes and peppers and flowers are coming up in the greenhouse. I planted the leeks, onions, garlic, and chives last week. Bobbe gave me some walking onions and hardneck garlic so I will have three kinds of garlic and two kinds of onions.

April gardening

April gardening

I don’t usually get any fruits from my garden but I continue to try. The birds get all the blueberries as soon as they turn red (bush on left). We have to race the ants for the figs, but usually we are able to get some (bush on right). In between, I have planted a raspberry cane and two elderberry bushes. The seckel pear tree will probably get cut down this year, since it has some kind of disease and squirrels got all the pears before they were ripe anyway. If nothing else, I do feed the wildlife around here, even if it is unintentional.

For next year I am going to plant a lot more asparagus. I let this little bunch that survived the transfer from Wharton St. go to seed. The groundhogs don’t seem interested, so that means it gets a large space in next year’s plan.

Also in this photo: lots of foxgloves, feverfew, and peppermint. Again, this garden has been planned around what the groundhogs left alone last year. There are also evening primrose, one hollyhock, echinacea, and coreopsis.

April gardening

The pineberries that I transferred from Wharton St. last spring have gone stone cold crazy multiplying. There is some catnip on the corner that gets lots of visits from the neighborhood felines.

April gardening

As you can see in the background of these photos, lots of work is going on next door. They moved the garage back and closed it in, and now they are adding a room on the back of the house. We are going to put some of the many tomato seedlings, both volunteered and greenhouse raised, in the area next to the fence. I’m pretty sure that the neighbors nuked their side of the fence with herbicide so we will have to see how this goes.

April gardening

One good thing that came from the construction next door is that I was able to retrieve enough old bricks from their digging to build up my front hugelkultur bed another layer. Great, because the area in the front used to contain potted veggies and the ground beneath that is hard rubble. I planted a lot of mint in the most shallow layer. Chives went on the bottom too. They aren’t happy, but they will probably perk up. Just planted basil, borage, arnica, sunflowers, snapdragon, and milkweed seeds in the past couple of weeks. Some of these seeds were saved and I am just giving them a chance. My friend Anne gave me some clay balls with coriander and curry seeds embedded in them so they’re in there. This should look great by the time we get back from our vacation in May.

April gardening

The front shade garden is starting to look great! Funny story – a few weeks ago I overheard a friend of ours recommend someone to my husband who “would clean up all this and make it look real nice.” HA! I didn’t say anything.

April gardening

April gardening

Concentrating on the sunny side of the front garden now. Planted a eucalyptus here and a bunch of peppermint on the strip between my stone walk and the neighbor’s lawn on the other side of our house. This strip is actually on their kind of the property line. I plan to put potted pepper plants there too. I dug up a lot of the herbs from this side and transferred them to the hugelkultur bed, so it has room to grow.

April gardening

I leave you with this shot from their neighbor’s yard in the front. These bluebells were spared from the tilling and planting of their new grass, mainly because I don’t think that they know this strip is on their side of the line.

April gardening

At some point I may talk about something other than gardening, but I haven’t finished yet. I’ll leave it for later.