Fall Already?

For the last two weeks, the maple in the back yard has been dropping leaves. It’s accelerating now. Sadly, I can’t see the colors through the greenery below, but the fallen leaves are spectacularly red and yellow this year.

Peak color is two weeks off, by my reckoning, but storms are coming later this week. Saturday was warm, sunny, and breezy – in other words, a perfect autumn day.

Decked out for Fall.

I ran errands in the morning and swung by Marine City, where I spent a couple hours just enjoying the sights. My favorite coffee shop has already started serving pumpkin spice latte (with nondairy creamer!). It was a nice treat made sweeter by meeting an older couple who chatted with me outdoors for a while.

Afterwards, I came home and tore up the garden.

The neighborhood varmints ate half my zucchini. Literally. They ate the bottom half and left the tops to rot on the vine. Imagine reaching to pick a beautiful squash and feeling it squish between your fingers because inside the skin is nothing but rotten mush. Curse you, cute but destructive rodents! I picked whatever was intact, no matter the size or color.

The delicata, a winter squash, had withered from the roots outward, giving no more nourishment. Normally I’d leave them out to harden, but I couldn’t chance the squirrels. The cherry tomatoes were various shades of green, but gardening friends assured me that if I put them in a paper bag and let them sit, they’ll ripen in a few days.

I spent several hours pulling vines, pulling weeds they’d been hiding, and cutting off the remains of flowering plants. Everything was stuffed into three bags for the community compost.

This week I’ll do the more onerous tasks: transplanting flowers, digging up and resetting pavers, and landscaping the now-empty ground around the shed.

An Invasion of Arachnids

Last week, I killed three spiders in my bedroom and another yesterday. It is now a bedtime routine: I put on my nightshirt, turn on the TV, and prepare for an hour or so of entertainment. Then a familiar shadow moving on the wall or the doorframe, just enough to draw my attention.

Blammo! with a shoe or a tissue box.

I killed a black marauder (not its name; I don’t know what they are) in the bathroom. It was enjoying a siesta on the paper roll when I reached over… That one ended up going on a flume ride.

A delicate cellar spider died in the shower under mysterious circumstances. (Note: “Mysterious circumstances” connotes “a full-blast faucet and a squeamish bather’s feet.”)

Today I surveyed the garden – the delicata are coming along nicely, but the tomatoes are lazy. Afterwards, I hopped in the car to do some errands. And banded garden spider was hitching a ride on my thigh.

Immediately I jumped out of the car and started doing the Get-Off-of-Me Dance, complete with brushing my pantleg and yelling “Get off me!” (Which is rather silly, because spiders don’t understand English; they speak Italian sotto voce, naturally.) The spider bungee-corded into the grass.

After regaining my composure, I opened the car-door and began sliding behind the wheel…. The unwanted passenger had cleverly moved to the inner side of my pantleg.

Gah!

(Flashback: Biggest Brother mercilessly refusing to kill spiders for me. I thought he was Being Mean. In hindsight, he was like the drill sergeant forcing the new recruits to toughen up and face the enemy head-on. It was For My Own Good.)

I think it’s time for chemical warfare. After all, I can sympathize with spiders craving a bath and a nice place to sleep. But hijacking my car? No.

Radishes in bloom

Yes, I’m well-aware that before going to seed, garden plants bloom. I battle the rhubarb every year, breaking off five to eight fist-sized blossoms before they can open. And the chives, like other alliums, boast spheres that attract bees.

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Rhubarb flower

But I had no idea that red radishes have pretty flowers. Looky! Two of the salvaged salad leftovers are going to seed. When I told a real-life gardener, she said the flowers were edible and the seedpods before they get “woody.” But I’m going to enjoy them as they are.

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Volunteer Columbines

It’s hard to believe that theses beauties came from one scrawny plant that sprang out of the daylilies a friend brought me. And I nearly “weeded” it out!

In the background is two-thirds the front of La Casa de Tontería. The windows are my “office” (blinds drawn) and the guestroom. To the left is the short porch which runs the length of the living room and entryway.

Spring Unfurls

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The maple buds began unfurling Saturday morning and reached this stage by midday.

On Saturday, for the first time since the shutdown, I had visitors. A former student and her husband bought a house that has a “blank canvas” landscape. Having daffodils to spare, I dug some up (plus chives, the incongruous grape hyacinth* and yellow crocuses).

I was expecting her in the afternoon. I was NOT expecting her mother nor her sister, both of whom became my dear friends during a school trip to Madrid and Paris.

It was a delightful ambush!

For their part, the youngest girl was surprised to find I lived in that house. She said, “My friends and I used to drive past here on the way to their house, and I always thought it was the cutest little house.”  Sometime post-shutdown, she wants a tour.

Because they are a family of green thumbs, the talk was lively and bounced from topic to topic.** The garden is a work very much in progress, so it was fun to have other eyes notice things both good (radish sprouts) and bad (glass and cement patches left by the shed construction crew).


*aka muscari – thank you, Brenda, for the information.

** At one point, there was a disagreement over how to handle snakes one finds in the garden. One of the girls pulled out her phone to show me a photographic proof that, yes, she knew the correct way to hold a garter snake.

The Volunteer

When I first moved into La Casa de Tontería (aka The House of Nonsense), my parents gave me bulbs from their own garden in the north. Most didn’t make it.

Squirrels dug up and ate some. The bearded iris couldn’t thrive in different soil. My beautiful milk-chocolate tulips grew scraggly and dwindled to one, which disappeared under the transplanted hostas.

The dahlias were a horror story. I wintered them inside as usual, but when I tried to replant them, they were mushy and crawling with white, half-worm, half-millipede things.

And then there are the grape hyacinths. They grew along the wall just outside the front door of my childhood home. Every spring their purple crowns would rise through the blah landscape and their long, narrow leaves curled like ribbon.

They didn’t die off after the move to La Casa de Tontería, but they turned cranky like a relative who refuses to be satisfied with any accommodations. Put them in a garden: meh. Transplant them to a pot: fine, if we must.

I let them go and planted other things, only to discover they love the lawn.

The jerks.

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ADDENDUM: A former student came to get some of my over-multiplying daffodils and chives. I offered her it and she accepted.

Rockin’ Robin

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This mutant robin has territory on a main drag in the nearby town. Because the roads are mostly traffic-free, I managed to snap its picture after several attempts. Its condition is leucism, a lack of pigment in feathers.

North American robins – aka Turdus migratorius aka Wandering pooper* – have returned en masse to Michigan.  They boldly hop across the deck while I’m lunching, They investigate the sod I’ve overturned – while I’m in the middle of planting hostas. They scold me as I refill the birdbath.

Of course, they make up for it by being harbingers of warmer weather. They also sing, “chuckle” and chirp: three sounds for the price of one!

They will, no doubt, return to their milder manners after they’ve finished fighting each other over territory and started building nests.

Or I am doomed to be bossed around by birdbrains!


*Not the real translation of the Latin scientific name, although it CERTAINLY is “in the vulgar.”

The Garden Beckons…

There is a sinkhole in the backyard, a spot where the previous owners removed a dead oak. I used to pour sand into the holes that formed as the roots rotted beneath the sod.

Later I paid a tree-cutter to take down a gnarly young oak and grind down the stump. Now its subterranean decay creates a natural cistern. Last autumn, I poured out a nearly-full bag of soil into it and spread grass seeds over top.

The grass hasn’t appeared yet, but the nutrient-rich soil brought out dormant crocuses: bright yellow and waxy purple. Even if it snows again, these hardy harbingers of spring are here.

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“I’m back! Spring is here!”

Gardening Temptations

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NOT the garden of La Casa de Tontería aka The House Of Nonsense. Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Tracking expenses this month, I noticed that Winter has no dampening effect on the gardening bug. During the thaw before New Year’s, I visited Migardener garden store for inspiration (and vegetable seeds), used a Christmas gift card to purchase planting bags, and began reading the bonsai book a friend gave me. I’m waiting on this month’s orders: daikon radish seeds, a paper pot mold, rock-wool, and a sower.

I like to blame peer pressure. Continue reading

Cold snap!

It’s just the first week of November, but an arctic blast has brought a taste of winter. The Detroit Metro forecasters anticipate January-like weather next week.

It was already a bit colder at the end of October.* Neighbors with hunting cabins “Up North” found themselves asking nearby friends to turn on the heaters or turn off the water.  The autumnal gardens are suddenly cut short and sad-looking with withered vines and dead mums (short for “chrysanthemums,” not “mothers” – not to paint too macabre a picture, my readers!).

Here at La Casa de Tontería (aka The House of Nonsense), this prognostication brought on a winterizing rush. Of course, the scramble coincided with the deadlines for finalizing quality-control reports at The Young Human Factory.** Because all stressors must coordinate!

  • Could I make another pass at the lawn? No. The mower was emptied and put into storage, along with rakes and the leaf-shute (a plastic folding device that facilitates dumping leaves into paper garden waste bags).
  • The annual capping of the outdoor faucets and closing of the crawlspace vents were done post haste. (During the old shed tear down, the construction worker found the “lost” caps that fit tighter. Hurrah!)
  • Birds and beasts were confused to find the birdbath closed for the season, although the first snowfall means the squirrel  bird feeder is now serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper.

* The shed’s stain and seal must wait until spring!

** Somehow I – and my colleagues – survived. Some Young Humans may be in slightly-altered condition by Monday, after their producers see the reports.