Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weather is So Very Local

The Baron is always wistfully hoping to see a tornado...preferably not here in the garden, but say, following one of those in the Midwest, the ones that turn the sky green and suck up all the air, plus anything else in their way. In fact, he likes them so much he watches that tornado channel whenever he's in the proximity of a TV and has any control over the remote.

So imagine his chagrin on finding out at church today that the clamor and banging that gave us six tenths of an inch of rain the other night was at the same time busy dumping six inches on a nearby area. The place is about three or four miles away, as the crow flies. In addition to the deluge, they also had a TORNADO!

So near and yet so far. That's the problem (if one is hunting them) with tornadoes in the southeatern part of the United States. They often come at night. In addition, if they occur in the Piedmont areas, they don't get far before bumping into an obstructive land mass, say a hill, or a mountain. I don't think "Tornado Alley" in the Midwest has any hills to speak of, thus they can go further and do more damage.

There is a higher mortality in the Southeast, though. For one thing, tornadoes don't have a "season" here; they can occur any time of year. For another, they are frequently at night so there's no way to send out the kinds of warnings that they do in the Midwest. And due to the milder weather here, there are more trailer parks to demolish. Trailers, or mobile homes, are essentially tin held together with staples. There is insulation between the outside tin and the inside fiberboard walls, but they're fragile things. That's why poor people like them: cheap housing.

Many counties, wealthier than we are, don't permit new trailers. They don't meet the building codes and rich folks don't like them cluttering up their pretty scenery. With Obama's new energy attack no doubt they'll eventually be outlawed, even those that were grandfathered in to the updated building codes. In other words, poor people will have fewer places to live, but everything will be pretty...and energy efficient. No more dangerous kerosene stoves. The Salvation Army better start some kind of building program or they're going to be turning away lots of folks.

Rain gaugeThis rain gauge is just like the one our car mechanic has. That's where the Baron got the idea for one of our own. He put it up so that I can see it from my desk. Not only is that an improvement over the glass and plastic ones we've had before, but I don't have to get up from my desk to see the water level. I believe this is a year 'round model, so we'll be able to count the inches of snow when the time comes.

Meanwhile, with all this great rain, it has been interesting watching the inches climb this June. We've probably had close to 4 inches this month, if not more. The only downside is that the slugs, snails, and pill bugs like the damp and have been increasing in whatever they have to do to make more of themselves. It doesn't bear thinking about, but meanwhile, these parents and their increase have taken to munching on my plants.

Tomorrow I am going to get some Sluggo and spread it around the susceptible spots. Sluggo is just iron phosphate in pellet form. Won't hurt the plants (though they already get a lot of iron from our orange clay soil), but it will send the offending creatures elsewhere.

By the way, the bush in the back of the picture is a lilac. In looking at the photo, I just noticed the mildew. Shoot, and I thought the bush had escaped this year. The black strap hanging to the left of the gauge is a left-over from when we had our roof replaced. After more than a year, our roofer hasn't finished, though he did clamp on rubber sheeting after the leaks appeared.

Don't get me wrong, this man was a very good roofer. He's been in business since 1953. But ours turned out to be a roof too far and he's not been back to fix it properly. Plus he and his Mexican workers banged nails through the eaves. It looks like we may be headed to court...bummer.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wormy Palace

I hate just tossing out our vegetable parings, but I don’t want to make just a compost pile that would further attract the attention of noxious deer, who are getting hungrier and less afraid. Besides, I can't toss around large piles, nor can I afford an enclosed store-boughten one so I had to think of something else.

For the first time this year, those deer ate the daylilies. Well, actually, they eat them every year, but this season they came back over and over again. Out of a hundred or so usual blooms, we have one. Their appetites may prove beneficial if it thins out a bed that I’ve wanted to dig up and separate for years. On the other hand, if all the plants die back for lack of growth, I’ll have move in bulbs from other stands. It's an herb bed, so strictly speaking daylilies don't belong there. But since the shoots, bulbs, and flowers are edible, they pass.

Obviously it’s way past time for pepper spray and blood meal. Should have done those in February, but in February I was running on one and a half cylinders. You do what you can and let the devil sort the rest.

By the way, our county is now offering a bounty on coyotes. Wish they’d do the same for deer. The latter are mighty skinny, some of them, and suicidal. They like to run into the path of oncoming cars. Yeah, I know: they’re so “cute”. I never thought much of Bambi myself and I sure can't afford the car repair bills. One unfortunate social worker in an adjoining county had a mortal encounter with a deer while driving to work. Were I a close member of her family, or if any of my family met such a fate, I'd be known as "Dymphna the Deer Slayer" for sure. Princeton New Jersey hired their own official deer slayer some time back. None of the progressives with gardens or landscaping or cars objected to this added expense.

Here is my solution for recycling house garbage… no, there wasn’t any meat involved in the process. I want to build up the soil, not attract rats.

I eat a lot of yogurt, organic when I can get it. I’m not much of a believer in the organic thing, but when it comes to animal fats, I’d rather do without all the extra added ingredients that cows are fed. Unfortunately, I can’t get away from their soy feed unless I find 100% grass-fed cows. Women who’ve survived breast cancer aren’t supposed to have soy, but it’s in everything. So the extent possible, I avoid those everythings and make my own stuff. But that's a subject for another post.

Wormy PalaceMeanwhile, I was throwing out the yogurt containers, all the while thinking “there must be a use for these”. Hey, anyone who collects dryer lint for other uses tends to think like that. It just means that if I weren't disabled, I'd be working somewhere.

Well, I found a use for them…at least some of them. I am making mini-compost bins. This low tech project requires a screwdriver or an awl and some scissors. A paper punch works for the parts that can be reached with that, and the pattern provided by the paper punch holes gives you a guide on how large to make the other holes on parts of the carton that can't be reached by the punch.

When you punch holes in the plastic yogurt carton, make sure to do the lid and the bottom, too. The holes have to be big enough and smooth enough to let earthworms get in, but not so big as to encourage voles. I use the scissors to trim the excess plastic from around the holes so as not to damage the worms as they move in and out.

To this “bucketette” you add ground up vegetable and fruit peelings and egg shells (they go through the blender effortlessly and you have a much smaller mass than you started with). This compost mass is layered between newspapers, as though you were building a strata…which you are, only for worms. Start with newspaper and alternate that with ground garbage. End with a covering of newspaper.

Now dig a hole in a part of your garden which has poor soil. In our clay soil, it’s not hard to find such spots. Make sure the hole is deep enough and wide enough to hold your yogurt carton easily. Make the hole a bit deeper than the carton so you can cover the whole thing with soil.

Wait, though. You haven’t invited your guests. Go to the part of your garden that has good soil and dig up some earthworms, along with some of the soil they’re crawling through. Pack this earthworm-laden soil around the yogurt carton, which will be shortly leaking its goodies out into the dirt. Cover up with some of the poor soil. Put a rock on top, one too heavy for a raccoon to lift. The rock also marks your spot so you can return on occasion to check its progress.

Meanwhile, you can be making new yogurt-compost containers and stacking them inside one another so they don’t take up much room. Put them in a convenient place, perhaps where you keep your plastic storage containers?

A caveat: I can’t lift a rock/boulder that would prevent a bear from getting to the goodies. If evidence of their presence appears, I’ll have to figure out what discourages those critters. I don’t need more animal company, thankyouverymuch.

Since it hurts my hands to do more than one container at a time, I make them as I need them. Meanwhile, I can store the accumulating veggie garbage in one of the un-holey containers, waiting till I have enough for another buckette of worm strata.

I like this idea of mine. Now I no longer look longingly at compost containers that cost a small fortune. This solution is much better for just two people’s accumulations, and I’ll bet the worms are happy.

For some reason, it popped into my head that what I’m making are little veggie coffins…

the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your snout…

Only in this case, they catch up on the local news while they eat. We will have well-informed invertebrates, rather like the current manifestation of the Republican Party.

Next I’ll figure out how to use coffee cans to make vole-proof tulip bulb containers. Those suckas ate 25 Cambridge yellow tulips and I haven’t planted tulips anywhere but in porch containers since.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Turning the Key, the Door Creaks Open...

It's been more than a year since I've been home.

I promised myself that when the fund-raising was over at Gates, I'd come back to the old Neighborhood.

Staying away wasn't a choice. The spirit was willing, but the flesh rebelled, big time. In fact, it is doing so even as I type. The difference now is a lowering of my fatigue level via Provigil. It works on whatever part of my brain responsible for sending messages like this:


That is my brain not on drugs. My brain on Provigil sends quick snappy twitters. Things like, "hey, go put some manure on those tomato plants. Now!"

I like my second brain better. Too bad Provigil is three hundred dollars a month. One might as well have a coke habit. Indulging in modafinil (the generic name, though it isn't available in America as a generic) isn't possible. Cephalon has the patent and they ain't budging. Too bad, because my insurance covers only generics. Being diagnosed with hypopnea,the junior version of sleep apnea, means (theoretically) that I qualify for modafinil. But Cephalon has a death grip on that patent so no go.

Fortunately, my doctor gave me some free samples; I hoard them and use only half a dose. I now have ten days of functioning left. After that, back to a snoozy reality. I am definitely saving some Provigil for the 4th of July Tea Party. Can't miss that one!

I have gone back to the sleep patterns of my youth, a pattern that all of my children inherited, unfortunately: I'm a night owl. My best time is about 10:00 p.m. onwards. I would much rather be a lark, like the Baron, up with the dawn and enjoying the sunrise. Ah well, you go with what you get.

One of my night owl offspring sent me this comic strip. Does he know me or what?

Duty calls

I'll be back, y'all...there's lots of stuff piled up, but Duty Calls. A post on Gates, then I can roam the Neighborhood, annoying Those-Next-Door -- all nine choirs of 'em.