Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hens for Virginia Beach?

The movement is afoot to legalize backyard chicken keeping in Virginia Beach! 

Of course, we have chickens - have had them, in varying amounts, even accompanied by peacocks - but we're in the southern end of the city where the minimum 5 acre lots and larger farms are all zoned "ag" and approved for any variety of animals.  This group is working to get micro-flocks (3-6 hens) approved for backyard chicken keeping.

I love this logo!

Yep, you can go to their Facebook page and get a t-shirt with it (as I just did). Their website is very basic - just a few chicken facts - so, obviously, they are putting their community raising efforts into Facebook.  Probably a smart move.

So..... are you in Virginia Beach and would you like to have your own chickens and fresh eggs?  

Then you should be at the City Council meeting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Tuesday, January 8th at 6 PM.  The chicken supporters will be out in force!

I can attest to the fun of having chickens as pets and egg producers (we don't eat our chickens).  They are only a little work. They need a cozy, weatherproof coop and a safe, fenced run in which to exercise and play.  Probably bigger than a lot of the photos I see on Pinterest and elsewhere.  For 3 - 4 hens, probably 10' x 10' would do.

 Don't be fooled by the cutesy coops with only about three square feet of walking room.  Keep them healthy -  give them room to forage, stretch and play.

And hens are quiet.
They have a delightful, happy burble and chirp as they forage for food. it's comforting and very relaxing.  (I suspect the true "OM" of the universe is expressed in the gentle burbling of chickens.)

Their loudest noise is probably the proud "Bwawk! Bwawk!" that signals another egg has been laid - or that something has distressed them.

With a little good feed, my hens to great on scraps, garden weeds and greens and lots of summer worms and bugs.  They are like small, animated rototillers, scratching away for goodies.  And you should see what happens when I plant veggies into an area where the chickens have been working.  Wow!!

I'll be supporting my "townie" friends who want a few hens,
so look for me in my new Chicks at the Beach t-shirt!

Sybil

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why Didn't I Plant Winter Lettuce???

I'm so bummed.  If I had realized it was going to be this balmy all the way to January, I'd have put in winter lettuce.  <sigh>

After the frigid drops last year, which blasted all my hopeful lettuce plants, I had decided not to bother.  Now that the farmers markets have closed and I'm looking forlornly at supermarket lettuce, I'm thoroughly peeved that I didn't put a few rows of lettuce in one of the raised beds and take my chances.

Drat.  A good harvest missed!  Is anyone getting a wonderful lettuce/greens season in?  The local farm stands were still full when the season ended last week.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Last Fall Garden Cleanup

 
 
Raised beds are cleared out - last red peppers harvested TODAY!
In past years, the beds have been turned over to
greens and cabbage, as you can see above.
This year, for the first time, the beds are bare.
They will be dismantled this winter, I think,
as we get the farm ready for sale in the spring.
The boards are old and weathered.
A bit like their builders, I'm thinking!

New York & Mid-Atlantic Gardener's Book of Lists


Speaking of gardeners and their holiday/spring wish lists - some of you may already know that my husband, Rob, and I were one of the contributing teams in the compilation of this unbelievably useful gardening book.  Dr. Bonnie Appleton, a much missed, long-time friend of ours, did an outstanding job of soliciting specific plant lists from regional horticulturists, each with their own specialties   We contributed the edible gardening list for the Mid-Atlantic region.

I know most of the contributors to this guide and the "authors" read like a who's-who of gardening experts for our area.  Need a list of plants for a shady but dry spot?  Want them to be ground-covers ?No, maybe shrubs? Or perhaps blooming perennials?  You can work out the entire landscaping dilemma - and thousand of others by cross-referencing these simple, handy lists.  It's not a fancy, illustrated tome - it's one of those books you take with you to the garden center, along with your pencil, and begin brainstorming and checking off possibilities.

While working on our house-clearing,  "organizing to move from the farm" efforts <sigh>, I discovered a small stash of these books, apparently left from the original sales via our Paradise Nursery website.  If any of you would like to have a copy of this book, for your own gardening or to give to a beloved gardener, I'm going to be sending them out for $10, which will include the S&H.  If you want them for this Christmas, you'll need to let me know ASAP!  This is just a first-come-first-serve offer - the old fashioned way, via Paypal or check. There aren't many copies, so do let me know as soon as you decide.

(You can click on this link to see the Amazon page for New York & Mid-Atlantic Gardener's Book of Lists   and read the reviews, check their price, etc.  )

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spring Catalogs? Now??? Wow!

Well, I don't know that there's a Black Friday for gardeners.
If there is, it might be on the equinox, like Ground Hog Day.

But, I have to tell you, my first 2013 gardening catalog arrived...
three days before Thanksgiving.
Something to do while the male half of the team is watching football.


And why not?
I'm already turning down page corners for
books and gardening tools and seed packets
that would be a delight to find in my stocking
next..... month!
Shopping for gardeners!
We are soooo easy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November. Thanksgiving!


Ah, well, the beautiful fall foliage of the Japanese Maples is almost gone. 
It really IS the end of November.
The days have been dreary and grey -
an unhappy follow-up to the brilliant blue skies and crisp air of October.
We're feeling sleep and dormant.
It's hard to get out there and do the very important work
of fall cleanup.  We need a brief Indian Summer to get us started!
But first, Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving for another beautiful year!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Back to the Chickens.....

At the moment, there's really not much going on in the garden.
A few chestnuts starting to fall.
A few pears starting to ripen.
Last lanky basil holding on and a few peppers hastening to ripen.
Not much excitement.

So.... I figured I'd share chicken entertainment from the little coop.

The little coop looks pretty quiet.  Three of the finest girls have gone to their new home with Ms. Rene (Weebug) and we do miss them.  But, who could resist a coop run strung with giant holiday lights?
Ms. Rene and LackenFlacken (now "Sadie"?)
at here new home!
The baby chicks are now full chicklets, almost full-grown hens.  They took to the rafters immediately when they moved into the coop.  This is a shot of them with their brood mama (fluffy butt to the right).

Although the Mama Hen, Freckles, sat the eggs and hatched and raised them, the baby girls (all girls! What a happy hatching!) each took after her birth mom.  At a glance, I could tell whose egg had created each chick.

Alas, thanks to a hard hunting Red-Tailed Hawk, who defeated my best defenses, we lost Freckles (the mom), IddyBiddy (the little one right next to her) and Raven, there on the far end. I appreciate that everything has to eat, to survive, to provide for their own young..... but it's a heartbreaker nonetheless.

Sadly,
Sybil

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Impact of No Impact


Colin Beavan has wrecked havoc in my life.  After reading No Impact Man, I can hardly manage my days in what feels like a quagmire of waste.  In my attempts to be environmentally responsible, I'm driving my spouse and myself to distraction as I desperately try to stem the tide of seemingly insurmountable waste that is the normal stream of an American household.

Take paper.  Regular paper, in all of its forms: paper, newsprint, tissue, magazines..... Something as seemingly innocuous as paper drives me crazy. Paper towels, newspapers (now delivered daily in a plastic bag, oh, thanks), standard product packaging, junk mail, magazines and more, more, more. It seems to come into our life from all sides.
 
When we ran out of paper napkins (no need to waste what we already had, right?), I changed over to cloth napkins. I love them anyway. I set the table with different, colorful napkins every day and I have my grandmother's silver napkin ring on mine. Despite all that Martha Stewart effort, much of the time hubby Rob wanders over on his way to the table and pulls off a paper towel to use.

Although we're getting better about using cloth kitchen towels and wipes, we both still grab paper towels when the dog hurls on the rug or we need a quick swipe of something. We'll continue to use paper tissues and toilet paper, I just can't see that changing any time soon.

Yes, we recycle the newspapers and junk mail in our curbside containers. Our magazines have dwindled as I allowed subscriptions to lapse. (Really, were we reading those magazines piling up on the coffee table??) Those magazines we've read go to the public library for sharing with others.  I use any paper shopping bags that arrive to hold our recycling until it goes to the Big Blue Bin.

So I'd say our current score is maybe about 40% improvement?  Whoa. That doesn't seem like much for the insane amount of nagging it's taken to make it happen.  And every time I open the mailbox, open a packing box, open a new container of toilet paper or paper towels, I feel like I'm just barely holding my finger in the dike, like I've barely made a ripple in the waste stream. Here comes more paper clogging our household.....

Yes, I'm trying to live in harmony with my personal beliefs.... but sometimes it's hard to believe that what I'm doing is making enough of a difference to be worth the hassle.  I just don't seem to have any choice.  I am compelled to do what bits I can.

Just don't get me started on styrofoam...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Freckles and Her Little Chicklets

Managed to catch a short video of Freckles and her little chicks!
You can enjoy it on YouTube @  Freckles leading the babies out to forage


This is a real coup, you know, because I truly, truly
am the world's worst camera-person.
In this still shot, you can see Freckles shaking her head
 as she "brrrrs" to let her chicks know
that she has something tasty at her feet. 

In the video, you can hear the melodic chirping of the chicks 
as they talk back and forth, keeping close tabs on each other.  
Very, very darling! 

Enjoy the video!
Sybil

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Glory Bower is in Full Seed!


Let the Fall Season Begin!

The Harlequin Glory Bower (Clerodendrum trichotomum*) that fills the north end of our porch garden has changed from full, sweet-scented summer bloom to its riot of fall color.  I fell for this plant in the fall.  These seeds are OUTRAGEOUS! The indigo blue seeds and fuschia pods, which open into star-like "petals" are actually much showier than the flowers.

Talk about off-season interest in the garden! 

Some call it a small tree (I do and that's how I prune it), some call it a large shrub. Tree form is easiest, I think, because it spreads both from suckers and the seeds, which are poisonous to humans but apparently fine bird food.  I can pull suckers and mow seedlings much easier under a higher, open canopy.

Want one?  Next spring I'll have batches of babies!  Oooh, I'll pot some up for the plant swap!

Sybil

PS.  Clerodendrum is the official genus, but Clerodendron makes more botanical logic and is often the spelling you find, from me and most plantsfolks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

NPR - Mexicans find American eggs pale, tasteless

Photo of a factory-farm egg laying hen.
Well, there's a new crisis every day and this week it turns out that Mexico is running out of eggs.  Eggs are an important part of the Mexican diet, famous for huevos rancheros and more, so this is a major concern. 

Driving in the car, I caught the NPR broadcast of the situation.

http://www.weku.fm/post/its-no-yolk-mexicans-cope-egg-shortage-price-spikes

And here is the bit that caught me right away:

"The first shipments from the U.S. have already arrived at Mexico City's
huge wholesale warehouse and are helping to stabilize prices.
But egg vendor Adrian Hernandez says his clients don't like the U.S. imports;
they tell him the American eggs don't have any flavor,
and that the yolks are pale."

Here in the U.S., it has been a generation or more since the General Population had anything but factory-laid, supermarket eggs.  Here in a country of obsessed eaters, Americans truly don't know the difference!

Egg comparison done by the NY Times. Supermarket egg is
on the right. Notice that you can't even see the whites....
 


Unless, like me, you have a free-ranging,
garden-munching, bug-snatching,
happy gang of hens laying eggs
with bright orange yolks
 and whites that hold their shape
 (not some watery goooooo).

And here's a question:
 
Do you ever get totally confused by the labelling on things like eggs? 
Organic, cage-free, free-range, vegetarian....omega-3 enhanced... ? 

Check out this rational article that gives a quick run-through of the many terms: http://today.ninemsn.com.au/foodandwine/254469/choosing-the-best-eggs 

One of the most important frauds I see perpetrated right now is the idea that eggs from "vegetarian only" fed chickens are somehow better. In real life, vegetarian-only-feed means that the birds are kept totally caged, never outside where they could eat bugs or worms - exactly the kind of factory production corporate farms hope to maintain.  Chickens are omnivores by nature

I'm telling you, the person who came up with vegetarian feed only" chickens as a positive marketing message is a GENIUS.  And, sadly, it shows how little most people know about chickens (or any other food source, for that matter), that Americans think this is a good thing.

My RoosterMan guarding his bug-hunting hens.
Oh, dear, and I'm rehoming our chickens.
Scaling down to leave our farm.  This is terrible.
I've got to get to work on those townie zoning ordinances.
I don't think I could go back to "supermarket" eggs if I had to.
And my eggs were one of my last holdouts from total vegan living.  <sigh>
 


sadly,
Sybil

PS  Just for the record, in case anyone thinks that the first sad photo is not realistic, I can tell you as someone with a graduate degree in agriculture, you really, really don't want to take a clear look at most of our country's meat production if you want to feel good about yourself. You should, but you don't want to.  I'm sorry, I truly am, but that is just how it is. And bear in mind that now that the sick little hen in the photo has given out as an egg-layer, they are going to turn her into some chicken product for you to eat.

Bah! Get yourself a bit of backyard and raise a couple of chickens.  No, don't eat the chickens, let them live happily for a long time, laying eggs  - and eat those bright, tasty eggs!  Instead of antibiotics and hormones, you get entertainment and affection.  You know you can't beat that for health and healing!




 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cereus-ly?


Once again, the faithful Night-Blooming Cereus has put out her magnificent flowers right on schedule.  They seem to come out each year just as the nights get cooler.  It's a pleasure to sit on the porch and watch them open. The white flowers stand out against the darkness of the night and the fabulous, sweet fragrance fills the entire area.  Cereus cacti are night-pollinated by the large beautiful sphinx moths.

The first year I "adopted" her from a friend and brought her back to a really  healthy state, Cereus put out a number of blooms that opened like a slow animation as the evening went on.  As the blossoms opened and lifted, the entire plant seemed to quiver with effort and anticipation.

She wanted a moth!  
She needed that moth!!!  

I watched her opening each blossom along the branches hanging over the edge of her clay pot, there on the screened in porch.  As the petals of each quivered open, you could almost hear the yearning for moth, moth, moth! Finally, sympathy won out.

 "Honey," I said, "I've had moments when I felt the exact same way!" and I carried the Cereus, pot and all, out into the free night where the moths flew.

A gal has just got to have her chance, you know?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's All About Eating Plants!

As some of you know - or maybe not -  I've been working my way toward a "plant-based" lifestyle the last couple of years, accelerated recently by a direct command from my cardiologist.

Let me just say right now that 
I never intended to HAVE a cardiologist 
and I intend NOT to have one as soon as possible.

Since two of my twin passions are gardening and self-sufficiency, this plant-based (vegan) lifestyle makes a great deal of sense to me.  After all, growing vegetables and fruits is what I do - for a living, for a hobby, for relaxation. Well,  I "grow" animals - my beloved chickens - but, heavens!  Not to EAT!  <laughing to herself>  And, okay, we've been eating their eggs, but that may be about to change.

So, I gathered up an armload of veggie cookbooks, veggie lifestyle advice books and stacked up a ready reference of veggie websites.  So much to consider!  So much to absorb!

Or, is it?  I found this illustration on http://www.guidetoveganliving.org.uk/  and I had to laugh.  Here it is, friends:

Remind me not to make life more complicated than I need to, okay???

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Review

Although my veggie gardens were perhaps the most minor gardening I did this summer, there was plenty to enjoy around the landscape.  The blueberries were amazing - although the very end of the harvest actually "fermented" in the heat wave that hit at the end of June.  105 degrees was more than those fat ripe berries could handle.  But we'd already picked ourselves silly.

The tomatoes crashed so resoundingly and suddenly that it had to be blight.  First time in years I had planted directly into our soil and it will be the last time.  We live in Virginia Beach farm country and so had lots of fresh tomatoes and other vegetables to choose from at our local farm stands, but you know that it's still not the same as your own tomatoes.  <sigh>  With the energy I had all expended on training for the 200 mile bike tour rather than garden prep, we were serious CSA folks this season.

Thanks to organizations like  Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads, more folks are finding their way to our farm neighbors.  With this level of community participation and support for local farms and markets, the small farm families here in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk and throughout the area will be able to thrive and continue producing fresh food right here.

Yep.  That's the back window of my Jeep!



On the lovelier side of the garden, it was a super summer for daylilies and a lot of the dedicated perennials that continue to delight and impress me, both with their beauty and with their hardiness.


Daylily clumps.  How I wish I knew what happened to their variety tags.  Nevertheless, I enjoy them as "anonymous" beauties.  And hide my frustration....

I bought these lilies several years ago as "has beens" at a garden center, about 8 qt pots to a tray and with a price of $2 per tray.  They had bloomed out and were deemed unsalable - which they did seem to be until I came along and read the tag.  They are one of the joys of my June/early July garden. ( I love gardening on the cheap!  Is that wrong?)  :)   As an aside:  These were being sold as "Stargazer" lilies - which they are not, so I am glad not to have paid the original price for them! I actually like this gentle pink blossom much better. They have asiatic foliage - what you see in the foreground is a daylily - otherwise these blooms would call up an old-fashioned crinum lily.
 
PS - If you saw my post earlier this week, you know that these lily stems have died back and are now completely hidden by a very feral encrouchment of sweet potato vine!
 
 
 





Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Meet the Babies!

Speaking of things that run amok in August - meet the babies!  Mother banty hen, Freckles, has her new brood out and about. (She sat the eggs from several of my less maternally-minded hens.  Freckles would and probably could hatch a rock if she didn't find anything more suitable. Determined doesn't begin to describe her.)  The chicks are starting to look vaguely like chickens.  What's really amazing is that I can already tell which chick came from which hen in the flock!  All slightly "off" the original by the effect of the tall white daddy, RoosterMan.   Enjoy!

Enjoying a bit of canteloupe on a hot summer morning.

Hiding camera on my lap so Freckles will stay calm.
See her watching me?  What am I up to??
Babies couldn't care less.
All moms are black and white breeds except Freckles,
whose own baby (way to the right) hardly shows up here.

There is nothing, truly, any more relaxing than the gentle burbling of a mama hen
and the faint, constant chorus of baby trills and cheeps than answer her.
If you sit out in the coop for a few moments on a sultry summer afternoon,
the day pours over you like molasses.
You must nap.
Nap........
 
 

Monday, August 27, 2012

And the Rains Came .... and came... and....

 

 
It's August.  You can't fool me, I know miserably hot and humid when I'm in it.  My two intolerable conditions.  In tandem.  Dog days. The dogs don't want them.   My garden is running amok. I'm ignoring it as much as possible, although yesterday I did have to go out and beat back the Jasmine vine that was making a serious effort to get into the house.  Same vine I was told would likely die away in any winter.  Nope.  Fabulous in June.  Feral in August.
 
 
Come for a walk with me.   Before the garden gets us both.
 
Isn't this lovely?  This was the pool garden in June.  Calm and collected, much like its gardener.  There were a few spots I felt were "bare" so when I tripped over  a decidedly cheap little six pack of blindingly chartreuse sweet potato vine plants at Home Depot in July, so I popped them in to "liven it all up a bit" over the summer when the spring plants die back.
Behold the result in August....
 
It's going for the pool.  This photo really doesn't even do the vine justice.
It's grown since this was taken.  By the hour.
I have clippers in hand.
But it's too @#$ hot and humid to go out there
and fight it.
More later, I have to go pour some iced tea.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

know that green "powder" that stains your hands when picking?


Cluster of Whopper Tomatoes

 Have you ever been working in your tomato plants on a hot, humid day and realized that your fingers are covered with a kind of yellow-green powder?  Some of us are even a bit allergic to the residue of tomato plants.

I've encountered it for years and never really thought much about it - the slightly sticky powdery stuff comes off the tomato leaf hairs - and then I found this interesting article (thanks to Seeds from Italy's newsletter).

Here's the scoop on what that stuff is!

http://www.growingformarket.com/articles/green-powder-on-tomato-plants

Monday, July 23, 2012

Where are all my right-hand garden gloves?



Okay, I give.

Where are all my right-handed gardening gloves?

Am I the only person who grabs gloves on the way out to the garden only to discover that I have only half of each pair in my possession?

Oh, I know what has happened .... I've pulled one glove off to answer the cellphone in my pocket, or to grab a small bit of something or to clean my glasses....... but what the @#$%*  did I DO WITH IT after that?????

What happens to your gloves?  Am I the only fool who consistently ends up with half of six pairs by the end of the season???  <sigh> Somehow my ramshackle gardening never matches my internal image of myself as The Lady Gardener of our small corner of paradise. ----->

FYI, the gloves in the photo are absolutely The Best Gloves Ever.  Seriously.  Treat yourself at Amazon.com (or your local retailer if they carry them) and grab several pairs.  They are Atlas Nitrile Garden Gloves NT370.  I'll try to put a link to the Amazon match on the Inspired Garden Reads widget over on the left of the blog page, just scroll through the books. (I'm not the best at this). You really want to read all those books anyway, I'm just telling you.....they are invaluable and, yes, inspiring!

You can also order the gloves less expensively through some of the Amazon retail associates and probably dozens of other retailers.  So order away.....

THEN, when you end up with extra right-handed gloves at the end of the season.... send them to me !!  :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Green or Black Gardening Tools? Really?

Who on earth had the bright idea of making gardening tools green?
Obviously, this designer was no gardener.
Do you think I can find my favorite black handled trowel?
Where ever it landed in the piles of weeds and dirt......
Or my nifty green handled pruners?????

I mean really.  My Fiskars pruners get used all the time, not even really because I love them the most although they are decent pruners.
Nah.  It's because they have RED handles and I can FIND them.

You can bet that if I'm wading into underbrush, armed with those trusty long-handled loppers, and they have GREEN handles.... I'm a-gonna lose those loppers before the brush whacking is done. I'll set them down in a sea of whacked branches and then... and then....

<sigh>

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Will You Love Me Even If I Neglect You?



Now is the summer of our discontent... paraphrasing Will Shakespeare.  After months of being neglected by yours truly, who was completely distracted by a lovely lime green bicycle and a good cause.... my garden is tallying up its wins and losses.  Any and all annuals are toast - with the startling exception of the Italian pepper plants.  Who knew those would be the tough guys?

Oh, and the self-seeded zinnias.  Rangy, disorganized and oh, so cheerful!  Bless 'em!

ALL the tomato plants died except one 'Sun Sugar' that was grown in a pot as an eventual present for a dear friend.  The tomatoes, cherry and heirloom and romas, were planted directly into new garden bed areas that were apparently full of blight. We've always planted into raised beds because of the horrible clay soil - and I skipped it this spring.  Bad move.  No tomatoes. I can hardly believe it.  My reputation is ruined.  Phooey.

Do I try replanting in this heat - or simply devote my dollars to supporting our local farm stands?  I know, I know - any other tomatoes are never, ever quite as good as those from your own garden.  But still.....

The blueberry bushes rejoiced in the mild spring and early summer and the regular downpours offset any neglect on my part.  Lovely bushes... great harvest. No, no, I don't weigh things.  We got lots.  Handfuls, bucketfuls, enough for us and family and friends. 

Finally, with very little encouragement, the bushes are developing some size.  We miss the huge - 10' and larger - rabbiteye bushes that we removed years ago, but these youngsters are starting to come along.    Notice that they are doing so without weed killer, mulch or any other favors on our part.  Rabbiteyes (Vaccinium ashei) - you can't beat 'em! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Last Biking Post - I swear!

Chinaberry Tree along Dismal Swamp Canal Bike Trail - Melia azedarach var. umbraculifera
I had to share this photo, taken while biking on the Dismal Swamp Canal Bike Trail.  It looked like a chinese wisteria, only it was a tree.  Turns out it is a  Chinaberry tree in bloom.  And I had to track down my friend, Marie Butler, horticulturist at the VA zoo to help me with the ID.  Even she was momentarily stumped.  It is simply beeeeautiful along the trail.

Incidentally, as a fruit fanatic, I also have to report that I've been astounded at the edible riches in the Dismal Swamp, at least out here along the canal.  Growing wild.... blueberries, blackberries, mulberries, paw paws, wild cherry, sassafras, lots of edible herbs and flowers..... berries on dogwood, sumac - it's truly amazing.  This is a fine, fine place for wildlife.  It probably was a wonderful place to be a settler or a native Indian back in the early and earlier days. Might have been miserable weather and bug-wise, but no reason to starve.  Especially if you count all the animals..... so far I've come across not only a wealth of snakes but also raccoon, squirrel, BEAR (yes, a bear!), a bevy of geese with young uns and a mama turkey with a parade of little turk-lettes tripping across the path.

I am profoundly grateful for this entire Great Bike Tour fund-raising endeavor - not only have my friends and generous online fig fanatics raised over $3,000 dollars for the support of the San Mar children's home in Boonsboro MD, but I have been impelled and compelled to spend hours of every week out on my lime green bicycle building up stamina for the 200 mile ride.  And since the ride is, essentially, Off Road on a gravel/dirt/sand canal path, I've been training at the Great Dismal Swamp (which is paved, actually) but also through Bay Back and False Cape wildlife refuges.  In short, from May through June, I've spent my days in the most beautiful places in Hampton Roads.

And, amazingly enough, not only in the most beautiful places but while enjoying the most fabulous weather of any spring I can recall.  Even today, June 17th, I was riding Back Bay/False Cape in long sleeves and without a "bug" in sight.  It doesn't get any better than this.  The weather will be changing this coming week but I can still only feel grateful for the reprieve I was given for the last 4 months.

Three weeks to the Big Tour....... Whoooo hoooooo!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Goats and Roses

Okay, I could NOT resist!  As long as I'm taking you touring anywhere but my garden, I had to share this photo, taken off Long  Ridge Road in Virginia Beach.  This goat was just sitting in her chair, looking outrageously comfortable.  No other option but to stop everything and snap this photo.

Incidentally, the goat's "garden" looks about like mine.  <sigh>


True to form, this isn't my garden either - it's my mother-in-law's yard and the mother of my own lovely Lady Banks rose (Rosa banksiae 'Lutea'). I just found this on the camera.  Exposure is a bit off but you can still see the arching habit and amazing May flowers that make this rose such a special garden highlight.  Roots from cuttings - no thorns or pests that I've ever found.  Ours used to be wa-ay out back on the pump house, which it threatened to engulf, so early this spring I yanked it out - dug and chopped and swore and made all kinds of tender promises - and I put it along a length of fence near the house where it survived -even bloomed a bit - and where it promises to copy its mother... just like this!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May? Already? Already Mostly Over?

Mile 7.8 South on the Dismal Swamp Canal Bike Path (formerly route 17)
You'll notice this sure isn't a photo of my garden.  But it's a good shot of where I've been instead of gardening!  Seems like any decent day I'm out - either on the Back Bay/False Cape trails south of Sandbridge beach or on the amazing Dismal Swamp Canal Bike Path. Can you believe this?  Chesapeake VA set aside almost 10 miles of two lane highway -seriously! no cars! - right along the beautiful canal (which you can't see in this shot) strictly for cyclists, runners, walkers and even horses.  When I started biking to get ready for The Great Bicycle Tour,  the 200 mile ride I'm doing this July to benefit the San Mar Children's Home, that field over there on the right was bare.  Now the wheat is soon ready to be harvested.   - - - Unlike anything in my garden.  Ha. - - -

But all is well.  The decidedly neglected looking landscapes around our farm are just counterpoint to the Over-Three-Thousand dollars raised to help the kids at San Mar.  Whooo hoooo!

I just hope that some of those fig cuttings I sent out earlier this spring made it.  I know some didn't (very sad, very sad) but I do know that some went out to folks with as much experience as I have... and more!.... so hopefully little trees are starting by now.  And lawd, but I'm glad to see from everyone else's blog that Somebody is out there gardening!   Sure hasn't been me!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Clearing the Beds & Garden Recycling Notes

It's way past time to get the garden beds cleaned up and into spring.  The rest of you are making me feel like a bad mother, with your tidy, tended gardens and bursting spring harvests.  While you've been fluffing those carefully mulched beds, I've been out being chased by wild boars on my bicycle.  No lie. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is an amazing place.  Hair-raising might be a better word.

But, anyway, I'm at work in the gardens around the farm.  Firstly, because I've been cursed with a cold and I can't breathe enough to pump bike pedals. Secondly, because - as always - I've been sucked into plant sales and come home with trays of stuff that have no gardens ready to receive them.  So, wheezing guiltily, I'm at work on this one balmy afternoon for this week.  Hoeing away (no mulch down yet), I was thinking about recycling (yes, it's Earth Day Week) and how gardeners are intuitive, natural recyclers. Not just composting, but plant dividing and sharing, seed saving.... and then there's the entire world of recycled garden art.

Here's an example from my side garden (admittedly still looking a bit ragged):



Add to that the fact that virtually everything in this garden - daylilies, palms, coneflowers - are all divisions, swaps, or gifts from friends, and there you have it.  A totally recycled garden!  Which will now be mulched with  aged shreddings from the last time Dominion Power cleared their right of ways down here.  Voila!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It is Spring! Where is the Gardener???

So now April has vanished and I don't even know what's happening in my poor, neglected gardens!  Seems like every "good" moment, I'm off bicycling to fulfill this commitment to biking 200 miles on my 60th birthday.  I've actually decided to hire HELP in clearing the last of the winter weeds and spreading fresh mulch.

Law. Where's my botanical sense??
But there are lovely things happening without any 'interference' from me.

Here's a beautiful outburst worth sharing, blooming without attention along the front fence.  This is "One of the loveliest of all the Viburnums, kern-s-pink-up-close.jpg'Kern's Pink' (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Kern's Pink') features bronze-tinged foliage and delicate, soft-pink flowers in May. In full sun or partial shade it can grow to 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide. In time some flower clusters will be pink, some white, and others mixed pink and white." (Description courtesy of Ozark Gardens website - a great place for you viburnum lovers.)


A closeup of the blossoms on my bush - pretty lovely, eh?
Meanwhile, my old giant honking viburnum - the one I keep meaning to prune every winter - is heaving huge blossom clusters over my head - I swear they get larger every year.  Take a look:




You have to love the magic that makes these things happen - whether you are right there fussing over the plants or not.  It's a beautiful day outside - I hope everyone is out playing in the garden!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Need a Loquat?

This is a "shout out to my homies" here in Hampton Roads.  Several of you have coveted my beautiful Loquat trees (Eriobotyra japonica).  I just stopped in at a neighborhood greenhouse/nursery operation down here in Blackwater on Hungarian Road (Cedar Creek Greenhouses) and, as I was driving out, I happened to glance into one of the unheated houses to notice TWO loquat trees, probably 7' each.  They are a tad spindly; loquats really need a bit of room and these were seriously pot-bound.  BUT, if you haven't found any loquats at other local plant outlets - here's your chance.  Alas, I did not stop to get the prices.  If you are seriously interested, let me know and I'll go ask.

These are extraordinary trees for our area, not over-sized and beautifully evergreen with deep green, almost hard, leaves and very fragrant flowers that turn into golden nuggets that are one of my favorite little fruits (if it's a spring without hard freezes to damage the forming fruit - like this spring).  For beekeepers, they are even more special because they bloom and provide food for bees during November and December, when there are few other flower sources around.  On a warm winter day, our loquat trees vibrate with hundreds of greedy bees.

Very cool plants - go get one!
Sybil

Monday, March 26, 2012

Signs of Spring!


I love redbud (Cercis canadensis) because the blooms last so long
and because the bees are mad for it every spring.
It positively vibrates with color and with bees!


Okay, this is not perhaps the single most outstanding weeping cherry tree
anyone has ever seen
BUT
only a few years ago, when I planted it,
it looked like a little chopstick.
So I am proud, proud of this baby!


This is the Electric Green new foliage on the Panache fig
out front along the fence.  It's such a nice tree
and the new foliage is absolutely INTENSE in its green-ness.

So not much constructive gardening is getting done - 
I could start rice paddies between the house and the barn.
But, my, I'm enjoying the brilliant, rain-washed colors!