Thursday, July 10, 2014

Watching Rocket Launches from the Farm



Click the link to see the video of
NASA loading the rocket for launch
on Saturday, July 12th.

Okay, I'm a hopeless space geek.
I was raised close enough to 'Canaveral' to see the moon launches streak up into the sky before we ran inside to watch the rest on TV.

I follow Neil deGrasse Tyson on Facebook.  
I'm still in love with Carl Sagan.  
I'm a hoopy frood who knows where her towel is. 
(Only Douglas Adams fans need apply!) 

And I'm still sooo excited whenever I can watch a rocket launch from our back acres.  
Or front acres. 

NASA Wallops Island.  
Most space fun ever had on a small Virginia farm.

Why I Hate Bird Netting

What you see here (squint carefully) is the skeleton of a little black snake. It became snared in bird netting that was rolled up and stored in our barn. Probably last winter. Chasing mice perhaps?

I don't think the blasted "bird" netting has stopped a single Starling from scarfing down our blueberries - not ever.  They peck right through the damned stuff, while it snares snakes and tiny birds that fly through any opening and then can't get back out.

It's not worth it, folks, I'm just telling you.

When the berries start ripening, we now pick-pick-pick like maniacs (and drag our friends out to do the same) and then it's over.  Yep, we share.

The alternative is just too gross.
Trust me.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

We got Paw Paws, Paw!

Paw Paw blossoms in early May.

Aren't they lovely?  Kind of a russet maroon, little bells hanging on my Paw Paw (Asimina triloba).  Michael Dirr, one of the plant propagation gurus - whose book I relied on during my horticultural grad work - described Paw Paw blossoms as "lurid purple", which they never, ever deserved.  I think he also slanders the blossoms as having a "fetid" odor.  Ack.

Lurid purple, indeed. HA.  (And I've never noticed that much of an odor at all.  Although, in all fairness, by the time I've whacked my way to the back forty orchard where the Paw Paws are, I probably smell pretty fetid myself.)

I never see any insects pollinating them but they do indeed seem to get pollinated, especially now that the clump's getting bigger.  Interestingly, Paw Paw blossoms start out as "female" and then develop into "male" blossoms as the pollen develops on the anthers.  (For an informative and humorous look at Paw Paw pollination and Paw Paw propagation in Florida, go here:
http://www.clemson.edu/hort/peach/pdfs/fg97.pdf )

I love Paw Paws.  I love the fruit.  I love planting them for the beautiful, beleaguered Zebra Swallowtail butterflies (Eurytides marcellus). Paw Paw foliage is the only food for their larva.

The only substantial native stands of Paw Paws locally are in the Great Dismal Swamp.  Two spring-times ago, biking the Dismal Swamp Canal bike path in the early morning sun, so many Zebra Swallowtails swirled around me that I had to stop my bicycle to keep them from being injured by the spokes of the wheels.  They had come to lay their eggs on the Paw Paw trees scattered amid the swamp foliage.
http://www.chesapeakebay.net/fieldguide/critter/zebra_swallowtail
I don't begrudge the butterfly caterpillars a bite of my trees, in fact, I'm kind of depressed that I don't get more of the butterflies laying eggs on my Paw Paw trees.  I've even planted the beautiful orange milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) you see here in Dave Govoni's photo from the Chesapeake Bay website.  Well, actually the milkweed is for both the adult Zebra Swallowtails who feed on its flowers and the larval Monarch butterflies for whom the milkweed foliage is their only host food.  

FYI: Field report: so far, no Monarchs OR Zebra Swallowtails seen here this summer.  
Very concerning. 
Anyone else seeing more encouraging signs of our local butterflies?

However, I'm happy to report that I have PAW PAW fruits in progress. 

I had to take a picture because to this day, we've never gotten to see, hold or eat a ripe fruit.  Blossoms, check.  Immature green fruits, check.

Ripe fruit?  GONE. Every year. 

I need a better plan....

Friday, July 4, 2014

American Independence


I don't think anything more needs to be added.......  here's to a return to Independence!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gardens? What Gardens?

Mimi, Fearless Mole Tracker
Anyone actually paying attention to this much-neglected blog will have picked up on a noticeable lack of posts about this year's gardens.

That's because this year to date has been all about trying to SAVE any bit of the gardens rather than enhancing them.

"Why?" you ask.

Behold the Why.
Mimi, Leader of the Death To Moles Search & Destroy Commandos, self appointed to annihilate any and all evidence of Moles (horrible moles! hideous moles! invading moles!) from its property.  Which, unfortunately, also happens to be MY property - or, more to the point, MY GARDENS.

No hosta has been left unturned.  No daylily untrampled.  On one glorious occasion, an Actual Mole was obtained and immediately assassinated by the Tzu Death Patrol.  Encouraged by this happy success,  all efforts were redoubled.

Our yard looks like the IRA has been using it for bomb practice.

On the other hand, I'll never have to till the gardens again.