Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Hate Cats...Really, I Do

So the other night, I was walking through the house to join my husband on the deck, where he was admiring the night.

It was dim in the house, because my husband likes it dim**, and I stepped on something squishy.

Our other cat is elderly and has been vomiting a lot, so I assumed it was that, and turned on the light so I could clean it up. I'm not squeamish; it didn't even really bother me that I had just stepped barefoot into cat vomit. (Oops, should have mentioned earlier that I was barefoot, huh?)
Here's what I am squeamish about: what I stepped on was actually a dead baby rabbit, brought in by you-know-who.

I hate moments like that, anyway.

**For the newly married among you, I wanted to point out that this is how you subtly blame your husband for something that really wasn't his fault. See how I casually alluded to the fact that I stepped on a DEAD BABY RABBIT solely because my husband has this inexplicable dislike of God-given light?

You have to be subtle about it, because if you're screaming about why this house can't EVER have light, he may not pick up the carcass and dispose of it for you (thank you, sweetie).

Are you wondering why you'd want to blame your husband for something that really wasn't his fault? Try this scenario on for size: "I know I left the iron on, but you made me step on a DEAD BABY RABBIT!" See?
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Where's Waldo (the frog)?

I took some pictures around the pond this morning, and took the one below because I was interested in the plants growing into the wood.

When I put it on the computer, and saw the larger version, I found this little guy hiding there. I hadn't seen him at all when I took the picture, which of course is what he was hoping for.

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Poop and Our Place In the Universe

My husband was sick today, so I did the morning manure pickup. Gus the horse produces a lot of it, in his stall and in carefully selected venues around the pasture. Since we don't want it or the water that runs off through it to go into the pond, we pick it up daily.

As I set off with the wheelbarrow and manure container, I started wondering what the animals think of all this.

Of course, the first thing they think is: "Does she have food?" The goats carefully inspected the equipment and me for food. Look who else is waiting in the background.

The poop producer himself, hoping I'm bringing hay or grain.

And here's the chore awaiting me, and the guilty party.

So here's something I've always wondered about. If you collect the poop of another species, be it dog, cat or horse, can you really be considered the dominant species? I feed my cats, pick up their poop, and work so that they can have a warm place to sleep. Who's really on the top of that food chain?

On the other hand, we don't collect the goats' poop, because it's small and will just biodegrade, and I'm still pretty sure they think we work for them, so maybe that theory doesn't hold.

Goats can't control their poop, which leads to situations like this...

That's our boat dock, where they love to sleep and hang out on hot days. We can't just close the gate to it to keep them off, because they just climb into the boat and jump up to the dock. We just sweep it off regularly.

Wait, that's collecting their poop, isn't it? And we're feeding them and providing a place to sleep. Drat -- we really are low man on the totem pole here, aren't we?

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why Are the Hummingbirds Nervous?

We've been having lots of hummingbirds at our feeder, so many that my husband had to place a second feeder on the rail temporarily because the hanging feeder looked like the OK Corral with all the hummingbird fights. They are vicious little birds.

We were getting lots of action at the second feeder...

and then it stopped.

Hmmm, I can't imagine why.

Gus, the great hunter. He has absolutely no idea why they've stopped coming.

The birds should wish all cats were like this one.

Last year, Gus was asleep on a planter hanging from our neighbor's deck (squashing all of her flowers, of course). I was watching him, thinking that I should go get him, when I saw a squirrel sneaking up behind him. I swear this is true -- it crept right up to him, tapped him on the back, and ran away.

Gus slept through the whole thing. That squirrel had quite a tale for his friends....
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More Happy Planting

There are few things I enjoy more than planting! As I mentioned in the last post, here are the other plants I bought at Caroliniana. The two in the pots below are Joe-Pye Weed. You may think this is odd -- and really, it probably is -- but I have been dying to get my hands on Joe-Pye Weed for a long time. It's supposed to be one of the best plants for butterflies, birds, and insects, and can used in a variety of ways. I was so excited that they had it. It's going to grow to be at least five feet tall, with beautiful flowers. I've planted it where we can see it from the front porch.

It's also an herb and is supposedly named after a native American herbalist who used it to cure fevers. (You realize that I don't actually know any of this stuff, right? I just look it up on line. Thank goodness for the Internet!)

On the left below in the black pot is another plant I've been wanting for a long time: butterfly weed. Not to be confused with butterfly bush, butterfly weed is a native plant that butterflies supposedly go nuts for. (I bought butterfly bush last year; it was ugly as sin, and I never saw a butterfly near it. In fact, I think they were taking detours so they didn't have to go near it!)

On the right is coral honeysuckle, another native vine with pretty flowers and even better bright red berries in the fall.

Off to the right, almost out of the picture, is a set of pentas. I don't think they're native, but I had them in pots at the other house last year, and the butterflies and bees were all over them. (Since the butterfly bush was next to the pentas, it looked especially lonely.)

I can't wait to be able to show pictures of these wonderful plants blooming...
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Happy Day Planting

Yesterday I went to a wonderful nearby nursery, Nurseries Caroliniana, and had a wonderful time talking to the staff and owner. The owners have had the property since 1861, and the two brothers have been running it as a nursery for decades. What I really like is that the nursery is into native plants, and the staff is knowledgeable about them. Since I'm not knowledgeable, but want to be, it's a perfect match.

I'll show you what I bought...but will have to do it in two postings because for some reason Blogger only lets me post four pictures in one post.

This is Lavender Salvia. I planted it up front where we can see it from the front porch. Everything we bought is intended to attract birds and butterflies, whether in the larval or adult stages.

Up against the wall, next to the shovel, is a trumpet vine, a native vine that will have wonderful orange flowers. We planted some in our previous house, and not only did the hummingbirds love it, but it sprouted wonderful foot-long bean pods later in the summer.

This is orange fennel, which I got because the nursery said it supports the larval stage of some butterflies, plus it has some beautiful colors.

And this has no purpose (oops, I lied above) except to look pretty. It's a grass, Miscanthus Sinesis. She told me it was a dwarf grass; it's a good thing I read up on it before I planted it, since this 'dwarf' grows to be five feet tall! I read online that it's been planted as an ornamental grass in the States since the 1700's (and apparently can be invasive in some circumstances, but I don't expect that my front flower bed will be one of those circumstances).

More in the next post....
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Monday, May 25, 2009

Mini Cycle of Life

The cycle of life is a funny thing. One day you're a sweet little loropetalum plant, also known as Chinese fringe flower, a very attractive evergreen landscape plant (thanks, Someone bought you from a local nursery and planted you to bring beauty to the landscape.

A couple of years later, you're blocking a newly installed door to the man cave, and just like that -- you're out. And what do you get for those years of service?

You're goat food.

Goats like grass...but they adore shrubs.

It's not a terrible way to go. You feed the goats, who will then enrich the soil, which will provide nurture for other living things.

Geez, I hope that's not the way I go, though.
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I Can't Let Sleeping Cats Lie

My husband says I have this pathological fascination with sleeping cats. I can't help it -- I have to go pet and cuddle them. What he doesn't understand is that it's really not possible to wake some cats up.

This is Gus, our 5-year-old Jordanian cat. He loves it in the country. He's the big man on campus long as he stays close to the house. I don't know what he does when he stays out all night, but whatever it is, it tires him out. This morning he barely dragged himself up on the bed before he passed out. He'll be here all day, and then start to come alive...sort the evening.

I cuddled him and oohed and aahed over him, and I still got this same 'leave me alone to sleep' face.

By the way, our beds aren't normally this messy. This is the spare bed. A couple of weeks ago, Gus brought a half-grown rabbit into the house, and it got into this bedroom before we could stop it. We have a number of oriental rugs rolled up and stored under that bed, so when we couldn't find the rabbit in the room, I started frantically pulling them out and tossing them on the bed, with visions of rabbits pooping on rugs dancing in my head. I got about five of them done (they're heavy!), when my husband pointed out that the rabbit was actually under the dresser. I haven't had the heart to put them back. (We got the rabbit into a bucket and put him back outside.)

Gus likes the rugs. He thinks I put them out for him, but then he thinks everything we do is for him.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Beautiful Start to the Weekend...

My husband was up early this morning and took this picture of the sunrise.

He was going to wake me up to share the view with me, but decided to let me sleep.

Thanks, sweetie :->.
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Friday, May 22, 2009

More Progress on the Guest Cottage...

The construction is almost done! The kitchen appliances are installed, and just a little trim work remains. That bare spot to the right of the stove will be filled with a book case. The area is designed so that if we ever want to connect the 'man cave' with the guest cottage, we can just pop through the wall and put a door in that area.

The man cave is pretty much done. Those doors are closet doors for the guest cottage, and then it just needs a good cleaning. The vinyl floor looks amazingly like tile; I'm so happy that it didn't come out looking cheap. Pool table, dart board, TV, and music equipment/storage space to follow...

The living/dining area just needs a good cleaning now, as do the bathroom and bedrooms.

Now we have to get out there and buy some beds so we can have guests!
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Adore Those Passionflowers

My husband told me today that I had to go down to the pond to see the latest wildflowers. They're spreading along the banks of the pond, and they're incredible.

The flower is about 2-3 inches wide...

I looked them up, and found that they're a variety of passionflower called Maypop, native to the southeast and an important larval food for a number of different butterflies. They're going to have a fruit "the size of a hen's egg."

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about them:

Traditionally, the fresh or dried whole plant has been used as a herbal medicine to treat nervous anxiety and insomnia. The dried, ground herb is frequently used in Europe by drinking a teaspoon of it in tea. A sedative chewing gum has even been produced. In cooking, the fruit of this variety is sometimes used for jam and jellies or as a substitute for its commercially grown South American brother, passiflora edulis (the fruit is of comparable size and juice yield.) The fruit can be eaten out of hand and when encountered makes a very tasty (but very seedy) snack: historically it was a favorite of colonial settlers of the South and Native Americans alike.

Native, useful to wildlife, and beautiful -- what more could we ask for? Look how beautiful and complex this flower is...

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I can't wait to see what else nature has in store for us....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More Plantings....

Well, the rain is letting me get a lot of blogging done! Here's a bed the previous owner planted by the road. I weeded and mulched it this weekend, as it looked pretty sad before. I'm finding beautiful plants in it, and the previous owner told my husband to be prepared for more surprises there, so there must be a lot of perennials still to come up.

I'm trying to be careful only to pull out the invasive weeds, and leave any with flowers or berries for the insects and birds to use. I'm not sure if the poppy below is a wild one or planted on purpose, since it could be either, and it's not really planted in the bed itself. It's certainly welcome here, though!

This next bush was definitely planted, but I have no idea what it is. The flowers are wonderful.

And here's a real wildflower, which is definitely staying. My ambition eventually is to take a portion of the land and make a wildflower meadow; I've always wanted one.

A mixture of wild and domestic here: Blanketflower (gaillardia) with a wild raspberry growing around it. The wild raspberry plants are throughout the bed; they're 'weeds' but I'm leaving them because the birds will eat the berries.

Funny: I did an Internet search on 'beneficial weeds,' hoping to find some pictures to show me which weeds would be of use to the wildlife. The only articles I found were on weeds that are beneficial to humans, which I found a little ironic.

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Weekend Project...

It's been raining here but off and on it stops, and I work away at the yard. The original plants consisted of a row of lorepetalum with a row of dwarf (I hope) nandina in front of them. They weren't planted by landscapers; instead the building workmen dug holes and plopped the plants in. You can probably imagine that they didn't follow the 'dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball' rule. In fact, I found one where they put the plant in the hole and didn't even bother to fill in with dirt; they just put mulch over it so no one could tell.

So I pulled out some of the original plants, since I don't expect them to do well, and planted around the rest with things I like: four varieties of ornamental grasses, coneflowers, day lilies, and lantana. In our other house, the previous owner had planted the most boring day lilies imaginable, so it was wonderful to get some variegated ones. I love the way the grasses sway in the breeze, and lantana are pretty and hard to kill. The coneflowers, though, are my passion. I can't tell you why, but I adore coneflowers. They're a native plant (though the ones I planted are a cultivar), bees and hummingbirds love them, and the plants themselves get huge and flower all summer into the fall. I've already told my husband that we are going to be planting coneflowers all over.

Below is (I hope) a 'before' picture. There should be an 'after' picture in about two months.

This gives you a view toward the porch, which is a wonderful sitting porch. The purple foreground plants are Red Fountain Grass, and the feathery ones just beyond it are Mexican Feather Grass, which is one of my favorite grasses. I planted them both in containers at our other house and put them around the pool.

And now the aforementioned coneflower. One plant will grow to be about 3 feet around by next year, and it'll have masses of these flowers. The petals drop off eventually and leave these huge, prickly centers, so it's pretty even then. It's a perennial, and needs very little care.

I planted this lantana in the other bed, right in front of where we sit on the porch so that we can watch it grow. It's one of the prettier ones I've seen. Lantana is such a common plant here in the south, but it's so hard to kill and there are so many different kinds that it's hard to resist.

I'm really enjoying being able to plant my plants directly in the ground. At the other house, the soil was what's left over in a construction site, and it was mostly clay, so it was just impossible to dig and I did containers instead. I don't know why, since this house is new construction, but the soil in the beds around the house is a clay loam, and it digs really easily. I'm experimenting with not amending the soil much, since I had read that it's really best to use the native soil. We'll see what happens...
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