Days of Rodent Death

June 29, 2010

She sat on the top of the brick mailbox at the end of my cul-de-sac, dun-colored, majestic and yellow-eyed. In her talons, she held a still-struggling mouse and I could almost hear it squeal. She was slightly ruffled when I stopped the car to watch her, bobbing her head, giving me a piercing stare. Her beak was sharp and lethal as she tore into the mouse.

Damn. It was the coolest thing! It made my whole day! It was like Wild Kingdom, three doors down! I LOVE this stuff!

I looked it up when I got home because I really don’t think it was a red-tailed hawk, what we usually see in this area. It was a grey color, like a ashy charcoal. Peregrine Falcon? How amazing would that be?! Nope, this big was a lot bigger. Northern Farrier? Could be, could be! Now I wish I’d taken a photo with my phone because, even given the not-so-great resolution, it would have been better than trying to remember every little detail in feathers and coloring. I was too overcome by the experience.

Speaking of dead things, I had a dead vole in the garden yesterday, right at the base of the tree where the hammock hangs. Ick. The circle of life doesn’t have to be so terribly in-your-face, does it? I scooped it up in a shovel (long handle!) and tossed it in the Neither Here Nor There bed under the hostas. I’m sure something finished it off (oh, yum) over night.

The purple beans are blooming – purpley, magenta-ish curls popping off the vine in great profusion. The green beans are forming, slender, wispy pods, tiny and charming. And WHERE did this 6″ long zucchini come from? Do these things hide under leaves and then suddenly, are big enough to be seen? Or do they truly grow this fast – within days going from bloom to squash? I am at a loss to understand exactly how they’re forming too, so watching them will be interesting over the next few weeks. It seems like they come straight from the main cluster, but that doesn’t explain how the flowers seem to be on stalks. The brussel sprouts are starting to well, sprout. The stem grows taller and I can see buds nestled between the leaves. Oh, so very cool.

The Annabelle hydrangea blooms away in the dappled shade and the bellflowers have chimed their last. I cut them all down last night and threw them in the compost bin. Now it’s time for the lilac trumpets of the hostas, bringing bees and butterflies into the horn. The gaillardia continues to bloom, tousled petals and radiant gold. The person I picture in this flower is disorganized, hair never combed properly, lipstick smeared, someone who has danced all night and still is pop-eyed for breakfast at Denny’s.

The balloon flowers, those wonderful contradictions, are popping, the petals forming that hot air balloon, a puff, and then opening in a trumpet, like a morning glory. The pink is almost white, they are delicate and angelic. Then we get a ballet dancer on pointe, elegant and graceful.

Hibiscus are setting buds, the pampas grass is forming that fountain of green blades, and I may have made the penultimate bee photograph.

Or maybe not.

The butterflies have found the garden.

The  monarch, big and royal and orange, fluttered, swooped and dove all around the front beds today. Perhaps he was mapping out the location, because he never settled on anything. Watching him was like watching a delicate ribbon trailing through the blue sky. I hope he’s reporting back to his flock and they will all come and enjoy the bounty in my front beds.

There was a spring azure, delicate and powdery blue. She seemed to really like the oregano but didn’t like when I got close with my camera.

And there were two red admirals that couldn’t care less for my presence and let me whir away, making dozens of photos in the hopes that one or two would have the correct exposure, a pleasing composition, be sharply focused and have an attractive slant of light. It’s a great deal to try and coordinate, hope for, with a subject that doesn’t sit still for long. They don’t have the nickname flutterbys for nothing.

One  red admiral is neat and clean and sharp, wings pristine and perfectly formed. Then there is the other guy. He is bedraggled, tattered and torn and looks like he has indeed been through a war.

Do  you think it was a bird, grabbing at him in the sunshine? He flutters desperately as he has let his guard down. He beats his wings into her face, struggling as she loses her grip, ripping his wings. He quickly hiding under a nearby bush. He rests quietly, as hidden as he can get, nestles his wings together to further camouflage himself in the dirt.

Or was it a child, with a net given to him in an Easter basket? He runs after the butterfly for minutes at a time, swooping the net down on nothingness time and time again. Mom sits in the shade watching, believing that the butterfly is truly safe from ill-timed traps. Then suddenly, he is successful! The net is down, the butterfly is trapped, shredding his wings as he tries to escape. Mom is surprised and runs over to help both child and butterfly emerge from this experience happy – and alive. Parent and child look at the butterfly, talk about the colors and the form, examine the wings, now a sorry mess. The butterfly is still petrified, afraid for his life, as Mom explains “catch and release.” The child is not completely happy with this, but lets the butterfly out of the net, into the air. The butterfly floats off drunkenly, amazed at his good luck.

Do you have a story? What could have happened to this poor butterfly to make his wings such a travesty to butterfly-ly beauty?

There is a small Damn Rabbit that sits outside my edible garden most evenings and just stares at it. I’m not sure if his little mind is working out a way around/under/over/through the chicken wire, or if he’s hoping for some telekinetic power to suddenly explode the fence panels and give him free rein in the garden. The incredible thing is that very often, he’ll come up next to me while I’m thinning or checking, seemingly to mentally plead with me to let him in. I explain each time – for you, the sticker bushes, the clover and the weeds. For me, the peppers and the beans and tomatoes and the salad greens.

More flowers are turning into peppers each day. The peppers are swelling, getting bigger and bigger seemingly overnight. The watermelon are bulbs about an inch long. Most surprisingly, they are covered with hair. I had no idea. And I am very amused.

Kristin told me about the rainbarrel display in LaGrange and so, as we are never ones to miss an opportunity to see a public art display or go to lunch, we did both. Tony and I met Kristin, her husband Bill and her daughter Maeve, who just turned one, and ate very tasty bar-b-que at Q. I recommend the Q puppies – yum.

Maeve wore a little cotton sunsuit, white sandals and a matching bow. My heart just ached for those days again – Eliza in seersucker with a bow velcroed into her very sparse hair that stuck straight up from her head, Dominic in his Lion King outfit – shorts, shirts, socks and shoes too – Simba, Timon and Pumba cavorting across his entire body (really? we dressed him like that? no wonder the kid had problems!). My simpatico feelings for Kristin were confirmed when she told me how Wiggle Worms class had touched her heart. Bill and Tony seemed to bond over IT Geek talk and we really had a lovely time. Kristin showed me some photos of plants in her garden and I had to pull out my reading glasses. Strangely, I didn’t feel old; I felt wise. We talked about getting together in our garden next – Tony told Bill there’d be beer. And then Maeve needed a nap.

The rainbarrels were really inventive in some instances, always bright and colorful, no longer an eyesore in the garden. My favorites were the barrels painted to resemble big containers, with a pot on the bottom and flowers blooming out of them. Also fun was the one covered in umbrellas. I got several great ideas and now am eager for winter, when I can disconnect everything, bring them in to dry and then paint them in the basement. Next summer, they will be stunning additions to the garden.

When we got home, I laid in the hammock and finished my book, complete mind candy written by Sophie Kinsella. After dinner, I grabbed a bucket and scissors. The clover in the walk had tipped me over the edge and I pulled it all out. AH! The path looks so much nicer now! Sometimes, when the OCD speaks, you must listen. I also cut back the catmint.

I deadheaded coreopsis in the butterfly garden, pulled some weeds and trimmed back more lamb’s ear. A sticker bush about 2-1/2 feet high was growing in the butterfly garden. I really admired its nerve and camouflage tactics and then I pulled it out.

I cleaned the gurgler and that works a dream again. Pulled  out the string algae, along with a very shocked goldfish who I put back in, and cleaned up the waterfall. Took apart the turtle and flushed it out with the hose. Because of all the rain, when I stepped on the pond edge to reassemble it, that section collapsed. SIGH. Not in the mood to get in the pond and fix it, so that will have to wait.

As I sit here and write, Eliza has woken and come to talk to me. She sits on my lap, has an extended hug and tells me about the graduation party she attended last night. While sun suits and matching hair accessories may be gone from our lives, I am comforted that she is still my girl.

Tony got back from Vegas on a flight right in the heart of rush hour, so after a very long trip home from Midway, I grilled hamburgers, steamed broccoli and made a salad. There were also a (very) few sad potato chips in a (very) small bowl. The Hoodlums seem to have eaten all the snacks.

I then wandered around the garden making photographs while Tony did dishes (I love that man) and finished watching the game (which game, you ask? could have been anything involving a ball, I answer).

The pond filters are in desperate need of cleaning. The turtle barely spits anymore and the gurgler doesn’t. The waterfall is the only thing that seems to maintain a steady flow and that’s because it’s really a supercharged motor. There is string algae in sheets, so that will have to get cleaned up too. But not then. I didn’t do anything but observe. I do observe that the cattails are developing. Those dance and sway in the breezes all day long, so I’m never sure when or how they develop. They are just suddenly there, like the three are now. I will pay closer attention now, stop them from swaying and feel the stalks to see how this happens for the next blooms.

Just one astilbe has bloomed, only a single poof of pink foam. These are sited in exactly the kind of place they are said to love, shade and lots of moisture. So why is it that year after year, they are still pathetic, to say the least? I bought these from Springhill, I believe, and wonder if that is the problem. Springhill sends me garden porn every spring and fall, colorful catalogs full of juicy, luscious photographs. While I try to toss it directly into recycling because I know the quality just isn’t there, sometimes I just can’t help myself. That’s where I ran into the Nikko Blue Hydrangea zone confusion grief, so you’d think I would learn.

The mystery plant is blooming, large orangish-yellow flowers right at its base. Cucumbers, I’m thinking. Definitely cucumbers.

The butterfly garden was once again swarmed with bumble bees, with a few honey bees here and there. I made 36 photographs, standing in the garden with my face just inches from the blossoms and the bees. (It’s a wonder I didn’t get stung up my skirt.) Out of 36, I considered 8 of them possibilities. When looking at those eight closely, I found a single image that was close, but really not the perfect bee photo I’m looking for. I’ll keep posting those and we’ll see which one we all like the best at the end of the season.

The purple runner beans have little purple nubs all over them, but I don’t really think they are blossoms. Or maybe they are and they just take a long time to bloom. This is a new experience for me. They’ll need much taller supports next year; they really do “run.” The watermelon is just prolific, with more and more blooms every day. It must really like this spot. The radishes, after finding a few really nice round red globes, are disappointing me. Very few are turning into bulbs. Is it because I thinned them too late? Again – vegetables are new for me, so perhaps my lack of thinning at the right time messed up the majority of this crop. Now I’m wondering if the beans will be a good crop because I didn’t thin those either. The salad greens are completely covered by the zucchini now.  I am certainly learning a great deal about vegetables and will lay this bed out VERY differently next year.

The garden is all about forgiveness. I know that next year, my radishes will be better because I can fix the mistake I made this year. The runner beans will have better support and the salad greens will be in a space that’s accessible the whole season. To amend mistakes this year, I will pull out all the pathetic radishes and plant spinach, redeeming that area immediately. You don’t always have to wait until next year to fulfill your hopes.

Tony came out to the patio with glasses of wine and started a fire in the pit. I set my camera up on a tripod and tried 34 different exposures to capture the lightning bugs. Not one of them was successful, although they were interesting enough for me to want to try again.

The bonfire was really the cap of a beautiful day. Enough smoke to keep the bugs away, Griffey trying to decide who’s lap was better and then Tony made popcorn.

He makes the best popcorn.

The clover experiment is interesting. I haven’t weeded between the flagstones in over a week and I’m finding it makes me a little crazy, but also a little calmer. By not fighting to stay on top of that clover and those strange succulent things, I’m giving up some more control, which is always a plus in the garden.

The primrose so recently planted is starting to blossom. I thought this was past bloom season already, so this is a very pleasant surprise. The mystery plant is setting more yellow flowers. I’m starting to think this is cucumber, as it looks a lot like zucchini, but I’ve never composted zucchini in this spot, but I have thrown alot of cucumber out there throughout the winter.

There is a spider web nestled between hostas and foxgloves and the sun caught it just right for me to see it on my trip through the garden today. I tried to make photographs of it and then realized nothing was really showing up. I went inside for a spray bottle and misted the web with water droplets and then made the photographs. What was really neat was how fast the water evaporated. I only got a few seconds out of each misting before the web was dry again. The spider waiting in the middle didn’t seem to mind and just wiped her legs off each time in careful strokes. I hope she will be there again tomorrow.

Someone is stealing my compost. No matter how much stuff we throw in there – vegetable peelings, fruit rinds, weeds, grass clippings, shredded paper – it’s never more than halfway full. Sometimes, after a big day of weed pulling and potato peeling, I open it up, throw it all in and see that it’s almost up to the top. Never fails that the next day, I open it up and the level has dropped down to about half the bin. Who is taking this and why?

Of course I am being facetious. When researching how long compost takes to cook, I’m seeing that in filling a bigger bin, you may never really “finish” as the compost decomposes at the bottom while you’re adding to the top. About 6 months after starting, by October, I should be able to open those bottom doors and scoop out a good portion of humus to cover my plants this fall. Next spring should be positively mind-blowing as the plants enjoy the benefits of the compost all winter long. And by next spring, I’ll have another bottom batch to pull out and use as mulch.

It is still odd though. Very surprising every time I open the bin and things have moved and shifted. I’ve decided too that I need to dig some hostas out of that bed and move the bin to behind the chimney. It needs to be off the patio. Getting some bugs and it’s leaking compost tea all over the patio. I’d rather have that go into the soil for Jurassic Park hostas.

As the bees are still swarming by the dozens over the oregano, I am still attempting to make the perfect (or darn near close) bee photograph. After making over a dozen, I’ve include the best one here. I will try again tomorrow if the weather is right. I am determined to get just ONE that I’m happy with this summer!

The purple beans are reaching for the skies and I’ll need to figure out additional support for them soon. Who would think that the grow over 5 feet tall? The seeds were from Rubinos and the instructions were in Italian and French – I had no real clue what I was doing. The watermelon is blanketing the chicken wire with vines and blossoms. Can the melons be supported by the vines in midair like this? Won’t they snap off as they get heavier and heavier?

This ought to be very interesting….

Lizzie In The Garden

June 23, 2010

While I sit here, it’s crashing lightening, pouring rain and dark as dusk – at 9 o’clock in the morning. Eliza and I checked the rain barrel system the other day and we weren’t happy. Not enough slope to the system and too many leaks. But it will have to wait until drier weather and a trip for O rings to really solve it. I knew it couldn’t be properly accomplished in just one try – that would be too good to be true.

Yesterday, I heard “She’s outside, taking pictures of her garden.” And there was Lizzie, Eliza’s BiFFLe, coming out of the back door to trail after me, holding a poster that said “I love my daughter Lizzie.” She asked me why I was taking pictures, why I wanted a blog, who read my blog and what’s that plant a thousand times. Interspersed in this staccato of questions was information about the latest concerts, the Saw movies and running camp.

The Annabelle hydrangea is in bloom, grown to a decent size since being planted in the fall, and hosting enough blooms to make me comfortable that it’s comfortable in that spot. More and more pink lilies open every day, filling that part of the garden with such a delicacy of color and form. The impatiens are getting bushier and bushier, basking in all the rain we’ve been getting – days and days of it on end, following by a steam bath as the intense heat brings all that water back up into the air on the rare day it doesn’t rain.

While all this rain is making the beans, radishes, greens and zucchini lush and full and delicious, I’m reading that watermelon aren’t very sweet if they are overwatered. Not much I can do about that and Danny will have to eat whatever results, probably with much gusto. The zucchini leaves are gargantuan, spreading over a foot wide, with flower buds nestled at the base. There are only three plants left, the biggest and strongest after being thinned weeks ago and from the size and health of those three, there will still be enough fruit to provide grilled zucchini for the whole neighborhood. Tony’s not much of a squash eater, so Eliza and I (Dominic just doesn’t eat anything if it’s not protein or carbs – sigh….) will be enjoying it by ourselves.

Buds on the upside down tomato plant! Just a very few and I’m really confused by this. It’s hanging in a spot that gets sun almost all day long (when the sun is out), literally baking. In years past, we had window boxes hanging from the porch railings but everything got fried, even petunias, no matter how much I watered. So this spot should be perfect for a sun-loving tomato. Alas, the one I planted in the ground not two weeks ago from the Farmer’s Market seems to be getting bigger, stronger and healthier than this one. This shall be a lesson learned, so stay tuned to the Battle of the Tomato Plantings.

The balloon flower is setting buds. This is one of my favorites, as the blooms actually look like inflated balloons, pink and delicate and just plain fun.

The milkweed in the butterfly garden is in bloom, about a week or more after the same plant has been blooming along the walking path. Another point of interest. Is the early bloomer an older plant? Different lighting? Soil differences? Maybe just because it’s wild? It’s a very unique type of flower – almost like an origami piece, petals folding in to form almost its own individual structure. The pink color is old-fashioned, dusted with brown. Monarch butterflies love milkweed but I’ve only seen Red Admirals and Cabbage butterflies so far. The butterfly bush, in its third year, is more prolific than expected, sending out midnight blue spears much more numerous than last year.

I read once that the first year the garden sleeps, the second, it creeps and the third, it leaps. This is the third year for the butterfly garden and it is certainly leaping, putting on a show of yellow and red and purple this year that is just breathtaking.

Lizzie asked to have her picture taken with her poster. I smiled and took it. For the first, oh, 3 years she was in our lives, she barely spoke. When she started getting a little more comfortable (in the fourth and fifth years), she spoke in a very nervous, high-pitched thread of a volume we called the “Minnie Mouse Voice.” Then, she was comfortable in this spot, just like that hydrangea. And talking and talking and talking. When Eliza and she walked to school together every day, she would stand in front of the bathroom mirror and say, “I didn’t think it was possible, but I’m actually prettier today than I was just yesterday!” She is funny and sweet and smart and yes, always prettier today than she was yesterday.

Just like a garden, people sleep and creep and leap. I’m glad Lizzie is leaping.

Today is Father’s Day and expected to be a rather boring day in the garden, as yesterday was the day I thinned the radishes, deadheaded the speedwell, pulled a few weeds and cut back all the dried out foxglove and columbine.

Was I wrong. I went out today to plant a very small lilac sprout my mom gave me. After wandering around the house three times, I decided to put it in the butterfly bed in front of the clematis. It will be (many) years before it gets to any real size, and by that time, I’ll have my beds in along the fence and can transplant it there.

But oh! the excitement! The pink lilies are starting to bloom, delicate and spotted and fragrant. It is one of my favorites. I have to battle the Damn Rabbits every spring over it and the occasional victory is so satisfying. It’s also very sentimental. Tony and I picked this plant up at a roadside nursery in Michigan years ago. We had stopped in Dowagiac to visit the house where Tony spent a golf weekend every summer. His best friend Michael would arrange these weekends; a dozen or more guys that have been friends since childhood, steaks, beer and golf and golf and golf.  After Michael passed away, they didn’t go back to that house, instead now going to Arizona or North Carolina or Florida. I think walking through that house, showing me the dining room, the kitchen, the rec room, laughing about bad jokes and inebriated clumsiness, helped Tony – at least in a small way. I know seeing this pink lily blooming each summer brings back the thought of that house and Tony’s delight and that helps me.

The butterfly bed is chock full of buzzing bees; honey bees, bumble bees and assorted little iridescent winged things. While I know there is a general decline in the bee populations, you can’t tell it by my front bed, as there was a veritable swarm feeding from the oregano (see, it’s good for something) and the coreopsis and the butterfly bush. No butterflies today though.

When I dumped the water sitting in one of my containers, I uncovered dozens and dozens of roly polys, accurately know as wood lice. I prefer to call them roly polys as lice has a real “ick” factor. They were very busy and absolutely shocked when I tipped the container. I apologized, and then uncovered them again to make a photograph.

The strange onion plant that’s been drying up in the butterfly bed was pulled out and I discovered how truly sculptural and majestic it is. Had to make photographs of that. The baby’s breath is in bloom, but I think I need to trim that back to encourage a better bushiness to it. More and more coneflowers open each day.

The edible garden has been touched by a fertility goddess. The watermelon, even though it has been trimmed back, seems to grow while I’m standing there, the remaining stems branching off and continuing to produce more and more flowers. I am a little afraid. The pepper plants are covered in blooms, dried flowers or tiny peppers. I trimmed the two basil plants back, cut off all the pretty leaves and filled an entire gallon bag to freeze. The stems and not-quite-so-pretty leaves went into the compost. The scent of fresh cut basil is so clean and crisp and appetizing. I wanted to go to Rubino’s to get fresh mozzarella and some Roma tomatoes that instant. Tomorrow maybe. There are still plenty of fresh leaves on the plants.

A baby robin is now living in the garden too. He hopped in front of me all around the house while I trailed behind making photographs and then he settled in the pin oak. When I went around to the check the new rainbarrel system (working a dream!) there he was again in the Neither Here Nor There bed. He thought I was stalking him. I was not.

Seventy Cents A Gallon

June 18, 2010

After getting many responses to the rainbarrel conundrum, and then checking the Water Reclamation website to purchase two ready made barrels and discovering they have DOUBLED the price (yes! DOUBLED from $25 last year to $50 this year), we decided to build our own. Gracious – such ambition! But by keeping this simple and using the connected containers only as “dipping” storage – no taps, just take the lid off to fill up a bucket or watering can – we were able to do it easily and cost effectively.

Since Dominic was assigned the task of fixing the water spigot in the garage, he came along with us to Menards. First, we hit the garden center, where the rain barrels were $60 each for 50 gallons. And honestly, they were ugly. Square, squat, they looked more like one of those storage bins you strap to the top of a car. No THANK you.

We picked up three 32 gallon garbage cans then went to the plumbing department. The woman was very helpful and showed us the right size of connector to use, found the correct diameter and flexibility of hose and told us to get the metal straps to tighten hose to connector. She also recommended just buying a handle for the garage spigot ($4.99) instead of a whole spigot, pipe, etc. ($22.99) because just a handle often solves the problem. Back to garden to see about options in hose connections (we like to be sure). I found the hose connectors I need for the regular garden hose, so I grabbed a few of those and we decided that our plumbing options were for the best.

Meanwhile, Dominic had been swinging on the lawn furniture and exploring the power tools, a dangerous place for him to be. When we met up again, he was carrying a hammer that he said we REALLY needed, as it was ergonomic and the head is 75% larger and many other details too overwhelming to mention. It was on clearance, so we got it. $14.91 of pure joy in Dominic’s eyes.

So for $68, we have an additional 96 gallons of water storage as opposed to $120 plus tax for 100 gallons. Gotta love that.

We got home and Tony started dinner while I started drilling and Dominic started shoveling all the dead branches and firepit ashes out of the spot where the cans would be placed. I put holes in both sides of one of the cans, very close to the top. Holes in just one side of the other two cans, and a hole in the top of just one lid. I inserted all the connectors and dragged everything over to the Neither Here Nor There side of the house (you didn’t think these were going in the back garden, did you? Tony did. Seriously?  A row of black garbage cans in my beautiful garden?? Sometimes the mind boggles.)

I tweaked the ground, shoveling it so it was even and smooth. Then I started gathering bricks. The barrels have to be placed in a descension so the water flows from the master barrel (with spigot) into the next, and so on. It’s done with gravity and we have to help that along. The last barrel sits flat on the ground. The second barrel sits on two levels of bricks, the third on three levels and the fourth, that existing master  barrel, now sit on four levels of bricks. Getting the master barrel high enough took quite some time, as the barrel itself is considerably taller than the new cans, but the overflow hose wouldn’t sit at the right angle unless the barrel was way up in the air – which meant I moved it on and off several times while continuing to build up the base, getting the right height. I also had to trim back that gutter another 8″ or so.

The connectors all leaked of course, so Tony found the blue pipe dope (seriously dope, as you could get a major high if you breathed too much of the fumes in) and I swabbed and filled and waited for it to dry and then swabbed and filled and waited again and again. There is no leaking now and I have fewer brain cells. The lids all went on, with the overflow hose from the master barrel inserted into the hole in the lid of the second barrel. They really don’t look that ugly, and they are already partially covered by plantings. All in all, a very successful project, done in record time!

Storms again this weekend, but now we’re ready!

Danny’s watermelon is growing absolutely wild! It is curling around my peppers and basil, smashing through the radishes and beans and trailing up the chicken wire fence. I pruned back all but two of the strongest stems, still leaving about a dozen blooms to develop into melons. The stems were thick and crisp and covered in sharp little hairs. I hate to prune back a beautiful plant, but space does not allow for such an Audrey in my edible garden.

Radishes are ready to harvest! Selectively pulling them out will leave room for the remaining to grow and will also give that watermelon space too. Tony likes a radish so he will be getting them in salads for awhile to come. My mom likes them too, so she’ll get a bag this weekend.

The blue hosta is setting buds, and the grasses around the back rain barrel are putting out thousands of glittering, fairy dust-like seeds. I could sit and just watch those dance in the breezes all day long. The clematis on the back arbor is blooming magenta and the fall clematis on that same arbor is huge and green and trailing and twisting and winding. The bloom will be so beautiful this year!

Now for a moment of mass confusion in the garden. I’ve planted impatiens throughout the shade bed under my office window. In two spots, they are thriving and beautiful and getting bigger  by the day – just becoming monstrous, gorgeous mounds of flowers. And then in the rest of that bed, in some cases just inches away, they look exactly the same as the day they were planted. WHAT GIVES? Same soil, same original seedlings, same milorganite spread, same sun, same water. I am so confused! Anybody have any ideas about this disparity?

The rain barrel advice is coming in like crazy through facebook and email, and there are more storms predicted for Friday, so watch for excitement on the water collection front (at least for us!).

When we cleaned the rain barrels out and hooked them up this spring, they quickly filled with one or two good storms. When there was finally a dry spell, we were able to use them for one good soak. 50 gallons really doesn’t go that far.

Again, after two good storms, which was WEEKS ago, we were back up to full. And now it’s raining every other day, so we’re not using what’s in the barrel, all the rain now is going into the overflow and hence to the sewer, and when we do have a dry spell, it will last for weeks and these barrels are only good for one thorough soak. Whose idea was this?

I was expressing my frustration on this the other day and a woman happened to overhear. Because gardeners are “sharers”, she told me she uses these storms to fill big pickle jars with water and she stores them in her garage. Hmmm…. if I were to use milk jugs, I thought. But each milk jug is only a gallon, which means I’d have to store 100 jugs to empty the barrels just one time. And seriously, while shrinking my carbon footprint is very important, I don’t go through 100 gallons of milk in a whole year anymore. Additionally, 100 gallons of water would take up a lot of space in my garage. Like a really, really big bunch of space.

Tony thinks we should do a whole system of rain barrels, but those have to be stored somewhere too. Am I lining the side of my house with barrels? Kind of makes me think of Egyptian burials and their crates and barrels of goods to provide comfort in the afterlife. Or maybe Bilbo and his dwarf friends, packed in barrels to escape the Wood Elves. Either way, it’s too far over the top, even for me.

So I’ll continue to gnash my teeth about wasted water. I’ll use the captured barrels when it finally stops raining – which won’t be for another 10 days at least – and then I’ll (SIGH) turn on the hose when the rain stops, to make sure my peppers and impatiens survive and thrive.

What is your suggestion for capturing rainwater over longer periods of time?