Sunday, January 1, 2017

Starting afresh...

And so, a new year begins. Somehow, it has become 2017.

This morning we woke up to the remnants of a few ice pellets that came down last night... seeing white on the ground for New Year's Day is something I have not seen in a really long time... perhaps not since I lived in Denmark as a child.

Thinking about my childhood, and walking around through fields and woods during this fallow time of the year... the colors then were as they are now; some green but mostly shades of gray and brown as things lie dormant.

Nature is alive, but not growing.

Around the garden, our resident mole seems hell bent on causing ongoing disruption in the labyrinth! Of all the places it could dig its tunnels, it chooses the labyrinth. Oh well...

Meanwhile, one of our forsythias seems to think it is spring-- a few yellow flowers a peering out. Reminds me that here in the Northwest we seldom see much of a really "hard" winter. Can't say as how I mind. The relative maritime mildness allows us to grow all sorts of things here, even though we are about as far north as you can get and still stay in the continental US.

The "microclimates" here never cease to amaze me. Just a mile up the road, there's actually a good layer of snow and ice on the road into town. Here? Just a few thin patches of white...

Well. One can but hope this will be a better year than 2016!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Winterizing the labyrinth

So it finally became time to "winterize" the labyrinth. Somewhat later than usual, since we now have the gallery, and have been dependent on Wednesdays-- our official "day off"-- to be nice enough to work outside.

A few random leaves remain...
Ironically, today was supposed to be rainy, windy and nasty but instead we were served up a nice sunny and breezy day.

I started up outside around 9:00am, wanting to get outside and "get things done," just in case the weather forecast turned out to give us the promised nastiness a little bit late.

There's a fresh dusting of snow on the Olympics, and it was surprisingly "fresh" out there as I started gathering tools for the day's work. Winter is coming-- there is little doubt about that.

The recent winds have pretty much blown all the leaves off our trees-- save for a few tiny clusters here and there-- so the first task at hand was to rake up all the leaves. That quickly turned into quite a pile. I had intended to haul them to the dump with some brush, but decided instead to pile them in the mulch/compost pile... putting a bunch of wet grass on top of them will keep them from blowing away later.

That's about 10 large plastic bins of leaves, covered with heavy wet grass
Truth be known, the leaves were already pretty heavy and wet from the steady rains for a couple of months... and they made quite a mound. I think I probably hauled 9-10 big plastic bins' worth over there.

The labyrinth was a bit rough looking when I started work. Not only had it not had much maintenance done since July, but a mole seems to have taken a liking to it... and a number of small mole hills had to be leveled.

Getting the labyrinth ready for winter is really a three step process.

First, I mow the grass... and quite a few weeds that have taken root. This also gets rid of a few loose leaves.

Second, I weed-whack all the brick lines that create the labyrinth pathways. That was actually a hell of a pain in the butt as I didn't just have to weed-whack, but I often had to stop to scrape piles of soil away, deposited there by the resident mole. Still not sure what (if anything) we are going to do about him.

Daisy has inspected the freshly "shaved" labyrinth and approves
The weed whacking actually took the better part of 1 1/2 hours, and also served as a reminder that I am NOT 29 anymore!

Once weed-whacked, the final step is to run the mower one more time-- with the grass bag-- to pick up all the loose grass and debris. The mower with the grass bag actually works as a nice "picker-upper" and the blade works as a  bit of a turbo fan to blow loose bits off the bricks.

All the heavy wet grass and dirt bits ended up as a heavy layer on top of the previously raked leaves. In a couple of years, it should have cooked down to a nice mulch we can use somewhere else.

I feel pretty relieved to get this done-- almost a month later in the year than in 2015. But better late than never, and since the growing season is now seriously over, hopefully little will have to be done before spring growth starts up again.

There are still lots of things to be done in the yard during the winter season, but this was the most urgent item on the agenda, and I feel happy to have gotten it out of the way.

Sadly, we have very little time to garden these days... other commitments seem to eat up all our daylight hours.

As I walked around, it was nice to see that these purple flowers-- purchased this summer from the "save me, I am almost dead" bin at the local garden center-- doing very well and still blooming. The entire plant has more than doubled in size!

Small victories...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Longer Days...

Sometimes, it's the little things we notice.

Like sitting at my desk and looking out, and then realizing that I can actually see what's going on, at 5:00pm... where just a month ago, it would pretty much have been pitch black.

There are many things about living here that reminds me of my childhood in Denmark... the weather and the light... and what grows here. Of course, some things-- like the eucalyptus trees-- don't grow in Denmark, at all.

So far, it seems to have been quite a wet winter, which bodes well for the year ahead. After a super dry 2015, I'm at least marginally hopeful that we won't end up with a severe drought situation again. The rain has translated into a lot of snow at higher elevations... which means there are decent water reserves on the ground. At Snoqualmie Pass, the December snowfall was the highest recorded in the 60 years they have been keeping track up there.

As of late, I have been starting to think about the garden again, and about what we might do this coming year. Last year was pretty much a write-off, in part because we had zero funds to sink into gardening, in part because we went to Denmark for 24 days in the middle of the peak growing time (June) so we decided not to do the whole vegetable thing, at all. We did put down some tarps late in the year to keep weeds from growing... not sure how effective that is turning out to be.

The only other "thing" going on out there is waiting to see if the Peony seeds we put in in the fall will turn into "something" when the warmer days of spring arrive. Growing peonies from seed is evidently not the way most people go.

Still contemplating whether or not to undertake the project of starting in on the garden beds.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Labyrinth Fall "Haircut."

Our labyrinth got its "Fall Haircut" yesterday-- it looks nice and "tidy" and hopefully will make it through till spring without needing any further work.

The labyrinth is really one of our favorite features in the garden. We built it after being inspired by a lavender labyrinth we saw on a farm we visited, near Mount Shasta, California.

Building it was quite a lot of work-- and took almost a full year. It has had a few years to mature, and the surrounding row of lavender plants have filled in nicely.

The ongoing maintenance is quite a lot of work, as well. We didn't foresee that the brick lines that define the labyrinth's paths would need to be weed whacked quite as often as they do. I think I had an expectation that "maintenance" would mean regular mowing (easy enough) and then using the string trimmer maybe once in spring, and once in fall. Not so much so. The bricks get covered by grass remarkably quickly, and I'm probably out there weed whacking at least once a month between April and October.

It's a lot of work-- the average maintenance session takes about two hours-- but well worth it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Our Purple Flowering Tree

Since we've moved in here, we've been admiring the rapidly growing tree with giant leaves, located at the north end of the labyrinth.

A few days ago, we noticed it had delicate pale purple trumpet flowers, near the top of the tree.

A little detective work identified it as a "Princess Tree" or "Empress Tree" (Paulownia Tomentosa) which is actually native to China and South-east Asia. Although a bit of an "exotic" tree, this area would be considered part of its normal range.

Here in the US, it's actually considered to be an "invasive" species, as well as rated rather "messy" by many horticulturalists. Evidently, they are all but impossible to get rid of, once they have become established, and if you cut one down, it tends to come back with 100's of shoots from the roots. And not just "a little bit," but for years after the tree was cut down. The 2-foot long seed pods are also extremely messy.

That said, it's also quite popular for use in parks and decorative landscaping, being quite pretty as well as fast growing. I suppose we'd better keep our eyes on it, as these trees can grow to some 80 feet in height!

For the moment, though, we're just enjoying the pretty flowers.

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's a "Big Dig"

The progress is slow... I spent another 3-4 hours behind the garage this evening, trying to move through the weeds that make up our future vegetable garden.

Given how thick it is out there, I find it hard to believe that the people who lived here before actually did keep this space very clean or free of weeds.

Got a little bit further along today-- still not sure whether I'll be able to get to the end of this by the time Sarah gets back.

I'm grateful for the relatively dry weather, which means I am at least not having to dig through thick gooey clay.

I ran into a few random potatoes as I was digging today; their placement seemed pretty random. In the greater scheme of things, I don't think we'll be growing potatoes here-- those will be out in the open part of the garden where we currently have lawn, and that will not happen till later this year for crops in 2015.

Looking at these photos, I can't even tell that I made any progress today... but I am closer to reaching the rhubarb against the stone wall, and I am actually a little bit past the apple tree, now.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Weeding Continues...

Sarah has gone to California to visit her mom for a few days, and I have determined that I want to surprise her with having the vegetable garden space behind the garage completely cleared by the time she comes home.

This is a rather ambitious project, as I already tried to get started on this earlier in the spring, and it took me quite a few hours to clear just a tiny corner.

I tore at it for several hours today and managed to progress a little bit. The grass and other weeds are incredibly thick, and all I can do is clear a square foot at a time.

I am glad we didn't try to just roto till it all under-- it's a thick mat of weeds and vines, and there are some blackberries in there, as well. What's more, it seems like the previous owners may have deliberately placed sod in there at one time, because in places the grass roots seem extremely "organized," and laid on a layer of plastic.

At the current rate, it will be touch-and-go whether or not I will be able to finish the weeding before Sarah returns. I have till Thursday-- her flight arrives fairly late in the day, and since James is going to pick her up at the airport, I have a full work day I can apply to this.

I am feeling fairly determined... it would be nice if I didn't "let this slide" for another year. It has already become too late to try to "convert" the lawn area on the end of the house by the chicken coop, but at least we might be able to "re-capture" this piece of the property... which was already used as a vegetable garden at one time.

In the meantime, Tori has been weeding in other parts of the yard-- she finished the bits along the driveway, today. The bits under the apricot tree are completely clean again... the weeds had grown up quite quickly, after we cleaned the space out, a month back, or so.

We have both mint (not sure what type it is) and marjoram growing there.

Tori is also doing some work at Avis' house, but she seems to have a lot of enthusiasm for gardening at the moment.