Crowz Nest

Because it's time... as it was once before.

My Photo
Location: Port Murray, NJ

I'm a bit old to be starting out in life again, but that's where I am. Sadly. Or gladly. It's where I am. Come along. Watch the fun. Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A true spring...

When I was a child, it was a ritual to get an Easter outfit - a new dress, new shoes and matching bag, and invariably, a new spring coat. A spring coat was a needed transitional item to carry one through the cool spring days that flowed from winter into summer. A winter coat was much too warm, but you needed something. It's been years since I needed a spring coat. We've seemed to go straight from winter into summer. But this year, for about the last three weeks, we've had the first real spring I can remember having in a long, long time. Mornings are crisp; the last few nights we've had frost warnings, and when I leave for work at 6:00 a.m., it's barely been above freezing. When I walk over to the UC to pick up lunch at 11:30, it's been in the high forties or low fifties. I'm glad to have a light jacket on. By 2:30, when I'm heading home, I'm carrying my jacket over my arm.
Today, it was frosty in the morning, but by mid-afternoon, when I was mowing the lawn, it had reached into the high sixties. The sky was cloudless, the air dry, the breeze gentle.

My back yard is inviting. The invading Lily of the Valley is everywhere, and beginning to bloom. I've decided I'll beat it back after the bloom is over, as the smell is so lovely. The lilacs came out in the last three days. They smell wonderful, too. There hasn't been an evening in the last two weeks, except for last weekend when it rained, when I haven't been able to sit outside after dinner, with either the newspaper or a book, sipping a cup of coffee, and simply enjoying watching the flowers bloom and the grass grow.

The dogs are enjoying the yard, too. Crow follows me while I work. As I went in and out of the house today, it became clear that she would have dearly loved it if I decided to stay indoors after a while. She'd stand inside the kitchen, and look at me as I headed back out through the utility shed - "You're not serious? We're going back out?" and she'd sigh and accompany me back outside. I put together a reel mower today - what the guy behind me in line at the Home Depot referred to as a "retro mower." I had to go inside a couple of times to get tools that I needed, and Crow was clearly puzzled. On the other hand, Hudson thinks this new turn of events is perfect. He's delighted to spend the entire day outdoors. He watches the traffic go by on the road. He monitors activities at the house across the street. He keeps our airspace free of crows and hawks. He patrols. Or he simply lies there and watches.

At the end of these two days, I've ridden my horse, I've mowed the lawn, I've weeded more and mulched more, I've pruned rosebushes, and chopped down more dead growth in the garden beds. I've shopped and chopped and trimmed and neatened. And I've sat out and watched the birds at the feeders. I've worked and taken the time to enjoy the results of that work. (Ok. There's still laundry to be done, but I don't remember ever feeling this satisfied, this gratified - this FULL - after having tackled and completed a pile of laundry.)

This is where I sit - this is what I see. The yard, untended for many years when I bought the house, is coming along. The dogs are tired at the end of a long day outdoors. So am I. We're all tired and happy. It has been, so far, a perfect spring.

I guess you could call this "settling in."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Spring afternoons in the back yard.

Though this last week has been gorgeous, it rained most of last weekend. The effect that the much needed rain had on the growing things that have overtaken both my patio and my brain was profound. Everything got green, green, green, and shot up dramatically. The Bleeding Heart, which began as tiny purplish leaves pushing their way up through the earth, has exploded. There are more things blooming every time I look around. The lilacs are starting to open up. The forsythia has exploded. The Lilies of the Valley have overtaken the garden from which I dug up all those wild roses. Remember the pictures? I dug out those roses, and was left with a big, empty, mulched oval. Look at it now! Here, there, and everywhere, there are new things blooming. Nearly all of the available space in my brain has been taken over. You have to indulge me; I've never gardened before and therefore haven't paid much attention to what's what in the plant world at all. But now I know what a Cowslip looks like, which pleases me no end.And before I'm done, I'll know what those purple flowers blooming in the woods are, too. (Some kind of phlox?)Yesterday afternoon after work, I spent the entire time pruning back dead stuff (now that things are blooming I can tell what's dead) and whipping back even more of those darned roses, trimming back the forsythia a bit so I can run the tractor to cut the grass without having the glasses snatched off my face by vines and branches and canes.I dumped three wheel barrows full of trimmings down by the spring house.

Next, I'll have to finally turn my attentions to the overgrown field so that Buc can finally come and live with me, but for now, I'm happy to work in the back yard, and then sit there with a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. I spend more time admiring my work than reading, and way more time working than admiring the results. I'm hoping the ratio will shift a bit as the summer rolls in.

The dogs are loving my new hobby. They get to stay out with me until I roll the tractor out. They chase each other, and hunt rabbits in the overgrown forsythia. And eventually, like me, they just sit and admire my work. We're all thinking that this may yet turn out to be the best place we've ever lived.

Update on the space invaders

They're growing.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Space invaders

They came overnight. And they march inexorably across the patio, phalanx upon phalanx, rank upon rank, row after row of them.

I'll lift the stones and remove them AFTER they've bloomed. They smell too heavenly - Muguet des Bois - white choral bells - to remove them before then. But after that, they go. The slates need to be levelled anyway. Anyone want any rhizomes?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Two Days in the Garden

On the first day we weeded. And things looked pretty nice. But on the second day, Joe came with a plan. The grass between the slate stone path and the garden beds would all be dug out.
The slate stones that formed my front walk would be lifted, and the long ones would be broken into shorter stones. And it would all be mulched.

I have a very old, very heavy hand mower that I have to use in the front where the yard is too small for my tractor. It's nearly impossible for me to get it up to the top yard by the front porch by myself, and in the dooryard near the kitchen door, it was very difficult for me to manouever it in the tighter spaces along the path. That problem is now solved. All mulch = no mowing.

This was a lot of work, but Joe's amazing. He just keeps going. And when he keeps going, I keep going. In a little more than four hours, the two of us managed to reposition the big stone step by the arbor, pull up the slate walk, resize and replace each one of those stones. Then, while I spread the mulch, Joe reseated each of the stones that make up the steps along the front of the house. Then he built a pretty stone border around the garden bed by the driveway.

He planted the pretty double-petaled daffodils I bought at the First Aid Squad sale in Long Valley yesterday morning between the kitchen door and the utility room door. He also repaired the stone wall, and dug out a dead tree.
Working side by side with Joe is an amazing experience.

I have never had anyone lean into the yoke with me the way he does. I find myself willing and able to do much more then I've ever done before. Together, we make things beautiful. Together, we make beautiful things.
While we worked out front, Hudson and Crow were out back. Hudson was quite content to just lie there and survey his kingdom. If he could see us, that was fine. If he couldn't, there were other things to keep his attention. Crow, on the other hand, had a major, four hour long tantrum because she was out back and we were out front. She started to dig under the fence (I put NO to that pretty quickly!) When she could, she settled for watching us through the utility room window, looking from the back, right through the shed, and out the open door in front. If she couldn't,
she'd jump off the patio, and try to find a vantage point from somewhere along the fence. If that didn't work, she just screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

I'm glad the job got done. While I might have tackled portions of it on my own, I never could have done the whole thing by myself. It was a lot of heavy work with those slates and stones. Joe provided the muscle, and the overall plan, and the impetus. I provided a hand, and every now and then a minor suggestion. Oh yeah. And the mulch. It felt good to get it done. And while it looks a lot better, it didn't really look unsightly beforehand. Still, I'm sure the neighbors are glad the job is done, too. The flowers are blooming. The Crow is quiet again.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Crackerjacks

This is so cool. This is just so cool. It's BASEBALL season again! Yah... life is good. And now, you can track every pitch. The game's on TV, of course, but if it's not, you can "watch" every pitch on the Internet. I did this last year, when I couldn't watch every game during the penant race.
The graphic display updates with each pitch, and shows you the placement. For the student of pitching this is a great supplement to actually watching the pitcher.

And with the game on the telly, you get to hear your favorite old-time players - turned - color - guys say smart things like "every run counts." And, unaccountably "where's his friend? The monkey?"

God. I love this game!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My Handsome Fellow

Yesterday evening, after clearing our air space of crows, and chasing The Crow around for a bit (she regularly laps him at ultrasonic speeds while his "chasing" largely consists of waiting for her to come around the bend one more time so he can follow her for a few steps and then drop back to ambush her on her next pass,) Hudson just sat for a very long time, surveying his kingdom. I'll leave him out there, and then think to check on him, and this is generally what I find him doing - either sitting or lying in his yard, just watching the world go by. A friend from work came out to visit recently. She's one dog old, and has a sweet little girl Lab. She found Hudson very intimidating.

In fact, he's what most of my male German Shepherds have been over the years; a sweet, kind goofball, who is half the threat his sister Crow is, and probably less than 100th the danger to anyone's life and limb that my parrots represent. He's my big-boy-dog. He follows Zeke and Doc in this role. They've each in turn been my gentle, kind protector. He's my most handsome fellow.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

How I spent April Fools' Day

I was told by someone in the know "they'll come out easy." Uh huh. I give myself credit that whenever I took this person's name in vain once I was into the brutal job of digging up the wild roses that had overtaken one of the garden patches in my backyard, I never did it without affection and amusement. Sadly, I don't think I have any BEFORE shots, but trust me, you couldn't have walked between the tree and the sapling. This patch was filled with wild roses that sent canes out 10 feet to snag me and my clothes when I was mowing the lawn, and to whip me across the face if I wasn't watching carefully for the ambush. And I discovered when I was removing them that they also sent roots out just as far, which explained the mysterious appearance of new bushes everytime I turned my back.
On Saturday, April Fool that I am, I went out to dig these nasty things out, in preparation for making a lovely little garden where I can sit and read and sip coffee or iced tea. So far this fantasy of sitting and enjoying my back yard has been completely eclipsed by WORKING in the back yard, but I'm clinging desperately to the notion that the future holds such opportunities. Can't you picture a nice bench out there, or an old-fashioned garden swing? Maybe I'll put my bluebird house out there, too.
I worked about three hours on Saturday, and got about half of the job done. I left the bigger ones, thinking, based on the effort it took to remove the smaller ones, that I might have to leave them until I had some help (from a certain someone who said, "they'll come out easy.") On Sunday, with a bit more internal resistance to the idea of doing this work to be overcome, I tackled the remainder of the job. And finished it.

There's still much to be done. There are three more garden plots in the back that are seriously overgrown. One hides the outhouse so effectively during the summer that I was living here more than a week before I realized it was there. That's largely forsythia and grape and some lilac, but there's also some raspberry (more thorns!) and some more of those rosebushes that will have to come out. Another is primarily mature lilac and maybe won't require too much attention. The last will be fairly easy, as it's really just some underbrush and a stack of old wood.
Meanwhile, I haven't gotten back out front to finish the weeding, but the spring flowers continue to appear and surprise me. I can probably finish the weeding out there in an hour or so, and then it will be ready for some annuals and some mulch, and some more waiting to see what else comes up.
The lungwort has grown. I think Joe and I must have pulled a lot of this out last fall when we weeded along that side of the house. There had been a jungle of hostas over there, and a lot of weeds, and it was really hard to see what else we were pulling out with it. I hope this stuff will spread, because I really like it.

As you can see, I haven't weeded up by the front porch yet. As I drove around the corner on Sunday evening coming home from visiting my mother, a flash of red up there caught my eye. My first thought was that some garbage must have blown up there, so I went out to investigate and found, instead, a single red tulip, and some delicately pink hyacynthes had pushed their way up among the daffodils.
Who knew? I'm actually having fun, even though the hard ground and the spade had a few words with my knees and my ankles.

The blue hyacynthes are a much deeper purple than this photo allows. They're right along the front walk. I really like these, and will have to investigate what variety these are.

The daffodils, never my favorite flower, are just having way too much fun out there. Everywhere I look, there are more of them coming up, and those that are in the shade have not yet bloomed. They may yet win my affection, as they run through the whole range of yellow and orange and are nothing short of exuberant.