Well, we finally got around to starting the garden.
I still have to pull leaves out of the beds, but the boys and I went and seeded peppers today. We are only starting seedlings for sweet (Burpee carnival mix) and hot (re-planted a couple of my Thai Dragons) peppers. I will seed a few flowers directly into the garden once the weather finishes warming up.
But it has to be a very simple garden this year, because I am right busy. I actually stopped clearing leaves last weekend even thought it was a beautiful day for it, because the boys went in for nap and that meant that I could go write. So, I left the leaves half-bagged and went to write - and it has not been warm enough during non-writing hours since then.
Still, we take what we can get. And peppers are about the only thing that I can grow that the squirrels do not take.
I took a break from grading blue books this morning and used the alternate fuel lawnmower. I broke the connecting rod that hooks the motor to the cutting assembly last time I used it, and so I had to be careful going around corners. Luckily, Sears has a goofy on-line thing that lets you order parts by part number, and I still have the manual that shipped with the mower. New parts should be here in about a week.
Today the alternate fuel was raisin bran and a full pot of coffee. The usual alternate fuel is bread and jam.
We got two new signs of summer today:
The first sunburn and the first time using the grill.
J. made some very tasty grilled chicken with barbecue sauce for tonight, and some very tasty grilled lemon chicken for sandwiches later this week.
Now I am off to rub soothing lotion on my nose, forehead, bald spot, and left calf.
Somehow, I think that the first burned bald spot will never come to replace the first robin or the first crocus as a sign of warmer weather. This is probably a good thing.
I have not been keeping up with the garden blogging. After a while it got to be yet another case of "yep, the garden grows."
But now that it is fall and we are starting to put things to bed, I thought I would revisit some of the garden sucesses and failures.
The biggest failure was the tomatoes. The plants did OK, not great but OK, but we got very little of their produce. Instead we fed tomatoes to the squirrels and chipmunks. The tomatoes that we did get we had to pick while still pale orange as we raced against the rodents. As a result we got perhaps a dozen good Legend tomatoes all season long. Legends are perfectly good modern hybrid tomatoes, just like the very good tomatoes we can buy at the local farmers' market every Saturday. The Red Alerts were a nice little cherry tomato. They were indeed fairly prolific and we got a good number of them past the squirrels. The toddler loves these - quarter the tomato, hand it to him, and cover your ears at the happy cries of "MATO" "MATO!" before he pops them into his mouth. Much as we like feeding these to the boy, next year our tomatoes will come from someone else's garden.
The peppers did OK. We did not get enough peppers from the Thai Dragons. We have about 150 dragons drying, another score or so dried and jarred up, and we have eaten a couple of score of hot peppers. From eight plants, each delivering 30 to 75 peppers, we should have at least twice that many. I think that the late start has hurt their growing season. We will continue to get Thai Dragons until first frost, and they are pretty good, but we did not get enough to hang Thai Dragons on everyone's Christmas tree as we had hoped. We will grow these again, probably getting our seeds from a different source. I will also save a couple of dozen seeds from this year's crop and see if they cross-pollinated with the other peppers.
The Hero Peppers did quite well, and are not going to be repeated. The problem is in the nature of the beast. It is a moderately long, skinny pepper, with a thick skin and thin flesh. While we can eat the skin, they are better roasted and peeled. But, by the time you roast and peel and seed them, you don't get much pepper for your work. Yesterday J roasted about 20 of them on the grill. I peeled and seeded. At the end, we had about half a cup of pepper to go into the freezer. Not acceptable. These will be replaced with New Mexico chiles next year.
The Jalapenos did well. They were planted in and among the herbs and have grown quickly and provided a good amount of fruit. Oddly, these peppers have very mild flesh when raw, very hot flesh when roasted. Yesterday J smoked a dozen jalapenos while playing with the grill. We ate some with the burgers, and they had a nice bite to them. When I peeled and seeded the rest, well, I almost went for the gas mask. Chipotles - smoked Jalapenos - are much hotter than roasted Hero peppers even though the raw peppers are rated at a 3/10 for jalapenos and a 5/10 for Hero. (I don't have the exact Scoville units for either handy.) We will grow Jalapenos again.
The best part about growing hot peppers is that they are highly rodent resistant. We found a couple of hot peppers lying on the drive next to the plants, in just the right spot for a squirrel to have grabbed on and then dropped it. We think that each individual squirrel or chipmunk tried hot peppers once, and only once, before giving them up as a BAD idea.
Luckily we like hot peppers, and they are easy to grow, so we seem to have the best of both worlds.
The discussion on gun control below got me thinking a random thought the other day. If I were to take some money and buy guns and a gun cabinet, what would I get and what order would I get it in?
As a practical matter, while it is fun to punch holes in paper targets, there are other things that I find more fun, and so I do not expect to do anything with guns until the kids are old enough to take the NRA's gun safety classes (one of the things that organization does that I approve of.)
So, what would I get?
0, A good gun cabinet.
1, Brown Bess Musket, firing black powder replica. Why? Well if you are going to get an "assault rifle," get the 18th century version. I have thought about getting a non-firing replica to use to play show and tell in class, and I would rather like to have the real thing even if I only fired it a couple of times a year.
2, Sprinfield 1903 rifle. Again, there is something to be said for the classics, and the big Mauser bolt-action rifles are classics. The problem with this is that I am too cheap to pay for the ammunition, or at least for enough ammunition to figure out how to use it well.
3, A good cheap plinking rifle. Kim Du Toit likes the M1 Carbine, I have shot 22 caliber bolt action rifles in the past - something cheap to shoot.
4, A general purpose shotgun, something I could use for either skeet or deer. I do not know much about shotguns, but given my height and small hands would probably look at some of the "ladies" models.
I have no particular desire for a handgun, nor do I have the hands and wrists for one.
Well, I just spent the rest of this year's flag budget.
I summoned a Betsy Ross (because J likes them), a Gadsden, and a Fort Moultrie. Betsy Ross beat out the Serapis, Freemont, Green Mountain Boys, and Star Spangled Banner (15*15) by a nose for the third place in the order.
Much as I like the Red/Blue flag of New England, I already had a pine tree flag. So many flags, so few flagpoles.
"Roses - Its whats for dinner" said one little green cutworm to another.
"Yum, lets invite our friends and have a party" his friend replied.
"Boy, this tall magenta rose sure is tasty; can we have seconds -- we just finished eating this cane." said the guests.
"Sure, eat eat; its good for you. There are some other rose plants around the house you can have for dessert."
"Oh goody" said the guests.
"Eat Eat EAT" said the toddler worms.
And then I sprayed the roses with bug poison.
In two weeks, I get to do it again.
I did not kill the Amber Queen (yet) -- she is showing new leaves above the mulch from two of her canes. One cane is dried out and dead, and the fourth cane is not sure if it is alive or dead. Still, two is enough to have a rose bush. Yay.
The Red Alert tomatoes are blooming, this is a good thing. The Legends are not yet in flower, although the legend tomatoes I gave to mom already have their first little tomato pea on them. Her plants are continuing the head-start that her greenhouse windows gave them.
I planted the vinca I started from seed - they are still very small. I also seeded the rest of the vinca into the cut flower garden, and those seedlings are now up. While I was at it I bought some more dianthus and put them in on one side of the front garden, around the yellow dream rose which is itself about to bloom.
So, all in all the front garden is looking raggedy but green. Good enough for me.
We also ordered the new bulbs for the fall - tulips, crocus, and anemone all did well so we got more of them. We will transplant J's tulips to another bed and see if they do better someplace else - they are not doing well where they are.
So far I am killing about a third of my plants, having a third of them struggle, and having a third of them thrive. Not bad for my first year in the new soil.
EDIT - I am spraying my roses for black spot every Tuesday and after every heavy rain. It rained a LOT over the weekend so the plants needed a good prophylactic spraying; I sprayed mid-day after the plants had dried out. It just now showered again around 4:00 - not sure if the rain washed all my fine new fungicide off the leaves.
We don't like cicadas.
Up until Monday I had been mildly jealous of DC and Princeton, for they had cicada frenzy and our little corner of South Jersey did not.
Having spent that day up in Princeton to use their library, I changed my mind.
One of the little perks of working at the Princeton Theological Seminary library is that I brown-bag my lunch and eat it on one of the benches on their main lawn. It makes for a nice break, and the library has a lot of the stuff I need for my work.
Monday the cicadas ruined lunch - not by anything they did to me directly, but because they had died. Princeton REEKS of rotting bugs. Dead bugs are all over the sidewalks; live bugs cling to trees and benches and anything made of wood; flying bugs pass too and fro overhead at intervals, like clumsy helicopters in a landing pattern. They are everywhere, and they die everywhere.
I like my kibble. I was almost unable to finish lunch because everything reeked of dead bugs. Most unpleasant. I don't mind the noise of the bugs - it rises and falls with the wind producing an effect sort of like surf at the ocean. I do mind the stink - I had to go denasal to walk, and I normally have a terrible sense of smell.
All in all, having something like this in my neighborhood would not be worth the pleasure that I would get from watching the bug-hating kids next door -- "a spidah! A spidah!" -- deal with having bugs appear all over their play space.
Still, they say that South Jersey should be hatching this week. We will see if our neck of the woods gets swarmed.
I planted the Amber Queen rose tonight after dinner.
I think I did a quick and dirty job of it, and now I am wondering if it would be a worthwhile thing to dig it up and do it better tomorrow.
The problem is that roses like light soil. The soil at that spot is a couple of inches of topsoil where the old evergreens combined their dropped leaves with mulch, then a skant foot of bad soil, then heavy yelllow clay. So, what I really should do is dig up the rose before it sets roots, dig a mucking huge hole there, fill the hole with peat moss and garden soil and compost, and then re-plant and re-mulch the rose.
That would be a lot of work, but the rose would grow better and look better.
Effort now v. enjoyment later? I a lazy perfectionist, which means that there is no good solution.
I suspect that if I do not go to the libraries tomorrow, I will end up at the garden store buying peat moss; if I do go to the library, the rose will stay where it is.
This is late, and I am late, and it will be short.
Flower seed is sowed.
Tomatoes are in.
Peppers have their bed prepared and will go in as a study break this afternoon.
Pulled four evergreens from the back of the house where the new air conditioner will go.
Chose what to put next to the AC after the workmen will be done.
We have black spot on the roses.
Roses have been sprayed.
I sowed a "cutting flowers mixture" along the house where I prepped last weekend. J was sweet and bought me a pouch of tall red poppy seeds to add to that spot - I had searched the house for half an hour a day earlier because I misplaced my previous packet. It is amazing what a $1 pack of seeds can mean, especially when someone buys you a new one because you wanted it.
The tomatoes are in - four "legend" hybrids and, six "red alert" bunch tomatoes. I have another five plants or so in reserve, but these all look wonderfully healthy so I think I can give my reserves away.
I only got 7 settable plants from my packet of Thai Dragon seeds. Why? double seeded the cups and thinned them, used peat pots which dried out, did not do an optimal job of managing sun and warmth during the early spring. For next time I start Thai dragons: one seed per cup, watch temperature, use the plastic pots once prick seedlings out of planting mixture.
Jalapenos, in the cheap packet from Target, grow to seedling size VERY easily. If anyone reading this has kids who want to grow something fun from seed, I recommend jalapenos. I started these on a whim, killed over a dozen while pricking out and thinning, have given almost a dozen away, and still have 8 to plant - and I only started half the seed packet.
I picked up a new pack of Balsam - I killed one pack starting them from seed indoors. I will sow these by the iris in J's corner and see what they do. I like the idea of balsam, but so far the execution has killed me.
The vinca seedlings are almost ready to prick out. I will set these directly in the front garden.
We also have vast quantities of coleus seedlings. Those, I am not entirely sure where they are going to go, other than that a couple of them will be houseplants. This was another easy one to start from seed. Easy is good.
And here come the AC guys, time to finish and go.
I give myself a flag budget. Every month I can buy a polyester flag, or I can go two months and buy a nylon flag, or I can go many months and buy a sewn historical flag, but so long as I stay within the flag budget then all is well.
I also have a rose budget. I get about 2 plants a year.
Behold, this month's flag.
The new plant will go by the outside unit for the AC. It will NOT go next to the access panel, which will make the rose and the service crews both happy.
I also want this purple rose but they are sold out - it will wait until next spring. I will put it in my purple garden next to the purple tulips.
That reminds me, time to take some garden pictures.
I started turning over the side beds over the weekend.
Working back from the side of the front porch to the side of the back deck we will have five distinct zones, porch, hose, flowers, peppers, and tomatoes.
The rest is boring and detailed except for the exciting news that both of the new roses are showing some growth. I did not kill them! Yet.
The first is the bed around the porch, bordered by a low slate retaining wall and filled with flowers. Here all I did was admire the roses and plant some snapdragons to add color to the Iris, which are not yet even thinking about blooming. I hear that a place down the Pike is selling annuals for $5 a flat - I will try to head down there this week and do some more impulse purchasing.
The second is where the hose lives. I have a hose reel now but want to do more to tidy this section. It looks like it will be about $15 to buy enough gravel to lay down a proper gravel bed there, buying gravel in the small bags from Lowes Depot. So, I suspect I will just mulch that bit although when I go price topsoil and extra slate I will see what the bulk price is for 3 cubic feet of stones.
The third is what I worked over this weekend. It is a stretch along the drive with two roses, one on each end, and a window. The roses will be sprayed, so I can't put any vegetables in this block. So, I turned it over, working some weeds and green fertilizer into the soil, raked it, and then sowed a mix of cutting flowers. We will see if any of it comes up. I also planted a black eyed susan that came home with me from the plant sale on Saturday.
The fourth and fifth sections will be the vegetable garden. They have not yet been turned over and are waiting for me to get around to re-routing a downspout much like I re-routed the sump pump outflow on Friday. Right now, they are too wet to dig. I might go do the downspouts later today as a study break.
Finally, behind the deck, is the herb garden with azalea. This is where the jalapenos will go, but at the moment the tulips are still dominant. I popped a sage in and will add a rosemary once I buy one. I hope Sage and Rosemary will not grow too big - a good rosemary is three feet tall while anything bigger than 18 inches will throw off the pattern of the bed.
Finally, J wants fresh bay leaves. Bay trees grow 40 feet tall and are not frost hardy. They can, however, apparantly be grown in containers and brought indoors for the winter. So, she now has a $10 bay tree sitting in the container that one of last year's peppers wintered in. Now all I have to do is not kill the bay tree and keep it short enough that I can get it in and out of the house.
It's the first of May!
The scary thing is, it was Mom who first told me that rhyme.
But J is shy and our neighbors are close, so I will plant flowers instead and let them have outdoor sex for us.
You don't have to read this one.
Our cat is about 15 years old - she was a young stray when J acquired her in 1991.
Slowly over the last few years she has been struggling with decreased motility in her GI tract - the muscles can no longer push the stool along, it dries out as it goes through the colon, the more it dries the slower it goes, and you get a vicious cycle ending in complete blockage.
So, every so often the kitty goes to the vet for her kitty enema. Such fun.
She is blocking more often recently, and has been to the vet three times in the last two months - that is a lot of vet visits even before you add the blood tests we just ordered to make sure there is nothing else wrong with her.
So, we got a syringe and a thin rubber hose and instructions on how to give a high enema to a kitty cat. The current model is that she is fine as long as she delivers a proper stool once a day: if she goes 24 hours without a poop or if she delivers a string of nasty little pooplets, we start mixing up the soap solution.
For the last three days, ever since the cat got back from the last vet visit, J has proudly informed me that the cat has pooped.
This makes me most happy.
Today I did no gardening. It rained and it was teaching day.
Ah, but over the weekend we played in the dirt yes we did.
I say we, because the toddler helped. On Saturday morning we took the new van out and bought dirt - peat moss, some fertilizer, and some topsoil to fix the holes that the hound digs in the back yard. Then we ladled it out into the side garden where the vegetables are going to go.
For the peat moss, I loaded the big bag on my wheelbarrow and scooped it onto the garden a couple of inches thick. I gave the toddler some peat moss in his little plastic wheelbarrow, and he took his little plastic shovel and followed behind me and also pitched peat moss into the garden. It was most amazingly cute, and by noon he was so covered in dirt and peat moss that he got stripped to the skin, washed down, and dressed in clean clothes.
Apparantly when I was between two and four Mom could not garden without hearing awkard cries of "Tuddy hulp, Tuddy hulp" as I came and trampled on whatever she was working in. It is good to see that family traditions remain strong.
It looks like we will have room for eight tomatoes, three legend hybrids and five red alert bunch tomatoes, and fifteen hot peppers, probably nine Thai dragons and the rest Hero peppers. I will put some jalapenos around the azalea in the back, where I now have tulips and daffodils coming up. That means that I will not be planting anything along the back fence this year - instead I will wait for the daffodils to go down and then weed-whack along the fence.
The old roses are all growing nicely, even the stunted red rose now has growth from all of its remaining branches. I saw a little bit of growth from one of the two new roses. Thinking about it, I did plant the root graft too low in the ground - I was not sure if I should plant by the top of the mulch or the top of the firm soil, and I planted at the top of the firm soil and then backfilled to the top of the mulch. Silly Ted. Still, if the roses survive they will (probably) adjust their height. I just planted them Minnesota style and not California style.
Today J cut some tulips from the back and we have yet another bunch of fresh flowers on the kitchen table. It gives me great pleasure to have them there, and to know that they came from the garden. With luck I will have designed the garden so that we will have fresh flowers all summer long and into the autumn.
1, Get a price for the trade-in from one of those "we buy cars" places.
2, Negotiate the price of the new vehicle BEFORE trade in. Don't get pressured into throwing in the trade car.
3, Get internet prices from all local vendors before going in to bargain at any. Work with the internet sales reps.
4, Say at the outset that we will not sign anything the same day we first drive the car. They have to give us their best offer and let us sleep on it. Because we work better that way.
5, Our only real power is to walk out and take our business elsewhere. Use that power. New cars are pretty darn similar.
6, Make a list of any desired and not-desired options such as cassette players. If the new vehicle is a Honda, refuse to pay a dime for the bolt-on mud guards. "You bolted them on, take them off again - we don't want them." That package appears to exist solely for the dealers to be able to appear to give and still make a profit.
We have been fashing ourselves about the car purchase ever since the evening of the first day.
It is not that we regret the decision to buy new not used: we ran the numbers and decided it was a good decision.
It is not that we regret the choice of vehicle: we are very happy with the intrinsic qualities of the mobile red barn.
What bothers us is that we goofed the negotiations, actually paying more than we had dickered for at two other dealerships. We goofed, and goofed several hundred dollars worth - at least $600 and as much as $1,000.
So, we are cranky with ourselves, by implication we are cranky with the vehicle. I keep telling myself not to get cranky at the dealership, just as one would not blame a shark who bit off your leg when you offered it to him. Instead I will blame the adversarial process of car shopping. I will also blame fatigue.
We bargained hard for all the used vehicles we turned down, and for the one of the two new vehicles. The other was an internet quote for $500 UNDER invoice from a place we don't like driving to. We should have driven there.
And, as a result, the cost-benefit analysis we ran deciding whether new or used made more sense for our driving patterns and the vehicles available got garbled. At the price we paid, the new vehicle is not such a good deal compared to the used cars.
So, I took the dealer's name off the car. They did nothing wrong; I will not slam them in this forum, but I am also not going to give them free advertising.
This banal little example reminds me of the larger questions about the Iraq war. It is possible to have a very good idea that, because you garble the execution, becomes a not very good idea.
We spent a lot of time over the last few weeks shopping for cars - first we thought we wanted a used minivan, and drove used Fords and Toyotas. Then we decided the seats were goofy in the Toyota and the handling on the Ford was a poor match for J's driving style i.e., she scared me while driving them. So, we shopped for used Hondas. There are not a lot of them out there, and the used Hondas are almost the same price as new Hondas.
We have a new red Odyssey in the driveway; we gave the dealer our old Corolla and a big check in exchange for half ownership in it. If we had not been sick of shopping we might have gotten a better deal - we buy cars rarely and as a result we don't bargain well.
It is a mobile red barn.
We like it.
I have not done much gardening since the last big garden blogging - we had several days of rain and I am still waiting for the bit by the house to dry up so I can start spading in a garden.
The potted peppers and tomatoes are doing well and I repotted the coleus into separate growing pots - looks like I will get a lot of those even though my other flower seeds were all miserable failures.
I moved the dianthus from a hanging basket to the front and put pansies in the hanging basket instead - the symmetry made J. happier.
The roses and peonies continue to grow; a neighbor thinks the peonies are doing better than average for the neighborhood but who knows. I have not yet peeked under the mulch to see if the new roses have died yet; I will give them until the end of the coming week before I disturb them.
The big news is that the tulips are all open. I did not get any good pictures - things were blurry and over exposed, but will try again tomorrow before things fade. The tulips looks spectacular - the monsellas just glow, the yellow emperor tulips by the driveway are a blaze of lemon yellow, and the goofy pink monsters from Brecks really are almost two feet tall.
Below the fold is a picture of one side of the house, with monsella tulips between the cyprus (you can not see the new rose or the tall pink tulips at this angle) and yellow emperors by the drive. The flag is a Continental Flag, the flag that Trumbull painted in his picture of the battle of Bunker Hill; the American Flag is on the other side of the house. Sorry for the blurry picture - I mostly use the digital for snapshots and am still working out its landscape settings.
I think I might want to permanantly move my little meme from Saturday to Sunday. Then again, it will likely bounce back and forth a bit.
I have had a busy few days in the garden. I am grading papers. I hate to grade papers. And so, I will grade a couple of papers, then do yardwork, then grade a couple of papers, then do yardwork. So far the yard looks great but I still have a couple of dozen papers to grade.
I mowed the lawn and seeded the thin spots again - this time with some extra soil to fill the holes that the hound dug in the back yard.
I planted the new roses the day they arrived - one yellow, one white, both boring modern roses from Edmunds' Roses out in Oregon. It was hard finding a disease resistant rose about four feet tall - I am curious to see how these work out. I followed directions - dig a hole, make a cone, spread the roots, mulch everything. While I was at it I also mulched the five old roses.
I also bought a couple of hanging baskets for the front, filling one with pansies and the other with dianthus. If I don't like the way they look I will trash their contents and replant them - J wants petunias in the baskets but it is not yet petunia season.
I also repotted the peppers from the seed starter into peat pots. I have ten Thai dragons, about as many hero peppers, and almost thirty jalapenos. I am thinking about re-arranging the garden plan and planting a great mass of jalapenos by the back fence. The scary thing is that I only started about half the seeds in the japapeno packet - I could have had even more medium-strength peppers. I will be giving jalapenos away - I have promised four to my parents, three to a neighbor, and three to my brother. I might slip a couple to the brother in law. That will reduce the oversupply of medium peppers to a managable level.
The toddler helped - he was amazingly cute as he did so. He would hand me the next peat pot, then play with peat pots until I was ready for another one. He was scooping dirt out of the seed starter and putting it in a pot, stopping once to taste it (yucky) and stopping a few times to wave his hands in front of his chest and shout "YAY." Later he went sliding on the bed of the new wheelbarrow. After I assembled the wheelbarrow he wanted to push it around but it was too tippy for him.
We will be growing tomatoes and jalapenos and cilantro. We have some garlic already growing by the roses (non-edible since I spray the roses) - all I need for salsa is some sweet onions.
The monsella tulips are starting to open. The daffodils by the back fence are open and do look a little sparse as I feared they would. The crocus by the back rose are in bloom and look very impressive. The miniature snow glories in the front are coming up late and one at a time. The roses all show some leaves, with the two on the sunrise side showing the most growth and the crimson showing the least.
There are some holes in the front. I will fill with pansies for now, but after looking at what other folks have done I will probably get some purple and white hyacinths to help me transition between crocus and tulips in the front garden.
That is about it in the garden. The African daisy seedlings did die as expected. The pansies and balsam are hanging out without doing much - the pansies mostly have three little leaves, the balsam still only two leaves. I might try pansies again, but if I do I will start lots of them and start them 12 weeks before early April. I will seed the rest of the balsam after Mother's day and see what happens.
I also broke down and bought a packet of the tall flanders poppies. I had intended to put them along the back fence, but J sez it will look bad especially if I have extra peppers there.
What I think I will do is
1, spade up the bit at the side of the house where I want to put tomatoes
2, decide if tomatoes really will grow there or not
3, do a preliminary staking of the location for the Thai dragons and hero peppers
4, decide if I am keeping the tomatoes and peppers in their spot
5, re-think what to put by the back fence.
Gardens are wonderful fun, but they do eat time and money. Since the last garden blog I have bought: peat pots, potting soil, lawn soil, wheelbarrow, 2 hanging planters, 18 plants (12 pansies, 6 dianthis), 3# grass seed, and some downspout extenders which are not technically garden supplies except that they will be used to push the gutter water away from where it will drown the house plantings.
Still, it is much more fun to play in the dirt than it is to grade papers.
Speaking of which, time to prep class and then grade a few more papers. I will plant the last six pansies in the front tomorrow.
Something ate the crocus from the front yard. I suspect a rabbit, as I have seen no deer in the area. The crocus look as if someone ran over them with a lawn mower. Oddly enough, the crocus in the beds along the house were untouched, as were the crocus by the back fence. Very odd.
Speaking of crocus, the crocus in the bed at the back of the house, around the climbing rose, are coming up. I think I put too many crocus back there and not enough in the front beds. I have not decided if I will transplant or if this fall's bulb order will just include another sack of 50 croci.
While puttering around I decided to mow and seed the front lawn. The toddler wanted to help push the hand-reel mower, but J decided it was too complicated and sharp to be a toy.
Elsewhere, all five roses are showing at least a little growth. One has some shoots coming up from its roots while the rest have a few red leaves peeking out from the green stalks. I have not yet received the mail order roses - they should be coming next week.
As I said the other day, I planted some seedlings because they were too big for the starter pots and I had no place else to put them. We have had cold rainy weather, so far they are neither dead nor thriving but are just little green lumps. We are due for a hard freeze tomorrow night, which will probably kill them dead. I will sow balsam seeds in the dirt in a week or two and will see if they do better that way - there is a lot of trial and error to this garden thang.
One of our neighbor's grand daughters likes hot food. We have a surplus of jalapeno seedlings so I promised the lass a few pepper plants if grandma could drop off pots for them. The pepper seedlings are looking healthy but small; I expect to move them to larger pots later this week. I see eight Thai dragons - not as many as I had hoped for but enough to re-stock the dried peppers in the cupboard. My current plan is Thai dragons and hero peppers by the house, jalapenos by the back fence.
The tomatoes have adapted to the new pots. They are still slightly shocked from the move - I do hope they will survive.
And back to work.
There are ten Thai dragons, not eight. I might actually be able to get six plants into the dirt.
This was also the six hundred sixty sixth post to the weblog. Does that mean that this year's hot peppers will be beastly hot? (Entry count is off by about 1200 because I had trouble transferring posts from blogger.)
I played in the dirt yesterday. I finished writing a new introduction for chapter three a little after lunch, then went and planted all my overgrown, leggy and failed seedlings. They may live, or not, but they would not have survived in the little planting pots.
So, I put miniature pansies out in the front gardens, African daisies out by the daffodils along the back fence, and balsam in the front and back of the house. I sowed red poppies in the front garden. I think I will seed some lettuce later today, but I won't sow anything more until the weather gets a mite warmer.
As always happens when you shop for a car, I have been looking harder at the various vehicles on the roads as I drive my errands and toddle about.
I have trouble telling minivans apart, although I can now spot a couple of the more distinctive models, and so I have been looking at the corporate logos on the front grill.
While doing that I noticed something that I then looked for and confirmed while looking at car cars - most automobile company logos look like blobs from more than about 50 feet away.
There are only a few really distinctive and readily identifiable car logos: the Honda H, the Ford blue oval, the Chevrolet tilted cross, the GMC ugly red letters, and the Chrysler wings. Most of the rest either read as little blobs from a distance - Subaru oval, Dodge sheep heads - or as distorted but indistinguishable circles - Mazda, Lexus, Infiniti. A few, Toyota and VW, are distinctive blobs and sit on the margin between clarity and blobbiness, but by and large most of them seem designed to show off the car at short range.
It is not much of an observation. I certainly can't tie it into the state of relationships, the war in Iraq, the history of automobiles, or the price of tea in China. I was just struck by the fact that there are dozens of nameplates still on the road, that they all worked very hard to come up with their logo or image, that most of them are indistinguishable blobs, and that the newer plates are the least clear.
There is something to be said for clear and simple heraldry - consider that you can spot a New Mexico flag from miles away, while in order to tell a Pennsylvania from a Virginia you have to be close enough to read the logo and figure out who is the woman on the state seal.
Yesterday we spent more hours shopping for minivans.
We narrowed it down to one make and model, deciding that J was enough more comfortable in the Honda than the Ford that we would pay the extra money for the more reliable vehicle.
We made an offer on one, realized it was the only used Honda we had driven, and took the offer back. Now we get to spend early April shopping for a used Honda so that we can make an offer towards the end of the coming month.
What a time sink.
If the 91 wagon held baby seats securely we would keep driving it rather than spending time shopping.
End of rant.
The plants, they grow.
The peonies are starting to poke their noses above ground. I must have a dirty mind because the little red pointed shoots look like miniature erect penises as they break through the ground. Plants can be phallic.
Elsewhere, the miniature iris are fading, the tulips have their leaves up but have not yet flowered, and some of the roses show some growth. Several of the roses are still silent and woody - I do hope I did not kill them by over-pruning.
The seedlings have their second set of leaves. Soon I will transplant the peppers and tomatoes, discard the failed daisies, and re-seed the second crop.
But not today. Today I run errands and finally get my hair cut.
We have been car shopping. I hate car shopping - it eats a lot of time; I have yet to find a vehicle that meets all my desires much less a vehicle that meets both my desires and my budget; car shopping is the place where the average consumer encounters barter and negotiated price. I have been spoiled by the department store approach to market transactions, where all goods have a price, the price is fixed, and the customer's choices are a simple take it, leave it, or shop elsewhere.
That rant out of the way, I did notice some amusing things. To my perspective, the cars we are looking at all look like each other but they all drive very differently. Oddly enough, we are looking at the same three marques we looked at last time we went car shopping, and there too, we found the vehicles boring and indistinguishable while the driving experiences were markedly different. Not surprisingly, a Toyota Sienna drives much like a Camry only bigger, a Honda Odyssey drives much like an Accord only bigger, and a Ford Windstar drives much like a Taurus only bigger. And yet, when I go grocery shopping in the Accord I can never pick it out of the host of look like metallic cars in the parking lot while to me all minivans look like blobs on wheels.
Now, someone who is used to a very different road feel would likely say that all three family sedans drive like each other and that all three minivans drive like each other, but to my perspective the drive experience on all three is widely different.
We drive some more things today, at this point we have ruled out the Toyota - the best handling of the lot - because we don't like the way they arranged the anchors for the child seats. We will likely get a used Windstar for about half the price of a new Odyssey - used Odyssey's are hard to find and run so close to the price of new vehicles that we might as well get the extra 3 years of use. The only question is whether I get scared when J drives a Ford while she is a little tired or frazzled.
Four years ago we vetoed a Taurus with the standard suspension because I was convinced that J would drive it off the margin of one of Virginia's narrow, no-shoulders, twisting country roads. The Taurus with sport suspension was fine, but we got the Accord because I liked it better and J was even less likely to cross lanes while cornering.
We found one acceptable used vehicle, we drive another candidate today, we might look again at a used Honda, and then we will rank them and decide what we like.
That means that, with luck, sometime this afternoon or Thursday we get to dicker over price. I hate that part, which is odd because my Dad is a really good negotiator - he did deals for a living before he retired.
Doing this right takes forever, and even so I feel like I am rushing.
We are shopping for a new minivan, which has taken up much of the second-order productive time that I usually use to blog in.
In fact, this blog entry was interrupted by a phone call from a Ford dealer.
So far we are underwhelmed - then again we are often underwhelmed by cars. This might be part of why we buy them so seldom - the minivan will replace a 1991 Corolla wagon.
And so to do some work before we visit the Toyota people this afternoon.
I think I would rather be getting a haircut.
Saturday was a busy day and I neither took garden pictures nor blogged about the garden.
It appears that the "official" date for setting seedlings, according to the garden section of the Inquirer is Mother's day, the second Sunday in May. I had expected to set seedlings the last week in April, and so I started my seeds a couple of weeks earlier than the garden folks suggested. I guess that my internal rythms are still on Virginia time.
The Balsam are getting leggy, a bad sign, and the African Daisies are looking first leggy and then wilted. I am glad I saved seed from most of my flowers as I will probably end up re-sowing in the dirt in early May. On the bright side, the Thai dragon peppers are all up, finally. I started seeds so I could have Thai dragons, and all the rest of the seedlings are riding on the hot peppers' coattails.
Outdoors, the miniature Iris are mostly up. They look a little sparse this year, as do the crocus. I fear that when I planted bulbs I was thinking three years ahead and with the assumption that the bulbs would naturalize and thrive. If they do, then I will have a nice collection of clumps of bulbs. If they do not thrive, the garden will look scattered and patchy. We will see what happens.
This is the correct weekend to prune roses, I have a little bit of new growth on mine where I pruned them a couple of weeks ago. Of course, it will get bitter cold (for the season, mid 20s) tonight and tomorrow night, so we will see what happens to the plants.
I should be getting the new bare-root roses in a couple of weeks, which means that I need to test my soil for acidity and see if I will need to correct anything. I suspect that the soil is already acid - the roses are going to be planted amid cyprusses and tulip bulbs - but it will be reassuring to test. While I am at it I will also test the tomato and pepper gardens.
That is about all. The seedlings and the indoor hot peppers are out on the front porch getting some needed sunlight and some un-needed wind. If I get around to playing with pictures I will post a followup.
The roses faked me out.
Pruning encourages growth. You should prune right before the growth season starts. But when is that? Traditionally, you prune when the old canes start to show new growth. In addition, you prune at the end of cold season, around the same time you plant bare-root roses. For me, in South Jersey, the calendar says to prune in late March or early April. But, in early March, we had a warm spell and the roses put out new growth. So I pruned and fertilized them.
Ever since then it has been cold - the only things growing are the crocus and even those are moving slowly. Ah well.
In other garden news, I germinated seed so I could have hot peppers. Once I was playing in the dirt, I got some extra seed boxes and started a couple of other seeds. Well, a moderate number of other seeds. Well, a total of 180 little boxes of seeds, and I still should have started more Vinca. Out of all of that, the things I care about are the Thai Dragon hot peppers. And, of course, almost everything has germinated but not any hot peppers – yet. I hope they are just slow to start.
The seedlings are leggy, perhaps because it has been cold enough that I have not wanted to put them outside during the day to get sun, even in the little clear plastic warmer boxes. I will see how the weather is this afternoon and will see if I can get a little more light on the subject.
Crocus are coming up, including some of the crocus in the front lawn. Miniature iris are coming up. The large iris and the tulips are in suspended animation, neither growing nor shriveling. We will see if next week is warmer.
No picture this week, although I might edit one in after I get around to pulling them off the camera.