April Fool

The joke’s on me! I had no time in March to write my second Blog. We had solar installed instead – quite the process. We’re still chasing pantry moths, though not as many. The exterminator I spoke with said, “It’s a process.” Indeed!

So what with one thing and another, I have had no time to Blog about the spring garden. And I’m not gardening because it turned cold – April Fools – and wet.

I’m out of excuses. Here are some of my favorite spring photos from the past week.

The sweet gum tree against the still-winter sky.

My three-year-old red bud. I was told it wouldn’t survive. It’s thriving!

Bleeding heart starting to bloom. A bit early.

Daffodils this week. Maybe tulips next if the sum comes out.

If the weather ever turns spring-like, I may Blog more. Happy April!

Infestation!

Who knows where they came from?

Maybe someone left the door open a skosh too long, allowing one to wander in from outside. Maybe one rode home from the organic food store, hidden among the bulk almonds or granola. Maybe one was hiding in a brown paper sack or in a reusable cloth bag stored in the car.

Wherever they came from, they arrived last year. My husband, Jim, who notices such things, looked up from his Kindle.

“Did you see that?” he asked. I think it was a year ago January.

“Was it a bug? If it was, you know I don’t want to see it.”

“A moth,” he replied. “Just a moth.”

We kept seeing ‘just a moth’ for weeks. I cleaned out the large pantry and set up moth traps. The problem seemed to diminish. We still saw them, but only one a week. Or two. Or five.

Beset by a series of domestic crises, including a basement flood, we used fly swatters to kill whatever moths we noticed as they fluttered by. Then, as if we hadn’t had plenty of warning, I noticed a swarm of moths sitting on the dining room ceiling. Our pantry moth traps were loaded. I went to make a cup of coffee and three fluttered around the pot.

“Damn,” said Jim. “We have to do something before they destroy our clothing.”

Google to the rescue. Pantry and clothing moths are different. Pantry moths flitter and fly. Clothing moths do not like bright light, so aren’t often seen. Clean everything, said the experts on Google. Use heat to kill the eggs.

And so, it began. Cupboard by cupboard we emptied the kitchen. Every dish, every bowl, every bit of silverware went into the dishwasher on high heat. We scraped shelf liners off the shelves — that adhesive is meant to be permanent – using fingernails and straight-edged razors. First, we scrubbed, then we scoured, and then we sanded each shelf. New non-adhesive shelf liner was installed.

Moths flew out of each cupboard we opened. Not many. Two or three. Until we reached the cupboard where we keep the cereal.

Cereal is a contentious topic at our house. I don’t eat cereal, having excised all wheat products from my diet. Jim eats it every morning. I ignore this, in my opinion, unhealthy habit because Jim is months from his eightieth birthday and should be allowed to eat whatever he pleases.

Still. The cereal is his. This fact becomes important in assigning blame for the infestation.

In the cereal cupboard, we found hundreds of moths, together with the nasty, cigar-shaped strands of eggs. Yuck. We threw the cereal away. We threw the raisins away. Both heaved when we opened the boxes. Double yuck.

We scrubbed, then sanded the shelves, and finally used a hairdryer to put heat on the wood. Despite everything, the moth trap tent we put in that cupboard overnight rewarded us with three dead moths.

A week later, the kitchen has been returned to its former neatness, much cleaner, and hopefully, moth free. As we sit, Jim is watching golf on TV and I am writing this, he utters a curse and exclaims, “Look at it!”

Oh no. Another moth…

Thanks to pixabay.com for the public domain photo of a moth.

Ain’t Making Them the Way They Used To

stvharp-1844964_1920

Once again, the month has flown by, filled with all sorts of small, domestic crises. Our biggest problem? The ten-year-old TV started to fail. With TV prices as low as they are, it seemed prudent to buy a new one.

But let me back up. Our TV watching habits require the use of headphones. Jim watches early in the morning while I’m sleeping. I watch late at night while Jim sleeps. A silent house during those times is quite the luxury.

You may (or may not) know that headphones used to connect to the TV through an analog port known as the RCA connector, or Cinch connector, or audio jacks. The new TVs, for the most part, don’t have audio jacks. Instead, they have a digital or orbital connector, primarily for sound bars.

Just in case you haven’t figured out our problem: our old headphones won’t connect to the new TV.

So, in talking to the folks at the electronics store, we found and purchased a very expensive set of headphones that would connect with our new TV.

One problem. Out of the box, the headphones didn’t work. We read and reread the directions. We went to the manufacturer’s website and downloaded the 35-page manual. We watched the How-To video on You Tube. No dice.

This particular set of headphones has both the digital and analog connection options. We tried setting them up to our basement TV, which is still analog. Nope. Still no sound. We returned the headphones.

And drove the 35 miles back to the electronics store. Ordered another set of headphones. Received them. Guess what?
Yes, you guessed it. They didn’t work either.

We called the TV manufacturer and learned that the TV we had purchased will not support headphones. Period.

Armed with the box of headphones and the receipt for our new TV, we returned to the electronics store. Where we were told not to believe what the manufacturer had said, that the headphones would work with any TV with a digital connection.

The proof is in the pudding, right? We spent a couple of hours trying to get our headphones to work with their TVs. Would you believe it? None of the new TVs supported the headphones when using the digital connector. The only TV that will work has both analog and digital ports.

We’re still waiting for the new TV to be delivered. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Maybe this will work. One thing is certain.

They ain’t making them the way they used to.

Words Matter

A couple years ago, I had great luck planting sugar snap peas. Only problem? The plants were so heavy with fruit that the stakes I used collapsed.

Heartened by that single success, I found, bought, and erected a pea tunnel, hoping to provide last year’s crop with greater support. Sadly, rabbits found their way into my pea bed last year. They ate the shoots emerging from the ground, and despite multiple plantings, no sugar snap peas.

Armed with products to deter rabbits and other critters, along with the addition of rabbit fencing to the bottom of my chain link fence, I bought some sugar snap pea seeds. The warm winter, with no cold weather in sight, encouraged me to think about planting in late February.

I ordered ‘early’ seeds. Here’s the blurb from the catalog.

sugarsnap-01-img_5819

So imagine my surprise when I received the seeds in the mail and read the back label.

sugarsnap-03-img_5821

Got that? Do not use for food, feed, or oil purposes.

Seriously? Why am I planting them? I reached for my phone to call the company and spoke with a very polite young man who listened to my story and then went ‘to check.’ Guess it struck him as odd, too.

Turns out, you’re not supposed to eat the SEEDS. They are treated with a fungicide called Thriam 42-S. I’ve provided the link to some EPA information, if you care to go to the trouble of looking it up.

Problem is, ‘don’t eat the seeds’ is not what the back of the seed packet implies. Something I hastened to point out to the seed catalog customer service guy. What the packet should have said was: Do not use the SEEDS for food, feed, or oil purposes.

Makes a difference, right?

Words matter. I might have written this Blog using some ‘alternative facts’ about this particular seed. The company sure left me an opening.

Words matter. Wish someone would tell that to our government. Wish someone would explain that to the media. But maybe they already know that. Maybe the goal is to tell so many lies that the truth is no longer discernable.

If that’s the case, look out!

We may all end up feasting on poison.

A Winter Experiment

winterexperiment-00-img_5808

I promised two Blogs a month and here it is, January 26, with only one under my belt. I’ve had plenty of ideas. Too bad for me, they’ve all been some kind of political commentary. Lucky for you, they have stayed firmly where they belong. In my mind.

January has been a warm but wet month. Not complaining about the wet. I haven’t had to haul hose yet this winter. The warm temperatures are a bit of a worry, though, with its threat of climate change. Will eastern Kansas move from Zone 6 to Zone 7? Maybe not quite yet. And as far as gardening news, I have none.

But while scrolling through Face Book one afternoon, reading all the political sturm und drang, I read about growing vegetables from veggies bought at the store. Celery in particular. I found a bit of old celery in the fridge. Since it was destined for the trash, I cut it as described in the article, plunked it into a glass of water, put it in a sunny window, and promptly forgot it.

“What’s this?” Jim asked a week or so later.

Yes, by golly, the durn thing grew. Little celery leaves poked up out of the center of the old stalk.

I looked. No roots, so I wondered if the roots were inside the stalk. Nothing loath, I planted the entire stalk in a four inch African Violet pot with some AV soil. And now comes the experiment.

winterexperiment-01-img_5808

How will I know success? When I have a bunch of celery I can eat. Honestly, I don’t think this method will ever replace going to the store and buying some. I don’t have room for hydroponics in my basement. But as an experiment into what works and what doesn’t, I’m curious. And open.

Which leads me to my amateur political punditry. We’re in the middle of a grand, disruptive experiment in our country. I was against it all the way, but I accept that it’s here. Like the celery, I don’t know whether this will be something we want to keep on doing once winter is done.

For me, I’ll know when I’ve had enough. I have a bottom line. People, not profits.

Those of you who follow me on Face Book know that I’ve been touting that mantra for the past few months. People, not profits. I’m hoping that our government has a heart for its people. If not, well, I hope the people know what to do next.

Onward to February!

Flooded!

For regular readers wondering what happened to the Blog, here’s the answer.  Life intervened in the form of floods.  Since August, we’ve been immersed in the 2016 election news flood.  For good or ill, thank heavens, it’s over.

We also had a flood in our basement.  Funny story.  We’ve had four floods in 16 years.  That’s right.  One about every four years.  A hole in the wall – a miniscule hole – caused two floods.  We fixed that.  A washing machine – not the same washer – caused the other two floods.  The first washer was a total loss.  We managed to salvage this one.

But as I looked around our basement chaos, with piles of tile and carpet turning moldy, I said to Jim, “Hey, opportunity!”  He immediately agreed.

We went through everything.  Probably 20 years’ worth of stuff.  I won’t bore you with the number of trips to Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the dump.  We moved everything out of the basement – and by everything, I mean it all went except for the furnace – and hired a company to come in and polish our concrete.

It looks nice considering it’s a basement.  The floor is pockmarked with visible imperfections – cracks, holes, bumps, and indentations – but it’s easy to clean.  If we flood again, it will be easier to manage.

So that’s my story and my excuse for a four month absence.  I’ve been busy.  Along the way, I was a NaNoWriMo winner (for the non-aficionado that’s National Novel Writing Month during which one writes 50,000 words with rights to purchase a T-shirt), finished extreme fall clean-up in the garden, and tried to figure out what 2017 would look like.

So what will 2017 look like for the Blog?  Hard to say.  Maybe more musings and less gardening.  I considered trashing the NG-Blues and starting over, different title, different, slant.  But then decided: life is like a garden.  I guess I can talk about all sorts of weeds and flowers right here.

My goal for 2017?  Two Blogs a month.

One…

Perfection

This year’s fall gardening catalogs began arriving at the end of July. How can a person not be tempted by the lush fields of daffodils, tulips, and lilies? Check out this photo, taken with my camera of a catalog offering.

Love this.  How many plants did it take between the slates to achieve the look?

Love this. How many plants did it take between the slates to achieve the look?

I think catalogs should provide disclaimers. Here are four:

Image appears larger than it will be in real life.

That humungous grape hyacinth? It’s only about six inches tall. At best. Will that climbing rose reach the top of the trellis? Uh – that’s a firm maybe!

It takes at least three years to achieve the lushness of the catalog photo.

Master gardeners know that in year one, a plant sleeps. In year two, it creeps. And finally, if you haven’t torn it out before now, in year three, it leaps. Ideally.

I have a gorgeous clematis (Rebecca) that never bloomed for the first five years. Now, it’s a wild and crazy bloomer. But getting there required more patience than I normally have. I needed blinders so as not to see that plant for 1,825 days, including winters.

You can’t afford the number of plants in the catalog depiction.

Well, maybe someone can. I can’t. Check the price. Instead of the massive field of glorious yellow daffodils bobbing in a gentle spring breeze, the winds of reality hit hard. Five bulbs, $14.95.

Speaking of fields of daffodils, I once bought one hundred bulbs of crocus, thinking that in late February or early March I’d have a swath of blue and yellow beautifulness under my still bare deciduous shrubs. The reality? Only about half of those bulbs germinated. Instead of being this gorgeous field of flowers, it just looked sad.

How many bulbs did it take to create this look?

How many bulbs did it take to create this look?

Flowers in your garden are never perfect.

Catalogs show flowers ironically untouched by nature. I’ve never seen a brown or yellow iris leaf in a catalog. Peonies are never flat on the ground after a rain. No dogs made a hole in that yew bush for a cool place to sleep. And where are the photos of spent daylilies or chrysanthemums in need of deadheading?

Now I’m not naïve! Perfect photos sell flowers. But last year, my cynical-self resolved to not buy from catalogs. In fact, I threw the catalogs away without so much as leafing through them.

This year, I need plants that I can only get in catalogs. I aim to keep expectations low. I’ve resolved to not look at the new plants with a jaundiced eye until 2019 or 2020. I’m living a new mantra.

Perfection takes time.