Sunday, May 24, 2015

Strawberry Fields Forever

By posting these photos, I stand in minor danger of turning this blog from a gardening blog into a dog blog, but I couldn't resist sharing these new pictures of Bella.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush took them with her iPad after she returned from helping me pick these strawberries, and slightly blurry as they may be, I thought they were adorable.   Look at those beagle-hungry eyes.  I think Bella would like a strawberry, don't you?

To deflect any criticism about yet another post reflecting the intense love between a gardener and his faithful companion, we will feebly pretend instead that this blog entry is about my triumph over the fickle scarlet-skinned god of the strawberry patch.  Because, really, that's what it is, a bragging post unmitigated by any trace of self-restraint, even while I know deep down that I'm depleting my gardening karma account and probably will soon be punished by a June freeze for my impudence.


Devoted readers of this blog know of my deep, life-long love for strawberries.  You've endured my epic, all-out campaign to get a strawberry patch through the August heat and drought, the bitter winters, and the late spring freezes that define Kansas gardening.  You have suffered through my purchase and erection of a shade house and my defensive measures and counterattacks against marauding deer.  You have bravely endured the whimpers and the whining and the woeful wailing against the cruelties of nature and the Kansas Flint Hills.  I have successfully spared you (till now) my agony during the past 3 weeks of cold, March-like temperatures and rains that have conspired to prolong ripening and increase rotting.

ProfessorRoush can publicly declare now that it has all been worth it, every drop of sweat, every aching muscle, every curse muttered in the general direction of the unsympathetic earth.   Mrs. ProfessorRoush, Bella, and I harvested 2 or 3 quarts of sweet strawberries over the last week or so, and last night we filled this bowl with another 4 or 5 quarts.  I'm sure there will be a few more quarts to come over the next week.  Not a grand harvest, but they exist and they made it to the reddened finish line.  And I accomplished it all through perseverance, labor, and sheer determination, not to mention the wad of cash I bestowed on the shade house manufacturer.   I refuse to calculate what a $1000 or so total divided by 10-15 quarts of strawberries works out to be on a per quart basis.  Not including, of course, my time and emotional trauma.

Whatever.  These are my strawberries, and, as Bella's twitching nose confirms, they are sweet and they are ripe and mouth-watering.   For one season, for one year, I have grown strawberries!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Despondent Dog

Woeful, she waits.
Outside, her love, ceaselessly puttering.
A glimpse she sees, then gone again,
A wisp, a phantom, endlessly muttering.
Moving through chores as hours march on.
Spraying his poisons into the air,
Pumping and misting with no time to spare.
Fretful, she waits.

Sadly, she waits.
Outside, blue sky and green grass beckon.
Scents, they abound, echos of sound,
Roll across hills and over horizon.
Breezes carry the fury of life.
Sunlight blesses the restless soil,
Earthworms squiggle in endless toil.
Fitful, she waits.

Doleful, she waits.
Outside, out there, is her friend and her love.
Lost to the world, intent and tired,
Her father, her playmate, her gardening other.
Inside she barks as her patience wears thin.
A world to explore, a garden to smell,
A drama to track and a story to tell.
Forlorn, she waits.

At last the door opens.
So joyful is she.
A wag of the tail,
And a few licks for me.
Then out she bounds to the world that awaits.
So happy, she laughs as she dances and shivers,
Short legs are pumping, whiskers aquiver.
Bella, my dog.

Mrs. ProfessorRoush took this photo last Sunday while I was spraying to keep the bagworms out of the evergreens and the worms out of the cherries.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush hates worms in the cherries, and as much as I hate insecticides, I surrendered my garden ethics quickly in the face of spousal demand and potential withdrawal of affections.  Meanwhile Bella has become my steadfast garden companion over the past month of warmer weather and has become extremely attached to me when I'm home.  She's headstrong (I'm referring to Bella right now) and I was afraid she would run away after the first bird or car that appeared, but I slowly trained her to stay within my sight and she is now allowed off leash in the garden while I work.   Bella didn't understand why she couldn't join me within the haze of poison spray this weekend, however.  Nothing looks more dismayed than a beagle separated from the outdoors and her love.

p.s.: and, yes, "aquiver" is a real word.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lilliputian Garden Drama

Just a few evenings ago, ProfessorRoush was madly capturing a few photos with his Nikon, plausibly preserving images of about 30 rose blooms for such purposes as posterity, public lectures, or potential future blog entries.  In full disclosure, however, he was just taking pictures of pretty flowers and enjoying the moment.

As he labeled each photo later, however, he noticed that a number of the blooms had insects or arachnids on them.  As an example, he noticed this tiny spider on shockingly pink 'Duchess of Portland':

For another example, ProfessorRoush had taken this photo of 'Souvenir du President Lincoln' at 6:27 p.m. See the wee spider at the lower left of the bloom?


                                                                                                        Here he is closeup:

                                                  Talk about your itsy-bitsy spiders!

By accident, and with no particular purpose in mind besides flitting madly from flower to flower like a honey bee on fast forward, ProfessorRoush randomly wandered later past the same 'Souvenir du President Lincoln' blossom and took another photograph at almost the same angle.  This one was taken at 6:44 p.m.  Look again at Mr. Spider on the lower left of the bloom.

He doesn't seem to have moved very far, but he appears a little less distinct, doesn't he?  In closeup, you can now discern that he has captured a tiny green insect, one that I would naively call a "leafhopper" but I don't really know the genus.

Whatever the identity of this spider and insect, these photos pretty much sum up the microscopic war hidden within our gardens, don't they?  We lumbering apes think it's just all about color and growth and sex, but we too seldom get a glimpse beyond the veil like this one.  There are likely lots of lessons lurking in this unfolded drama, but ProfessorRoush has gained yet more evidence that a garden can ably manage to protect itself in the absence of synthetic insecticides.

If we could please keep this between us, however, I'd appreciate it.  Some of these roses come inside, hitchhikers and all, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush takes a dim view of even the most microscopic spiders on her kitchen countertops.



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