Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Meet Moose and Millie

I'd like to take this pre-Christmas opportunity to introduce you to Miss Millie and her live-in companion Moose.  The pair has settled in nicely over the past month, so I suppose they're going to stay around long enough to let my readers in on their lives.  They are both about 7 months old now and I obtained them from a veterinary student who had promised their original owner that she would try to find a single home for them so that they could stay together.  

Moose is a Maine Coon cat and will likely be a pretty big boy when he's fully grown and muscled in.  He's withdrawn and calm, moving slowly and meowing quietly and sparsely.  His fur is incredibly long and soft, so Mrs. ProfessorRoush spends a lot of time holding him while the very jealous Millie climbs around her legs and shoulders and demands attention.  Despite his much larger stature, Moose is a pussycat (ouch), allowing Millie to have first chance at the soft food and ignoring her as much as he can.  It is Moose that's going to be my mouser; he's already left me two pack rat corpses to admire.  Unlike many rodents trophies, these happily presented rodents still had their heads and tails so I presume that he's not acquired any culinary interest yet in fresh, warm mouse meat.

Millie is a dainty tortoiseshell female, with a mischievous and restless nature.  If a cat ever needed Ritalin, Millie does.  She has a needy personality, constantly rubbing around our legs and making us worry about stepping on her while we walk to the barn.  She will play with a mechanized toy that Mrs. ProfessorRoush brought into the barn, but otherwise, she seems to merely exist to eat her weight in cat food and to aggravate the more stoic Moose.

I'm expecting big things from these two, hoping  that they'll keep the mice and moles away from the barn and garden, which, in turn, should decrease the number of snakes in the area as well.  Hopefully these two cats will leave the prairie birds alone and they'll stay around the donkeys at night for protection from the coyotes.

If you are wondering about their names and how they got more imaginative names than "Big Cat" and "Little Cat", it is because I named them myself instead of letting Mrs. ProfessorRoush and the kids have a say.  Millie just seemed like a "Mildred" and my theory in the seemingly random name is that she may be a reincarnated pioneer soul of the last century.  The other choice for naming Moose was "Bubba", and although he seems a little like a "Bubba", the aliteration of "Moose & Millie" was just too good for me to pass up.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shotgun Gardening

Image from www.flowershell.com
While some conspiracy theorists believe that shadow organizations such as the Illuminati or the New World Order or the American military-industrial complex are heck-bent on taking over our lives, ProfessorRoush has long suspected that "Marketers" are the real shadow organization that will bring about the downfall of civilization.  After all, they've already convinced us to buy bottled tap water at prices exceeding that of our dwindling oil supplies.

As further evidence of my theory, I learned today that an Indiegogo campaign has formed to convince willing fools such as myself to part with money for the promise that a prairie garden can be created by haphazardly firing shotgun shells packed with flower seed into a field.  Several hours ago, if you asked me what I thought "shotgun gardening" was, I'd have envisioned a haphazard assemblage of shrubs, flowers, grasses and plants stuffed hither and yon into the landscape without a specific plan.  I certainly wouldn't have expected that it meant that I could step out on my back porch and, true to VP Joe Biden's recent suggestion, "fire off a couple of rounds" and create a garden. 

Indiegogo, for those unenlightened gardeners who actually spend time in their gardens instead of reading about gardening online, is a site that lets anyone use its "powerful social media tools" to create "campaigns" for "raising money" (the latter a nice euphemism used in lieu of admitting that it helps you find suckers to fleece).  The Shotgun Garden Indiegogo campaign is run from www.flowershell.com, where you can purchase twelve-gauge shotgun shells loaded with twelve different kinds of seeds including peony, poppy, cornflower, daisy and sunflower seeds. 

I have a plethora of experience strewing tons and tons of variously marketed "meadows-in-a-can" around my environment without altering the forb/grass ratio of the native prairie to any appreciable degree, so I'm somewhat skeptical that a few shotgun shells full of flower seed will improve the outcome.  And these are live shells, dangerous in their own right.  What if I mistook Flowershells for rock salt while chasing off the pack of teenage boys who constantly circle my daughter?  "You're no daisy" might not work anymore as a 19th Century throwback insult for those boys.  I certainly can't risk the chance of contributing to their delinquency if their backsides each sprouted a personal poppy field.

No, Indiegogo's efforts are wasted on me because I'm certainly not going to waste my hard-won cash on Flowershells, despite how interesting and tempting they might seem to a bored gardener in winter.  My gardening money is going to have to be wasted the old-fashioned way, attempting to grow meadows from a can.   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lovely Louise

'Louise Odier', blooming in clusters
Oh, how I miss the roses here, trapped deep in Winter.  I miss the sunshine on their cheery petals and sweet fragrances on every breeze and their fetching colors against the dark green foliage.  I miss the pollen-coated bees busily buzzing around, and the swelling buds, and the first glimpse of each happy bloom. 

This morning, I was thinking how much I miss 'Louise Odier', the classic pink Bourbon bred in 1851.  She, more formally addressed as 'Madame Louise Odier' but properly exhibited only under 'Louise Odier', carries an 8.4 rating by the ARS and she is eligible for "Dowager Queen" in a show if you participate in such momentary breaks with sanity.  A deep pink, double Bourbon of the most refined cupped and quartered form, she often unveils a green button eye as she fully opens her 3 inch flowers.  'Louise Odier' grows in a vase-like shape with thick tall canes and she does have a bit of blackspot in my garden, but she's never completely naked.  She blooms repeatedly over the summer with one of the strongest fragrances of rosedom, a credit to her Bourbon heritage.  I grew her as my first Bourbon and I still love to bury my nose in those first large blooms of summer.  
I've grown 'Louise Odier' for over 20 years in two different gardens, and she will be one of the last roses I surrender when vigor and strength fail me.  She's been hardy most winters in my Zone-5-becoming-6B-garden, but she does suffer in an occasionally cold year and may die back halfway.  I've seen her reach 7 feet at the end of a summer and I've seen her struggle to reach 4 feet, but she always blooms dependably, even if it is in a mid-1800's, I-don't-have-much-foliage-but-look-at-my-big-blooms sort of way.

While seeking information this morning about her provenance, I noted the following entry (attributed to Brent C. Dickerson in The Old Rose Adventurer): "[Dickerson speculates] that this rose was named after the wife or daughter of James Odier, nurseryman of Bellevue, near Paris, who was active at the time 'Louise Odier' [the rose] was introduced. Monsieur Odier was indeed also a rosebreeder, having bred and introduced the early (1849) Hybrid Tea 'Gigantesque'. He may well thus have been the actual breeder of 'Louise Odier', Margottin later purchasing full propagation rights from him."   And thus I was led to place three books by Brent Dickerson on my Amazon wish list for the next time I place an order.  I had never heard of them before, although I was aware of Dickerson, but I can't pass up any book with new information on the history of Old Roses.  I may not be able to enjoy Bourbon roses in winter, but I can imagine their scent on the coldest January day while I'm reading about them.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Corral Complete

It's been quite some time since I updated you on the barn project, but it is essentially finished, minus a little painting of the iron fencing and a well-chosen corral sign.  Yes, yes, I'm aware that most "oil pipe" fence is left to develop a patina of rust here in Kansas, but at the ripe age of fifty-four I am still apt to climb over the fence rather than walk around to a gate, and I don't want to soil my britches.  My initial plan is to happily spend most of my summers sliding in and out of this "man cave," and rust stains are not part of the vision.

The northernmost third of the barn has been reserved for hoofed critters, hence the "corral".  My original intention was to house a couple of bred Angus heifers for the winter and thus gain the benefits of both the miracle of baby calves while also providing to Mrs. ProfessorRoush some nice grass-fed steaks (the latter individual is an unreformed and unapologetic carnivore).  It has, however, been appropriated by the donkeys and a pair of barn cats for the foreseeable future.  The rest of the barn is storage for the "big green" tractor and its various implements, and the small green" lawn tractor, and various gardening implements that otherwise dirty and clutter up the garage.   

There is something both incredibly calming and deeply biblical about having a barn filled with straw bedding, feed, and living creatures.  I imagine that my blood pressure dropped ten points the minute I started feeding animals again every morning and evening.  There is a peace and stillness in the barn (with the exception, of course, of the donkey's braying at the sight of me), that I haven't had in my life for quite some time.  It may be a -10º wind-chilled trek to the barn, as it is this morning, but it's a short one and it does serve to stir the blood every morning.  Inside the barn will be some hungry kittens and some impatient donkeys, waiting on the stupid primate for some decent sustenance.  It took only two days once the barn was opened for the donkeys and cats to learn when feeding time was.  Creatures of habit, each and every living soul here.

So this is where I can be found this winter, lazily sharpening lawn mower blades and hoes and dreaming of Spring.  The barn cats?  I'll introduce them to you later on, I promise.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Party At My Place

Unbeknownst to a sleeping or absent ProfessorRoush, there seems to have been a party, or a series of parties, held in my back yard in the late month of November.  My garden has, it seems, become the combined neighborhood delicatessen, coffeehouse, and social networking place for the wild creatures of field and forest.  I suppose I should be grateful that they aren't egging the house, although I have noticed the damage from the deer equivalent of teenagers making wheel-mark doughnuts in my garden.

 Take a really close look at the picture above, taken November 25th at 5:29 a.m.  This is the Garden Musings equivalent of Disney's "Bambi" tale.  The doe is easy to see, slightly blurry in the center of the picture, but look closely at the lower left corner.  Those little blobs with the glowing eyes are two rabbits who evidently are not bothered by the simultaneous presence of the deer. Click on it if you need to blow it up a little to see them.

And the next night, November 26th at 3:47 a.m., the doe from the night before must have felt outnumbered by the rabbits and subsequently brought a friend for round two. Or several friends.  I've got approximately 25 photos with deer in them exposed over the space of two hours and I have no idea if all the deer are the same as these two or whether the big party was off camera and they were just using this area for a private conversation.

Last, but not certainly least, on the third day, November 27, at 8:43 a.m., the antlered creature pictured above decided to answer the question I posed in a 2012 blog entry.  Here, at last, is the missing and majestic Hart, bounding away in all his masculine glory.   Nice antlers, buddy.

I must make all haste to deploy countermeasures before my rose garden gets eaten down to stubs.  Hhmmmm, where did my bottle of water go?       

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Friend

After a search of his own blog, ProfessorRoush can scarcely believe that he has never even mentioned, let alone featured, the clear pink blossom of one of his favorite Griffith Buck roses, 'Amiga Mia'.  But, there it was, or more properly, there it wasn't, a glaring absence of the rose unlisted in the "labels" section at the bottom of this blog.

'Amiga Mia' is a medium pink Shrub rose bred by Dr. Buck in 1978, making it an early introduction in his group of roses.  It is described as "Seashell pink" on helpmefind.com, and as "light empire rose (RHSCC 48C) with white at the base of the petals" on the Iowa State Buck Roses page.  I simply call this a clear pink; no bluish or orange overtones in this one, a color that will mix well in the garden.

'Amiga Mia' is almost a grandiflora; Hybrid-Tea style blooms occur in clusters of 5-10 and open quickly.  They are double (25-35 petals) and 4 inches in diameter in my garden.  The plant is very healthy, with glossy, dark green, blackspot-resistant foliage.  'Amiga Mia' is an offspring of 'Queen Elizabeth' and 'Prairie Princess'.  She is hardy to Zone 4.

Dr. Buck gave her a catching name, naming her 'Amiga Mia', translating to "friend of mine" after his friend Dorothy Stemler, an eminent rosarian and proprietor  of California-based "Roses of Yesterday and Today".   That nursery still carries 'Amiga Mia', with the description from the current owner of "Griffith Buck had a great friend – one who respected and loved him, as well as his roses. Her name was Dorothy Stemler, and she was my mother."

This is my third year with 'Amiga Mia' in this garden (I grew her in my previous town garden), and she is a tireless performer.  She is a chubby elfin rose for me, growing about 3 feet tall at maturity, and she has a round overall form.   I love the bloom color and the constant ample display of her bosoms...oops, I mean blossoms.

I do have two complaints about 'Amiga Mia'.  The first is simply that I can rarely find a perfect, unmarred blossom on her.  More often, they're like the photo at the top of this blog, tempting me to learn photoshop so that I can airbrush out her blemishes, much like the fashion industry does with their flawless human models.  My second complaint is that she opens up too fast.  The middle photo, above, shows the bush with a number of new high-centered blooms on 5/28/13.  The photo at the right shows the bush the next day, with most of those same blooms open, pistils on full display.  No woman of the Victorian era would favor such brashness, so it is good that 'Amiga Mia' is around now, in our more accepting and less prudish society alongside our fascination with the Kardashians and Kendra On Top. 


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