Saturday, March 31, 2018

Burning It Down

ProfessorRoush came home early from work yesterday, malice in his soul and arson in his heart.  I spent half last fall and winter trying to poison the pack rats living next to my back patio, but I knew I'd lost the battle when the trails under the juniper stayed fresh even in the latest snowfall.  Yesterday, I took advantage of temperatures in the high 50's to, once and for all, evict my unwanted tenants from their filthy homes.  A little gasoline, a little barely-controlled blaze, and I successfully burned up this 10-year-old spruce and juniper without also lighting the nearby prairie remnants on fire.  It was, at times, a close thing, and just as the fire really began to blaze, a west wind decided to turn from a gentle breeze to an arctic gale.  Thankfully, years of experience have taught me the hard lessons of where to place the hose water down to avoid catastrophe.

Why risk a fire, you ask?  Because I wasn't about to wade into the juniper and begin trying to trim it back branch by branch towards the center, never knowing when a pack rat might decide to hide in my pant legs.  As it was, the spruce went up in flame first and then, as the lower juniper began to burn well, a single very pregnant pack rat emerged about 4 feet away and moved off into the landscape.  How she made it out, I'll never know, because the nest was fully on fire by that time, and the ground tunnel that I found later in the center of the nest ashes must have been pretty warm by the time she made her break for safety.  I made sure to tell Mrs. ProfessorRoush to keep the garage and barn locked up tight for a few days, and I hope the hawks got her before she found a new home (the pack rat of course, not Mrs. ProfessorRoush). 

Now, I can just grab a saw, cut the main branches and stump down, and plant something else here that won't draw the rats.  Safely cut it down now, with no worries for large-toothed invaders taking the short pathway up to my waist.  If, that is, the weather ever turns nice.  We have snow predicted for tomorrow, highs in the 30's and lows in the twenties along with it, and an overnight of 22ºF predicted later this week.  I went outside today and covered my baby peas, so recently planted, with straw, so they would escape the worst of the freeze (I hope).  Nothing much, though, that I can do for the daffodils shown here, now in full bloom and facing the worst with a sunny disposition.  I don't have much hope for them, planted in full sun on the south side of the house, but I will keep a little hope alive for the daffodils on the north side of the house, which are just in the process of budding. 

When you live in Kansas, you only show your poker hand in a few clumps of daffodils at a time.

Friday, March 23, 2018

At last, daffodils!

I say, "at last," like they were incredibly, irresponsibly late, drowsy, dilatory delinquents holding up progress, because I've been waiting and waiting, wondering if they were ever going to bloom.  I think I'm getting impatient in my old age.

After checking my notes, this spring IS a week or so behind the spring of 2012, and perhaps 2 weeks behind the springs of 2016 and 2017, BUT it's on a par with the opening dates of daffodils in 2006, 2008, 2014, and 2015.  So, my mid-winter melancholy is mildly misplaced, since the "climate" here seems to be within normal fluctuation.  Perhaps the two most recent springs have thrown my inner clock off, winding me up to be disappointed by frost and arctic blasts.  Or perhaps I'm getting impatient in my old age.

My Abeliophyllum distichum ‘Roseum’, my pink forsythia, is blooming well now, but it is a full two weeks behind the March 5th day of 2016 that I noted as a "peak" day for it that spring.  No yellow forsythias are blooming here yet, also seemingly late, although some buds are showing a little color on those plants.  I suppose I should be merely hoping for any bloom at all, since I noted in 2017 that no forsythia bloomed last spring, due likely to either a very cold spell in the winter or a really hard freeze at opening.  Where forsythia is concerned, perhaps I should just be thankful to see any yellow cheerfulness before June's daylilites and I should not be so impatient in my old age.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Spring Insanity

ProfessorRoush is on a fool's errand, a foolhardy full court press, plunging beneath the alternating waves of winter and spring to create emerald legumes from ecru.  I never plant peas before March 15th, long habit acquired in the climate of my youth, strictly followed and enforced by the wisdom of generations of my ancestors.  Peas and potatoes on the Ides of March.  A day reserved for celebration of the full moon, settlement of past debts, and slaying Emperors in the Senate. 

This year however, I'm listening to the experts and I planted peas on March 3rd.  According to the Kansas State Extension, garden peas are best planted just after the soil turns 40º, and I'd seen bulletins indicating the soil was already that warm.  Knowing that my main pea problem for years has been poor germination and weather that turns hot far too rapidly in Kansas, I resolved to follow science and cast aside superstition just this once.  I whipped out my trusty, long-suffering soil thermometer and plodded to the garden in the midst of a brisk wind yesterday, to find the soil already 45º and rising.  I'm pretty sure it was still frozen solid just last week, but I nonetheless planted both 'Little Marvel' and 'Early Perfection'.  Besides, this year the full moon was on March 1st, a so-labeled worm moon welcoming earthworms back from their deep underground slumber, and although science may lead me astray from my hallowed farming roots, as long as the moon cycle follows along, I might as well take a chance, right?

So, into the cold ground went the peas.  If science is wrong, I've wasted $2.88 and I'll have to replant in late March.  But I can hardly do worse than my usual pea harvest.  It is a bit strange to be planting peas early this year, particularly because every other indicator I have says that spring will be late.  There are no peonies pushing through the crust at all yet, no snow crocus blooming, and the forsythia buds are still tight in contrast to years that I've seen them bloom as early as March 6th.

In other news, despite the northbound gale sweeping across the prairies, I welcomed the 70º temps that accompanied it and I cleared the debris out of the landscape beds in the north-facing front of the house, able to pile dead perennials and leaves and load them up as long as I stayed in the wind shadow of the house.   In the process, in a change of temperament, I blessed, just this once, the rabbit that has plagued my garden all winter, The entire front landscaping, under the perennial debris, is covered with rabbit feces, an unexpected beneficial repayment for non-intentionally feeding the long-eared rodent with twigs and bark all winter.   The mementos this rabbit left behind are almost worth the bare stems and damaged shrubs.

Last of all, I trimmed my first rose of the season yesterday, this 'Heritage' that so brightens my day with continual bloom and pink elegance.  With each careful cut of the pruners, I felt younger, brighter, and more hopeful, winter melting to warm spring in my veins.  What a wonderful feeling to feel the dirt and do some good honest labor for a few hours, awakening old muscles and senses to earthy joy.     


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